RIETI Policy Symposium

Rise and Fall of World Cities - Implications for Greater Tokyo, Japan and Asia


Today we are living in the second era of globalization where goods, people and capital move freely across borders. At the same time, East Asia has become the "world's factory" and the region's importance has increased rapidly, both for the world economy in general and for international trade in particular. In parallel with the region's rapid economic growth, agglomerations of large cities are also emerging. An important facet of urban agglomeration is the important role cities play as cradles of technological innovation. And an important factor in this rapid development of agglomeration is the economies of scale gained from such agglomeration, which in turn fosters further agglomeration. As this positive feedback builds momentum and creates a lock-in effect, cities whose differences were marginal in the past can take quite different development paths, as one can see in the case of Tokyo and Osaka over the past several decades. Up until the period of high economic growth of the 1960s, Tokyo and Osaka were the urban centers of Japan; today, Tokyo far outstrips Osaka in socio-economic importance.

This raises the question of whether the Tokyo metropolitan area, an important "world city" in Asia, can maintain its position through the 21st century. In fact, the positive feedback mentioned above is expected to accelerate further as transportation, communication and other costs fall; the overall process of globalization also pushes such costs lower. Against this background, can we be certain that Tokyo will not be overtaken by Shanghai and other Asian cities, as Osaka was left behind by Tokyo?

With the above problematics in mind, we will attempt to grasp the role of Japanese cities, in particular Tokyo. Once we acknowledge Tokyo's unique role for Japan, the relationship between Tokyo and other core Japanese cities will be clarified. Symposium participants, experts from Japan and abroad, will discuss issues such as whether Tokyo will become Asia's unique core city, or just one of many; the necessity of Tokyo's vitality for Japan as a whole; the impact of urban infrastructure (both "hard" infrastructure and "soft" infrastructure such as the socioeconomic institutions that constitute the city) on urban and industrial agglomeration; which regions are most affected by innovation, and the specific characteristics of such regions.


  • Date: March 18, 2005, 9:00-18:00
  • Venue: U Thant Hall, United Nations University (Shibuya-ku, Tokyo)
  • Language: Japanese / English (with simultaneous interpretation)
  • Charge: ¥3,000 (an official receipt will be issued)
    (Student discount ¥1,000. Please present your student ID at the reception desk.)
  • Host: Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI)
  • Contact: RIETI Ms. Yuki Katagiri (Tel: 03-3501-8398)

* Streaming video footage of and handouts pertaining to the symposium will be available for downloading from the RIETI website after the event.


9:00-9:05 Opening Remarks:
9:05-10:35 Session 1: "Rise and Fall of World/Global Cities"
10:35-10:45 Coffee Break
10:45-12:30 Session 2: "Whether Greater Tokyo will be the champion, or will Japan have multiple core cities"
12:30-13:45 Lunch (buffet-style) Venue: Reception Hall
13:45-15:55 Session 3: "Role of urban infrastructure development - its hard and soft aspects"
(14:45-14:55 Coffee Break)
15:55-16:05 Coffee Break
16:05-17:55 Session 4: Panel Discussion "Implications for Greater Tokyo, Japan and Asia"
17:55-18:00 Closing Remarks:
* The agenda is subject to change.