Policy Update 017 Pre-event Interview No.2

Creating a 21st Century Tokyo

AOYAMA Yasushi
Professor, Graduate School of Governance Studies, Meiji University; Former Vice Governor, Tokyo Metropolitan Government

Ahead of the RIETI Policy Symposium, "Rise and Fall of World Cities - Implications for Greater Tokyo, Japan and Asia," to be held on Friday, March 18, RIETI has been conducting interviews with some of the keynote speakers to learn about the relationship between the global and the local in the world economy, the changing social structures of cities, and the political implications of these developments.

After joining the Economy Bureau of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in 1967, Professor Aoyama worked in such divisions and related organizations as the Policy Division, the Bureau of Public Health, the Bureau of City Planning, and the Bureau of Citizens and Cultural Affairs. He later served as chief of the Senior Citizens and Welfare divisions, head of the Planning and Coordination Division, and director of the Policy and Public Relations Office. He also served as vice-governor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government under Governor Shintaro Ishihara from 1999 to 2003, where he was in charge of crisis management, disaster prevention, city structure and finance. He specializes in municipal policy, city policy, crisis management and has written essays on historical figures in Japan. In April 2004, he became a professor at Meiji University's Graduate School of Governance Studies. His major publications include Ishihara Tosei Huku-tochiji Noto, Heibon-sha, 2004.

RIETI: How do you perceive Tokyo? When you compare it to other cities around the world, what are the inadequacies and attractions of Tokyo?

Aoyama: One thing that is lacking in Tokyo is roads. Only about half the city planning roads have been completed. As for the airports, Narita has only two runways and Haneda three. Compared to the nine in New York, this seems inadequate. There has been a recent decision to add one runway at Haneda. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is now demanding that the runways at Yokota air base be opened up for civil use. With respect to the railways, first, there are now over 500 stations in Tokyo. Second, the connection of subway lines with suburban commuter railways is under way. Third, we have two major loop roads. These are world-class standards that Tokyo can be proud of.

To sum it up in a phrase, the attraction of Tokyo lies in its chaotic modernity: The central business district, the surrounding commercial areas, the neighborhoods with their wooden houses. And Tokyo has mountains, rivers, the ocean - it is the variety inherent in this city that makes it attractive, I think.

RIETI: What role do you see Tokyo playing as a world city from now on?

Aoyama: According to the "London Plan" published by the Greater London Authority in the United Kingdom, the three world cities are greater London, New York and Tokyo. When I asked whether Paris doesn't also qualify as a world city, I was told it is too close to London. Tokyo's strength is its distance from the other two cities. But with the sudden development of nearby cities in Asia, whether Tokyo's location remains a strength or becomes a weakness depends on Tokyo's building cooperative relations in Asia. This is the key to Tokyo's future development.

Tokyo has been accepting many goods from overseas. However, Tokyo is now dealing with the question of whether it is ready to accept "strangers" or not. This term "stranger", as I am using here, refers to more than just foreign citizens: it also means whether Tokyo is ready to accept various ideas, diverse lifestyles, and different cultures.

RIETI: What is most important for the revitalization of Tokyo?

Aoyama: For a long time, Japan has been taking a development approach that favored uniform development, rather than developing a central base, a standardized development, rather than one based on locational specificity. To change this, it is necessary to make the most of local ideas and imagination, while at the same time invest in Tokyo as a priority for the next 10 years to help it adapt to the information age and to create a city worthy of a mature society.

Historically, in the Kanto Plain, urban infrastructure, whether it be roads or railways, has been developing radially. We now have to work on a transportation network along the loop or belt-road because as the information age advances, the movement of people will no longer be just between the city center and its suburbs; it will be a lot more complex.

RIETI: What kinds of discussions and policy proposals are you hoping for at the upcoming RIETI Policy Symposium?

Aoyama: "Sustainability" is another keyword of our era, but it isn't just about the environment; it also has to do with how to make our economy sustainable, and our lives sustainable. That is the sort of discussion I'm hoping for. In the 20th century, Japan owed its economic growth to manufacturing. In the 21st century, I would like to see Japan develop its cities as well, especially its housing. The housing of those who built up Japan's manufacturing industry is still inadequate. People are looking for the sort of improvements in the quality of housing that are appropriate to a mature society. I suggest moving away from the uniform national construction standards concerning floor area ratio toward a type of urban planning that stresses the landscape and design.

>> Original text in Japanese

Interview conducted by Toko Tanimoto, chief online editor, on March 4, 2005.

March 4, 2005

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