- In-depth Japan in the Post–3/11 Era: The Road to Rebirth
- “Emergent Destruction” and Japan’s Revival
- [2011.10.03] Read in: 日本語 | 简体字 | 繁體字 | FRANÇAIS | ESPAÑOL |
Japan now faces the challenge of recovering from the worst natural disaster it has experienced since World War II. But the country needs to do more than simply rebuild the areas hit hardest by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, argues Professor Yonekura Seiichirō. In this article he critiques the status quo and outlines a vision for a new nuclear-power-free, low-carbon Japan.
Creating Larger Regional Administrative Units
Here I want to draw attention to the merits of introducing a system of large, highly autonomous regional administrative units. I envision a federation of about 10 subnational jurisdictions, each with nearly as much autonomy as an independent nation. It is worth pointing out that the size of Japan (approx. 370,000km2) is smaller than that of California (420,000 km2). Whereas a single governor is in charge of California’s administration, however, Japan has a separate governor for each of its 47 prefectures. Granted, Japan is about four times larger than California in terms of economic scale and population, but surely it does not need as many as 47 governors.
Japan is divided into a large number of prefectures simply because when the modern administrative apparatus was put into place, the prefectural system was modeled on the traditional feudal domains. There had been almost 300 domains, but the Meiji government decided that that was too many. Back then people traveled between Tokyo and Osaka by foot, and it took even express messengers 14 days to cover the distance. In what was a bold reform at the time, the government cut the number of subnational jurisdictions to some 70 prefectures in 1871, and then to 47 prefectures not long thereafter. However, information tools have greatly advanced since that time, and now it takes less than three hours to travel from Tokyo to Osaka by the Shinkansen bullet train. Continued use of an administrative setup created more than a century ago has become incongruous.
As is clear from Figure 2, each of the proposed regional blocs would have ample economic strength to allow for regional autonomy. For example, the economic strength of the Kansai bloc would be roughly on par with the ¥90 trillion output of South Korea, that of the Chūgoku bloc would be comparable to the ¥72 trillion level of the Netherlands, and the economy of the Kyūshū bloc would be larger than the ¥29 trillion economy of Denmark (all figures are taken from the OECD Annual National Accounts Database and converted into yen based on an exchange rate of $1 = ¥113.26).
- Other articles in this report
- A Land Awash in DespairFour months on from March 11, journalist Kikuchi Masanori visited areas of Tōhoku devastated by the earthquake and tsunami that struck on that day. Meeting with residents and local leaders, he finds that they are desperate to bounce back from the tragedy and rebuild their lives.
- Crisis Management in the Aftermath of 3/11Kobe 1995 and Tōhoku 2011 were both earthquake disasters, but the first saw most deaths from fires and collapsed homes, while the second was a complex disaster involving a tsunami and nuclear power plant meltdowns. Former director of the Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office Ōmori Yoshio considers Japan’s crisis management in the light of these two events.
- Earthquakes and the EconomyThe question on many minds today is what economic ramifications the March 11 earthquake and tsunami will have. This article explores this issue by looking back on the major earthquake the country experienced in 1923 and again in 1995, and considering the impact of those earlier disasters on Japan’s economy.
- The Sorry State of Japan’s Public FinancesJapan’s public finances had already taken a turn for the worse before the March 11 earthquake, but the situation is likely to become even direr as a result of the disaster. Nariai Osamu, a professor and former government official, considers whether Japan can sort out its fiscal mess while paying for its recovery.
Director at the Institute of Innovation Research, Hitotsubashi University. Born in Tokyo in 1953. Received undergraduate degrees in social studies and economics from Hitotsubashi University in 1977 and 1979, respectively. After completing his postgraduate studies at Hitotsubashi in 1981, earned his PhD in history from Harvard University in 1990. A professor at Hitotsubashi University and director of Nippon Genki Juku at Roppongi Academyhills. Also editor in chief of Hitotsubashi Business Review. Published works include Keiei kakumei no kōzō (Structures of the Management Revolution), Kigyōka no jōken (The Essentials for an Entrepreneur), and Datsu-karisuma jidai no rīdā ron (Leadership Theory in the Post-Charisma Era).