2007 Volume 20 Pages 41-58
This paper aims to clarify and to seek solutions to the problem of regional Japan where the population and the economies are shrinking.
After the collapse of Japan’s bubble economy hit the finances of local governments, new leaders elnerged with the broad support of nonaligned voters in local politics. HASHIMOTO Daijiro, who became the Kochi governor, having beaten the candidate of established political parties in 1991, was first new leader. They were called “independent reform-minded governors” because they opposed the conventional growth policy dependent on allocations for public works projects and attempted to break away from the 1955 regime dominated by the Liberal Democratic Party. Under the 1955 regime the Japanese government tried to reduce the economic gap between urban and rural areas by concentrating public investment in the rural areas and local governments targeted economic affluence though the public work projects that linked government subsides. This regime deeply relied on constant econolnic growth, especially on the growth of urban areas but the regime collapsed after the bubble economy. Then, how can the regional society be sustained without the fiscal support of Japanese government?
This paper will explore the possibilities of the regions to survive in the time of shrinking society by analyzing the policies of TANAKA Yasuo who was the Nagano Prefectural Governor from 2000 to 2006. Although he could not realize these new policies and he was finally defeated in the election, his slogans such as “No Dam Proclamation”, “Post-Materialism” and “Commons” introduced the new values of the shrinking society. One of his unique achievements was to try to avoid the gap between urban and rural societies. This is the reason why Tanaka was supported by people in the urban as well as the rural areas. It contrasted with other independent reform-minded governors who enjoyed more support in the urban areas than rural areas. Tanaka’s policies consisted of two points. Firstly, he promoted agriculture and tourism to reactivate agricultural villages by commodifying agricultural villages. Secondly, he attempted to bridge different interest groups and create “Commons” by dissolving traditional communities and providing a system of citizens' participation.