The contemporary spatial policy of the Japanese government, called “Regional Revitalization”, is characterized by the idea that population redistribution will be an efficient countermeasure to Japanʼs population decline. The major factor of population decline is, the Government argues, the concentration of population in Tokyo, where the fertility rate is far below the replacement level. Thus, young families are recommended to migrate to peripheral regions where the fertility rates are relatively high. However, the responsibility to secure those fundamental conditions to sustain the reproduction of population has been devolved to each local authority. Elderly people are also encouraged to migrate from Tokyo to peripheral regions because the total social cost of the elderly care is thought to be reduced as a result. The Government insists that Tokyo should retain the strong competitiveness and vibrancy suitable for a world city. Here, Tokyo is designated as an engine of the national economy, whereas the peripheral regions are assigned as spaces of population reproduction and care for elderly people. Regional Revitalization regards the regions as mere apparatuses to increase or sustain targeted indexes, such as total population or GDP, without considering multi-faceted regional discrepancies as social injustice to be corrected. Following the critique of the philosophy and purpose of Regional Revitalization, the author reconsiders the concept of regional discrepancy, focusing on restrictions and chances that people may encounter in the course of their lives. Even the most progressive spatial policy could not equalize conditions of people living in different places because most of the resources to fulfill peopleʼs desires are spatially fixed. Thus, to guarantee the right to migrate elsewhere in a quest for self-fulfillment, as well as the right to settle down in a specific place, is an indispensable aim of spatial policies. In the last part of this paper, the spatial structure of the Japanese economy is recognized as the spatial entity of power and markets, whose creation people in capitalistic societies are destined to be engaged in, by referring to Karl Polanyiʼs work on freedom. The author argues that any spatial policies should be comprised with reflections on the optimum spatial structures of economies in terms of broadening this freedom in Polanyian sense.
The policy of “Overcoming Population Decline and Regional Revitalization” is similar to the One Village, One Product Movement which was carried out in Oita Prefecture in the 1980's. The movement was established for the purpose of reversing depopulation in the Prefecture's municipalities. However, it failed to reach expectations. Subsequently, most of the municipalities were targeted for municipal merger during the Heisei-era, whether they had achieved success in revitalizing their regions through the movement or not. The Overcoming Population Decline and Regional Revitalization Policy was produced to solve the entire depopulation of Japan. However, this policy has also not been effective. Moreover, financial restraints and the problem of small-scale municipalities have been becoming more serious. As a result, further municipal mergers must be carried out during the 2020's. The main purpose of the large municipal merger plans in the Heisei-era, which was carried out in the first years of the 21st century, was to promote administrative reforms, but it has not yielded any results yet. Furthermore, what is worse, the Regional Government (doshu-sei) System which has been prepared as the subsequent scenario of the mergers was never discussed sufficiently. In the end, financial problems and decentralization have been shelved. Therefore, further municipal mergers and the restructuring of the administrative sphere system will be needed in the near future. In the social sciences, including economic geography, therefore, an overhaul of regional units, such as suitable “geographic scale” or “state recalling” for each region, needs further consideration. In this case, we can say that high schools are quite an important key.
This paper has investigated and clarified the possibility of regional revitalization by researching the spread of domestic migrations to local areas and the realities associated with those local areas. Above all, the attributes immigrants bring to the local region from large metropolitan areas and regional characteristics in move destinations are made clear. Also, this paper looked for the contributing factors of local area migrants as well as the reality of the local area policies on this migration. The following points became clear as a result of this research. First, the phenomenon called “return to the country” is very clear. This local move can be confirmed in specific towns and villages and other specific areas. However, migration into local areas equivalent to the “return to the country in a narrow sense” is not seen equally across all of Japanʼs local areas. Second, young people in their twenties and thirties are at the center of migration into local areas. Included in this is the so-called “U-turn” phenomenon where these young people flowed into large metropolitan areas to enter into higher level education or to gain employment during their time there. On the other hand, a similar phenomenon, called the “I turn”, happens where, for various reasons, people move from a large metropolitan area to local areas. Third, it can be said that it is difficult to judge whether this “return to the country” is a transient phenomenon or that in the future it will be an ongoing structural phenomenon. It is also not easy to determine clearly as of now whether the “return to the country” seen in Japan is a phenomenon similar to the counter urbanization seen in Europe and America or whether it is a different phenomenon. Finally, spatial tendencies of areas chosen by incoming migrants as a move destination are not yet fixed. On the other hand, it has been revealed that “policies for inbound migration and settlement promotion” have been enriched. Also “human contact” by local officials responsible for migration, along with the involvement of local residents in each town or village, is an important element on which potential migrants decide upon a local area to move to. This “return to the country” phenomenon was certainly seen in local regions as explained above. This paper came to the conclusion that the motiving reason can be found in a variety of sense of expectations on local regions and centered on young people.
A minister of state focused on policies for the promotion of overcoming population decline and vitalizing the local economy in Japan was newly established in September 2014. Since then, new regional policies for regional revitalization have been implemented. The purpose of this paper is to clarify the background and process of those policy formations and to examine the characteristics and problems of some important policies, such as special grants for regional revitalization and the decentralization of governmentaffiliated agencies. The special grants for regional revitalization have been preferentially provided to those local governments which utilized RESAS (Regional Economy Society Analyzing System) and proposed a pioneering project. Facing globalization and population decline, the independence of regional economies and the strengthening of competitiveness in the international market have been thought of as very important policies. Regarding to the correction of the unipolar concentration of Tokyo, the decentralization of private and national R&D activities is expected to create new employment opportunities through collaboration with local universities and research institutes. In October 2014, the primary policy examination team lacked enough time to verify past and overseas policies, and interagency cooperation was not sufficient. It is necessary to develop and reconstruct systematically policies for regional revitalization while avoiding their disappearance, being just a transient boom.
Japanese governmental land policies, known as the National Land Development Plans, played a significant role in the revival and stimulation of the Japanese economy through their expansion of industrial and transportation infrastructure throughout the latter half of the twentieth century. On the other hand，these policies have been the cause of severe regional disparities and disruption of the natural environment. They resulted in the formation of a conspicuous spatial configuration known as “One Pole and One Axis” which refers to the reality that the national economy has been exclusively concentrated in the Tokyo Metropolitan area and along the Pacific Coastal Industrial Belt. Over a period of six years in the late 1990s, the National Land Policy Council, to which the author of this paper belonged at the time, had discussed measures for drastic improvements for the National Land Policy System to meet the needs of the twenty-first century. In July 2005，the Japanese Diet reformed the legislation of the National Land Development Act, and it became the National Land Formation Act. This paper points out some characteristics of the new land policy systems through analyzing the official records of meetings of the National Land Policy Council． The former National Land Policy System was a development-oriented policy entirely controlled by the central government. The new act, the National Land Formation Plan, consists of a national plan and eight regional plans．The regional plans are coordinated and implemented by local governments (prefectures andordinance-designated cities), local business circles, and the central government．Firstly, the change from centralization to coordination between the central and the local governments is a major characteristic of the new system. Secondly，the aim of the National Land Formation Plan is to control national lands so they may remain sustainable for the next generation. The move from an aim for development to one of sustainability is the second characteristic of the new system. Thirdly, unessential or impractical legislation were abolished while others were put under reassessment．As a result，the new system has contributed to better fiscal responsibility and a better use of national investments and resources.