Since the burst of the economic bubble in the 1990s, the advent of ‘the lost decade’ in Japan has caused concern for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG), as it contemplates whether there has been a concomitant downgrade of Tokyo’s status as a world city. It is within this general scenario that Dr Saito began an analysis of the way changes in strategic planning policy could reflect the perceptions of how the city viewed its relationship vis-à-vis the global economy. Although city planners usually prioritize policy so as to attract inward investment and increase economic competitiveness, the environment behind Tokyo’s development was always more inward looking due to its position within a developmental state. Thus, the overarching question that will guide this research is whether an entrepreneurial policy emphasis has developed in Tokyo in the context of the Japanese economic crisis.
Field work was conducted in Tokyo, and included an analysis of strategic planning documents from the 1980s to the present, as well as interviews with those who have prepared these documents, or who have served in consultancy roles. While the focus of this research deals with more recent times, the analysis had to begin from the boom years so that a benchmark with which to track policy changes could be obtained. In addition, documents from the national government were also look at to ascertain if there were any adjustments in its relationship with the TMG. This will point to whether Tokyo has moved towards becoming a truly global city with multinational corporations, rather than one that only houses the headquarters of Japanese Transnational Corporations (TNCs)
Changes in the global environment, as well as competition from other cities such as Singapore and Hong Kong have fueled the need for reform in the way urban planning in Tokyo. Indeed, the findings of Dr Saito shows that such a transformation is taking place, albeit at a very slow pace. The reason for this is that inertia exists from the boom years, when Tokyo was being developed with a strategy at the national level, and where the overconcentration of business functions at the city level was discouraged. Instead, Tokyo was restructured into a center with various nodes based around Tokyo Central Station and the Marunouchi District. No thought was given at all to promoting the city’s competitiveness to the global community since its fortunes were tied to Japanese TNCs rather than foreign-owned multinationals.
However, the advent of the lost decade has meant that urban planning can no longer just be policy-driven, but must be demand-led as well. A movement thus exists now to generate an attractive image of the city, and reinforce the efficiencies of agglomeration. This entrepreneurial approach seeks to place the facilities and infrastructure supporting Tokyo’s business functions into a central core. This new approach has created tensions not only between the TMG and entrenched bureaucratic interests, but with policy at the national level as well. For example, a motion by the Japanese government to relocate central government functions was opposed by the TMG, as its view is that agglomeration is necessary for Tokyo to operate as a competitive city, and that central government activity needs to be included.
While change in the urban planning policies of the TMG is evident, it is not known as yet how its strategic formulation to wrest greater control over policy making will work out. Specifically, it would be interesting to see how the Tokyo Governor’s plans to create a network of co-operation with other Asian societies will work out, and whether this will replace the previous mode of operations where strong links to the nation state is prevalent.