The city of Edo was renamed Tokyo in 1868, the year Japan began walking the path to modernization amid an encroaching wave of colonization driven by western countries. “Tokyo” took its historic first step as the new Meiji government issued its Charter Oath, which stipulated “knowledge shall be sought throughout the world” as a key policy, and advanced outward-looking reforms, such as developing modern western-style government systems.
Now, 150 years later, the time has come for us to once again take a close look at the current state and future of our country, as well as what is happening around the world. In Japan, after experiencing a post-war “population bonus period,” in which the rising population strongly supported economic growth, we are now entering a “population onus,” in which a shrinking working age population has a negative impact on the economy, endangering sustainable growth and preservation of the social security system. Looking at the rest of the world, global competition continues to show signs of intensifying through factors such as the significant reduction in corporate tax rate in the United States and rapid advances in AI technology. And, amid rising tensions with North Korea, the possibility of a military confrontation still exists. To overcome the harsh circumstances facing Tokyo and Japan at home and abroad, we must go beyond past efforts and do what needs to be done. Just as when Tokyo took its historic first step as a sense of crisis shrouded the country, the city now stands at a major turning point.
That is why we must now boldly rethink how Tokyo and the country should be run. Now is the time for the central government, of course, and all local governments, including Tokyo, to fulfill their respective roles and unite nationwide to face challenges. But it seems as though there is little enthusiasm for debating the country’s future from a medium to long-term standpoint, as well as a bird’s eye perspective, and only introverted debate focused on the immediate future is being advanced. The recent revision of criteria for calculating the redistribution of local consumption tax and the capping of admission capacity at universities located in Tokyo’s 23 special wards typify this inward-looking trend, and are nothing more than an attempt to take away Tokyo’s fair share of the domestic pie. It is impossible not to have strong concerns regarding the central government’s stopgap measures, which force problems into the “Tokyo versus rural areas” scheme without deepening fundamental debate on issues such as how to resolve the lack of financial resources in rural areas and achieve their revitalization, and to establish a vision for college education.
The approach now needed by our country is to fully bring out the strengths of a united Japan and emerge victorious in global competition by having Tokyo act as a powerful engine and also leveraging each region’s individual strengths. Just as the Tokyo 1964 Games acted as the driving force for the country to unite and achieve rapid economic growth, using the Tokyo 2020 Games as the springboard, we will demonstrate even greater strides to realize sustainable growth as a mature country that leads the world. Very little time remains to achieve this in the run-up to the Games, and with a decline in Tokyo’s population close at hand, unless we look at issues from a historical standpoint and immediately take drastic measures, Tokyo and Japan will undoubtedly be lost to the maelstrom of change.
Under such urgent circumstances, I believe that we should focus on the “people” who have continuously supported the development of Tokyo over the past 150 years. I hope to provide opportunities for Tokyo citizens of all ages and backgrounds to actively participate in society, and heavily draw out their dynamism to serve as the wellspring to fundamentally overcome Tokyo’s challenges.
To that end, centering on measures to respond to waiting lists for child daycare and the super-aging society, we will broadly implement measures that focus on the “people” such as measures for work-style reform and human resource development. By tirelessly working to invigorate industry, including improving the earning power of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and also going after new growth areas, we will bring about an economic growth that the people of Tokyo can truly feel. Furthermore, to ensure the safety and security of Tokyo—the foundation for vitality and growth—we will thoroughly advance the strengthening of measures in areas such as disaster preparedness and public safety.
In the lead-up to the Tokyo 2020 Games, we will quickly ramp up initiatives to realize the three faces or “cities” of Tokyo I have pursued since taking office as governor—a “Safe City,” “Diversity” (diverse city), and “Smart City.” We will fulfill Tokyo’s responsibilities as the nation’s capital, including translating further growth for Tokyo into growth for the entire country. To that end, while closely working with the central government and other prefectures, I will steer Tokyo with renewed determination.