- Takeshi Natsuno, professor at the Keio University school of media and governance, bluntly said that the Japanese government could be wasting its time and money restoring the Tohoku region, which was devastated by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011. The region has been suffering a sharp decline in population since 2000 and Natsuno said it is not worth restoring lost homes; rather, people ought to be compensated to move to more viable areas.
- He also said the government should cease spending on failing areas. “If the population falls below a certain density, the government should suspend public services,” he said.
- He also suggested moving low-income households to where they could be accommodated more cheaply.
- Natsuno’s cure might seem harsh, but Japan’s current population of 126 million is set to fall to 97 million by 2050. Over the same period, the percentage of over-65s in the population will increase to 39 percent from 27 percent.
- Nakawame was also sharply critical of Osaka’s city planning. “Osaka doesn’t have a future,” he declared. “I sold my house there two years ago.” He argued that the city had failed to develop a unique character by trying to mimic and compete with Tokyo.
- In order to promote innovation, Japan needs better cities, the panel agreed. Suburban areas need to be revitalized and to host innovation businesses as young creative types cannot afford to live centrally and do not want to commute. “Cities must attract creative and entrepreneurial people,” said Tatematsu.
- One example of innovation is the introduction of taxi-hailing app Uber to Japan. Masami Takahashi, president of Uber Japan, talked about how it could meet specific challenges for the country. He noted that accidents involving elderly drivers were increasing, even as overall road safety improved, due to the nation’s aging population. In order to assist, Uber is pioneering a project in Kyotango City, Kyoto Prefecture, where the Uber app will be open to a nonprofit volunteer service that drives the elderly around.