The Modern Tokyo Times

International news and neglected issues

Osaka power base to rise under Toru Hashimoto: anti-Osaka comments?

Osaka power base to rise under Toru Hashimoto: anti-Osaka comments?

Pierre Leblanc and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

In an interesting but baffling article by Kevin Rafferty which was published in The Japan Times called “Political Earthquake in Osaka,” the focus was on the need to worry about Tokyo.  Rather strange because the nation of Japan is not solely based in Tokyo and it is vital that other major areas like Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, Yokohama, Kobe, and so forth, focus on restructuring in order to galvanize regional economies.

In the Kansai region you have huge potential when you combine Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto, Nara, Wakayama, and other parts of this dynamic part of Japan. This applies to finance, manufacturing, heavy industry, tourism, retail, culture, art, information technology, research and development, and many other important areas. On top of this is the enormous potential of the workforce and the vibrancy and diversity of the entire region.

Osaka is the economic powerhouse and the closeness to Kobe means that collectively you have huge potential to attract internal investments and international finance. Therefore, it is essential that major cities like Osaka “wake up” and move forward by focusing on new dynamics which will not only galvanize Osaka but the entire region.

Kevin Rafferty states that “My worry is that Tokyo, and particularly the political and bureaucratic establishment, does not comprehend the tectonic forces working underground.” However, the “my” seems rather powerful but more important why does the author want to maintain the status quo and the language appears to be based on the manipulation of language. This applies to “tectonic forces working underground.”

Toru Hashimoto and Osaka leaders have no ill intention towards Japan let alone Tokyo but new dynamics are needed in many parts of this nation. The central forces in Tokyo seem distant and are making it harder for regions to become self-controlling.

Kevin Rafferty clearly enjoys using emotional language given the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis. However, maybe he isn’t aware that other prefectures were used in order to feed Tokyo and this is part of the problem with Fukushima. This applies to a distant powerbase which utilizes the resources, environment, workforce, and so forth, of smaller prefectures. Therefore, while TEPCO, which is based in Tokyo, plans to add more radiation to the sea in Fukushima little attention is being given to local fisherman and the fisheries sector in areas hit by the ongoing crisis.

Of course it isn’t only Tokyo which does this because the cold facts are that many major cities utilize smaller regions in a host of nations because smaller regions need fresh capital. However, unlike Germany, for example, Japan is heavily focused on Tokyo and political elites often ignore other parts of Japan.

Many leaders in Okinawa are fed-up with the government of Japan which is based in Tokyo because senior politicians aren’t listening to local people. Also, surely it is in the interest of Hokkaido to look into developing special economic zones with other cities outside of Japan like Vladivostok – the same applies to a special tax on the transportation of oil and gas. After all, many regional areas in Japan need to focus on restructuring because Tokyo keeps on growing at the expense of other major cities. Therefore, given the economic malaise of the past few decades and the “political magic roundabout” in Tokyo, whereby political leaders resign regularly, it is difficult to comprehend the positives of the center over the whole of Japan.

Hashimoto understands all this and he also knows the potential of the Kansai area and how regional economic initiatives could galvanize a powerful region in Japan. Also, it is positive that the traditional political establishment was defeated because it needs to wake up from its long slumber. Or maybe Kevin Rafferty prefers the Liberal Democratic Party and Democratic Party of Japan (many leading figures were members of the Liberal Democratic Party) alongside factionalism to maintain inertia?

Rafferty states that “The election was the start, not the end” and that it could “spark a dangerous squabble between the two biggest regions of Japan that could weaken Tokyo’s ascendancy and the whole country.” Again, note the need to protect Tokyo and why would the rejuvenation of Osaka and the Kansai region threaten the whole country?

This is alarmism to an extreme because Hashimoto wants to see “a new Japan” based on dynamism, economic innovation, attracting new foreign capital, utilizing mega regional zones, and creating a Japan which is focused on its geopolitical reality. At no time does Hashimoto and regional leaders desire to implement policies which are negative for Japan. On the contrary, something needs to change and major cities like Osaka and Nagoya need to find new ways to compete internally and internationally.

The rest of the article is even more confusing by Rafferty because it is tinged with negatives towards Hashimoto but understanding that he also makes sense. However, other striking negatives were given based on anti-Osaka statements or mass generalizations.

For example Rafferty comments that “Local lore has it that a cultured person goes to school in Kyoto, works in Osaka and lives in Kobe, the main city of Hyogo.” Rather than focusing on childish comments it is factual that many people work in Tokyo but reside in Chiba, Kanagawa, and Saitama. It is also factual that many people who work in London reside in Surrey, Kent and other counties.

Also, Rafferty then takes a jibe at Kansai International Airport by stating that “Anyone who has to use expensive, distant Kansai airport with its slow immigration and suspicious customs officials would wish instead that Itami became a second expanding Haneda.” Again, this appears rather childish and one of the co-writers of this article must have passed through this airport at least ten times and had no problems whatsoever. More important, immigration officials are individuals irrespective of what nation or city they are based in and the vast majority are positive but some maybe over-zealous in any given airport.

The fact remains that you have approximately 20 million people based in the Kansai region and it makes sense to create a powerful area which can compete internally and internationally. All politicians, like people, will have shortcomings and maybe Hashimoto is or isn’t the right person to create a new vibrant engine in Japan – only time will tell.

However, a powerful Osaka metropolis would boost the regional economy and increase the visibility of this city in the international arena. Also, at no time would this endanger “the whole country” even if it would challenge“Tokyo’s ascendancy.”

In the final paragraph Rafferty comments that “Populist politics would be a dangerous game that Hashimoto might be tempted to play if frustrated. It could unleash a tsunami of popular discontent on Japan’s political process.” Again, this seems alarmist to an extreme because the leader of Tokyo is a populist who often espouses strong comments. However, local people on the whole appear to support Shintaro Ishihara because he keeps on getting re-elected. Therefore, if Ishihara couldn’t threaten the status quo it is abundantly clear that many constraints would be put on Hashimoto.

Overall, Hashimoto and other regional leaders who support him desire to create a new vibrant mega-region which can compete openly against Tokyo and other major cities throughout the world. Therefore, the rise of Hashimoto in Osaka is based on him connecting with the majority of people in this important city. However, the next step will be the hardest and this applies to creating a dynamic Osaka metropolis and a Kansai region which works together in order to create a new powerful engine in Japan. Article by Kevin Rafferty – The Japan Times – Osaka information Invest Osaka Osaka business news


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