05 Aug 2011

Japan’s “Autonomy Settlement Zones”

Japan is proactively dealing with two crises that portend an uncertain future for the nation. The dual crisis pertains to the country’s growing aging population and its declining birth rate. According to population statistics, three large metropolitan areas, Tokyo, Osaka and Aichi Prefecture will experience severe population declines, especially in their outlying areas where young people have moved away to secure employment in their respective urban centers. As a result of worker migration, birth declination and the rapid aging of the resident populations, Japan is encouraging its municipalities to implement progressive policies designed to slow the flow of the exodus of people from the rural areas.

On December 26, 2008, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications issued a document entitled “Guidelines for the Promotion of the Concept of Autonomy Settlement Zones”. The national policy to create “settlement zones” to promote the resettlement of population in rural areas was designed as a proactive initiative to allow central cities to offer to its surrounding local governments the autonomy to take advantage of their unique cultural heritage and natural aesthetic and appeal. It also affords the surrounding local governments the opportunity to partner with the private and not for profit sectors in an effort to create opportunities that would attract people back to these surrounding areas. More importantly, however, is the impetus of these zones to protect the livelihood of those who have remained in the surrounding areas without compromising the safety and natural environment.

The creation of an “Autonomy Settlement Zone” begins with a “declaration” made by the city that stipulates its desire to guarantee that once the zone is created, the central city will do its utmost to preserve it. The central city then enters into an individual agreement with each of its surrounding municipalities called an “Agreement to the Formation of an Autonomy Settlement Zone”. This agreement stipulates the terms of what will be accomplished including, but not limited to: strengthening of medical care, welfare, education, transportation and information technology infrastructure networks… within the zone. The next step in the process is what is termed the “Shared Vision for the future of the Autonomy Settlement Zone”. This can best be described as perhaps a rudimentary master plan describing the future vision for the surrounding municipalities based on individual consultation between the central city and the surrounding municipalities.

As of May, 2011, sixty-nine cities have issued “Central City Declarations”; fifty-four cities have entered into “Agreements to the Formation of an Autonomy Settlement Zone and forty-nine cities have established “Shared Vision for the future of the Autonomy settlement Zone”.

(Situation at May 2011 as follow)

Central City Declaration
<69 cities>

Agreements to the Formation of Autonomy Settlement Zone
<54 cities>

Shared Vision for the future of the Autonomy Settlement zone
<48 cities>

・Obihiro city(Hokkaido)

・Hirosaki city

(Aomori prefecture)

・Yamagata city

(Yamagata prefecture)

・Itoigawa city

(Nigata prefecture)

・Ueda city

(Nagano prefecture)

・Nagahama city

(Shiga prefecture)

・Toyooka city

(Hyogo prefecture)

・Kannonji city

(Kagawa prefecture)

・Masuda city

(Shimane Prefecture)

・Amakusa City

(Kumamoto Prefecture)

and so on

・Oodate city

(Akita prefecture)

・Yurihonjo city

(Akita prefecture)

・Shimonoseki city

(Yamaguchi prefecture)

・Satsumasendai city

(Kagoshima prefecture)

・Yamaga city

(Kumamoto prefecture)

・Karatsu city

(Saga prefecture)

・Imabari city

(Ehime prefecture)

・Izumo city

(Shimane prefecture)

・Asahi city

(Chiba prefecture)

・Hamada city

(Shimane prefecture)

and so on

・Asahikawa city(Hokkaido)

・Kushiro city(Hokkaido)

・Hachinohe city

(Aomori prefecture)

・Yokote city

(Akita prefecture)

・Minamisoma city

(Fukushima prefecture)

・Chichibu city

(Saitama prefecture)

・Hikone city

(Shiga prefecture)

・Izumo city

(Shimane prefecture)

・Takamatsu city

(Kagawa prefecture)

・Nakatsu city

(Oita Prefecture)

・Miyakojima City

(Okinawa Prefecture)

and so on

Reference: Website of the Ministry Internal Affairs and Communications:http://www.soumu.go.jp/main_sosiki/kenkyu/teizyu/index.html


Friday, July 29, 2011
Shosaku Hosoda