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by Peter Dyloco
Being conversant in more than one language opens opportunities to work in a variety of environments around the world, without being limited solely to countries (or the country) in which your native language is spoken. A singular dependence on anything is usually detrimental and at best self-limiting, and it would be wise to allocate one’s resources in multiple places rather than devoting everything to a single task, skill or resource.
Japan, however, seems to be acting against wisdom in its concentration of all functions and industry in the nation’s capital of Tokyo. Home to one out of every four Japanese, job opportunities draw individuals from across the country to the city of 13 million (40 million when the Greater Tokyo Area is considered). Most major corporations are headquartered in Tokyo and the majority of government functions are concentrated in the districts of Nagatacho and Kasumigaseki. Tokyo’s population only continues to grow, and is projected to be the world’s largest megacity at 36 million people by 2025.
Though the country has always been rather urban-centric, the concentration of both people, industry and administration in Japan will present a significant problem to the Japanese in the years ahead. The combination of an aging population and migration to the nation’s capital may place excessive strain on the country’s deeply burdened healthcare system.
Tokyo’s transport infrastructure systems would have to be expanded to accommodate the influx of new migrants. Housing in Tokyo, oftentimes described as nothing more than rabbit hutches, would shrink further in an effort to fit more people in the same amount of space. More cars would be on the same roads; more sewage would have to be get rid of, and more resources would have to be dedicated to Tokyo. More money would have to be spent to keep supply and capacity ahead of surging demand.
But would this really be the smart thing to do? Is it really necessary to build new watermains, new subways and new hospitals to accommodate the growing population in a time of economic turmoil? Is it worth paving new roads and building new, grand condominiums? Does the cost of these projects really justify the over-centralization of everything in Tokyo?
Although it makes for a great sight for tourists and is inherently convenient for those who live in it, the centralization of Japan’s population in Tokyo is both unnecessarily expensive and an inherently risky move. A new report by a government panel suggests that another tsunami may be triggered by another major earthquake within the next 30 years.
Although memories of the March 11 earthquake are burned deep in the memories of all across Japan and around the world, the potential for an exponentially greater disaster exists with the existence of a 36-million strong coastal megacity just steps away from the Pacific Ocean. Supplies of food to Tokyo would quickly be exhausted in the event of a future food crisis, whose possibility grows more likely with every passing day. Those in the city would be among the first hit by global economic turmoil, and ministries will find it difficult giving both aid and job opportunities to the swathes of unemployed and homeless that would follow an economic recession.
Even if everything were going according to plan, the government would have to spend an unnecessarily exorbitant sum expanding public infrastructure to accommodate the growing population despite the decline in Japan’s overall population. Ironic, isn’t it?
The solution to Japan’s problems, perhaps, is to decentralize everything from Tokyo through providing job opportunities elsewhere. Nobody chooses to live in a rabbit hutch or crowd with hundreds of other people on a packed subway train. The only reason people choose to move to Tokyo to start with is because of job opportunity available in the nation’s capital unavailable elsewhere.
With the Japanese economy in chronic stagnation, it makes sense to want nothing but the best for your career; if Tokyo is the only one that serves your interest, moving to Tokyo is only natural. By providing new opportunities elsewhere, people will be inclined to chase after those opportunities and settle in new places, and in turn relieve Tokyo of the needs of an increased population.
Japan should not concentrate everything in Tokyo. Doing so will only result in unnecessary expenditures and sets the capital up for the risk of a total and complete disaster.