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Date of Issue:1/July/2003

Capital Function Relocation in Japan

Toru Aizawa
Capital Function Relocation Planning Division
National and Regional Planning Bureau
Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport

Since the early 1990s, Japan has been considering relocating the Diet, central government agencies and the Supreme Court outside of the Tokyo metropolitan region. Recently, the two Diet Special Committees on this issue created interim reports on their considerations, with reports made to both houses. The two houses have established a joint consultation organ.

Since 1991, special committees have been created in both houses of the Japanese Diet to consider relocation of the National Diet, the administration and the Supreme Court beyond the Tokyo metropolitan region. These considerations were triggered by the resolutions of the regular session of both houses in 1990, the centennial of the Diet’s establishment, that Diet and government functions should be relocated. In 1992, a bill submitted by Diet members resulted in a law allowing relocation considerations, based on which the administration conducted two rounds of discussion by the Investigation Committee for the Relocation of the Diet and Other Organizations and the Council for the Relocation of the Diet and Other Organizations. These discussions reached decisions on the style of relocation and the new type of city which should be created at the relocation site, and, by the end of 1999, selected three candidate sites. Specifically, from the north, these were the Tochigi-Fukushima area 150 km northeast of Tokyo, the Gifu-Aichi area 35 km northeast of Nagoya, and the Mie-Kio area situated midway between Osaka and Nagoya.

Since the 1990 resolutions, three factors have driven the relocation movement.
* Promotion of government-wide reform
Relocating the Diet, etc., at the same time as national reforms such as administrative reform, decentralization, and deregulation are pushed through will increase the effectiveness of the latter. In particular, the centralized economic system which underpinned the post-war high growth period cannot meet the demands of the current globalized socio-economy, and a more decentralized system needs to be developed which will allow greater competition among Japan’s various regions.
* Redressing the unipolar concentration in Tokyo
While the population concentration in the Tokyo metropolitan area was temporarily alleviated following the collapse of the bubble economy, in recent years many people have again moved into Tokyo, and this trend is increasing. There has been no fundamental change in the unipolar concentration in Tokyo of functions and information, or in the state of overpopulation, and the negative effects even just in terms of commuting rushes and traffic jams are beyond tolerable limits.
* Strengthening disaster response capability
Diet, administration, economy and all other key functions are concentrated in Tokyo.To disperse disaster and accident risk, these functions need to be dispersed more widely.

In 1997, the Council for the Relocation of the Diet and Other Organizations calculated the cost of relocation, estimating that the public cost for the first 10 years of creating a new Diet city of around 100,000 people whereby Diet sessions would be able to be held would be 2.3 trillion yen, while the public cost whereby a mature city of around 560,000 people was created over additional decades would be 4.4 trillion yen, including the initial ten years.

Since the summer of 2002, the Upper House Special Committee on Relocation of the National Diet and Related Organizations has been reviewing the relocation concept in view of the deteriorating fiscal situation and other current socioeconomic conditions, discussing whether it would be better to consider the possibility of a dispersal of functions on a more compact scale as the means of relocation rather than the large-scale relocation envisaged by the Council. On May 28, 2003, the Committee produced an interim report on its considerations, and a report was made to the regular session of the Upper House the next day.

In addition, the Lower House Special Committee, after having held witness hearings about changes in socioeconomic conditions, produced an interim report on June 11 indicating that priority would be placed on the immediate relocation of functions of disaster response and emergency management; a report was made to the regular session of the Lower House to this effect on June 13.

Based on these two interim reports, on June 16 a joint consultation organ was established by the two houses.

The direction of capital function relocation as a spur to Japan’s large-scale reform program seems to be on the verge of decision.

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