Libmonster ID: JP-1238
Author(s) of the publication: O. A. MERKUSHEVA


Post-graduate student of Lomonosov Moscow State University

Keywords: regions of Japan, Hokkaido, Tohoku, regional policy and development

In the world, there is a clear tendency to strengthen "regionalization", i.e. the independence and self-sufficiency of local economies, and to increase the role of local self-government in developing regional development strategies. In this regard, regional policy and planning issues are of particular importance in many countries. This includes Japan.

Figure 1. Regions and major cities of Japan.

The history of integrated regional policy in this country goes back more than 60 years, it is constantly being reformed and adjusted to changing social and economic conditions. Japan's experience in this area may be interesting and applicable in Russia, where the issues of reducing inter-regional disparities and regional development are very relevant.

First of all, let's clarify what is usually meant by regional policy, what are its main methods and tools?

In the Russian scientific literature, the concept of "regional state policy" is defined as::

- as a field of activity for managing the economic, social, and political development of the country in the spatial relationship between the state and districts, as well as districts among themselves 1;

- as a system of state measures that determine the relationship of the state with the regions at various stages of socio-political development 2;

- as state measures to redistribute resources between regions of the country for the sake of set goals 3.

The State's goals may vary. This includes leveling the levels of regional development, expanding the range of social roles in the regions, rationalizing the use of local resources, and rationalizing inter-district cooperation. As a rule, the main goal of regional policy is to control and reduce regional imbalances and mitigate regional problems.

It is necessary to emphasize the difference between the concepts of "regional policy" and "regional development".

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Figure 2. Special cities defined by Japanese government decrees.

development". The term "regional development" is most often used in the field of regional management. Thus, R. A. Belousov believes that regional development is a mode of functioning of the regional system, which is focused on the positive dynamics of the parameters of the level and quality of life of the population, provided by a stable, balanced socially oriented reproduction of the social, economic, resource and environmental potential of the territory itself.4

The OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) documents note that this concept has many definitions, but, in general, regional development can be understood as state support for the economic and social development of the region5.

Thus, regional development is essentially the goal of regional policy, and these terms are partly synonymous. Although, when talking about development, one can mean a specific region, its management and changes taking place in it, while regional policy implies comparing regions of different levels, redistributing funds and resources between them.


In Japan, there is a traditional system of dividing the country into regions (see Fig. 1), which, however, are not administrative divisions and do not have their own governments (there is a discussion in academic and administrative circles about granting them political rights)6. Regional development departments operate within the regions.

The highest-level administrative divisions in Japan are 47 prefectures. They are integrated into the todofuken system. According to this system, the country consists of the capital prefecture "to" - Tokyo, the governorate "do" - Hokkaido, two cities "fu" with the status of prefectures - Kyoto and Osaka, and 43 prefectures "ken". Prefectures are divided into cities and counties, which include urban-type settlements and villages. Towns and villages are part of the counties of the prefecture in which they are located.They do not have their own councils, but they can choose the prefectural council of all towns and villages in the prefecture. However, even at this level, they make their own development plans.

In addition, there are 19 cities designated by government decrees (see Figure 2). The practice of assigning this status, which gives special powers to local governments, began in 1956, and the last city to receive it in 2010 was Sagamihara in Kanagawa Prefecture, which is part of the Tokyo Metropolitan Area.

Thus, it is necessary to distinguish between the following levels of regional governance (and, accordingly, the following levels of regional governance):-

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Figure 3. Map of the administrative division of Japan (compiled by the author).

regional development bureaus) - state, regional (conditionally, since only government regional development bureaus operate at this level, i.e., in fact, this is also the state level), prefectural and local (cities, counties), as well as the level of towns and villages. Some territorial divisions combine several levels: Thus, Hokkaido and Okinawa are both prefectures and regions, while Tokyo and a number of cities defined by government decrees essentially combine the prefectural and local levels (Figure 3).

Japan has made extensive use of regional planning in an expanded form. This implies that there are two parallel and interconnected systems of state plans.

On the one hand, national plans for socio-economic development of the country have been adopted since 1960. Their names are general, for example: "Managing the economy in the framework of a global approach "(1968-1972), " Five-year plan for creating a welfare state "(1992-1996). Such plans imply a general improvement of the country's economy by solving, among other things, some regional problems.

On the other hand, since 1962, the Japanese government, in parallel with national plans, has been developing plans for the integrated development of the country's territory, which are created specifically in order to implement regional policies developed as a result of the synthesis of these and other plans, to help reduce regional imbalances and provide the basis for balanced development of the state.

Unlike the national plans, the integrated development plans of the country's territory are fully devoted to solving regional problems and are designed for a longer-term period. They are drawn up by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. In 2005, the system of creating integrated territorial development plans was reformed: now, instead of a single plan for the entire country, the Ministry develops separate plans for the regions. This is due to the increased regionalization in politics, the tendency to use the unique features and strengths of each region.

Development plans are also created for all prefectures, cities, towns, and villages - more specific and detailed ones.

Interviews conducted by the author with representatives of the Hokkaido Government, Sapporo and Hakodate City administrations (Hokkaido), Sakai (pref. Osaka), as well as the Kosuge Village Administration (pref. Yamanashi) confirm that, although local authorities are largely independent in the process of developing plans, the main reference point and conceptual framework for them is the national comprehensive development plan for the national territory. Currently, this is the fifth plan "Grand Design of the XXI century", designed for the period 1998-2015.


Japan's regional policy, which developed as a separate area of state activity after World War II, can be roughly divided into 3 stages. Each stage is characterized by its own concept of regional development. Thus, even in the first post-war years, the concept of homogeneous development was developed. During this period, the key problems of regional development were the overpopulation of urban agglomerations and significant regional imbalances. The essence of the concept was the uniform placement of new industrial facilities on the territory of the country.

In the 1960s and 1980s, regional policy was implemented most actively and comprehensively. At that time, it was based on the concept of "polarized development", which implied the identification of growth poles that create opportunities for development: territories of regions; industry in cities with an average population; transport infrastructure. The key directions of regional policy were to limit the further concentration of industry in the four largest industrial zones of the country, to reduce the gap in the levels of regional development.

1970's in the regional software industry-

page 38

4. Territorial axes according to the plan "Grand design of the XXI century".

Источник: Service Center of Port Engineering -

litike - the period of implementation of large-scale infrastructure and industrial development projects with simultaneous attraction of public and private capital 7. The problem of disproportions between industry and the population was solved through the creation of the Shinkansen high-speed railway and a network of highways, the construction of large ports and industrial facilities.

Since the late 1980s, the concept of polarized development has been replaced by the concept of multipolar development, the essence of which is to search for various development opportunities for each region, taking into account its characteristics. During this time period, the problem of inter-regional disparities took on a slightly different form: the internal competition of Japan's regions was supplemented by their competition with other countries, primarily with the developing countries of East and South-East Asia. In this regard, even the most developed regions of Japan face the problem of declining competitiveness. In other words, for successful endogenous development in the new conditions, regions need to look for new resources and impulses based on their own specifics.


Let's consider the main directions of regional policy defined in the current national plan "Grand Design of the XXI century". It highlights the main challenges that Japanese society is currently facing and, above all, changes in the people's value system: a gradual change in priorities - from quantitative to qualitative parameters. Now the main values for people are not only material well-being, but also the quality of life in general: opportunities for recreation, good environmental conditions and a favorable environment. This is largely due to the transition to a post-industrial information society.

Creative work and access to a variety of information sources are of great value. The authors of the plan note that this factor has a positive impact on the development of remote peripheral regions of the country. The importance of international competition and the aging of society - a process that increasingly affects all regions and determines the further development of the country-is emphasized.

What are the goals and objectives of the plan?

The main goal is to form the basis for the axial structure of a territorial organization. If earlier it was possible to distinguish only one growth axis in Japan - the Pacific Industrial Belt, now it is proposed to distinguish three more axes, each of which has its own natural, historical and economic characteristics and, accordingly, unique opportunities for development. These axes are the New Pacific, Northeastern, and Western Japan axes Facing the Sea of Japan (see Figure 4).

The centers of international cooperation and exchange are highlighted: in the North-Eastern axis - Hokkaido, which will be the center of cultural and intellectual exchange with other "northern regions"; Okinawa - the center of international relations with the countries of Southeast Asia. As for the axis facing the Sea of Japan, it will participate in the formation of international relations at the regional level with other states facing this sea - China, Korea and Russia.8

However, in general, the tasks mentioned in the plan are formulated very abstractly: to create independent regions that their residents can be proud of; to make Japan a safer and more comfortable country to live in; to enjoy and support nature; to build an economically strong society; " from-

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Figure 5. Diagram of the influence of various forces in decision-making on regional development policy (compiled by the author).

open " the country for the world, which reflects another trend in regional policy - the transition from specific economic goals to conceptual ones. This complicates the process of evaluating the effectiveness of the policy being implemented, but at the same time gives more freedom to the regions to choose their own development directions. At the same time, more specific indicators appear in the part of plans related to the development of a particular area or social sphere.

The plan places special emphasis on the participation of various organizations in regional development and close cooperation between prefectures and regions, which is the basis for national and regional development.

This is also a new trend in regional politics. From a predominantly vertical hierarchy in its planning and implementation, there is a gradual transition to a more complex system. Thus, on April 1, 2000, the Law on Local self-government was adopted. According to it, local governments have equal status with the central government. Local self-government bodies are given the formal right to independently and comprehensively manage the territory under their control, for which the rules and regulations governing the personnel structure and specific types of state intervention are relaxed. As a result, conditions are created for transferring relations between the central government and the regions from the category of subordination to the category of partnership.9

Researcher from the United Nations Center for Regional Development K. Takai described the emerging regional policy framework as "a combination of exogenous and endogenous approaches" .10 The "exogenous" approach refers to legal and financial instruments used by the State to regulate regional development processes. This also includes national planning.

"Endogenous" processes are, respectively, the initiative of local residents, various non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and local communities. Thus, the process of regional planning and policy is determined by these two approaches. The end result is a product of interaction between all stakeholders and reaching a compromise (see Figure 5).

At the same time, interaction with the state remains an important priority for the regions, despite the weakening of control in the field of planning that occurred in the 2000s, due to the existing competition of regions for government subsidies.


We will focus on a few more specific examples of the implementation of regional policy at the present stage.

A field study conducted by the author in the Hokkaido region, one of the most unusual and atypical Japanese regions, is very revealing.

It is the northernmost and largest of the 47 prefectures; the only one that has a special status of a governorate, which is explained by the fact that it was one of the last to be annexed to Japan, and the only one that was developed in a planned manner. In the twentieth century, especially in the post-World War II period, Hokkaido was more subject to various strategies and projects than other regions, and remained one of the regions that lagged behind most others in Japan in economic indicators. Its economy is figuratively called the "4% economy", since the share of Hokkaido in the population and GDP of the country is about 4%. The region also has the same share in industrial production 11.

However, it is impossible to call Hokkaido a backward region. It has a number of features, a pronounced specialization and a number of advantages: a developed agriculture, a huge tourist and recreational potential, and-what is especially relevant today - opportunities for eco - tourism, which at the same time are very important for the region.-

page 40

they are gradually being used more and more actively. First of all, there are great opportunities for the development of education, innovative high-tech industry, etc. Hokkaido has a number of universities and research institutes specializing in biotechnologies, innovations in the food industry, etc. Hokkaido participated in the Technopolis project in the 1980s (Technopolis was established in Hakodate) and the Hokkaido Supercluster industrial cluster project.12

The region's development policy is also focused on realizing this potential. During interviews conducted by the author with the Hokkaido Government and the missions in Sapporo and Hakodate, representatives of the regional planning departments responded that the main focus of regional policy in the region is now on further developing the agricultural potential of Hokkaido and on developing tourism, primarily international, focused on China and Southeast Asian countries.

Hokkaido ranks 1st in Japan in terms of gross rice production. Many rare crops for the country are also grown there, such as sugar beet (100% of Japanese production), beans (94%), potatoes (76.7%), very popular among the Japanese adzuki beans, which are used to prepare many dishes, including sweets. Products made in Hokkaido are highly valued throughout Japan 13.

Hokkaido is also one of the most advanced prefectures in terms of the number of tourists. Back in 2001, it was ranked 15th in terms of tourist traffic among Japan's prefectures, but in 2009 it was ranked 2nd in terms of the number of visits, and the experience of developing the tourism industry in Hokkaido is considered one of the most successful for the peripheral areas.14 Among foreign tourists, residents of Asian countries predominate: according to 2011 data, 19% were tourists from Taiwan, 10% from China, and 9% from Korea. According to a survey conducted in 2008, more than 50% of Beijing residents and 60% of Shanghai residents named Hokkaido as their top priority when visiting Japan. Thus, it has overtaken such traditional tourism centers as Tokyo, Kyoto and Fujiyama 15.

As for domestic tourism, the authorities of the region have special hopes for its development with the opening of the Shinkansen high-speed railway line to Hakodate, scheduled for the end of 2015. Shinkansen can also contribute to business development, especially the opening of branches and factories of Japanese companies located in the north of Honshu-in the Tohoku region.

Hokkaido is famous for its unique nature, the expression of all seasons of the year, the best ski resorts in Japan (thanks to the constantly falling fresh snow), low-heat summers, delicious food and a special history. In cities like Sapporo, Otaru, and especially Hakodate, many 19th-century buildings have been preserved. in the European style.

Local authorities have made great strides in branding their territories. For example, the sights of Hakodate - its European Motomachi district, where a large number of buildings of the XIX century have been preserved, and the famous night view of the peninsula, surrounded on both sides by the sea. Otaru is famous not only for being home to Hokkaido's first preserved railway line, but also for "sushi Street", delicious wine, and a picturesque area of late 19th-century warehouses surrounded by canals.

Analyzing the current regional policy of Japan, it is impossible not to touch upon the problems of the Tohoku region, which survived the strongest earthquake and the accident at the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant in March 2011. Undoubtedly, now Tohoku and especially its affected prefectures-Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate-are in the center of attention of the Japanese government and receive large funds for reconstruction.

Before the earthquake, the region's prefectures provided about 8% of Japan's total industrial output. The highest share was accounted for by the electronics industry (9.34%) and heavy engineering (8%). The destruction and closure of factories has not only worsened unemployment in the region, but also disrupted trade flows and supply chains in the country as a whole. In addition, such industries as agriculture and food, forestry, and fishing have traditionally been of great importance here, and radioactive contamination of part of the territory has caused irreparable damage to the entire region, hindering the development of these industries.16

The main document governing the restoration of the Tohoku region is the "State Plan for the Restoration of Tohoku" 17. The basic idea of this plan is that the central government determines the country's development strategy.-

page 41

strategic directions and sets tasks, issues regulatory documents and allocates a budget for restoration, and the main actors are municipalities.

The Japanese government has allocated a total of 17 trillion yen for the restoration of Tohoku. In addition to providing assistance to victims (94 billion yen), it is planned to allocate about 400 billion yen. yen for recycling, $ 670 billion. on concessional loans to enterprises, 355 billion rubles. to eliminate the consequences of the accident at the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant and about 575 billion rubles. yen for additional measures to develop, establish and implement preventive protection against natural disasters throughout Japan 18.

Among other areas for which funds are allocated in this budget are support for agriculture, small and medium-sized businesses, and the construction of "eco-towns" (for example, the Kuzumaki eco-village, in pref. Iwate), creating new jobs, helping local governments, etc.

* * *

New accents in Japan's regional policy are related to the implementation of the multipolar development concept. The main goals of such a policy are the development of each of the districts at the expense of internal potential, the transition to endogenous and sustainable development, increasing attractiveness for residents and tourists by creating infrastructure, marketing and branding of territories.

The implementation of such policies is based on the active participation of local communities and municipalities. A prerequisite for the development and implementation of any development plan and program is the participation of local residents. This means that the result of such a policy is not only the reduction of regional disparities, but also the formation of special relations between the government, different levels of government and residents. The consistency and flexibility of this system and regional policy in general is an important feature of Japan.

This is true for all regions, but especially for the peripheral and remote ones, one of which is Hokkaido. As for Tohoku, it shows that despite certain shortcomings, including, first of all, excessive bureaucracy and associated delays in the implementation of some projects, as well as continuing problems in the Fukushima territory, the regional planning system can work quite effectively to solve even such serious problems as post-disaster recovery. a major natural disaster.

In our opinion, as a result of active efforts to restore the Tohoku region, Japan will once again be able to offer the world another example to follow.

Alaev E. B. 1 Regional planning in developing countries, Moscow, Nauka. 1973, с. 25. (Alaev E. B. 1973. Regionalnoe planirovanie v razvivayushchikhsya stranakh. M., Nauka) (in Russian)

2 Osnovy regionalnoy ekonomiki. M., Osnovy regionalnoy ekonomiki. M., USE (in Russian)

Livshits A. Ya., Novikov A.V., Smirnyagin L. V. 3 Regional strategy of Russia, Moscow, 1994, p. 6. (Livshits A. Ya., Novikov A.V., Smirnyagin L. V. Regionalnaya strategiya Rossii. M., 1994) (in Russian)

4 (Belousov R. A. 2002. Obschii i spetsialnii management. M., RAGS) (in Russian)


Yokomichi K. 6 The Debate on the Introduction of a Regional System in Japan. // Council of Local Authorities for Internationa] Relations (CLAIR). Tokyo, 2011, p. 4 -

Timonina I. L. 7 Japan: Regional Economy and Politics, Moscow, IV RAS, 2002, pp. 209-220 (Timonina I. L. 2002. Yaponiya: Regionalnaya ekonomika i politika. M.) (in Russian)

8 5th Comprehensive National Development Plan

Saprykin D. A. 9 Evolution of local self-government in Japan in the XIX-XXI centuries. Abstract of the diss.... Candidate of Historical Sciences, Moscow, 2012, p. 6.

Takai K. 10 Integrated regional development planning and management. UN Centre for Regional Development -

Baklanova M. P. 11 Regional planning in socio-economic development of Hokkaido. / / Diss. ... Candidate of Historical Sciences Khabarovsk, 2002, p. 131, (Baklanova M. P. 2002. Regionalnoe planirovanie v sotsialno-ekonomicheskom razvitii Hokkaido. Khabarovsk) (in Russian)

Merkusheva O. A. 12 Osobennosti regional'noy politiki Jap'i na primere ostrov Hokkaido [Features of Japan's regional Policy on the example of Hokkaido Island]. Series 5. Geography. 2012. N 5, с. 56 - 62. (Merkusheva O.A. Osobennosti regionalnoi politiki Yaponii na primere ostrova Hokkaido // Vestnik MGU. Seria 5. Geographiya. 2012. N 5) (in Russian)

13 Visual Introduction of Hokkaido Industry. METI Japan, 2011.

14 Overnight Trip Statistics Survey. Japan Tourism Agency. MLIT Japan, 2009.

15 Current state of Hokkaido. MLIT Japan

Abe T. 16 The lessons of the Great Tohoku Eartquake and its effects on Japan's economy. Fujitsu Research Institute - - 1l-17.html

17 Road to recovery. Government of Japan. March 2012 - _to_recovery.pdf

18 Tohoku Planning Forum materials -


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