How Koizumi's Policies Transform Rural Areas
Saturday, September 10, 2005 Posted: 12:24 PM JST [PHOTOS]
Japan's rural areas have been dying a slow death since the 1950's. The LDP-led government kept many areas artificially alive with large public works. Stations on the Shinkansen Bullet Train lines for villages with just a few thousand inhabitants, bridges to islands with tiny villages, airports that see virtually no traffic, highways that lead nowhere. Koizumi has put a stop to that since he came to power. Few public works remain, and the countryside is feeling the squeeze.
With his ideas for small government and a bigger role for the private sector, the initiative has moved to the big cities. Especially Tokyo has profited from Koizumi's policies. It is booming and full of jobs and energy. People have been moving from isolated rural areas to Tokyo for more than half a century. But during the past ten years, even large numbers of people and companies from large urban areas like Osaka have started to move to the Japanese capital.
Osaka is famous for its industrial complex and its "can-do" attitude. Many Japanese success stories, from Matsushita (National/Panasonic) to instant noodles started here. But even many of these large companies now move their headquarters or at least their PR departments to Tokyo. Most creative people also move to Tokyo because that is where the work and the money is. These days it is very difficult to find good designers in Osaka and surroundings. Most of them are in Tokyo.
Sebastian Moffett and Ginny Parker Woods of The Wall Street Journal beautifully document the pain of the rural areas in their article "As Japan votes, aid to countryside hangs in balance." I have covered the problems of rural areas myself in the past, but this article combines the problems with Koizumi's politics, which makes it a very interesting read.
As it happens, the LDP's stronghold used to be the countryside. But in this election, Koizumi's strongest support lies in large urbanized areas. Rural voters abhor his cutbacks in public works, urban voters worry about how their taxes are wasted. It is a total flip flop.
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