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1. Introduction

Looking back on the 30 years of the Heisei Era

With the upcoming abdication by His Majesty the Emperor and the Crown Prince’s ascension to the throne, only two months remain in the Heisei Era. Around the start of this era, through international developments such as the collapse of the Berlin Wall and dismantling of the Soviet Union, people, goods, and money started moving beyond the wall separating East and West to expand globally. At the time, I was working in journalism and remember reporting from such areas undergoing upheaval and conveying situations that were developing by the minute. This allowed me to experience the dynamically changing world. Now, about thirty years later, cross-border economic exchange coupled with progress in information technology have dramatically advanced, and the trends of the time -- globalization and digitization -- have strongly propelled global economic growth, including the creation of so-called tech giants and unicorn companies.

For Japan, although the country suffered several major natural disasters during the Heisei era, this was an era in which, strong human bonds enabled us to overcome those difficulties one step at a time. Furthermore, of the 499 medals Japan has won at the Summer and Winter Olympic Games, half were won during the Heisei Era. Japanese Nobel Peace Prize winners in the Heisei Era also outnumbered Showa Era winners by about three to one, making Heisei an era that also widely showcased the power of the Japanese people.

Early in the Heisei era, Japan’s share of global GDP was about 15 percent, second only to the United States. However, with Japan’s share having fallen to around 6 percent, second place now belongs to China. In the era that advanced globalization and digitization around the world, our economy continued to endure harsh times, bogged down by deflation and the aftereffects of the bubble economy and financial crisis.

Developing a new growth model for a shrinking population

Japan is currently in the midst of its longest growth period in the post-war period. However, that growth has been modest, and uncertainty regarding developments abroad is on the rise, including an economic slowdown in China and confusion surrounding the Brexit issue in the U.K., making the outlook for our economy bleak. In addition, soon Tokyo will undoubtedly be hit by two waves: the shrinking and further aging of our population. While facing such realities, we must boldly design a new growth model for the new era and steadily move forward.

Tokyo cannot stop in its tracks and cower at this important time.

Japan cannot rely on a growing population to spur economic growth as it did during the post-war “economic miracle.” Despite such circumstances, our country must continue to progress.

To achieve this, along with creating a dynamic society where anyone, including women, senior citizens, and those with impairments, can lead vibrant lives, it is crucial for Tokyo to generate more added value by advancing growth strategies in line with the times. As Japan’s capital, Tokyo must continue to drive the country’s economy. Last month, at this year’s first meeting of the Central Government-Tokyo Metropolitan Government Working Level Council, we reaffirmed our shared understanding that increasing Tokyo’s vitality promotes the growth of the entire country. While collaborating with the central government, we will work to strengthen Tokyo’s global competitiveness and grow the pie that is Japan’s national economy to achieve a mutually beneficial relationship with all of the country. Allow me to once again express my strong resolve to continue this important task and pass on to our children and grandchildren a Tokyo and Japan that they will be proud to see shining in the world.

 

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