The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

In early fall, Governor of Tokyo Yoichi Masuzoe spoke before a packed gathering of members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) at the Tokyo American Club.

Before his address, the governor received a warm welcome from ACCJ Vice President-Tokyo Jonathan Kushner, who provided a whirlwind introduction to the governor’s life, including the period when he was a student of French politics at The University of Tokyo, before visiting both France and Switzerland as a researcher.

These early experiences, Kushner noted, gave the young student a life-long affinity for the French esthetic, as well as command of a number of European languages, something that the governor has carried with him into his current role as head of an international city.

Governor Masuzoe began by saying that Tokyo will host the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games which, he suggested, may well be Japan’s best and last chance to recover from 20 years of deflation.

He also noted that, while the economy is recovering under Abenomics—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic stimulus program—consumer spending has not been what it used to be. Tokyo 2020 may well change that, the governor said.

Masuzoe also referenced the Global Power City Index, put out by the Mori Memorial Foundation’s Institute for Urban Strategies, which ranks cities around the world according to their “qualitative attractiveness.”

London, he said, had been able to climb the ranking following the Games held there in 2012. And the same could be true for Tokyo after 2020.

Speaking about Tokyo 2020, the governor noted that, while there had been some challenges, such as those related to the yet-to-be-built Olympic stadium, the city was eager to make the Games an experience of a lifetime.

In addition, he spoke of urbanization’s challenges, including environmental ones, giving pollution and overcrowding as examples. To ameliorate these problems, he argued, there should be a 10-year period of demotorization in the city, coupled with a massive increase in bicycle lanes and cycling.

Masuzoe also touched on a number of assets that Tokyo enjoys, such as its food culture and the diversity of its neighborhoods.

During a question-and-answer session following his presentation, a number of issues were raised, including the need for immigration into the city.

Masuzoe agreed that immigration is a big issue that has to be handled with care. That said, he continued, the country first has to focus on activating Japan’s dormant workforce, by increasing the participation of the elderly in the economy.

Other questions touched on whether Tokyo would implement tax incentives to make the city more attractive to women and foreigners, and also whether there should be increased collaboration between the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) and foreign chambers of commerce.

Masuzoe agreed that the question of tax is important, and that there are challenges in this regard yet to be overcome. He also agreed that cooperation between the TMG and foreign chambers of commerce should be increased in the run up to the Games, especially in the areas of culture and the arts.

To close out the event, ACCJ Chair Chris Lafleur presented the governor with a certificate of appreciation. “This represents real cooperation between the US and Japan,” Masuzoe said to a round of applause.