The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Japan may be facing many uncer­tainties, but one thing that is certain is that Tokyo will host the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Against the backdrop of this global celebration of sporting excellence are debates over moves that may determine the long-term future of the country. Some, such as a second consumption tax rate hike, are likely but uncertain. Others, such as a boom in the birthrate, are unlikely but would be nice.

Analyzing the effects and accoun­ting for the likelihood of these moves and trends is complicated and keeps a host of economists, sociologists, and businesspeople occupied.

The Games always lead to changes and upgrades to the host city’s infrastructure, and the 2020 Games have been driving such projects in Tokyo. Whether these efforts will bring enduring benefit or be largely abandoned after the Games depends on the foresight and planning of those involved.

Historically, the results of hosting the Olympics and other major events have been mixed. Some cities have been revitalized while others have languished.

A local Nagoya example is the 2005 World’s Fair. Moricoro Park, which hosted the expo, has since become a popular venue for events. And, in the coming years, it will become Ghibli Park.

As Tokyo prepares for the Olympics, more than just the physical infra­structure is being upgraded. Internet service, language support, and social infrastructure are also being shored up or expanded. This has the potential to spur additional advances in services—particularly for those who are not fluent in Japanese. For example, many train stations in Tokyo are now making announ­cements in Korean and Chinese in addition to Japanese and English.

Together with the new visa types avai­­­­lable to workers from abroad, small changes such as this may have the effect of encou­raging immigration. At a time when the government is devising incentive programs to entice people to move from Tokyo to less densely populated areas, such immigration may help the capital.

The 2020 Games will undoubtedly high­light Japan’s engagement with the rest of the world and bring many visitors to Tokyo, but world politics and economics already have a large effect on day-to-day life in Japan. Many Japanese companies have offices abroad, and even those that don’t may rely on foreign trade in an increasingly uncertain global eco­­nomy. Politically, the G20 Summit will take place in Osaka in June, with plenary meetings planned for the rest of the year throughout Japan.

As the budgeting problems of nearly eve­ry Olympic committee in recent his­tory has shown, predicting the out­come of the event is notoriously difficult. Anticipating how the con­fluence of events will play out is even more so. Economic modeling can achieve only so much without insight.

To help those interested in learning more about how the 2020 Games, inno­­va­tion, and global engage­ment may influence the future of Japan, the Chubu chapter of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) has planned an event for March 12 at the Hilton Nagoya. Speaking will be Dr. Martin Schulz, se­nior eco­nomist at the Fujitsu Research Institute’s Economic Research Center in Tokyo. The event, entitled “Japan’s 2020 Problem: Sustainable Growth or Post-Olympic Bust?” will be host­ed by the ACCJ-Chubu Business Programs Committee. 

Chad Musick is ACCJ-Chubu treasurer and owner of Musick Analysis, Writing, and Explanation.