Itami airport site to be Tokyo backup?Osaka voters elected ex-Governor Toru Hashimoto as mayor over an incumbent backed by the political establishment, responding to his message to merge local governments in Japan’s second-biggest business center. Hashimoto, a 42-year-old-lawyer who stepped down as Osaka governor last month before the end of his first term, yesterday defeated Kunio Hiramatsu, winning 59 percent of the vote, according to the city’s website. Ichiro Matsui, a member of Hashimoto’s One Osaka party, won the gubernatorial election. One Osaka, established last year, controls the prefectural assembly and has the most municipal seats. Hashimoto pledged to merge the mayoral and guberantorial posts to centralize the region’s authority along the lines of Tokyo.
If a group of lawmakers in Tokyo and Osaka get their way, a decade from now major government functions would be able to relocate to the site Itami airport currently occupies if a megaquake devastates the capital. Facilities for the Diet, central government bureaucracy, foreign diplomatic corps, major media and other organizations deemed critical would relocate to the site, making Osaka the capital, at least temporarily.
"If a Tohoku-like disaster hits Tokyo, the damage would be enormous — politically and economically. Depending on the time the potential temblor strikes, the number of people killed is conservatively estimated at between 10,000 and 100,000," Ishii said.
The Itami airport site was officially selected because it already possesses good highway connections, and is less than 3 km from the nearest shinkansen line. According to the plan, Kansai airport and Kobe airport could be connected by an underwater tunnel to become a "two-in-one" airport. Kansai would be for international flights and Kobe for domestic routes.
Any backup capital at Itami would be temporary, until Tokyo started to function again. But the grand plan for a backup capital on the border of Osaka and Hyogo prefectures calls for a futuristic city straight out of a science fiction novel. It would consist of eight different zones, with buildings for the Diet, ministries, Supreme Court, the Imperial family, and all major diplomatic missions to Japan.
The Democratic Party of Japan plans to submit a bill to the current Diet session to create an Osaka metropolis, but the central government will reduce its involvement at the insistence of Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto.
Hashimoto's dream is to realize a metropolis similar to Tokyo's and many political parties are cooperating with this aim as the mayor's Osaka Ishin no Kai is expected to win Diet seats.
The DPJ will begin negotiations with opposition parties on its planned legislation. The Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito have already submitted a similar bill to the Diet and Hashimoto is expected to demand integration of the two bills. Whether the ruling and opposition parties can reach a compromise likely will be the key to the passage of legislation to create an Osaka metropolis. Your Party and the New Renaissance Party also jointly submitted a similar bill to the Diet.
With an eye on the next House of Representatives election, the political parties want to avoid conflicts with Osaka Ishin no Kai, political observers said. Both the DPJ's bill and the one submitted by the LDP and Komeito initially obliged the Osaka authorities to hold prior discussions with the internal affairs and communications minister in devising a plan to create an Osaka metropolis. But as Hashimoto wants to minimize the central government's involvement, the LDP and Komeito deleted a clause concerning this obligation and changed it to "explain [its plans] to the internal affairs and communications minister."
Osaka Ishin no Kai then expressed its support of the LDP-Komeito bill.
Fearing the ruling party might be left in the lurch, DPJ Policy Research Committee Chairman Seiji Maehara met on May 7 and 18 with Taichi Sakaiya, former director general of the Economic Planning Agency, who is Hashimoto's top adviser. After Maehara asked what Osaka Ishin no Kai wanted, the DPJ decided to revise its bill. Though prior discussions with the international affairs and communications minister will be conducted up to a point, the obligation will be limited to points on which the central government needs to implement legislative measures, such as distribution of tax revenues.
The DPJ and LDP-Komeito bills both call for a referendum related to setting up special administrative wards. However, in addition to the prior discussion clause, the bills differ over such points as the involvement of the central government when the Osaka city and prefectural governments work out their plan to set up the wards. This will be a focus of debate among the ruling and opposition parties. On the central government's involvement, the LDP-Komeito bill stipulates the Osaka city and prefectural governments "should provide information [of the ward plan] to the internal affairs and communications minister."
The DPJ's revised bill will stipulate the Osaka government "should report to the internal affairs and communications minister before submission of the plan to the local assemblies. The minister can present opinions about the plan."
At a press conference Thursday, Hashimoto praised the DPJ's decision to revise its initial draft of the bill. Hashimoto called on the political parties to make continued efforts to pass the legislation.
"The LDP, Komeito, DPJ and Your Party are making cooperative efforts. I have to leave the rest to Diet members," he said.
While Osaka will lag behind Tokyo for number of skyscrapers, it will have the tallest and 2nd tallest buildings in Japan (not counting towers).
Five parties have formally agreed to submit a bill that would realize Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto's initiative to create an Osaka metropolis.
With the agreement, the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito, Your Party and the People's New Party will jointly submit the bill to the Diet as early as this week, which would allow local governments to establish special administrative wards similar to Tokyo's 23 wards.
The bill is expected to be enacted during the current Diet session.
"I'm very pleased," Hashimoto told the press Friday at Osaka City Hall. "I'd like to leave the matter to the Diet members until it's completed."
Hashimoto aims to abolish the city of Osaka in April 2015 and instead establish eight to nine special administrative wards.
OSAKA (Nikkei)--Shin Umeda City, an Osaka business and shopping complex featuring twin skyscrapers, will unveil at the end of September a massive wall blanketed with flowers and other plants.
The idea was floated by architect Tadao Ando. To be designed by Sekisui House Ltd. (1928), the so-called green wall will feature such flowers blooming in different seasons as rhododendrons, hydrangeas, cosmos and wisterias.
The 78-meter long structure will stand three stories tall. "This will be one of the hugest green walls in the world," Ando says.
"I hope this beautiful wall will help refine people's sensitivity and serve as a monument for the spirit," he says.