On an island in the Philippines about 20 years ago, I was surprised to be told, “Our village is growing coffee, and we are modeling the operation on Japan’s ‘One Village, One Product’ movement.”

I also heard the same story at a cacao farm in Indonesia.

The One Village, One Product movement (“Isson Ippin Undo” in Japanese) was started in 1979 by then-Oita Governor Morihiko Hiramatsu (1924-2016). It encouraged each city, town or village to focus on one specialty product of its own as a viable business venture.

While it is rare for any prefectural governor’s project to take off overseas, the office of governor seems to facilitate the realization of new ideas.

Kazuji Nagasu (1919-1999), who served five consecutive terms as the governor of Kanagawa Prefecture until 1995, noted that being elected directly by voters as in the “presidential system” renders the position all the more powerful.

“As for the central government interfering in the affairs of my prefecture, I say, ‘Thank you, but no thank you,’” he quipped.

Nagasu sought decentralization over centralization and promoted a society based on civic participation. Were he alive today, he might have done something uncharacteristic—raise his voice in anger—over the revised Local Autonomy Law that was passed on June 19.

This legislation enables the central government to determine “emergency situations” and issue directives to local governments during those times.

In concept, decentralization denotes an equal and collaborative relationship between the central government and the local governments, never a “superior-subordinate” relationship.

But the central government’s right to issue directives is a powerful prerogative that forces local administrations into submission. Can anyone be absolutely certain that the central government will never abuse its authority?

The day after the passage of this revised law, the official campaign for the Tokyo gubernatorial election kicked off.

The outcome of this most prominent local election in Japan will have a major impact on the relationship between the central government and local governments.

Back in the 1970s, the Tokyo governor confronted the central government amid a financial crisis. The governor hiked two corporate tax rates and more than 100 local administrations around the nation followed suit.

In a survey conducted four years ago by the Tokyo Metropolitan Election Administration Commission, respondents who said their lives were affected by policies of the metropolitan government outnumbered those who said their lives were impacted by policies of the Japanese government.

My image of the ideal governor is someone who is free from the “vertical” politics of the central government and can fight the latter with creative thinking.

—The Asahi Shimbun, June 21

* * *

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.

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VOX POPULI: Creativity and independence of governors remain critical

24 0
21.06.2024

On an island in the Philippines about 20 years ago, I was surprised to be told, “Our village is growing coffee, and we are modeling the operation on Japan’s ‘One Village, One Product’ movement.”

I also heard the same story at a cacao farm in Indonesia.

The One Village, One Product movement (“Isson Ippin Undo” in Japanese) was started in 1979 by then-Oita Governor Morihiko Hiramatsu (1924-2016). It encouraged each city, town or village to focus on one specialty product of its own as a viable business venture.

While it is rare for any prefectural governor’s project to take off overseas, the office of governor seems to facilitate the realization of new ideas.

Kazuji Nagasu (1919-1999), who served five consecutive terms as the governor of Kanagawa Prefecture........

© The Asahi Shimbun


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