OSAKA – Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui and Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura took the first step Monday toward realizing their dream of making Osaka the nation’s second — or vice — capital.
The two leaders opened an office consisting of prefectural and municipal bureaucrats tasked with looking into how the city can best serve as a back-up administrative capital, such as by hosting various government bodies now located in Tokyo.
Headed by Matsui and Yoshimura, the office also has the support of Cabinet adviser Taichi Sakaiya, a powerful behind-the-scenes figure and friend of Matsui who reportedly was responsible for bringing former Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto into politics.
Turning Osaka into the country’s second capital has long been a dream of Sakaiya and a major political goal of Matsui, as well as newly elected Mayor Yoshimura, Hashimoto’s hand-picked successor. It is part of their larger effort to become more autonomous from Tokyo.
How much support they have in Tokyo for their goal is still unclear. Following a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Dec. 19, Matsui told reporters Abe acknowledged that the current concentration of people and resources in Tokyo is dangerous to nation’s future.
The Osaka bureaucrats in the new office are tasked with creating a concrete action plan for convincing Tokyo bureaucrats and Diet politicians that some agencies and administrative functions could and should be relocated to Osaka.
There are also vaguely worded promises to turn Osaka into a political center, as opposed to just a commercial center, and an international hub.
Osaka Prefecture has already told the central government, which is considering relocation proposals for a number of agencies, that it would like to host the Small and Medium Enterprise Agency and a branch of the Japan Patent Office.
With Kyoto Prefecture proposing the Cultural Affairs Agency relocate there and Hyogo Prefecture hoping to host the Japan Tourism Agency, Osaka sees the future of non-Tokyo government agencies as being in the Kansai area, with itself as the base.