National | Regional voices: Chubu

Japan sees rise in use of riverside areas to attract tourists following deregulation

Chunichi Shimbun

The use of riverside areas to attract tourists is on the rise nationwide, following deregulation in recent years allowing the private sector to use the public land to open restaurants or hold events.

“I used to think of public authorities as an enemy,” said Tadashi Iwamoto, 42, head of riverside consulting company Mizubesoken.

Speaking at a national conference on canals held in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, in mid-November, Iwamoto said local governments used to decline all of his proposals to revitalize riverside areas because the law restricted them to use by public entities.

In response to growing calls for deregulation, the rule was revised in fiscal 2016 to allow private companies to use river zones for a maximum of 10 years.

Following the revision, cafes and barbecue areas were set up on the banks of about 60 rivers nationwide, including six rivers in the Chubu region such as Hori River in Nagoya and Yahagi River, which flows through the prefectures of Nagano, Gifu and Aichi.

The use of canals is regulated by the Port and Harbor Law, but the local governments which oversee them are taking deregulatory measures to encourage private sector use.

Nagoya Port Authority, which manages Nakagawa Canal in the city, revised its ordinance so that the canal’s banks can be leased for projects other than port-related purposes.

Aichi Dobby Ltd., a Nagoya-based manufacturer of Vermicular cast-iron pots, plans to open a restaurant and other facilities on the canal bank by next fall.

The Nagoya Municipal Government is considering utilizing Nakagawa Canal and Hori River — which served as the city’s distribution hub before being replaced by land transport — as a means to connect sightseeing spots in the city.

Last year, the local government began offering a cruise service on Nakagawa Canal connecting an area south of Nagoya Station with Nagoya Port.

Trial boat cruises have also been conducted on Hori River with the aim of launching a service in 2022. The progress followed years of preparation including sludge removal, bank protection work and construction of piers.

An international conference inviting participants from canal cities in around a dozen countries is planned near Nakagawa Canal next year.

“We hope to learn from countries around the world so that we can use waterways to increase our cities’ attractiveness,” said Toru Fujisawa, 44, one of the organizers.

Similar moves to boost riverside tourism have been seen nationwide, including a marine sports facility set to open next to the new Yokohama Municipal Government office being built on the banks of Ooka River. In Tokyo, the Shibuya Ward office restored Shibuya River — which had been limited to a narrow concrete chute — and installed an adjacent plaza and walkway.

This section features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published Nov. 24.

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