Like other major cities around the world, Tokyo acts as a magnet for the rest of the country, attracting people whose energy and talents spark new businesses and forms of art and culture, which, in turn, attract even more people.

But for other cities in Japan, Tokyo's boom is their bust, as the exodus of locals — those precious human resources — leads to depopulation.

Now, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration is taking another stab at this decades-old trend, unveiling a plan in late December to designate 82 regional cities in 43 prefectures as core urban centers, to which central government assistance will flow if their ideas for economic revitalization are approved by Tokyo bureaucrats.