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While the gap between the haves and have-nots — which is believed to have widened under Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s administration — has become a political issue, another economic gap deserves attention. This is the gap between the nation’s business and economic centers and the countryside. Visitors to cities and towns in the countryside cannot fail to notice the shuttered shops in commercial districts.

According to a July report by the Japan Productivity Center for Socio-Economic Development, a extra-departmental organization of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the per capita gross prefectural income for Tokyo was the largest (6.06 million yen) in fiscal 2003, followed by Aichi (4.64 million yen) and Shiga (4.21 million yen).

Tokyo’s figure was 1.52 times the national average of 3.98 million yen and 2.16 times the 2.8 million yen — the nation’s lowest — for Okinawa. Slightly higher than Okinawa’s were the figures for Aomori and Nagasaki at 2.92 million yen, and Kochi at 2.98 million yen.

Tokyo also had the highest measure of labor productivity at 10 million yen (gross prefectural income divided by number of workers). This was 1.26 times the national average of 7.9 million yen and 1.73 times Aomori’s 5.75 million yen, the nation’s lowest. Tokyo enjoys the fruits of the manufacturing and financial service sectors.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications’ August report, from basic registries of residents, shows a net population increase in Tokyo, Aichi, Kanagawa, Chiba, Saitama, Fukuoka and Shiga as of the end of March. These prefectures, except Shiga, have large urban centers with vibrant economic activities. Areas like Hokkaido, Akita, Aomori, Kochi and Nagasaki suffered large declines in population due to their weak economic bases.

Since the Meiji Era, modernization in Japan has meant centralization or concentration of money, people and information in Tokyo. Even the postwar policy of balanced development of national land could not reverse the trend. Only determined national efforts, including perhaps radical shakeups of the central as well as local governments, can bring prosperity to the countryside.

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