The assembly of Yubari, a bankrupt city in central Hokkaido, on March 2 adopted a financial reconstruction plan to pay off accumulated debts of ¥32.2 billion over 17 years. The plan also features 74 new projects to resuscitate the city and improve services for residents. To persevere through a long, difficult process of financial reconstruction, the city and its residents will need to call on their ingenuity. At the same time, the central government and the Hokkaido government must be prepared to give helping hands to the city.
Yubari was once a prosperous municipality. In 1960, Yubari had a population of more than 110,000 and was thriving on coal mining. But the conversion of Japan's main energy source from coal to oil led to Yubari's decline. After its three coal mines closed, the city tried to revive itself by making large investments in tourism-related facilities. But debts kept piling up until they finally bankrupted the city.
In January 2007, the city announced a plan to repay accumulated debts of ¥35.3 billion over 18 years. In March that year, Yubari became a "municipality under rehabilitation" — it had to begin a special fiscal rehabilitation process under the supervision of the internal affairs ministry.