A pair of bills aimed at revitalizing Japan's local economies — enacted at the last minute before Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dissolved the Lower House on Friday — merely sets the procedures for the national and local governments to work out strategies to reverse the accelerating concentration of resources and population in big metropolitan areas. To introduce meaningful steps to address this long-running problem, the government needs to make sure not to repeat the same mistakes of its past efforts.

Abe has put regional revitalization high on his agenda amid criticism that his economic policies have mainly benefited major firms in big urban areas. A think tank report released in May added to the alarm that something urgently needs to be done. It warned that if rural depopulation continues at the current pace, half of the nation's roughly 1,800 municipalities will be put at risk of disappearing within a few decades — with local public services such as social security, public transportation and school education rendered unsustainable.

The demographic data underlines the continuing population flight from rural areas. The three largest metropolitan areas around Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka combined had a record high population of 64.39 million as of January, accounting for 50.9 percent of the whole nation, while Japan's total population fell by 240,000 for the fifth straight year of decline. The population of Tokyo alone increased by 67,500 while 39 of Japan's 47 prefectures lost population compared to the previous year.