Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says that regional revitalization, which he put on his administration's agenda five years ago, will continue to be the top priority policy challenge. Still, the government's regional revitalization initiative — aimed at reversing the population flight to Tokyo and depopulation in many other parts of the country — is deemed to have achieved little over the past five years. Most of the policy targets set in the initiatives remain out of reach, and the government has given up on its goal of balancing the population flow into and out of the greater Tokyo area by 2020 as the net inflow into the area accelerates instead of slowing down.

Reversing this demographic trend will require a steady long-term policy endeavor. Quick results may be hard to achieve and persistent policy efforts will be crucial. But they must build on an assessment as to whether the steps being taken are addressing the right problems and how effective they are in changing the trend. To continue the agenda, the government needs to examine why the measures taken so far have had poor outcomes.

Regional revitalization was placed high on the agenda of the administration five years ago amid growing fears that, together with the rapid aging and decline of Japan's population, the unabated concentration of people and resources in the capital area would cause the nation's other regions to fall behind and even leave the very survival of depopulated municipalities in doubt in the not-so-distant future. The government sought to halt the population flight to Tokyo by creating jobs in other parts of the country.