Categorized as Country Information, News from Asia & Australasia

IURC Asia & Australasia Partner Country: Japan

Country Description

With an urbanisation rate of 92%, Japan has as a wealth of experience with establishing urban structures able to adapt to medium and long-term socio-economic changes such as an ageing and declining population, also a key challenge for the EU. Japan has recently launched several initiatives of interest to the EU. In 2020, the government designated 33 cities as the SDGs Future Cities and 10 projects as Local Government SDG Model Projects. Engagement of local stakeholders and utilisation of local resources and knowledge are regarded as the keys for promoting SDGs and regional revitalisation.

Priorities of urban environmental management have shifted to the establishment of a “low-carbon and sound materials cycle society in harmony with nature”. Focus is placed on energy transition and circular economy to promote the use of renewable energy, improvement of end-use energy efficiency in households and business offices, recycling of materials to reduce GHG emissions and use of ICT. The concept and approaches of smart cities to achieve these goals have been developed by many Japanese cities.

Previous EU-Japan Urban Cooperation

The IUC programme involved 20 Japanese and EU cities. The launch of the IUC Japan city-to-city cooperation was announced at the meeting organised by the EU Delegation to Japan in March 2017.

Yokohama and Frankfurt in Germany collaborated on the implementation of carbon neutrality and renewable energy promotion strategies through networking with other municipalities and utilizing “Nudging” instruments for engaging local stakeholders and changing their behaviours.

Koriyama shared its experience in recovering from the impact of the great earthquake in 2011 by promoting industrial innovation such as medical device related industry and promoting renewable energy. Essen in Germany shared its experience in transforming from a coal-based industrial city to a cultural city of Europe.

Hirosaki and DSS (Donostia-San Sebastian) in Spain cooperated on “buildings and site regeneration”. They shared DSS’s project on refurbishing of old buildings and energy efficiency improvement, and Hirosaki’s unique approach to preserve historical sites by rebuilding old buildings, such as its famous castle tower, and the solar power generation in a snowy area.

Ichinomiya and Ioannina in Greece were both interested in the development of waterfront areas and the planning of urban mobility and transport to facilitate people’s access to the waterside, that is, the access to the Lake of Ioannina, and Kiso River in Ichinomiya. They exchanged practical ideas about the improvement of bicycle lanes, participatory urban planning and others.

Ikoma and Ancona in Italy exchanged ideas on inclusive and sustainable economic development through promoting sustainable tourism by utilising unique local resources. Ancona developed an idea to promote “slow tourism” to create “places of experience” and promote “inter-city” cooperation in Adriatic and Ionian cities, while Ikoma was inspired to re-recognise attractive local resources and use them to enhance people’s civic pride.

Tokorozawa and Bratislava in Slovakia were both interested in “green infrastructure” for sustainable urban development. They shared experiences in integrating urban ecology viewpoints into urban planning for finding “win-win” solutions, focusing on enhancement of climate resiliency and mitigation of climate change effects in urban areas.

Toyota and GAM (Grenoble-Alpes Metropole) in France cooperated on energy transition, SDGs promotion and technological innovation. They are interested in development of smart city solutions for a sustainable city through innovation and creation of new businesses. They shared experience in renewable energy such as networking of hydrogen labs, hydrogen fleet deployment, town development using hydrogen and clean energy vehicles.

Kamakura and Umea in Sweden cooperated on the development of participatory community planning methods such as “Kamacon”, which is a citizen initiative practised in Kamakura, and “Umecon” to be developed in Umea based on the learnings from Kamakura to enhance citizen and stakeholder participation.

Kobe and Marseille in France shared the common concern that the connection between ports and citizens has been weakened in the recent economic and social circumstances, and people’s interest in the role of port is lowered. They exchanged ideas concerning citizens’ awareness raising about port functions and maritime activities, vitalisation of city economy through promoting tourism such as cruise activities, and how to recover from the impact of COVID-19.

Nagano & Obuse and Turku in Finland have been interested in achieving climate neutrality through promoting urban-rural circular economy. Both have been promoting the use of biomass for power generation. Turku aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2029, while Nagano and Obuse pay growing attention to climate adaptation measures as they suffered from heavy flood from rivers in 2019.

For more information on the Japanese cities’ involvement in the IUC programme, please visit the IUC website.

By Ivana Rae Almora