OFF INTO THE WILD WET YONDER How does this...
When I first visited Singapore in 2006, my immediate thought was, “Wow, is Tokyo ever in trouble.” The feeling was just that overwhelming. I remember waking up the morning after my late-night flight, jumping in a taxi for meetings, and spending the rest of the day impressed with the business culture in Singapore. The vibe was like nothing I’d felt in other big cities. Just being there put a spring in my step. The smell of commerce and enterprise is pervasive… so much so that I found it difficult to rid myself completely of it once I got back to Tokyo.
Don’t get me wrong, Tokyo has a lot going for it. But “international business hub” is definitely not on its list. I’m not sure any city in Asia can compete with Singapore in this regard, mainly because Singapore is such a melting pot of cultures and races. And no, I’m not just referring to the expats. No other city comes close, not even Hong Kong in my opinion.
Tokyo as a metropolis, as a fashion hub, as a powerful world city? Definitely. International business hub? Personally, I don’t know many (/any) that would say yes to that. And I have serious doubts that the city will ever achieve that status without changing its immigration policies and legal system, and incentivising businesses, mainly start-ups, to set up shop in Japan. But even then, the language barrier is such a tough one to overcome for Japan. Each country has their own unique “ball and chain” to bear that make it difficult to do business there, whether it be corruption, crime, or cronyism. In Japan’s instance, however, it’s greatest is still probably the language barrier.
Tokyo’s New Governor Hopes to Change that
On Monday, Governor Yoichi Masuzoe made a bold statement, “I will bring those centers… back to Tokyo before 2020.” The “centers” he was referring to being health care, pharmaceutical development, and finance. Governor Masuzoe apparently pledged to “amend the tax system and residential requirements to encourage business start-ups, including those by foreign students.” But is this enough to steal Singapore, or even Hong Kong’s, thunder?
Talks of some sort of economic zone in Tokyo’s center have been ongoing for years, but many critics fear it will resemble a compound where foreigners will be treated, well, like foreigners, instead of actually partaking in the country’s real economy and culture.
Governor Masuzoe is not the first governor to propose such a plan, and, to be honest, this strategy should have been implemented over a decade ago to help spur Japan’s stagnate economy back to life. Moreover, with all the money printing going on in Japan, I’m curious as to what sort of young start-up cowboy would even want to go to Tokyo and start a business. To me, even Singapore fails here, being the newly crowned “most expensive city in the world” (stealing the distinction from Tokyo). It seems that if someone were looking to start a business, Kuala Lumpur beats them both. Then again, I’m perhaps a bit biased in this regard.
H/T: Japan Today