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Tokyo to Build Sustainable Mini-City in its Bay

Tokyo to Build Sustainable Mini-City in its Bay

An ambitious project in an unpopulated part of Tokyo Bay aims to build a high-tech, sustainable city-within-a-city on reclaimed land.

In “Akira,” the celebrated animation film depicting a post-apocalyptic “Neo-Tokyo,” the city’s bay is almost entirely filled up with reclaimed land. That hasn’t happened yet in the real world, but the government of Tokyo doesn’t think it’s such a bad idea.

Manabu Miyasaka, a deputy governor for Japan’s capital, is embarking on an ambitious project to build a futuristic city by creating more land where there’s currently water. Called the Tokyo Bay eSG Project, the goal is to boost international competitiveness by creating a sustainable city and embracing cutting-edge digital technologies. 

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The Tokyo Olympics canoe and rowing competitions were held on the waterway between the two man-made islands in Tokyo Bay. Source: Kyodo News

“Tokyo expanded through creating reclaimed land into the sea and that is a strong advantage for us,” Miyasaka, who was chairman of Yahoo Japan Corp. before joining the metropolitan government, said in an interview. “No one lives on the land we plan to use, so we can start from zero” rather than disrupting people’s daily lives, he added.

There are plans to extend an unused parcel of land in the middle of the bay to 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres) eventually, with about one-fifth of the development completed so far. The unpopulated area hosted canoe and rowing competitions during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and is now being used for storing containers and garbage processing.

Miyasaka and his team will start inviting companies there to run pilot programs that bring solutions to challenges facing major cities. They’re seeking to attract about nine companies to focus on new technologies such as reducing traffic congestion and greenhouse emissions or generating clean energy by mid-October, with as much as 30 million yen ($7.3 million) in funding per project for the first year. 

There could be fuel-cell ships and clean power generated by solar installations and vertical turbines, even in typhoon-class winds, according to plans. Carbon capture, water purification and recycled plastics are also being considered. 

“Technology is moving away from being used in the purely digital world, to physical spaces,” Miyasaka said. “Cities will battle” to become places to develop such new technologies, and the project could become a template for other urban centers, he added.

The Tokyo Bay eSG Project will probably start trials as soon as next year, according to the metropolitan government. As of August, 55 companies, universities and organizations, including Sumitomo Realty & Development Co., NTT Urban Solutions Inc. and NEC Corp. have registered to be partners of the project, said Miyasaka. 

The former tech executive joined the metropolitan government in 2019 to help Tokyo push its digital strategy after spending about two decades at Yahoo Japan, which is backed by billionaire Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank Group Corp. Miyasaka led the company for six years and also served on SoftBank’s board.

See related article: Tokyo, City of London seek to deepen collaboration on sustainable finance

A number of major companies have already committed to taking part in the development of the Tokyo Bay area. Games maker Konami Group Corp. and broadcaster TV Asahi Holdings Corp. said they would build offices, entertainment spaces, studios and shops in the vicinity, scheduled to open in about two years.

Toyota Motor Corp. also announced on Monday plans to build a new sports arena near the Tokyo Bay project, scheduled to open in 2025. The arena, which will focus on mobility technology and sustainability, will be used as a home stadium for Toyota Alvark Tokyo, the pro basketball team sponsored by the automaker, and for other sports. 

“This arena has a potential to be a landmark and driving force for making the area even more attractive, along with other developments” in the area, said Kunihiko Hayashi, head of Toyota’s basketball team unit, in a news conference. 

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The goal for the Tokyo Bay eSG Project is to boost international competitiveness by creating a sustainable city and embracing cutting-edge digital technologies.Source: Tokyo Metropolitan Government

Success will depend on how quickly Japan can move to ease regulations and let new technologies be deployed for practical use, according to Hiroo Ichikawa, chairman of the Institute of Metropolitan Policy, a Tokyo-based think tank. One way would be to set up a state development agency like London did, he said. 

While the future depicted in “Akira” never became a reality, the question remains whether the Tokyo Bay eSG Project could bring about a dramatically different one.

“The challenge is to build a city that will be strong against the crises we face,” said Miyasaka, “whether it’s infectious diseases, climate change or energy supply.”

Source: Bloomberg


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