Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike spoke to the press recently on her plans for the future of the metropolis, including programs for making Tokyo more welcoming for all people, the legacy of Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, and the role Tokyo can play in environmental leadership and sustainable development.

Her talk, given at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, was titled “Designing Tokyo for 2020”. In her opening remarks, she noted that despite her own position as governor of the country’s capital and largest metropolis, Japan still has a long way to go to before it achieves gender equality. “More diversity leads to a higher quality of government that better serves its people,” she said, stressing the need for the nation as a whole to improve. “The Tokyo Metropolitan Government itself is really taking the initiative in promoting active participation of women and has appointed a greater number in decision making roles.”

The governor also pointed to ongoing initiatives to help Tokyo’s many foreign residents with entering the workforce, saying “Tokyo is helping small and medium sized Japanese enterprises recruit international workers.”

Further expanding on recent programs which aim for greater internationalization within the Tokyo business community, she continued, “We are providing these businesses with expertise on recruiting and employing non-Japanese workers, while also providing information to job seekers on working for Japanese companies, supporting job matching and promoting mutual understanding between Japanese businesses and international employees. We fully intend to continue expanding measures necessary to ensure international residents are able to live with a sense of security.”

The governor also pointed out new initiatives to make Tokyo’s disaster response efforts more foreigner-friendly: “Our government is expanding its communications with multilingual support during emergencies and conducting disaster preparedness drills for international residents. In the next fiscal year, we additionally plan to focus on guiding residents to proper information with a smartphone app.”

Tokyo is entering the home stretch of its preparations for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. While the 1964 Games left behind a legacy of bullet trains, highways, and massive modern infrastructure projects, Governor Koike has a different sort of legacy in mind for the 2020 Games: “I intend for the 2020 Games to leave a more intangible legacy. I also intend for the 2020 Games to leave a cultural legacy and for the Games themselves to be a celebration of culture.”

One aspect of this intangible legacy is the ‘Smooth Biz’ initiative to bring about more flexibility in when and how people work. The immediate goal is to reduce rush-hour congestion during the Games, but it is hoped that it will create beneficial new workstyle habits that will continue long after the Games have ended. “We will promote telework programs powered by communications technology. And Tokyo also plans to expand off-peak commuting in order to ease congestion during the Games. Our hope is that as flexible workstyles gain traction, we will see increased productivity and greater participation from people from a more diverse range backgrounds as a legacy of the games in our post-2020 society. “

The governor also drew attention to the potential for cities like Tokyo to take a leadership role on global issues. “As a place for city leaders to come together and collaborate, Tokyo will lead the international community and host two events in May: The Urban 20 Mayors Summit and the Urban Resilience Forum Tokyo, for these leaders to discuss how to achieve sustainable, inclusive societies and resilience in the face of disaster.” The U20 summit will be held at the same time as the G20 summit in Japan this year, with the goal of enriching global discussions on vital issues by providing the perspectives from the leaders of the world’s urban centers.

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