TOKYO -- When Yuriko Koike, the newly elected governor of Tokyo, was the anchorwoman of an evening economic news program in the early 1990s, she had no shortage of news to talk about. Business was bustling, and Tokyo was the center of action for multinational financial institutions.
Since then, the action has largely shifted to Hong Kong and Singapore. But in an interview with the Nikkei Asian Review on Monday, the governor said, "I am ready to bring them back."
In a seventh-floor conference room filled with $300-a-pot white and pink orchids, Koike reflected on her time as the face of TV Tokyo's World Business Satellite between 1988 and 1992, at the height of Japan's bubble economy. "It was brisk," she said. "There were M&A deals all over. Looking at Tokyo today, it is quite somber; but I want to make it the financial hub of Asia again."
She acknowledges that if financial institutions are to relocate their Asian headquarters to Tokyo, the city has to be more English-language-friendly, be more accommodating to families with kids, have better international schools and implement a transparent, reasonably low tax rate so as not to scare away the high-earning heavyweights who lead these institutions.
On the last point, which may be the key factor, Koike said: "I will launch a commission, including the federal and local tax authorities, the Financial Services Agency, the associations of securities companies and banks, and foreign financial institutions themselves to discuss what is really necessary to make this happen. I am doing it for real," she said.
She said the erosion of Japan's status as a financial hub was not so much about the country's decline, but rather a reflection of the efforts made by other countries and cities to raise their profiles. "Through it all, Japan was doing nothing and lost its position," she said.
Koike raised this issue when she made a 10-minute courtesy call to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last Thursday. "Tokyo's position in the financial world is declining," she said. "I want to give a it boost by utilizing special zones."
One trigger could be the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. in the interview, Koike said the event would be a great opportunity for Tokyo and Japan. "The last time the Olympics were held in Tokyo, in 1964, the economy was experiencing high-speed growth and the population was increasing rapidly. Now, with the population declining, we have to make this an event that indicates a new Japan and a new Tokyo."