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Gov. Koike wants to make Tokyo great again

Concrete plan to create a global financial hub will be ready by autumn

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike speaks at Roundtable Japan in Tokyo's Roppongi district on July 20.

TOKYO -- Fresh from an overwhelming victory in the Tokyo assembly election, where she thrashed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike was in peak form. Speaking to a gathering of intellectuals on Thursday, she assured them that her party's name -- Tomin First no Kai, or "the party that puts Tokyo citizens first" -- had nothing to do with President Donald Trump despite sounding a lot like the bombastic U.S. leader's campaign promise. 

"I just want to make Tokyo great again," she added wryly.

Koike made the remarks at Roundtable Japan, an annual get-together in Tokyo where opinion leaders discuss the state of the country. Her prescription for the Japanese capital is to transform the city into a global financial center.

"First things first, we need to create an environment to attract international financial institutions to Tokyo, such as by establishing multiple international schools, securing housekeepers and preparing multilingual medical facilities," she said. The Tokyo government, she said, will come up with an interim blueprint by autumn.

"The key here is to avoid NATO -- No Action Talk Only -- which usually happens with plans like this," Koike said. "If we miss this chance, we will lose the opportunity forever."

She recalled her days as a TV anchorwoman, when she reported about the Nikkei 225 Stock Index hovering around 25,000 (Thursday's closing price was 20,144) and U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures trading at $15 a barrel ($47.50 on Thursday). "Tokyo was undoubtedly lively back then," Koike said. "I want to bring back those days."

The governor also talked of the looming issue of an aging capital. "In 2025, five years after the Tokyo Olympics, Japan's baby boomers will turn 75," she said. "We already have 820,000 unoccupied houses in Tokyo, but that figure could shoot up."

To prevent that from happening, the governor said, Tokyo needed to step up efforts to encourage families to have more children. "We are planning to increase 16,000 slots at nursery schools so that mothers can work," Koike said. "If we do so, it should result in 16,000 more women entering the workforce."

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