Analysis of japanese shrinking cities and policies to tackle this problem (the case of sammu city and its economic gardening project)

Takashi Yamamoto


This paper examined the problem of shrinking cities and evaluated the policies used to mitigate the impact of shrinkage. The analytical section of this paper discusses the definition of a shrinking city, Japan’s depopulation in the coming decades on the national and municipality level, and the vicious circle of the population loss and the change of economic structure in shrinking Japanese cities. The second section of the paper examines the desired policy goals for shrinking cities, along with strategies and approaches to achieve them. It is shown that the strategies that the Japanese national government has realized since 2014 were inadequate and ineffective. An alternative initiative (for example, the economic gardening model) is necessary to complement governmental programs to empower SMEs in cities, create more jobs and boost the incomes of businesses and city residents. The case study section of this paper analyzed the case of Sammu – a shrinking Japanese city, which has been engaged in an economic gardening project. Even though the outcomes of this project have not been officially confirmed, the available data show that the sales and employment of the local firms that participated in the program either improved or at least remained at the same level. The potential area for future research might be analysis of programs for revitalizing shrinking cities in resource-dependent regions, for instance, of Russia and Australia. Such studies could provide insightful suggestions for adequate policy formulation and implementation.


depopulation, regional cities, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), economic gardening, Japan

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