If only Japan had leaders with this kind of vision and courage. THIS ARTICLE in the Sydney Morning Herald (one of Australia's major Newspapers) by Clover Moore, the Lord Mayor of Sydney and State member for Sydney, is really quite impressive coming from someone so high up in government.
Many people talk highly of Tokyo's Mayor. To his credit, he has supported a Tokyo bid for the 2016 Olympics as a "Green Olympics" and Tokyo is probably one of the few cities that could hold true to a moniker like that. If he does, it will be quite a reversal from the previous Tokyo Olympics, which was used as an excuse for busting through the network of cancerous motorways that dissect the city to this day - including a disgusting bypass through Nihonbashi in the cultural heart of Tokyo. As I have said before, it would be wonderful if this Olympics could be the impetus for these disgusting eyesores to be removed and the original canals restored to their former glory as was done in Seoul not long ago.
If Tokyo had a mayor like Clover Moore I imagine we could REALLY achieve something. We already have decent public transport, lots of bicycles, good density. In many ways, Tokyo is already quite environmentally friendly. The average household has several bicycles and a quick look outside shows that they tend to use them. All we need is decent policy at the top to keep it that way, rather than slide towards the US model as has happened since the 1980's. It is high time we said "Enough!" to all the wasteful road building, road widening, tunnel and bridge building, and most of all to the sprawl - something that even Japan Rail, since its privatization, has gained a taste for after discovering how lucrative it can be.
There was debate in parliament late last year in Japan on whether or not gasoline tax should be used exclusively for road building - "Bah! Humbug" was the general response, thank goodness, but it does show the lengths that the auto/roads/oil lobby will go to in order to promote their cause (more cars on the road). What we should be debating instead is how to spend this money on better transit, and how to implement tougher rules to kerb sprawl, which is really becoming a major environmental and social disaster throughout Japan these days.