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Tohoku Economy

The major economic center of pre-modern Tohoku (pre-Meiji Era) was centered in the western regions of Tohoku because these areas had developed major trading routes with Kinai (modern-day Kyoto), the center for economic and political activities in pre-modern Japan. Once Japan entered the Meiji Era (1868) the first railroad was built and mass transit was now possible to Tohoku, which resulted in the more populated inner areas of Tohoku becoming the center for government and business.

The Meiji Era government supported an industrial revolution that promoted new industries and mining in Tohoku with Akita and Fukushima Prefectures becoming the economic centers because of their rich mineral resources and proximity to Tokyo.Southern Akita had some of the only oil fields and silver mines in Japan’s history, whilegold, silver, cooper, coal, zinc, sulfur and iron sulfide were discovered in Fukushima, especially in the Joubanarea that became the center for the coal mining industry.

During Japan’s era of high economic growth (1954-1973) the government supported the development of Tohoku through government loans and public investments to local governments promoting the local city halls and prefectural governments to take on the role of the major corporations of Tohoku. These investments led to major infrastructure developments through out Tohoku and further interconnection of prefectures through the completion of major highways and high-speed trains.These developments resulted in post-World War II baby boomers moving to major cities like Morioka City in Iwate and SendaiCity in Miyagi, whose population increased to 1.24 million people by 1980.

After the burst of Japan’s bubble economy in the early 1990s the government’s investment in Tohoku was significantly reduced limiting the role of local governments to support the economy. These reductions in national funds resultedin the mergers of small villages, towns and cities and the outsourcing of various services, which had a significant impact on the job demographics of Tohoku. Also, the baby boomer generation reached retirement age, while simultaneouslyyounger generations experienced an unprecedented low birth ratelimiting job creation to mostly health related facilities for the elderly.

Going forward in post-3.11 Tohoku the government of Japan is looking to promote the tsunami devastated prefectures as areas to build new infrastructure projects, specifically related to renewable energy. The government is looking to develop renewable energy projects related to offshore and onshore wind, solar and geothermal with the intention to create new jobs, technology and industry. These new investments in Tohoku will support Japan’s shift away from their dependency on nuclear and fossil fuel power and allow them to become a new industry leader in clean energy.

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