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Various regions’ concern over their airport or port has been heightened because of comments by Mr. Maehara, Minister of Land,Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, on making Haneda Airport an international hub, the announcement by Japan Airlines to exit from regional airports due to its corporate restructuring, and the selection process for a”super central port”. In discussions on these matters, an old question reemerges regarding how to keep a balance between improvements in international competitiveness and equitable regional growth.
This article analyzes the current status of mega competition facing Japan’s airports and ports from the perspective of the international competitiveness of airports and ports located in major cities relative to that in Asia, and the internationalization of a regional airport or port as a basis for vitalizing surrounding economies. Especially, in discussing different issues, this article asks whether South Korea’s Incheon Airport or Busan Port replaces hubs in Japan.
In addition, this article investigates the feasibility of balancing between enhancing international competitiveness and achieving equitable regional development, taking into account the effect of a shrinking population, the process of efforts to increase the international competitiveness of ports after the Kobe earthquake, the open skies agreement (deregulation of air transportation), and the status of the improvements made for the capital regionâ€™s airports. The results show that attaining the balance is very much possible through the integration of neighboring ports in major metropolitan areas, reconsideration of the roles played by Narita and Haneda airports, and concentration of transportation needs with enhanced cooperation among airports and ports in major metropolitan areas and neighboring regions.
Furthermore, as design elements for national and regional institutions that would contribute to the achievement of the balance, this article proposes to emphasize the business aspect of managing airports and ports, privatization of the management body, and decentralization of authority that empowers regional management.
Now is perhaps the last chance to restrengthen the international competitiveness of Japanâ€™s airports and ports and firmly maintain their status in Asia.