Ports and Harbours in Japan
index 1. General 2. Port Development and Management system

1. Port Development in Relation to Economic Growth

Japan is a long, narrow island country. The remarkably high proportion of coastline, which spans 34,600km, to total land area (380,000 sq km) has generated an extremely large number of ports.
Approximately 42% of the entire population of Japan lives near a harbor. Ports are the mainstay for 99% of Japan's foreign trade and 42% of its domestic distribution.

Trade with China stimulated cultural development in Japan, and the limited amount of space prompted a national policy establishing foreign trade early on. The development of ports and harbors has therefore been particularly important to the economy, and the Japanese government plays a leading role in maintaining the country's ports, as well as its shipping.

1.1. Pre-19th Century (Ancient times to the Edo Period)

Japan, A Shipping Nation

Exchanges between Japan and the continent (China) began to flourish from the 6th century. At this time, the Inland Sea of Japan, which formed a large, natural shipping canal, was a particularly important waterway. In the 11th century, an artificial island (Kyoga Island) was constructed at the site of what is now Hyogo Prefecture where trade ships from the continent could anchor. Sakai Port in Osaka began to flourish in the 16th century when it served as the main port of call for the Chinese and Europeans (the Spanish and Portuguese). Japan entered the Edo Period in the 17th century, an approximately 250-year period of official national isolation.
Ports that had previously been opened to foreign countries now focused on domestic distribution, and the bulk of Japan's current port structure foundation was established during this period. The country's commodity distribution bases were in Osaka and Tokyo, with the "Eastern Roundabout" and the "Western Roundabout" as the two main shipping routes. The Eastern Roundabout ran along the Pacific Ocean, connecting Northeastern Japan with Tokyo, while the Western Roundabout ran along the Sea of Japan and the Inland Sea, tying Northeastern Japan with Osaka. In the mid-19th century, international trading ports were opened in Yokohama, Nagasaki and Hakodate, followed by Kobe and Osaka at the end of the Edo Period and the beginning of the Meiji Period.

1.2. 1870 to 1945 (Meiji Period to World War II)

Industrial Promotion Policy

Japan's ports and harbors matured under the Meiji government's policy of industrial promotion, national wealth and military strength. Ports, harbors, railroads, roads and other types of social infrastructure were established at this time. The Meiji government@s policy of modernization under a centralized government was designed to help Japan catch up with advanced Western nations.

Yokohama and Kobe were established as major foreign trading ports during the Meiji Period.
These ports were also key to promoting the concentration of industry around metropolitan areas, as the coastal region was developing into a heavy chemical industrial belt under the government's aforesaid policy. Yokohama Port, the center of raw silk thread distribution, and Kobe Port, an import/export base for cotton, wool and other raw materials for the textile industry, both flourished at the time as gateways for international distribution.

Under the government policy regarding ports and harbors enacted in 1873, ports were deemed "government-owned structures," which brought them under government jurisdiction. These facilities were ranked (Class One, Two and Three), and the government was directly responsible for the improvement of the five major Class One ports, which were central to the country's international trade. Class two and three ports were either under the sole jurisdiction of local governments or managed by several prefecture and municipal governments. At this time, however, the Japanese constitution did not provide for autonomous local government, and the responsibility for these ports fell to the governor of the prefecture, who was appointed by the national government. Local government merely served as the management body, bearing the expenses involved in managing the ports and harbors, while the administration of these facilities was actually directed by the national government.

From the 1880s, fiscal restrictions forced the new government to shift its industrial promotion policy toward the development of industry through private capital. State management companies were sold off to the private sector. The resulting remarkable growth in private business was one' of the reasons that industry was concentrated in four major industrial belts along Japan's coastal area (Keihin, Chukyo, Hanshin and Kitakyushu).

Tool for Regional Development

This type of coastal industrialization produced industrial complexes around areas that relied on shipping for profits. The industrial policy in Japan therefore began to focus on these four major industrial belts. The development and maintenance of ports also began to reflect this emphasis on industrialization. Adopted in 1907, the guidelines for port policies expanded the traditional policy of developing international trading ports to include the promotion of regional economies. The Public Waters Reclamation Law was enacted in 1921 to develop land for the expanding coastal industry and support the construction of ports and harbors. The development of these lands, which had previously been entrusted to private companies, fell to the national government and local public entities in 1940 as the demand for industrial land in coastal areas increased.

1.3. From 1945 (World War II to Present)

Modern Port Management System

The Port and Harbor Law was enacted during the postwar period, in 1950, as Japan's first basic law concerning the construction, improvement, management, and operation of ports and harbors. This law clearly stated that ports were to be managed by port management bodies, and the foundation for the current Japanese system of port management by local government entities was established.

Beginnings of the National Port Development Plan

In the course of postwar recovery, the amount of freight handled by Japanese ports had recovered to prewar levels by 1953. During the 1950s, Japan experienced both a rapid population increase and increased population density in urban areas. Intensive efforts were made to improve the network of ports, railroads, and highways in these metropolitan areas, particularly in the Pacific industrial belt.
Subsequently, in the 1960s, the Japanese economy enjoyed a high growth rate, leading to a shortage of port capacity. In 1961, therefore, the Law on Emergency Measures for Port Development was enacted, and the first Five-Year Port Development Plan was devised (FY 1961-1965). Linked to the Plan to Double the People's Income, the national economic plan, this plan stimulated the promotion of port and harbor development.

From the Concentration of population to the Correction of Regional Disparities:
New Industrial Cities and Special Areas for Industrial Development

A byproduct of the growth in the urban areas and in the Pacific industrial zone was the manifestation of the negative aspects of population concentration in regional cities. The rapid increase of population density also led to a gradual deterioration in the living environment. These negative effects were particularly striking in the 1960s, and 'the government moved in the direction of correcting regional disparities, centering its policies on the distribution of bases for developing industrial zones and cities. In 1962, the Law to Promote the Construction of New Industrial Cities was enacted. Fifteen locations around the country were designated as new industrial cities. Plants for the production of steel and petrochemicals, as well as those in industries strongly linked with agriculture and forestry, such as' fertilizers and wood pulp, were constructed. Nearly all designated zones were located in coastal regions. The following year, 1964, the Act for the Provision of Special Areas for Industrial Development was promulgated, and six Special Areas (regions) for Industrial Development, corresponding to the industrial development bases, were designated. Behind this move lay the so-called Base Development Concept of the National Development Plan formulated on the basis of the Plan for Doubling the People's Income, which was drawn up during Cabinet meetings in December 1960.

Government Coordination of Infrastructure Development

In order for this regional development plan, which included ports and harbors, to be publicly approved, adjustments were needed 'at various levels 'of administration. In response to requests by local governments (prefectural governors) regarding the new development system, the central government (Economic Planning Agency) formed a council comprising members of related government offices, experts and other representatives to select the sites for new industrial cities. This process involved discussions on city planning, as well as various infrastructure development plans, and officials from related ministries, as well as prefectural and municipal officials, coordinated the selection process. The new industrial city plans were not limited to industrial sites and port plans, but also covered housing, highways and roads, railroads, general and industrial water and sewage, and electricity. This system of coordination was also used to put the plans into action. The government prepared a supplemental budget to be used, for example, when infrastructure construction projects were delayed. The government's function was expanded in the early 1970s with the creation of the National Land Agency. Under government restructuring in 2001, the National Land Agency, the Ministry of the Hokkaido Development Agency, the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Construction are integrated to form the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.
As a result, highway construction currently under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Construction will be implemented in conjunction with other aspects of transportation infrastructure administration.

Effects of New Industrial Cities Development and the Role of Ports

In terms of promoting new industrial zones in areas outside of existing development zones, the development plan has succeeded in the majority of selected sites, albeit with some regional differences. Development has not only provided thousands of people in these areas with jobs, but it has also helped revitalize the economies in these areas.
Ports are one of the most crucial aspects of infrastructure in supporting the development of the new industrial zones. Regional development plants incorporated the type and scale of the industry to be developed in the area, as well as thoroughly designed highway and road networks, railroads, water supplies and port facilities.
The public (national and local government) and private sector provided investment capital for the new industrial zones. The government, which also financed basic infrastructure facilities such as highways, roads and industrial water supplies, subsidized basic port infrastructure such as the construction of breakwaters and public wharves; and the dredging of navigation channels and anchorage. When industries required extra water depth in order to use the facilities, however, the party that would profit from this construction bore a certain amount of the cost.
Sites prepared by local government were sold to industries settling at a specific location. This industry was also responsible for the construction of port facilities attached to the land and intended for their exclusive use. In effect, the total investment by the public sector for a new industrial area was much smaller compared to the amount spent by the private sector.