“It is our earnest wish to learn about initiatives and ideas of other cities in the network of Champion Mayors, as well as contributing to suggestions from our experiences. As the mayor of Japan’s leading science city, I am determined to take initiative and utilize science and technology so that we can provide more options for people and contribute to well-being of diverse residents.”
After graduating from the College of International Studies at the University of Tsukuba, Mayor Igarashi completed a MSc in Public Policy at University College London. He received his Ph.D. in International Political Economy from the University of Tsukuba. Mayor Igarashi was born and raised in Tsukuba and has always been an active part of the community. He started his political career as a Councilor of Tsukuba City. During his two consecutive terms as a city councilor from 2004 to 2012, he founded ‘Gokigen Farm’ in 2010, an organic farm using abandoned farmland where people with disabilities grow rice and vegetables, as a solution to both the problems of agriculture and employment of people with special needs. He was elected Mayor of Tsukuba City in 2016 and is currently serving his second term.
“The City of Tsukuba is home to nearly 150 research institutes and known to be the largest science city in Japan. Almost 50 years after the launch of the science city area planned and developed as a major national project, now our city is facing issues such as polarization between urban and suburban areas, lack of services and actions accommodating the needs of diverse residents, and concerns about social sustainability, which I believe are shared by many cities all over the world. With a spirit of ‘Exploring tomorrow’ since taking office, we have been tackling these issues head-on so that we can create a better future, or an inclusive society where no one is left behind, and would like to share outcomes of our initiatives both inside and outside the country.” – Mayor Igarashi
The Super Science City Initiative is a program that allows progressive regulatory reform so that we can test cutting-edge technologies to solve various issues faced by local communities throughout the city. Our aim is to offer more options for our diverse residents, so that they feel included in the society, making ‘Leaving No One Behind’ a reality. More specifically, we are working on regulatory reform and implementing cutting-edge services in six areas: mobility and logistics, administration and government, healthcare, prevention of disaster and crime/ infrastructure, urban planning with digital twin, and open platform for innovation. In promoting these initiatives, we place great emphasis on involving local residents.
One of the main initiatives in the area of administration and government is online voting. All elections are paper-based at polling stations throughout Japan both at national and municipal levels which can be a barrier for people with accessibility issues and elderly people. As an experiment, we have developed and tested a smartphone voting system for 14,000 residents and have been working to achieve Election for Everyone.
In the area of mobility and logistics, we have been working to roll out AI-powered taxi dispatch services so that travel between suburban and urban areas becomes more efficient. Our goal is to create a society where everyone can travel seamlessly from home to their destination.
Advances in technology have also enabled people with accessibility issues to work and volunteer remotely. As an experiment, we have tested a few projects where residents with accessibility issues controlled a serving robot at a café run by the city, as well as a book-reading robot for children at a library. We will continue to increase these working opportunities in the future.
In reducing greenhouse gas emissions, some of our challenges include high dependency on cars and population increases in the urban area. With the vision to create a low-carbon, resilient, smart city with everyone’s participation, we will tackle these challenges by utilizing our advantages as a science city.
Specifically, we have been working on decarbonization of public facilities. The recently built city hall annex has an official low-carbon certificate issued by the Ministry of Environment of Japan called ZEB Ready. In addition to further advancing the decarbonization of new public facilities, we have set low-carbon guidelines for buildings more ambitious than those set by the national government.
Furthermore, we have been testing bike sharing programs to make the city more friendly for cyclists, promoting low-carbon vehicles by installing mobile hydrogen stations and providing subsidies for fuel cell vehicles, providing cardboard box compost kits to process food waste at home and reduce the amount of garbage and providing support to install delivery lockers to reduce driving time for delivery companies.
On February 14, 2022, Tsukuba City announced the Zero Carbon City Declaration, aiming to achieve Net Zero by 2050. To reach the target, we will work on projects to produce local renewable energy for local consumption, establish a recycling society and decarbonize the transport sector.
In the fiscal year 2023, we are planning to hold meetings as mini-publics on the topic of climate change to include citizens in the decision-making of measures against the global warming and measures to become a zero-carbon city.
The city is providing support for children to stop the cycle of poverty. For example, we offer learning opportunities and places for children to come and spend time so that they can develop strong study habits, improve their lifestyle and prevent isolation. In these spaces, we help children to improve their self-esteem and to have goals and dreams for the future through activities and communication with staff members and other children. In addition, we have meetings with their parents so that they can share issues and consider solutions.
Furthermore, municipal schools have started turning unused classrooms into “in-school learning places” for children who find it easier to stay in a space outside of their regular classroom. By providing such places within the school separate from their classroom and staffed by someone who they can talk to and learn from, we offer more options for children to help them feel included and continue to learn.