(Apr. 24, 2014) The Diet (Japan’s parliament) recently extended the effect of special acts that promote two remote island groups, the Amami and Ogasawara Islands, and added measures to promote and develop the areas. (Act No. 6 of 2014; text of the legislation [in Japanese], Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) website (last visited Apr. 21, 2014).) A similar but more general act, the Remote Island Promotion Act (Act No. 72 of 1953), governs remote islands, but for Okinawa (Okinawa Promotion Special Measures Act, Act No. 14 of 2002), Amami, and Ogasawara, separate special acts apply. The infrastructure in Amami and Ogasawara Islands has been improved under the two special acts, but the economic level of the two areas is still low. (Ko_ichi Saito_, Amami gunto_ nihon fukki 60 shu_nen o hete no aratana torikumi [New Challenges of Amami Islands After 60 years from the Return to Japan], 61:350 RIPPÅ? TO CHÅ?SA 63 (Mar. 2014).)
The Amami Islands are located between Kyushu and Okinawa. (Ryukyu Islands North and South of Okinawa, FACTS AND DETAILS (last visited Apr. 16, 2014).) The government is planning to add the Amami Islands to the list of National Parks this year. (Amami shoto_ o sekai shizen isan e [Let’s Try Registration of Amami as World Natural Heritage], Kagoshima Prefecture website (Apr. 15, 2014).)
The Ogasawara Islands are located approximately 1,000 kilometers to the south of Tokyo. (Nature of Ogasawara, Ogasawara Islands Nature Information Center (last visited Apr. 16, 2014).) The Ogasawara Islands were designated a National Park in 1972. (Ogasawara Kokuritsu Ko_en no Gaiyo_ [Overview of Ogasawara National Park], Ogasawara Div., Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) (last visited Apr. 16, 2014).) The islands were registered as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site in 2011. (Sekai shizen isan Ogawsawara Shoto_ ni tsuite [Regarding World Natural Heritage Site, Ogasawara Islands], Ogasawara Div., TMG (last visited Apr. 16, 2014).)
The Amami Islands Promotion and Development Special Measures Act (Amami Act, Act No. 189 of 1954) and the Ogasawara Islands Promotion and Development Special Measures Act (Ogasawara Act, Act No. 79 of 1969) are limited-term legislation and were about to expire at the end of March 2014. The amendment extended the term of each Act by five years. (Regarding the Draft Law to Amend the Amami Islands Promotion and Development Special Measures Act and the Ogasawara Islands Promotion and Development Special Measures Act [in Japanese], MLIT (Jan. 31, 2014).)
The amended Amami Act establishes a grant system, whereby Kagoshima Prefecture will establish a promotion and development plan for Amami. Projects under the plan that promote business suitable for the conditions of Amami and that improve residents’ daily lives may receive grants from the ministries of the national government that have jurisdiction over the particular type of business. (Amami Act, arts. 8 & 9.)
Municipalities may establish plans to promote local industries, such as tourism. Tour guides who provide tours of the Amami and Ogasawara islands in a foreign language can be exempted from the requirement to take the relevant national exam if municipalities plan the introduction of such tour guides and receive approval from the national government. Similarly, travel coordination business operators that coordinate travel only within either group of islands may be exempted from the national travel business registration. (Id. art. 11, Ogasawara Act, art. 11.)
The national government will provide support for natural disaster prevention measures in the island groups (Amami Act, art. 31, Ogasawara Act, art. 35.); it will also support utilization of renewable energy sources, so that energy supply to the islands will be more stable. (Amami Act, art. 33, Ogasawara Act, art. 34.) The national and local governments are obligated to protect the islands’ natural environments. (Amami Act, art. 32, Ogasawara Act, art. 33.) Furthermore, various measures to support local residents are prescribed in the amended acts.