Overview of the Special Zone Programs
National Strategic Special Zone
The National Strategic Special Zones are designated by the national government based on the perspectives of boosting the international competitiveness of industry and promoting the creation of centers of international economic activities by giving priority to advancing structural reform of the economic system. Tokyo Metropolis, Kanagawa Prefecture, Chiba City and Narita City in Chiba Prefecture have been designated as the Tokyo Area zone by the national government.
- Launch date
- Areas (Tokyo Area)
- Tokyo Metropolis; Kanagawa Prefecture; Chiba City and Narita City, Chiba Prefecture
- To form an international business base that gathers capital, people and companies from around the world and to create new internationally competitive businesses through startups and innovation in the areas of drug development, etc., by building the most business-friendly environment in the world, which also takes the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games into consideration.
- Program contents
- An Area Plan is formulated by the National Strategic Special Zone Council for the Greater Tokyo Area comprising the national government, relevant local government, and private businesses, and approved by the Prime Minister after review by the National Strategic Special Zone Advisory Council.
Since the designation of the Tokyo Area zone in May 2014, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has proposed the utilization of the Special Zone offerings and new regulatory reforms in various areas including urban revitalization, health care, entrepreneurship, employment, and female empowerment.
1. Urban Revitalization
Special provisions to the City Planning Act, etc.
Efforts will be made to expedite the implementation of 32 urban revitalization projects, through the establishment of targets, including determining ambitious city plans beforehand, based on decisions made by the Special Zone Council.
Plans include: development of international business centers in line with fortifying transportation node functions, such as the building of a large underground bus terminal in front of Tokyo Station and new stations near Toranomon and Shinagawa stations; development of centers with stronger MICE functions for attracting foreign businesses and facilitating business exchange in the Otemachi, Roppongi and other districts; and development of centers for business exchange in diverse fields such as international finance and the content industry in the Otemachi to Kabutocho district, the Takeshiba district, and elsewhere.
Special provisions to the Road Act, related to area management
Measures will be taken to promote the creation of vibrancy. These include relaxing the criteria for road The Marunouchi district, Shinjuku sub-center, areas around Osaki Station, Kamata Station, and Jiyugaoka Station, the Nihonbashi district, the streets near the East Exit of Ikebukuro Station and Kabukicho “Cine City Plaza” have been approved for the application of special provisions, and events that incorporate the local characteristics of the respective areas are held on these streets.
2. Health Care
Special provisions concerning foreign doctors
A special provision has been made to bilateral agreements concerning a doctor’s license to practice in the National Strategic Special Zone in order to meet the needs of an increasing number of foreign patients. Previously, under bilateral agreements between Japan and each country, foreign doctors were allowed to treat patients from their own country only. With the application of this exception, foreign doctors are now permitted to treat patients of any nationality at medical institutions in the Special Zone.
With effect from 1 September 2016, St. Luke’s International Hospital and St. Luke’s MediLocus have employed foreign doctors to treat foreign patients. Keio University Hospital is also scheduled to begin offering treatment to foreign patients going forward.
Special provisions to the Specified Mixed Medical Care Coverage System
Under these provisions, the Government of Japan provides prompt assessment on the use of pharmaceuticals that have been approved by countries with high medical standards but not in Japan, or pharmaceuticals that have been approved by Japan regardless of whether or not they have been approved overseas, at international medical institutions that are on par with the level of core clinical research hospitals, for patients who wish to use these pharmaceuticals under the Specified Mixed Medical Care Coverage System.
The following medical institutions are moving forward on measures to receive approval for the special provisions, toward the implementation of advanced medical treatment such as the treatment of intractable immune diseases, minimally invasive cancer treatment, etc.
Special provisions to the Specified Mixed Medical Care Coverage System
Special Zone Medical Equipment and Pharmaceuticals Strategic Consultation
This is a special provision covering the implementation, where necessary, of special zone prior and follow-up meetings through visits by representatives from the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency (PMDA) to the core clinical research hospital that the consulter is affiliated to, to provide consultation services on the development of innovative medical equipment in core clinical research hospitals in National Strategic Special Zones.
The following medical institutions have received Special Zone approval, and are driving forward initiatives toward the development of innovative medical equipment.
Pharmaceutical Affairs Consultation on R&D Strategy of Medical Device in National Strategic Special Zone
3. Promoting female empowerment
Special provisions to the Urban Park Act
These special provisions enable the establishment of social welfare facilities within the premises of urban parks, including nursery schools that have not been approved for establishment previously.
Status of application of special provisions to the Urban Park Act in Tokyo
- Tokyo Municipal Shioiri Park (Arakawa Ward)
- Miyamae Park (Arakawa Ward)
- Tokyo Municipal Soshigaya Park (Setagaya Ward)
- Tokyo Municipal Roka Koshun-en Park (Setagaya Ward)
- Shinagawa Residents’ Park (Shinagawa Ward)
- Nishioihiroba Park (Shinagawa Ward)
- Tokyo Municipal Kiba Park (Koto Ward)
- Tokyo Municipal Wadabori Park (Suginami Ward)
- Tokyo Municipal Yoyogi Park (Shibuya Ward)
- Tokyo Municipal Higashiayase Park (Adachi Ward)
Special Provisions for foreigners conducting housekeeping services
These special provisions make it possible for foreigners conducting housekeeping services, employed by companies providing housekeeping services in the Special Zone, to enter and reside in Japan under the management of a Third Party Management Council comprising the relevant administrative agency and Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
Tokyo One-Stop Business Establishment Center
The Tokyo One-Stop Business Establishment Center has been established within the JETRO headquarters, in order to consolidate the various procedures required in the establishment of a foreign-affiliated company or startup company, including the certification of articles of incorporation, registration, tax matters, pension and social security, and immigration matters.
Tokyo Employment Consultation Center
The Tokyo Employment Consultation Center has been established on the same floor to provide support to foreign companies and new companies that have just been launched, to assist them in the accurate understanding of Japanese employment rules and facilitate the smooth development of their businesses.
Program to promote the reception of foreign entrepreneurs
Foreign nationals wishing to start up business in Japan need to obtain a “business manager” visa. To receive this status of residence, in addition to opening an office, the applicant must employ at least two people full-time, or invest at least 5 million yen in Japan. To fulfill these conditions, it is necessary for them to complete the preparations before entering Japan, including securing a business partner and signing a lease contract for an office. This makes it very difficult for foreign entrepreneurs to start a business alone if they do not have a partner in Japan.
Under this Special Zone scheme, applicants can receive status of residence (business manager) for half a year under the special provisions, if business plans and other necessary information are submitted to and checked by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government prior to screening by the Immigration Bureau of Japan. Once approved, the applicant will be able to utilize the half-year stay to complete various preparations in Japan.
In principle, the Inns and Hotels Act is applicable to facilities with an accommodation period of less than one month, making it mandatory for such facilities to set up a reception desk and comply with other regulations. Under this special provision program, even in cases where the accommodation period is less than one month, businesses can be excluded from the application of the Inns and Hotels Act when they satisfy the criteria* stipulated under the Enforcement of the Act on National Strategic Special Zones, upon receiving approval from the governor of the municipality (mayor for special zones or cities with public health centers).
An ordinance on the special provisions to the Inns and Hotels Act was enacted in Ota City at the end of 2015, and the special provisions were applied for the first time at the end of January 2016.
6. Related to the Tama area and the islands of Tokyo
Island Shochu Special Zone
7. Self-driving technology
Promoting the practical application of cutting-edge self-driving technology
Self-driving technology holds great significance for Japan’s growth strategy, for reasons such as its ability to improve the competitiveness of the automotive industry, which is a core industry in Japan. Furthermore, it is expected to contribute to easing traffic congestion and reducing the incidence of traffic accidents in Tokyo, which has a high volume of traffic, and has the potential to help achieve breakthroughs in resolving many social issues such as by becoming a means of transportation for the vulnerable.
For these reasons, the Tokyo Self-Driving Technology Sandbox Subcommittee has been established under the National Strategic Special Zone Council for the Greater Tokyo Area. In addition to tackling the planning and implementation of various demonstration tests that utilize cutting-edge self-driving technology with a view to the realization of complete self-driving in areas near the gateway to Tokyo, Haneda Airport, and other areas, the Subcommittee will also review existing systems and procedures with full consideration for safety, and establish a Special Zone system nicknamed “Sandbox.”
Through these initiatives, in anticipation of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, we aim to build a showcase for disseminating Japan’s cutting-edge technology within and outside Japan, and to preserve it as a legacy beyond 2020.
8.Proposals for new regulatory reforms
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government actively proposes new regulatory reforms to the National Strategic Special Zone Council.