National Geographic : 1991 Nov
up rather than out. Takenaka, the builder of Tokyo's "Big Egg" domed stadium, plans for a 33-billion-dollar "vertical mega structure" called Sky City-a stack of 14 mini-cities surrounding an atrium that would rise 3,400 feet, two and a half times as high as New York's World Trade Center. But the biggest undertaking of all is a rede velopment scheme some 300 miles west, on the broad Kansai plain. Kansai's economy is larger than that of Canada, yet the region has long languished in Tokyo's shadow-and Kansai leaders are determined to languish no longer. As Osamu Uno, chairman of the Kansai Economic Federation, put it, "The modern history of Japan has been the central ization of Tokyo. The 21st century will be the age of Kansai." Kansai's gurando design embraces a total of 822 projects including a new international airport on a man-made island in Osaka Bay; a science city housing advanced-research institutes for telecommunications, science, and culture; and the world's longest suspen sion bridge-the Akashi Straits Bridge, link ing coastal Kobe to the island of Shikoku. All told, the cost is expected to exceed 35.5 tril lion yen (257 billion dollars U. S.). "Kansai is the biggest project in the whole world," said Hiroyuki Gohda, a manager at the Center for the Industrial Renovation of Kansai. "It will link Japan to the other nations of Asia's Pacific Rim." W ITH LABOR AT A PREMIUM and crowd ing a constant problem, many Japa nese firms are relocating abroad, for lower costs and cheap labor. "I see the countries of Southeast Asia at various stages of the same course Japan took in recovering from the war," Mamoru Tabu chi, thoughtful chairman of Mitsui & Com pany (Thailand), told me in Tokyo. Tabuchi, in fact, is counting on it. In the past four years Mitsui has committed some 85 million dollars to Thailand. With more than a hundred joint ventures ranging from sugar mills in the northeast to the construction of a massive petrochemical facility on the eastern seaboard, Mitsui is the biggest Japanese For Japan's insatiable timber market, Malay sian hardwoods rumble from the island of Borneo. Under fire for rain forest destruction, some loggers have had to halt operations.