Central and Local Governance in Japan and the UK: Lessons from Okinawa and Scotland


The coral reefs, white sand beaches and sub-tropical rainforests of Okinawa, a chain of islands stretching over 600 miles of ocean between Southwest Japan and Taiwan, seem a distant world from the misty mountains and lochs of Scotland, but recent political developments in Scotland have brought to light some surprising parallels.

Like Scotland, Okinawa is a smaller, once independent, area incorporated within a far larger entity, which possesses its own distinct history, culture and political outlook. Debate on the balance between central and local governance has recently taken prominence in political discussion in Okinawa, and last September, intrigued by recent events in Scotland, several Okinawan journalists and researchers, including the founding member of an Okinawa independence movement, flew to Edinburgh to observe the independence referendum.

Professor Takayoshi Egami (Waseda University), is an expert in regional policy in Okinawa, having worked as a lecturer and researcher at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa for over 26 years. Since last September, he has spent one year as a visiting researcher at the University of Edinburgh to draw lessons from developments in devolution in Scotland post referendum.

In this seminar Professor Egami will discuss the complex historical and political background of Okinawa prefecture, which lies behind recent interest in devolution in the region.

After his talk he will be joined for a comparative discussion on devolution in the UK and Japan by Professor Paul Cairney, Professor of Politics and Public Policy at the University of Stirling, an expert in both Scottish politics and UK-wide comparative public policy.

Recent discussion on devolution and regionalism in the UK and Japan has not been confined to Scotland and Okinawa of course. Recent hot topics in the UK have included devolving more powers to Wales, the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ and even the development of London as a city state, while in Japan, debate was recently ignited over plans to devolve more powers to Osaka City. Through exploring some of these issues, Professor Cairney and Professor Egami will discuss what can be learned from the experience of each country and how regionalism may develop in future years.

The seminar will be followed by an opportunity to pose your own devolution-related questions to the experts, and a drinks reception.

Date: 22 July 2015 from 6.30pm
Venue: The Swedenborg Society, 20-21 Bloomsbury Way, London, WC1A 2TH

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