Govt eyes using Okinawa’s deregulated status for theme park

Govt eyes using Okinawa’s deregulated status for theme park

The government is considering utilizing a national strategic special zone for deregulation to promote the opening of a Universal Studios Japan theme park in Okinawa Prefecture, according to sources.

This would allow the government to raise the maximum building-to-land ratio allowed for Ocean Expo Park (see below), a candidate site in Motobu in the prefecture, thereby facilitating the theme park's construction as a key government measure to aid local development, the sources said.

The current Urban Parks Law stipulates that the building-to-land ratio at each park must not exceed 2 per cent of the entire area. The government is considering easing the regulations and raising the maximum ratio to allow the building of a large-scale theme park at the candidate site.

If Osaka-based operator USJ Co. officially decides to go ahead with the plan, the government will consider providing financial support to the prefectural government, with an eye to expanding and improving Ocean Expo Park's facilities and access by car.

In March last year, the government designated Okinawa Prefecture and five other areas across the country as national strategic special zones for deregulation. However, the only area where concrete progress has not been made is Okinawa.

The central and Okinawa prefectural governments hope to immediately map out a plan for the zone, with the USJ theme park as the main pillar. USJ Co.'s Chief Marketing Officer Tsuyoshi Morioka, Okinawa Deputy Gov. Mitsuo Ageda and Hiroto Izumi, a special adviser to the prime minister, visited Ocean Expo Park on Saturday.

Izumi told reporters after the observation trip, "We'll consider regulatory reforms if they can boost growth for the whole prefecture."

There is strong opposition in the prefecture to the plan to relocate the US Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Ginowan to the Henoko district of Nago. The government seems intent on obtaining local residents' understanding of the need for relocation through its efforts to support development in the prefecture.

Ocean Expo Park

An about 72-hectare state-run park established at the site of the marine-themed World Expo held in Okinawa Prefecture from 1975 to 1976. Its facilities include the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium - a popular tourist attraction - a botanical garden and beaches for swimming. The park attracted an all-time record of about 4.35 million visitors in fiscal 2014.

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