In Case of Emergency: Japan Discusses Plans to Build ‘Backup Tokyo’

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Japan can build anything, right? How about making a second Tokyo? It’s Japan’s business hub, capital, and largest, most densely populated city. But it sits on the tumultuous Ring of Fire.

Tokyo was forced to face a stark reality earlier this year when a double-whammy 9.0 earthquake and tsunami rocked a region located mere hours north. Tokyo shook moderately in the March 11th quake, recording a magnitude in the high 5s. But the quake served the city a dose of humility – what if a disaster hits the crucial business and political center that’s home to nearly nine million people?

(PHOTOS: Six Months After the Quake and Tsunami)

An October meeting of high-ranking Japanese politicians showed how fearful they are of a similar quake hitting Tokyo. The parliament members birthed the idea of creating a backup Tokyo – what they referred to as a “substitute capital.” “The idea of being able to have a back-up, a spare battery for the functions of the nation, isn’t this a really good idea?” Hajime Ishii, a member of Japan’s ruling Democratic Party, asked as he unveiled the plan.

The new city, given the rather bland but explanatory name IRTBBC (Integrated Resort, Tourism, Business and Backup City), will sit nearly 300 miles southwest of Tokyo in the nation’s other business hub, Osaka. They’ve claimed two square miles of land at the Itami Airport, a largely dwindling travel hub just outside the city. The oddly-named IRTBBC will be tasked to take over all operational functions of the city, housing 50,000 people and able to accommodate 200,000 on workdays.

Politicians plan to construct office complexes, a resort, casinos and parks to support the infrastructure of the faux city. While the backup Tokyo is only in a planning state, the planners claim to have the backing of more than 100 government officials.

But the plan isn’t without contention, even from the very politicians at the heart of the matter. Osaka’s governor Hashimoto says his city will gladly accept the backup role, while Governor Ishihara of Tokyo maintains he cannot see the capital anywhere but Tokyo.

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