Hokkaido governor confirms withdrawal from IR race

Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki announced on Friday that his prefecture was dropping out of the race for one of the three available IR licenses, and therefore there would be no Tomakomai IR for the foreseeable future.

“The candidate site is likely inhabited by rare animals and plants, and it is impossible to give proper consideration to environmental matters within the limited period available,” the governor explained.

This explanation is likely to create frustration for the pro-IR local government, which had launched one of the nation’s first local government RFIs in July 2017 and was in many ways the earliest IR mover, along with Osaka.

In the two-and-a-half years since the Tomakomai RFI, it has been the Hokkaido Prefectural Government that has consistently dragged its feet, and the environmental issue had not been discussed as a potentially prohibitive matter throughout the previous rounds of investigation.

Governor Suzuki did leave open the possibility that Tomakomai might seek an IR at some future occasion if the number of licenses is expanded beyond the current three. This could potentially occur in 2028.

Tomakomai’s withdrawal, however, will be greeted as welcome by some of the other IR candidate locations that it was competing against.

At present, there are now four openly declared candidate municipalities for the three available IR licenses: Yokohama, Osaka, Wakayama, and Sasebo (Nagasaki). Several others are still investigating the issue.