Think Tank

We currently have an ongoing project with the City of Tsukuba in Ibaraki, Japan. Below is the description!

Project Description:

Research Project on Local Digital Currency with the City of Tsukuba

(Application Due Date: 2022.09.29 11:59 pm EST)

Thank you for your interest in working with Harvard Undergraduate Japan Policy Network (HUJPN). Below is information about one of our projects for this fall semester. Application is available here. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact

Project Description:

A rapid decline in population in rural parts of Japan is seriously affecting every local city’s governance. Revitalization of the local economy has become imperative for every municipality. The Japanese Government announced its plan to advance regional revitalization in 2014, but only a little progress has been seen nationwide. The City of Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture is no exception; Yet, it has accomplished unique projects with the initiative of Mayor Igarashi (Ph.D. in Political Science). A city with over 250,000 (as of July 2022) has multiple national agencies, including the headquarter of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and over 150 private companies surrounding them. As one of the biggest academic cities in Japan, Tsukuba has a sister city contract with the City of Cambridge, MA.

Yet, the peripheral areas have witnessed a decline in the vibrancy of their communities. The city’s goal is to revitalize the economy and community as a whole city, not simply by increasing the resident population but through a course of various activities. The city has been helping local residents come up with solutions to revitalize the economy & community through hosting “idea competitions” and helping residents sell traditional crafts.

Now, the mayor wants to create a new norm of capitalism around worker cooperatives in the city and is looking for more information. Mayor Igarashi directly counsels our collaboration with the city and sees us as a “partner” to help achieve and theorize what he plans to do. This will be the very first project where undergraduates in the U.S. work with local governments in Japan.

Our research topics include:

1. Local Digital Currency

  • Digital currency that can be used within the community; idea is to incentivize people to participate in activities aimed at revitalizing the local community

  • “Pay” people who participated in such activities through the use of local digital currency; the currency is intended to be used within the community and thereby stimulate the local economy theoretically

  • A primary focus would be on digital currency cases in the US and other nations; validating the impacts of digital currency on the local economy

2. Worker Cooperative

  • Funded and run by its workers (in this case, local residents)

  • Legislation on worker cooperatives in Japan was adopted in 2020 and will take effect on October 1, 2022

Research methods include:

  • Literature Review

  • Interviews with professors at Harvard and other schools, officials from governments that have already implemented digital currency

We are looking for 4 to 6 people (subject to change) with diverse backgrounds who are interested in working with us!

  1. Project Timeline
    October 10th, 2022 to January 15th, 2023 (Subject to change); Presentation to the city in mid-January

  2. Relevant Entities

  • Harvard Undergraduate Japan Policy Network

  • City of Tsukuba, Ibaraki JAPAN

  1. Project Leads

  • Tomoki Matsuno, President of HUJPN & Sophomore, studying Government

  • Kento Yamada, Co-Director of Think Tank & Junior, studying Government

  1. Qualifications

  • Current undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in institutions located in the United States; priority given to undergraduates enrolled in Harvard College

  • Willing to commit max. 5 hours per week to the project and to attend a weekly meeting (Time TBD based on members’ availability)

  • Interests in microeconomics, local governance, Japan’s economic structure, societal issues (aging population, Tokyo centralization), policy-making, etc.

  • Japanese language ability isn’t required; most parts of research will be conducted in English, and translation from Japanese to English and vice versa will be provided by project leads when necessary

  • Prior research experience isn’t required

  1. Others

  • A study session with professors and scholars specializing in regional economy, public policy, and Japan’s local governance is to be held approximately three times during the project

  • HUJPN has existing connections with the World Economic Forum Japan, Asia Pacific Initiative, Nomura Research Institute, members of Diet, and others that are willing to provide insights into the project and be a resource

  • A monthly meeting with the mayor is to be scheduled

  • Japanese snacks will be provided at every weekly meeting

  • The possibility of presenting the research to the Cabinet Office, Government of Japan

Related Links:

Citizen revitalization projects take root in Tsukuba district (the japan times)

The passage of the worker cooperative bill in Japan is celebrated around the word (International Labour Organization)

In the Berkshires, a bold experiment with local currency goes digital (wbur)

Once again, you can access the application here!

HUJPN Think Tank Division Directed by Tomoki Matsuno & Kento Yamada