The Future of Tokyo as Envisioned by Children: Passing the Baton to Start-Ups

Children used the popular game Minecraft to come up with creative ideas on the future of community development in Tokyo Bay that could connect to efforts at start-ups.
The children who created works on the future of the community, alongside Governor Koike Yuriko. The contest comprised a "Junior Category" (lower elementary school or under), a "Middle Category" (upper elementary school or under), and a "Young Category" (high school or under).

Incorporating Children's Ideas into the Future 50 and 100 Years

The Tokyo Bay eSG Project is a massive project that conceptualizes sustainable community development as development that combines the abundance of nature with convenient lifestyles. The project targets the Rinkai Fukutoshin area, as well as the vast swathe of newly reclaimed land (approximately 1000 hectares) adjacent to it, and is being promoted by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

While the project name is based on the concept of "ESG (Environment, Social, Governance)," the "E" in this case is taken from "ecology," "economy," and "epoch-making," combined with the initials for Shibusawa Eiichi (S) and Goto Shinpei (G). Shibusawa, referred to as the "father of the modern Japanese economy," was a great businessman responsible for many entrepreneurial ventures and social-contribution activities. Goto, as the mayor of Tokyo at the time, was responsible for the formulation of the grand—but considered foolish and impossible—"Imperial Capital Reconstruction Plan" following the Great Kanto Earthquake 100 years ago.

The future envisioned by the project is one of a city with human-centered spaces surrounded by abundant greenery, close to the water, and rich in biodiversity. The aim is also to implement cutting-edge technologies like next-generation means of mobility and renewable energy, for resilience against infectious diseases and natural disasters. This project was proposed as a way to develop a community that looks 50, even 100 years ahead.

It is said that many of the visions people 50 or 100 years ago had about the future have become a reality today. Because of this, there is a strong push to actively incorporate the ideas and opinions of children—those responsible for the future—into this project, which concerns the world 50 and 100 years from now.

The "Tokyo Bay eSG Award," in Collaboration with Minecraft

Part of the Tokyo Bay eSG Project involved a collaboration with the Minecraft Cup, the national tournament for Minecraft—a popular sandbox game played in a virtual world.

The theme for the 2022 Minecraft Cup was "Homes/Communities that Connect Living Creatures, People, and Nature: Protect Biodiversity." The "Tokyo Bay eSG Award" was established as a special award for the Tokyo block of the tournament due to the commonalities between this theme and the aim of the project.

The winner in the Junior Category (lower elementary school or under) was a work titled "Thunder God's Ark," by one-man team "CC." CC, along with the other top teams in the Tokyo block, was invited to the "Envisioning the Future of Tokyo with Children" presentation and talk session led by Governor Koike on Sunday February 12, 2023.

Dream Technologies as Imagined by Children

© Minecraft Cup National Tournament Operational Committee
"Thunder God's Ark" by CC, which won the Tokyo Bay eSG Award. It also won the Grand Prize in the Junior Category of the national tournament. CC says that his dream in the future is to become a "fun YouTuber."

"Thunder God's Ark" was packed with creativity, depicting an enormous flying ark that would use lightning as energy to "fight" environmental issues and help protect biodiversity.

A probe would first make its way to lands destroyed by humanity, collecting living creatures, soil, and other materials, and bringing them up to the ark. The ark would then improve the soil and plant trees, with the thunder god, who controls the weather, bringing rain to the lands in order to regenerate them and protect the living creatures. Inside the ark is also a functioning energy cycle, powered by water filtration equipment, and wind and biomass power generators. The ark is the picture of coexistence between humanity and nature, boasting a research facility, fields, restaurants, and even amusement parks for both animals and human beings.

When asked, "Do you think about energy and environmental issues all day?" by Governor Koike, CC responded happily, "Yes!" CC says the idea came to him when he was drawing a picture of the thunder god, and thought, "Why not have the thunder god be responsible for energy?" While many of the teams comprised multiple people, CC—a second-grade student in elementary school—made his work on his own.

The three other top works also featured a plethora of innovative ideas that envisioned the possible "futures" of Tokyo in highly creative ways. This included "aerial home districts," in which human beings live in the sky in order to preserve the nature on land for the animals; "vertical farms" that are compact but offer high yields; "ocean floor plantations," where crops are grown on the ocean floor; and "cities in harmony with the natural world," where the train network is built using 100 percent clean, natural energy, and there are no cars at all.

Governor Koike expressed her gratitude towards the children, saying, "Believe in your abilities and in the power of technology, and stay true to your wish for this kind of future—50, 100 years from now. Thank you for all of your wisdom and ingenuity."

© Minecraft Cup National Tournament Operational Committee
"Earth Connected to the Sea and Land," by team "Nature Lovers Shuki and Taichi" in the Middle Category (upper elementary school and under). In response to their innovative idea to grow carrots, potatoes, and other crops on the ocean floor, Governor Koike commented, "I wonder if they'd get salty?"

Children and Adults Teaming Up

These ideas are not just dreams depicted by children in Minecraft. On Friday March 24, 2023, an "Envisioning the Future of Tokyo with Children" business contest was held at CIC Tokyo in the Toranomon area of Tokyo. In this contest, start-ups presented original services and businesses conceptualized in response to the ideas and hopes that had been expressed by the children in Minecraft. Following the judging process, a winner was selected for the Tokyo Bay eSG Award (Business Category), and the winners of the Grand Prize and Excellence Prize were awarded cash, as well as introductions to various start-up support measures by the metropolitan government.

It is the adults' responsibility to see to what extent the children's dreams for the future can actually be realized in society. The Tokyo Bay eSG Project, which began in April 2021, and has now been ongoing for two years, is taking on a new challenge—one in which children and adults must work together.

Interview and writing by Ando Naoko
Photos by Sakashita Takehiro
Translation by Amitt