Juha Saunavaara

While changes in the Arctic evoke many concerns, they also serve to raise hopes and inspire plans that are being incorporated into the policies of nations far from the shores of the Arctic Ocean. This study considers Hokkaido as an example of a region in which development has been linked to new Arctic possibilities by both public and private actors. The main issues under discussion are the Northern Sea Route and the submarine communications cables that pass through Arctic waters. Proponents of the former have concentrated on the concept of ‘geographical advantage,’ suggesting that it is possible for Hokkaido to become the East Asian hub of the Northern Sea Route due to its favourable geographical location. The latter issue has received less attention from the public and various economic interest groups, though actors involved in the data center and cloud network industries have demonstrated particular interest in submarine cables. The debate surrounding potential new opportunities has also contributed to the (re-)emergence of demands for tighter direct connections between Hokkaido and other northern regions. This study also demonstrates the significance of having a small number of local opinion leaders, maintaining close ties between actors representing both the public and private sectors and considering existing demands for greater concreteness in terms of plans. In other words, utilizing the vocabulary of knowledge phase literature, it can be concluded that calls to advance from the exploration and examination phase to the exploitation phase have been made in Hokkaido.

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