The City of Kitakyushu was established in February 1963 by margining 5 cities namely: Moji, Kokura, Wakamatsu, Yahata and Tobata. Once famous for being heavily polluted, the city has established itself as a centre for cement industry, steel and other large-scale factories that placed a heavy toll on the city’s environment. The immediate impact of pollution to the residents health have prompted the citizens particularly the women of Kitakyushu to challenge the local government to adopt stringent measures to address these environmental problems. To date, Kitakyushu has emerged from a polluted city to one of Japan’s finest Eco-model cities.

Fast Facts

Topographic Location 2 Located in the northern part of Kyushu Island
Climate/Average Temperature Warm and mild climate with an average temeperature of 17.7 deg C.
Area 487

Political Setting:

Division of Administration

Political Setting


Seven Wards


Socio-economic Setting:3




990,000 (as of 2006)

2020 persons/km2

Economic Activities:

Gross City Product

Major industries: heavy industries (general machinery, steel, shipping)

3.4 trillion yen (2004)

Urban Structure and Land Use

The city is divided into seven wards- (1) Moji Ward which is considered the gateway from the sea, (2) Kokurakita-ward) as the city centre and industrial area, (3) Kokura-minami ward that hosts the city's very own airport, (4) Yahata-higashi ward which is considered as the oldest iron manufacturing place in Japan (5) Tobata-ward as the residential area, the academic and eco-town area of (6) Wakamatsu ward and (7) Yahata-nishi ward with a regeneration programme of local community in progress.4

As a whole, 55% of the city area is for forests and farmlands, 22% for residential areas, 15% for public use, 2% for water, 6% for others.5


The city is accessible by air, sea and roads. An international airport is located in the city and the sea port is located in Moji Ward. Bus, railway and monorail are available in the city centre, about 120,000 people are reported to be using the main railway station (Kokura Station) everyday.6

Environmental Issues

1950's has seen the age of steel, cement, chemical factories and other heavy industrial activities in Kitakyushu City. This rapid shift to industrialization has lead the city to economic growth however caused considerable damage to health and well being of the people and the urban environment as a whole. Air and water quality has reached an alarming situation that prompted local actors to seek for immediate solutions. Since then, the City of Kitakyushu have promoted environmental initiatives on air and water quality management, solid waste management, sanitation and so on.

Air quality management:

Air pollution from the chemical and heavy industries was seriously affecting the health of the local residents during the 1950s and 60s in Kitakyushu. Environmental pollution was not well recognised in those days and the economic growth tended to be prioritised; however, the residents in the city especially women have made associations to tackle with the problem on air pollution. They have studied about damage and pollutions by calling scientists and professors, and the movement has been expanded by involving many people. In 1965, a group of 6,000 women from 13 associations issued a report to claim for getting the blue sky back in the city. 7

The local governmental office for pollution control was established in 1963 within the Public Health Sector of the Health Bureau. The Pollution Prevention Funding System was set up in 1968, which can support small and medium-size companies to reduce the emission by monitoring, installing pollution control equipment, and relocating. Since the 1970s, companies started to introduce cleaner product measures instead of end-of-pipe technologies. 8

Graph 1: Reduction of SOx emissions thru various means.9

Due to the Bottom-up civil movements and partnerships between the government, companies, and residents, the city has succeeded to improve the air quality dramatically (See Graph 1).

Bay Recovery and Water Quality Management:

Dokai Bay, the bay of Kitakyushu located in the northern part was once called the “sea of death” due to water contamination with highly concentrated toxic substances. The movement against the pollution was again initiated by women’s association together with the labour union in the 1960s and 70s. 10

The main action against water pollution was to dredge out the contaminated substances from the bottom of the bay. This dredging was requested to the industrial companies based on the Polluter Pays Principle and also to the governments at the national, prefecture, and municipal level to share the burden regarding the Water Quality Law Control Law and the Factory Effluent Control Law (Net Share: Industry 71%, Governments 13%12). The dredging has started in 1974 for a year, and nowadays Dokai Bay has recovered the environment which fish and prawns can live. Over 100 kinds of fish are living in the bay.13

Solid waste management:

The solid waste management in Kitakyushu has started in the 1950s. The main focus on the efficient management was on addressing and managing hazardous wastes and promoting recycling. The city has initiated to implement policies and projects by following the legal framework for waste disposal and recycling such as the national Public Cleansing Law in 1954, the Waste Disposal and Public Cleansing Law in 1970, and the Law for the Promotion of Utilisation of Recycled Resources in 1991.

The city developed a master plan for efficient solid waste management such as for recycling, collecting, transporting in 1963. Since then, the plans have been revised several times and the city introduced a pay-system using designated bags in 1998, which can cover around 12% of the waste managing cost. The percentage of collecting recyclable resources e.g. cans, plastic packages, PET bottles have increased and the city continues encouraging through environmental education or public awareness campaign.

As another main project, Kitakyushu established an eco-industrial complex and a research centre approved and supported by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) as the first city of the “Eco-Town Project” in 1997. The Eco-Town is aimed for education and research, developing, assessment, and making new business related to recycling technologies, which collaborated with research institutes in Kitakyushu Science and Research Park. The Eco-Town is now one of the main places for the international environmental cooperation for Kitakyushu since it provides new recycling technologies and possibilities for business. The city has accepted over 4000 trainees from 118 countries so far and it sent around 100 trainers to 25 countries mainly to Asian countries.14

Current Plans/ Programmes

Kitakyusyu is recently putting efforts on revising the solid waste management system, CO2 emission reduction, ESD (Education for Sustainable Development), and so on. The city government aims to reduce 10% of CO2 based on the amount in 2002. The city also operates a unique system for reducing the amount of plastic package and encouraging a green consumer movement (“Kanpass Seal) since 2006.

Environmental Commitment

As a commitment for Kitakyushu Initiative for a Clean Environment, the city declared six commitments at the fourth meeting of Kitakyushu Initiative Network in 2007.

Until 2010, The City of Kitakyushu will:

1) continue supporting the activities and cities at “Kitakyushu Initiative for a Clean Environment”
2) increase the number of accepting trainee up to 400 persons per year
3) decrease household waste disposal by 20% and increase the recycling rate to 25%
4) decrease discharge of CO2 by 10% from the amount in 2002
5) provide 860 sets of low-emission public vehicles, and
6) increase the number of voluntary participants to “Eco-life Stage”, an eco-campaign for the environmental education up to 300 persons.

Achievement (as of 2008)

1) Accepted 494 trainees in 2007 and 400 trainees in 2008;

2) Achieved 24% decrease in household waste and 30% increase in recycling ratio;

3) Provided 735 low-emission public vehicles in 2007

4) Increased the number of participants in the Eco-life Stage event to 460,000 in 2007.


  1. Links for Updated Information:

Kanpass campaign Homepage (Japanese)

Kitakyushu City Government
Kitakyushu’s Environmental International Cooperation. Kitakyushu City, Office for International Environmental Cooperation Bureau.

Kitakyushu Forum on Asian Women

Kitakyushu International Techno-cooperative Association (KITA)


(1) Kitakyushu’s Environmental International Cooperation.
(2) Kitakyushu’s Environmental International Cooperation.
(3) City of Kitakyushu.

(4) City of Kitakyushu (Japanese)
(5)Japan Architect Association, Research of the Land Use in KitakyushuCity by GIS. (in Japanese)
(6) Kitakyushu-An InternationalCity. (in Japanese) Kitakyushu City International Office.
(7) Urban Environmental Management Challenges in Asia. 2005, IGES.

(8) Urban Environmental Management Challenges in Asia. 2005, IGES.
(9) Kitakyushu Initiative, database.
(10, 11) Urban Environmental Management Challenges in Asia. 2005, IGES.

(12)Urban Environmental Management Challenges in Asia. 2005, IGES.
(13) Kitakyushu’s Environmental International Cooperation.

(14,15)Kitakyushu’s Environmental International Cooperation.

(16) Environment of Kitakyushu City 2007, Kitakyushu City.
(17) Kanpass Homepage (only Japanese)

United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific

Environment Section
Environment and Sustainable Development Division
United Nations Building, Rajdamnern Avenue
Bangkok 10200 Thailand

Institute for Global Environmental Strategies

Kitakyushu Initiative Network Secretariat
3-9-30 Asano, Kokurakita-ku
Kitakyushu City 802-0001 Japan