Representing Japan’s 47 prefectures and 791 cities, the governors of Hiroshima and Okayama prefectures and city mayors from Obihiro in Hokkaido and Sanjo in Niigata gathered in Tokyo on May 22, 2017 to discuss in English why their local regions can provide abundant business opportunities and how they have built infrastructure and a business environment welcoming foreign direct investment. The four leaders are fluent in English because they either studied or worked overseas before assuming their current positions. Taking full advantage of their rich and diverse experience, these heads of local governments are working hard to open their markets to the world.
With Minister of State for Regional Revitalization Kozo Yamamoto also present, Hiroshima Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki, Okayama Governor Ryuta Ibaragi, Obihiro City Mayor Norihisa Yonezawa, and Sanjo City Mayor Isato Kunisada introduced their regions’ various opportunities to about 1,000 executives of the Boston Consulting Group who gathered in Tokyo from all over the world for the company’s annual meeting. Takashi Mitachi, Senior Partner & Managing Director of the Boston Consulting Group Tokyo, moderated the panel.
The panelists presented their regions’ wide range of opportunities in the fields of manufacturing, tourism, and agriculture by mentioning small-to-medium-sized companies’ technological strength backed by local tradition, as well as their regions’ abundant nature, great infrastructure, and strong support systems offered by local governments.
Impressed with the presentations, some participants said that they were assured that Japan’s rural areas had great potential and opportunities for direct investment, while others said that they realized how local regions contributed to the growth of Japan’s matured economy.
Here is how each head of the local governments explained the key attributes and unique characteristics of his region:
Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki
Governor of Hiroshima Prefecture. Born in 1965. Graduated from the University of Tokyo. After working at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, founded a communication service company, ACCA Networks Co.,Ltd. Earned an MBA from Stanford University. Elected as Governor in 2009.
Governor Ryuta Ibaragi
Governor of Okayama Prefecture. Born in 1966. Graduated from the University of Tokyo and earned an MBA from Stanford University. After worked as a management consultant at Monitor Company, served as president of the Okayama-based department store chain, Tenmaya Co.,Ltd. Elected as Governor in 2012.
Mayor Norihisa Yonezawa
Mayor of Obihiro City. Born in 1956. Graduated from Hokkaido University. Worked at Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries (now IHI Corporation), a heavy-industry manufacturer, and Japan Associated Finance CO.,Ltd. (now JAFCO CO.,Ltd.), a venture capital company, where he spent six years in London as head of JAFCO’s London office. Elected as Mayor in 2010．
Mayor Isato Kunisada
Mayor of Sanjo City. Born in 1972. Graduated from Hitotsubashi University. Studied in Beijing, China for one year as an exchange student during his senior year of college. Worked at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (Now the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications). Elected as Mayor in 2006, at the youngest age in history.
- HIROSHIMA PREFECTURE Q&A
Population : 2.84 million (as of 2015)
Area : 8,479.5 km²
Capital : Hiroshima City
Local GDP : USD 100 billion
Access by air : Tokyo (90 minutes), Seoul (100 minutes), Shanghai (135 minutes), HongKong (3.5hours)
Access by train : Tokyo (4 hours), Nagoya (150 minutes), Osaka (90 minutes), Fukuoka (80 minutes)
Major industries : Transport machinery, iron and steel, electric machinery, general machinery, food products.
- OKAYAMA PREFECTURE Q&A
Population : 1.92 million (as of 2015)
Area : 7,114.5 km²
Capital : Okayama City
Local GDP : USD 61 billion
Access by air : Tokyo (70 minutes), Seoul (95 minutes), Shanghai (120 minutes), HongKong (4 hours)
Access by train : Tokyo (3 hours), Osaka (45 minutes), Fukuoka (100 minutes)
Major industries : Petrochemicals, coal chemicals, transport equipment, chemicals, steel and general machinery and tools.
- SETOUI REGION Q&A
Hiroshima and Okayama Prefectures took initiatives to revitalize the rich region encompassing the Seto Inland Sea, or Setouchi, with five other prefectures situated near the sea. The prefectures of Hyogo, Okayama, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Tokushima, Kagawa, and Ehime worked together to promote tourism around Setouchi through cross-regional marketing and product development.
- OBIHIRO CITY, HOKKAIDO PREFECTURE Q&A
Population : 167,640 (as of 2015)
Area : 619.34 km²
Province : Hokkaido
Local GDP : USD 4.9 billion
Access by air : Tokyo (90 minutes) from Obihiro Airport, Seoul (3 hours) from New Chitose Airport, Shanghai (3 hours) from New Chitose Airport
Access by train : Sapporo (150 minutes), Chitose (120 minutes), Hakodate (5 hours), Kushiro (90 minutes)
Major industries : Agriculture (main crops include wheat, potatoes, beets, yams, and gobo roots)
- SANJO CITY, NIIGATA PREFECTURE Q&A
Population : 99,192 (as of 2015)
Area : 431.97 km²
Province : Niigata
Local GDP : USD3.5 billion
Access by air : Seoul (120 minutes) from Niigata Airport, Shanghai (3 hours) from Niigata Airport
Access by train : Tokyo (120 minutes), Niigata (10 minutes)
Major industries : Metal manufacturing
The prefectures and cities that were highlighted here are just a few examples of Japan’s attractive and diverse regions. Readers will find a wide range of business opportunities in rural areas, if they visit and explore various regions on their own.
- Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO)
- Cabinet Office
- Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
Names and positions contained in this report are as of May 22, 2017.