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The Globalization of Kansai

Kansai International Airport

■A History of International Exchange

  About 1,500 years ago, culture from the Asia continent came to Japan, in every case through the Seto Inland Sea, landing in Naniwazu and spreading first through Kansai and then to the rest of the country. This influence was felt in every aspect of the society, in literature, religion, laws and even the construction of the capital cities. Kansai was the reception hall for the culture of the world. After the Taika Reform of 645 AD, the government system employed in Japan during the Nara Period (710 - 794 AD) was based on that of the Sui Dynasty in China, and the Ritsuryo legal codes of the Nara Period were based on those of the Tang Dynasty on the Chinese continent. In those days, the Nara Palace in Nara was a large-scale structure constructed according to the Ritsuryo legal codes, which were based on the codes of the Sui and Tang Dynasties on the Chinese continent. Thus, the Chinese influence on capital planning was also felt later in both the design and construction of the Heiankyo Capital in Kyoto.
 During the Asuka Period (593 - 710 AD) Japanese envoys were dispatched to the Sui Dynasty in China and Japanese envoys continued to visit China during the Tang Dynasty Period. At the end of the 12th century, Taira no Kiyomori initiated trade with the Sung Dynasty in China. At the beginning of the 15th century, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu established trade relationships with the Ming Dynasty in China. Furthermore, Toyotomi Hideyoshi established a system of licensed trade concessions with China and Southeast Asia. In every historical period, the international government and private exchange with foreign countries was all based in Kansai. Trade with the Ming Dynasty was so prosperous for the autonomous city Sakai that when the Portuguese missionary Luís Fróis visited Sakai in the 16th century, he compared Sakai to Venice, the international trade city. The Meiji Restoration brought an end to the long period of national isolation, and along with the opening of the port in Kobe in the last half of the 19th century, a foreign settlement district was established for foreigners.

Kobe Airport

■Economic Exchange with Asia and the Rest of the World

 The Kansai export and import share for Asia accounts for 60% of the total Kansai export and import business, which is higher than the average nationwide. Furthermore, about 60% of the advances into foreign markets made by enterprises in Kansai are concentrated in Asia. Many of these cases are advances into the various ASEAN countries and China. Categorized by business type, the production industries, especially the electrical appliances, chemistry and textile industries, account for a high share.
 Infrastructure construction and activity designed to attract businesses to the region have increased briskly in order to promote investments in Kansai.
 In order to attract and promote foreign investments, the infrastructure required for transportation, industry, and daily life is essential. In regard to the transportation infrastructure, Kansai has sufficient facilities, with numerous airports and harbors for international distribution, and a nationwide network of railroads and high-speed highways. As for the infrastructure required for industry, Kansai has a vast number of research and development centers, at universities, etc., an accumulation of industries, and industrial parks with low cost land for production plants. In regard to the infrastructure required for daily life, a residential environment attractive for foreigners living in Japan has been achieved, along with the required medical care and educational environment. And in order to attract foreign investment in Kansai, the Kansai Council of Investment Promotion, holds meetings to exchange and share information. This group is comprised of independent bodies and economic organizations within Kansai.
■ Support for Foreign Students Studying Abroad in Kansai

 There are more than 20,000 foreign students studying abroad in Kansai at colleges, universities, high schools, and vocational schools, accounting for 20% of the total number of foreign students studying abroad in Japan. Categorized by country or region, mainland China, Korea, and Taiwan are the top three. The various autonomous bodies in Kansai offer a variety of support programs for students with excellent academic results requiring economic support, such as scholarships, residential support, support for health insurance fees, and free passes for museums and other cultural facilities, etc.

A view of an in-service training session at PREX

■Technical support and in-service training

 The transmission of technology to developing countries is one fundamental form of international cooperation, and there are many organizations in Kansai conducting technical in-service training programs designed to foster talent. The public organizations engaged in this effort include the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) (Ibaraki City, Osaka), Association for Overseas Technical Scholarship (AOTS) Kansai Training Center in Osaka (Osaka City), and International Center for Cooperation and Communication (Kobe City). Kyoto, Wakayama, Shiga, Nara, and Fukui, etc. almost all of the prefectures and municipalities have in-service training systems in effect. Japanese Language Institute, Kansai by Japan Foundation in Osaka invites foreign diplomats, officials and Japanese researchers to conducts Japanese language training sessions.
 Established through close collaboration between industrial, academic, and government organizations, the main aim of the Pacific Resource Exchange Center (PREX) is to provide cooperation and support for the fostering of talent for the developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and through those activities, promote international exchange of human resources and mutual understanding. The themes of the in-service training at PREX cover various topics, administration management, the promotion of small- and medium-size companies, export promotion, and marketing, etc.

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