Press Tour (No.088)

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Foreign Correspondents’ Press Tour in Kansai

Organized by The Foundation for Kansai Region Promotion

Cooperated by Tokushima Prefecture

Nov.25(Wed.)-26(Thurs.), 2015

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Turning Rural Japan into Gems!

“ICT Strategy for Creative Tokushima” - How to utilize ICT to revitalize rural areas

 

Rural Japan faces various problems such as aging and depopulation. Tokushima prefecture is actively trying to solve these problems by utilizing ICT. This tour will set up an interview with Kamon Iizumi, the Governor of Tokushima. It will also report Kamiyama-cho's approach to inviting satellite offices, and the front line of “Leaf Business” in Kamikatsu-cho, which produces opportunities, places in society, and purposes in life for the elderly.

 

 

 

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Interview with the Governor of Tokushima, Kamon Iizumi

Charm of Tokushima and “vs TOKYO” Concept

(The schedule may be subject to change according to the status of his official duties.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kamiyama-cho -Turning Rural Japan into Gems!

~ Realizing New Work Style: Work without restriction of time and place.

The Keys to Success are: Well-developed ICT environment, depopulated area with rich natural environment, and ... ~

 

 

 

 

Kamikatsu-cho -Opportunities and places in society for the elderly!

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~ Be Active for Life!  “Leaf Business” adds “Bright Colors” to Japanese cuisine ~

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Please refer to the Highlight of the Tour for the details of each topic.

 

Tour Date Nov 25(Wed) - Nov 26(Thu),2015
Qualification Bearer of Press Registration Card issued by Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Tour Fee Please refer to the attached application form
Organized by

The Foundation for Kansai Region Promotion
Osaka Nakanoshima Building 7F, 2-2-2 Nakanoshima Kitaku, Osaka City 
Zip:530-0005
TEL:06-6223-7202

Cooperated by Tokushima Prefecture
Capacity 12 (1 reporter from each company, 2 for a TV company - 2 TV companies max for this tour)
Closing date/time for Application Nov 3(Tue),2015 05:00 PM
■The Foundation for Kansai Region Promotion, in cooperation with Tokushima Prefectural Government, organizes this press tour with a goal of disseminating information from Tokushima directly to the world through the participants' reports/articles based on press activities during the tour. We also ask participants to return their questionnaires after the tour.
We ask for your understanding and cooperation on those point.

■Applications will be accepted on this page by the time of the above-mentioned deadline, but please note that if the number of applicants has reached the prescribed number before your application, your name will be put on a waiting list for cancellation.

■The Foundation may set an upper limit on the number of participants from each country/region and may decide participants in view of their past records based on the press tours if the reporters joined in the past, when it receives oversubscribed applications.

■The Foundation shall bear no responsibility whatsoever for any accidents or inconveniences that may arise during a press tour. The itinerary is subject to change due to weather conditions or other circumstances.

The Highlights of the Tour

 

Interview with the Governor of Tokushima, Kamon Iizumi

Charm of Tokushima and "vs TOKYO" Concept

 

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Tokushima has a wide variety of attractiveness such as agricultural and fishery products known as Tokushima Brand, Awa Odori dance, Optic Fiber Networks, the fastest in Japan, etc. However amid the intensified promotion activities among local cities, it is difficult to obtain people’s attention through vague PR. Therefore Tokushima has decided to present itself on the concept with a strong impact. That is "vs TOKYO" Concept. It compares Tokushima with Tokyo and sets up Tokyo as an imaginary enemy, thus attracting people’s attention to Tokushima, which is synonymous with Japanese local city. They find and appeal the values special to Tokushima and originate new inventions and values to challenge the difficulties facing them. Tokushima surprises and changes Tokyo, accordingly developing Tokyo. If Tokyo become more competitive globally, Tokushima and other local cities of Japan can share in the benefits Tokyo receives. Such benefit will become something to surprise and develop Tokyo again, creating a virtuous cycle.

 

This press tour will visit governor Iizumi to know the charm of Tokushima and its "vs TOKYO" Concept.

 

 

[ICT Infrastructure in Tokushima]

Tokushima prefecture, since 2002, has promoted informatization centering on ICT infrastructure development under the leadership of Governor Iizumi, who had long career in information-related department in Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. It boasts one of the most outstanding communication infrastructures in Japan as it has developed cable TV network throughout the prefecture with the start of digital terrestrial broadcasting at the end of FY 2010, furthermore, high speed communication net of optic fiber, and intraregional free IP phone. On the other hand, the prefecture faces such difficulties as aging and depopulation at a faster pace than the national average, and the necessity of preparation for the expected Nankai Trough Earthquake. In 2014, responding to The Declaration on the Creation of World’s Most Advanced IT State, the national IT strategy, Tokushima prefectural government designed and implemented ICT Strategy for Creative Tokushima as a guideline to utilize ICT as a tool to solve problems facing Tokushima effectively and proactively.

This press tour will pick up examples of Kamiyama-cho and Kamikatsu-cho attracting a lot of nationwide attentions.

 

 

 

Kamiyama-cho - Turning Rural Japan into Gems!

~ Realizing New Work Style: Work without restriction of time and place.

The keys to success are: outstanding ICT environment, depopulated area with rich natural environment, and ... ~

 

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The Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011 revealed the enormous risk of the economic structure which was concentrated to the big cities only. As a workaround for this risk, telecommuting and satellite offices rapidly drew attention. Some companies are now setting up satellite offices in Tokushima prefecture. Why do they select Tokushima? The reason can be found in Tokushima's two gifts superior to other prefectures. One, Tokushima has one of the best communication infrastructures in Japan. Two, depopulated areas with rich natural environment. In Tokushima, marginal villages (areas in which half of the population is aged over 65) account for 35.5%. This number exceeds twice as much as the national average of 15.5%. Meanwhile, Tokushima has a rich natural environment and a lot of kominka, or traditional wooden Japanese houses. These two gifts give birth to new attractive offices which are almost impossible in big cities.

 

This tour will see and report Kamiyama-cho dubbed as the “depopulated town where people and companies gather” and has drawn attention nationwide.

 

[Kamiyama-cho's Approach]

Kamiyama-cho is located on the eastern part of Tokushima prefecture and has a population around 6,000. It is a typical town that has problems such as depopulation, aging, and increase of empty houses. In spite of these difficulties, IT ventures and other creative companies open their satellite offices here one after another in recent years. Kamiyama-cho attracts people and companies because of its outstanding communication infrastructure and good location with one hour ride from Tokushima city. Besides, the town keeps a rich natural environment, and people can rent nice residences and workspaces renovated from kominka or kura (Japanese old warehouse) inexpensively. Since 2010, 12 companies have come to the town and opened their offices, and the requests for relocation is still rising now.

 

At first, there were no strategies for satellite offices. Actually, this movement had begun from long-term activity of revitalizing this area. NPO Green Valley played the key role of this activity. It was in the 1990s when the organization (at that time it wasn't an NPO) started several projects such as “Kamiyama Artists in Residence” or “Work in Residence”. In the former project, artists were invited to live in the town and create their works. In the latter project, working people who were willing to live in Kamiyama-cho were invited to the town. The NPO has led the renovation of the town by its inhabitants, and at the same time, kept trying to enrich the value of Kamiyama-cho. The artists and creators who participated in these projects have made others come to this town, creating a virtuous cycle.

The NPO keeps its focus on people, not things, which is most characteristic of this NPO-led town renovation. “When people get together, they always make something new. Inviting people and satellite offices is not only for attracting enterprises, but also for people who can broaden this movement”. Under this concept, the town “picks out” the people and entrepreneurs who are essential for the future of the town. As a result of these activities, some companies in big cities established their satellite offices in Kamiyama-cho.

 

It is true that the well-developed IT infrastructure and the rich natural environment have attracted people and companies. But, that is not the only reason. The Kamiyama model mostly owes its success to the chemistry between “Kamiyama people who accept the energy from outside to revitalize the region actively” and “urban people who seek for a new style of working”, plus, Kamiyama-cho's “home town atmosphere” that accepts inhabitants from urban areas.

The tour will visit Kamiyama-cho. Participants will meet Shinya Ominami, the director of Green Valley and the key person, and learn about the details of these activities, future perspective, and what Ominami calls “creative depopulation”. The tour will also visit companies that opened their satellite offices in this town (see below) and stay at Kamiyama Onsen, which will show the attraction of Kamiyama.

 

 

[Satellite Office Visit: Sansan, inc.]

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This company opened its satellite office on October 2010. It is the first satellite office in Kamiyama. The company is an IT venture providing cloud service for business card management. The founder Chikahiro Terada, through his experience as a salaried worker, had a vision to realize environment surrounded by rich nature where employees can work creatively in a relaxing mood like Silicon Valley. And he founded his company in 2007. In 2010, the company opened Kamiyama Lab because Kamiyama-cho has rich nature, good IT environment, and attractive people. It is a perfect place for its satellite office. Some staffs and their families even moved to Kamiyama-cho from Tokyo.

 

 

[Satellite Office Visit: Plat-Ease Corporation]

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This company was founded by Tetsu Sumida in 2001. It provides metadata of TV shows to CATV stations and CS broadcasting stations. On July 2013, the company acquired a kominka (traditional Japanese house) and renovated it to open Kamiyama Center dubbed as Engawa Office. The office has impressive appearances, surrounded by wide engawa (Japanese style veranda) and full-height glazing. Sumida believes that his mission is to create jobs in Kamiyama. Hence he established a company named Engawa which operates a business in digital archiving using the next-generation video format, 4K and 8K. He also believes that his another mission is to revitalize declined forestry business.

 

 

 

Kamikatsu-cho

-Opportunities, places in society, and purposes in life for the elderly!

~ Be Active for Life! “Leaf Business” adds “Bright Colors” to Japanese cuisine ~

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Japanese dishes enchants people with its taste as well as its appearance which is praised as art in the world. Beautiful tableware is selected in accordance with the season, and dishes themselves are also elaborately decorated using seasonal flowers and leaves. These flowers and leaves are called tsumamono. In Tokushima, the town turned tsumamono into its key industry, and succeeded in revitalization of the town.

 

Kamikatsu-cho is located in the area about one hour ride from the center of Tokushima city, and has a population around 1,700. This town also has problems such as depopulation and aging. The elderly accounts for 51.1% of the town's population. Timber and mandarins were the main products of the town, but in the 1980s, the situation of the town drastically changed. The population of the town kept decreasing year by year. Timber and mandarins couldn't make sales growth because of import liberalization and tough competition with other production areas. In 1981, an unusual cold wave hit the town, which killed most of mandarin trees. It caused critical damage to the agriculture of the town. To get over this catastrophe, the town started to reorganize its agricultural crops mainly into light-weight vegetables. On one of those days, Tomoji Yokoishi who was a staff member of JA or Japan Agricultural Cooperatives at the time (and is now the president of Irodori Co.) had an idea, when he saw female customers pleased with the flower garnish on the dishes of a restaurant in Osaka. There are plenty of beautiful flowers, leaves, and edible wild plants in Kamikatsu. Why not sell them as tsumamono? He named this leaf business “Irodori” literally meaning bright colors, and started operating in 1986. In 1999, Irodori Co. was established as a joint public-private company with the investment from the town and farmers. Yokoishi became the head of the company. Leaf business deals with flowers and leaves. They are clean and light-weight, which allows the elderly (accounting for half of the town's population) to play an active role utilizing their knowledge, wisdom and experience. Thus, the business can produce opportunities and places in society for the elderly. Contracted farmers deliver maple leaves, persimmon leaves, nandin, plum, peach, cherry, etc. to Irodori Co. And the company sells the tsumamono to high-class Japanese restaurants in big cities through JA. Thanks to the effort such as conducting workshops, training for farmers, and steady business operation, the sales of Kamikatsu-cho's tsumamono keeps steadily increasing. As of 2012, it counts 260 yen million. Though the average age of the farmers involved in Irodori business is over 70, some farmers earn more than 10 million yen a year.

 

One of the driving forces for the growth of this business would be its well-developed ICT environment. Farmers decide the product and the amount by themselves based on the national market information that can be viewed from Kamikatsu Information Network of Irodori Co. using their PCs and tablets. They analyze the information, subsequently they gather flowers and leaves from nearby mountain and deliver the products. Irodori Co. chooses proper timing, and delivers them to a national market. The company also tries to motivate their farmers in various ways such as publishing sales ranking.

The leaf business in Kamikatsu-cho draws big attention nationwide. Walking up and down the mountains to maintain their plants, moving fingertips for sorting leaves, and using their brains through operating PCs and tablets. These activities significantly help the elderly keep their health. Leaf business is surely suitable for typical mountainous villages facing an aging and depopulation problem. As the elderly commit more to their society, all municipal elder care facilities were closed because the elderly are now so busy doing their leaf business that most of them don't need such facilities.

 

This tour will meet the key person Tomoji Yokoishi, the president of Irodori Co., who started the leaf business and has been deeply trusted by the farmers through his energetic activity to revitalize Kamikatsu-cho, and also meet representative farmers.

 

 

 

Itinerary

Nov 25(Wed)

13:00
Start of the tour at Tokushima Airport

14:30-15:30
[Press Activity] Interview with Kamon Iizumi, Governor of Tokushima

17:00-18:00
[Press Activity] Kamiyama-cho
Turning Rural Japan into Gems! -1
Interview with NPO representative

18:30             
Arrive at Kamiyama Onsen

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Nov 26(Thu)

9:00-11:00
[Press Activity] Kamiyama-cho
Turning Rural Japan into Gems! -2
Visit to Satellite Offices

13:30-16:30
[Press Activity] Kamikatsu-cho
-"Irodori" Leaf Business, the opportunities and places in society for the elderly!

18:00
End of the tour at Tokushima Airport

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