Japan’s Aichi Prefecture may be mostly known abroad for the cultural attractions of its capital, Nagoya, but it also happens to be Japan’s automotive industry leader, and home to major companies such as Toyota Motor Corporation and Volkswagen Japan. As the area prepares to host the 2019 G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, Governor Hideaki Ohmura explains how he plans to use the meeting to convey Aichi’s strengths, and thereby illuminates the origin of its slogan: “The Heart of Japan—Technology and Tradition”
You have always shown a passion for local politics. How have you put that passion into practice in Aichi?
Local administration brings you closer to the residents, and I believe that except for policies that relate to fundamental matters of state and require a truly nationwide perspective, administration should be left to local governments. We support decentralization and regulatory reform so that community development can flourish, and I hope to lead Japan by making Aichi the most dynamic prefecture. I believe that deepening exchanges that take advantage of the strengths of local governments will encourage social change and create new bonds. These ties will then lead to peace and stability for the international community. I believe that Aichi is a leader in this kind of movement.
How will the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in November 2019 help Aichi gain global prominence?
This meeting is going to receive a lot of attention because major countries will be gathering here. I want all of the attending ministers to see what we have to offer in Aichi. In order to further develop the prefecture, I think that not only diplomatic relations between countries are important, but also an exchange between regions. With this in mind, Aichi cooperates with various regions in Europe, the United States, and Asia to build win-win relationships on a wide range of economic issues, tourism, education, culture, and human resource development based on memorandums of understanding (MOUs). Since I took over as governor, I have deepened regional cooperation and exchange and have linked up with 15 countries and regions of the world through economic partnerships and mutual cooperation. In addition, the new prefectural international exhibition hall, Aichi Sky Expo, is scheduled to open in September 2019. Aichi Sky Expo will be another way for Aichi to act as a base for people, goods and information, and to showcase its industrial power and attractiveness to the world.
Aichi is the leader of the Japanese automobile industry and is home to large companies such as Toyota Motor Corporation and Volkswagen Japan. How much do these and other companies contribute to the region’s branding?
Aichi has been home to manufacturing since ancient times. We have led Japanese industry, including everything from ceramics and textiles to automobiles and aerospace, adapting to many structural changes. Our tradition is a source of pride, leading us to call ourselves Japan’s “industrial capital.” Currently, the industrial output of Aichi is about 45 trillion yen ($398 billion). It has been the highest in Japan for 40 consecutive years. In particular, we are a hub for exports, and many companies are developing overseas.
Companies with cutting-edge technologies, such as Toyota Motor Corporation, are modern symbols of Aichi’s industrial and technological capabilities. It goes without saying that these companies have become essential for the global dissemination of Aichi’s reputation and thus contribute to our brand power. The Aichi Prefectural Government is actively supporting these companies. For example, the Aichi Prefectural Government is developing a site for Toyota Motor Corporation at their request and will sell it to the company. Toyota will construct a research and development center with 11 test courses on the 650-hectare site. In addition, the final assembly factory for the MRJ regional jet aircraft, which will be produced in Japan and manufactured by Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation, was built on the site prepared and sold to the company by the Aichi Prefectural Government.
Investors typically focus on Tokyo, Osaka and other major cities. What are the unique advantages of Aichi?
Aichi has some of the world’s largest industrial clusters for the automobile industry, aerospace industry and robotics. This includes not only manufacturers of finished goods but also a wide range of parts industries, and individual companies are actively working on developing new products and expanding sales channels. Investment in the prefecture holds the promise of great business opportunities within a wide range of manufacturing industries. As an example of a partnership, the Boeing Company and Aichi companies have had a history of joint development for over 65 years. I would like to continue building this kind of cooperative relationship in the future.
How do you envision the future of manufacturing, and how can Aichi shape it?
We want to emphasize our strengths and continue to develop them. Building on our success in the automotive industry, we are now also focused on the aerospace and robotics industries. I can confidently say that innovation is already happening in these fields in Aichi. The progress of IT technology such as AI and big data is about to fundamentally change industry, and manufacturing is no exception. Many large companies are investing in start-ups and working on business alliances, and in Aichi there is a great potential for fusing start-ups and manufacturers.
What is the role of FDI in this development?
I am expecting a lot of overseas investment in Aichi, and I hope that foreign and domestic investors will work together to develop and strengthen each other.
What is the importance of the U.S. market for Aichi?
America is the biggest market for our automotive industry. In fact, Toyota Motor Corporation has higher sales figures in the U.S. than it does domestically. The corporation has 10 factories in America; it is manufacturing and selling there. Toyota is a Japanese company, but at this point, it is also an American company.
Some Americans say that Japan is taking advantage of America by selling its products there. On the other hand, some think Japan is creating wealth in America. What do you think about those opinions?
I believe that Japan is creating wealth in America. Toyota alone employs 130,000 people in America. If you include other companies in the Toyota group, we are talking about 500,000 jobs.
How do you plan to help big corporations with their global expansion?
We are planning to send out a message about our automotive, aerospace and robotics industries. As an example of successful global expansion, we have a deep relationship with Boeing. Several of the components of the Dreamliner 787 aircraft, which is packed with advanced technology, are made in Aichi. This aircraft was the first to use carbon fiber composite in the wing.
What are the strengths of Aichi as a tourist destination?
Aichi is the birthplace of prominent samurai heroes who greatly influenced the history of Japan. There are many castles and museums related to samurai culture. As governor of Aichi, I have undertaken several projects, and one of our biggest projects is the Studio Ghibli theme park, based on the work of the famous Japanese animation film studio. We are currently developing the basic concept with a view to inaugurating the park in 2022, at the site near Nagoya where the World Expo 2005 was held.