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Highlighting JAPAN

June 2014

Revitalizing Japan's Regions

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Prime Minister Abe's visit to Europe

Revitalizing Japan's Regions


Regional Development: Issues, Successes and the Future
An Interview with Shinobu Shiikawa

Regional development efforts are under way in localities throughout the country to spark a revival of the Japanese economy. What is the course toward regional revitalization in Japan, and where is the key to success? We asked Japan Center for Regional Development Managing Director Shinobu Shiikawa, a leader in regional development who is well-acquainted with the situation on the ground.

Leveraging a city's natural strengths:
Utsunomiya - A Bicycle-Friendly Townt

Just fifty minutes from Tokyo Station by the Tohoku Shinkansen bullet train, Utsunomiya in Tochigi Prefecture is ideally situated as a tourist destination. Located at the northern end of the Kanto Plain, the city's center expands outward over flat terrain. Utsunomiya City is drawing on these natural advantages in its ongoing effort to become a bicycle-friendly town.

Filling Old Homes with New Life

Onomichi local Masako Toyota, a former tour conductor for eight years with over a hundred trips abroad, remembered being impressed by the well-preserved old towns and buildings of Europe. After leaving her job and returning home around the start of the millennium, she wondered how to save Onomichi's forsaken househomes, or akiya as they are known in Japanese.

A new way to connect Japan's farm villages and urban residents

The goal of the Syougakumai Project is to use rice to connect urban youth with farm villages and bring the wonders of agriculture to a wide audience. As implied by the project's name - which means "scholarship rice" - university "rice scholars" receive rice instead of scholarship funds in exchange for helping farm families.

Young people creatively promote local cuisine

Eki-ben, literally "train stations' bento boxed meals", are sold at railway stations across Japan. Travelers pick them up en route as a portable meal. The compact boxed meals are cleverly designed to make eating on the go easy, and they are chock-full of local flavors and ingredients. Small wonder, then, that they are so beloved by Japanese people.

Powering an environmental program with local products

Kagawa Prefecture is so renowned for its udon noodles that it calls itself "the Udon Prefecture." Several years ago a local revitalization project found great success marketing udon, and many people from all over Japan came to Kagawa Prefecture to enjoy its noodles.

Portraying Aomori's Charms with Vegetabo - Crayons Made of Vegetables

"I felt that even though Aomori had lots of great agricultural products, we were having trouble promoting them outside the prefecture. This project came about through my desire to contribute to my hometown in my own way, as someone pursuing a career in design who has enjoyed drawing pictures from an early age," explains Naoko Kimura, head of a design firm in Aomori City called Design Works STmind.

Turning Over a New Leaf

Tokushima Prefecture's Kamikatsu Town is famous in Japan as a town that has found a successful formula for regional revitalization by creating employment for the elderly and giving them a new purpose in life. We spoke to Mr. Tomoji Yokoishi, the driving force behind the business, about how the idea came on and on the road to success.


The Legend of Momotaro

Algae PowerDeveloping algal biomass as a practical energy source

A New Take on Taiko: Hiroyuki Hayashida


City and Battleship Island


A World of Myth