Home > Highlighting JAPAN >Highlighting Japan January 2016>Opening the Doors to Overseas Businesses

Highlighting JAPAN

All the Signs Say Welcome

The city of Fukuoka in Kyushu has been designated a special zone for global startups and job creation as part of Japan’s National Strategic Special Zones Project, and is presenting a range of lifestyle support solutions as part of a new initiative designed to make overseas entrepreneurs and their families feel at home in Japan.

Fukuoka is close to the Asian continent, and its exchanges with the mainland have been the key to the city’s development over the course of its long history as an international trading zone. While the rest of Japan is facing a contracting population due to lower birthrates and an aging demographic, Fukuoka is posting continued population growth. The proportion of young people to adults is also very high, and there are many universities here.

Ease of access and an outstanding living environment are a few of the reasons underlying its growth. Located just ten minutes from the city, Fukuoka Airport boasts the best access time in the country. Downtown Fukuoka is close to the sea and the mountains, and offers ample leisure, culinary and cultural options. The UK magazine Monocle, in fact, lists Fukuoka as number twelve in its 2015 survey of the world’s most livable cities.

Fukuoka’s stated aim is to become a global city for startups. The city hopes to develop new value and incubate global solutions by leveraging its status as a National Strategic Special Zone and actively wooing exceptional talent and companies from overseas, in turn transforming the domestic market.

The Startup Café and startup visa are two examples of the support services foreign entrepreneurs enjoy. The Startup Café is a shared space set up at a bookstore in Fukuoka; multilingual support staff are available at all times to offer free advice on starting a business. The startup visa relaxes the regulations on residency for those in the Investor/Business Manager category as long as the applicant submits a business plan. In addition, measures for reducing corporate taxes for startup companies within the National Strategic Special Zone are also being considered.

Moreover, the city is working hard to make itself culturally accessible to those from overseas. Once these entrepreneurs and investors are living in Fukuoka, the city provides multilingual support and services in medicine, education and everyday life to make them and their families feel more at ease as they make their way through an unfamiliar culture. There is also multilingual support in the subway, with ticket machines and announcements presenting help in English, Chinese and Korean. It isn’t at all surprising that several international trade fairs and academic conferences take place here each year.

New non-Japanese residents also receive a free multilingual welcome kit that includes a lifestyle guidebook on basic services, a disaster prevention handbook, and a wealth of information on medical support centers, Japanese-language schools and international schools—all crucial information that those bringing family along will need. Meanwhile, Japanese-language assistance is provided to students who require it in Fukuoka’s elementary, junior high and special needs schools by twenty-three lead teachers and various dispatch staff. Language volunteers are also dispatched to assist parents and guardians when they meet with faculty or attend school events. The support for families as a whole is as comprehensive as it is detailed.

Medical institutions can contact the Fukuoka Medical Interpretation Service for multilingual interpreting services between patient and doctor over the phone, or to dispatch a volunteer interpreter to the site. In conjunction with a telephone service that guides non-Japanese speakers to the best medical site for their needs, the system is used to great effect to bring peace of mind to people from overseas who are new to the city.

“Since 1987, Fukuoka City has actively emphasized becoming a cosmopolitan city with an eye on Asia,” says Yosuke Takaki of Fukuoka City’s General Affairs and Planning Bureau. “We have concretely explored and implemented ways to offer quality support to non-Japanese-speaking foreigners and their families, and I believe those efforts have contributed to what is today a thriving and international location.”

The evidence supports Takagi’s contention. Twenty-five years ago, Fukuoka’s expatriate population was just nine thousand. Today, it numbers 29,000. As the city uses its advantageous location and builds an environment in which overseas entrepreneurs can easily start a business and feel comfortable living here, more innovative people from abroad will be calling Fukuoka home.

Startup Café: +81-80-3940-9455
Fukuoka Medical Interpretation Service: +81-570-006-626
Rainbow Plaza (Information desk for foreign visitors): +81-92-733-2220

Fukuoka City International Foundation:
http://www.rainbowfia.or.jp/en/living/