Supporting Okinawa Through Two Programs
International Exchange Department
Institute for International Studies and Training
This year, the Institute for International Studies and Training (IIST) is supporting internationalization efforts in Okinawa through two programs. The first is our International Economic and Industrial Exchange Program, designed to support local efforts to respond to globalization. We are using this program to assist the Bankoku-Iryo-Shinryo initiative in Okinawa. The second is the IIST Industrial Tour Program, which aims to deepen understanding of local conditions among diplomats stationed in Japan. We have implemented the International Economic and Industrial Exchange Program for Okinawa several times over the years, and this will be the third year -following 2005 and 2008- that an industrial tour has been conducted in Okinawa.
Supporting local efforts to respond to globalization
IIST launched the International Economic and Industrial Exchange Program in 2001 to support local responses to globalization spearheaded by the Bureaus of Economy, Trade and Industry in the various regions. These local responses cross a broad spectrum including export promotion, supporting companies’ offshore expansion, and attracting foreign investment, targeting not only manufacturing but also the service industry.
Specific support initiatives within the program also take a wide range of forms, including (1) organizing seminars by professionals and experts from Japan as well as key figures invited from overseas; (2) dispatching offshore market survey missions comprising domestic businesspeople and experts, etc.; and (3) organizing gatherings to which we invite journalists, business leaders and other parties residing in Japan or abroad.
In selecting support schemes, we give holistic consideration to numerous factors, including the aims, content, budget scale, implementation period and expected effects of the particular scheme. In addition, we look at whether it is an original scheme that takes advantage of local characteristics. We avoid regular events (ones which are held every year, for example) and events or programs which are just small elements of large-scale projects, because we believe that the effects of support are limited in such cases.
Industrial tour proposed alongside mission dispatch
The Development Planning and Promotion Division of the Economy, Trade and Industry Department in the Cabinet Office’s Okinawa General Bureau, has requested IIST support for the Bankoku-Iryo-Shinryo initiative. While the details of the initiative are explained in another article in this issue, essentially, the idea is to enhance health checkup and rehabilitation functions in Okinawa, which is better known as a resort area, to grow it into an international wellness center. Because it exploits Okinawa’s special features, we felt that the initiative would be an appropriate candidate for support through the International Economic and Industrial Exchange Program.
A key activity in the initiative is to dispatch a mission to China as one of the principal clients which Okinawa hopes to attract. The Okinawa General Bureau is hoping for support from the IIST particularly in relation to offshore promotion. Believing that we could also boost the profile of the Okinawan initiative beyond the mission to China, the IIST proposed organizing an industrial tour in Okinawa as well, and the Okinawan side agreed to this proposal.
Industrial tours are designed to help diplomats stationed in Japan become more informed about the current status of Japan’s economy and industry, boost their understanding of Japan, and feed accurate information back to their own countries. They generally comprise briefings on local economies, visits to firms and factory tours, and discussions and interaction with representatives from industry and local governments.
The aim of the Okinawa tour in particular was to help diplomats understand the direction of Okinawa’s development and communicate that information back home, increasing interest in business chances in Okinawa, the wellness industry included.
Promotional mission to Beijing
As part of the International Economic and Industrial Exchange Program, we worked together with Okinawa’s Bankoku-Iryo-Shinryo Council to send a mission to Beijing on 7-10 August this year. The IIST covered trip costs for the mission leader and one expert while IIST Vice-President and Managing Director Koichiro Akatsu went with the mission to brief a seminar held in Beijing on the aims of IIST support. By expressing his hopes for enhanced exchange with China in the medical field, he also provided backup for the PR activities of the Okinawan side.
To iron out the specific details of cooperation with China, another mission will be sent before the end of this fiscal year, for which the IIST will provide cooperation as was the case in August.
Several schemes under the International Economic and Industrial Exchange Program have been implemented for Okinawa. Recently in 2008, we supported Okinawan bridal companies and resort hotels in exhibiting at a wedding fair in Hong Kong and engaging in business talks there.
Third tour focuses on industries targeted for development
Over 5-7 October this year, the IIST organized an industrial tour that visited Naha City, Uruma City, Onna-son Village, Tomigusuku City and other sites on the main island of Okinawa. This was the third industrial tour the IIST has held in Okinawa.
The first took place in August 2005, with 14 Japan-stationed diplomats primarily from Asia introduced to the investment environment and tourism resources of Naha, Nago and other cities.
The second was in April 2008, when participants visited energy- and ecology-related facilities on Miyakojima Island, which is noted for its use of bioethanol and other new energies, as well as small and medium enterprises on the main island of Okinawa that are engaged in environmentally-conscious manufacturing. Compared to the first tour, we were strongly focused on laying the ground for business exchange. Of the 15 diplomats who participated in the tour, seven were ambassadors.
For the third tour this year, as with previous tours, we enjoyed the full cooperation of the Development Planning and Promotion Division of the Economy, Trade and Industry Department in the Okinawa General Bureau in selecting sites to visit, focusing primarily on the industries targeted for development in the interim report entitled Okinawa Economic and Industrial Vision which the Economy, Trade and Industry Department created in March last year. We covered a wide range of areas targeted for strengthening (see the attached itinerary for details), including the wellness industry (Motobu Genki Village, Tomishiro Central Hospital Medical Checkup Center and Toyosaki Clinic), IT-related industries (Okinawa IT Shinryo Park), logistics and airport-related industries (ANA Okinawa Cargo Hub) and human resource development institutions (Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology). The Tomishiro Central Hospital is a key facility in Bankoku-Iryo-Shinryo health check-up and rehabilitation activities.
Greater understanding of the Bankoku-Iryo-Shinryo initiative
Responding to a questionnaire survey conducted after the tour, the 11 diplomats who took part (including three ambassadors and one acting ambassador) were warm in their praise for the tour as a whole. Nine gave the tour the top score of ‘excellent’, while the remaining two felt that it was ‘good’. Local media too showed strong interest in the diplomats’ visit, which was reported on television and in the newspapers.
According to the Development Planning and Promotion Division, the Bankoku-Iryo-Shinryo concept is to add medical services to conventional resort services. The aim is not necessarily medical tourism as such, in that the concept is not to heal illness so much as to restore vitality. In their questionnaire responses, all the diplomats recognized Okinawa’s advantages as a resort area, and many found the visit to the wellness related facilities centered around Tomishiro Central Hospital extremely valuable. Understanding of the Bankoku-Iryo-Shinryo initiative therefore appears to have been deepened through the tour.
2011 Okinawa Industrial Tour Program (8KB)
(original article : Japanese)
• OKINAWA Industrial Tour (FY2011)
• IIST e-Magazine No.0201-0820 IIST Industrial Tour in Okinawa 5 to 7 October, 2011
• IIST e-Magazine No.0201-0818 Okinawa Revitalization Efforts Promoting the ‘Bankoku-Iryo-Shinryo’ Initiative