Economic Exchange Initiatives in Yamagata Prefecture toward Disaster Recovery
Economic Exchange Division
Yamagata Prefectural Government
While Yamagata Prefecture suffered comparatively little direct damage from the Great East Japan Earthquake, reputational damage has been extensive for both tourism and the local economy. Two and a half years after the disaster, we are working to erase that reputational damage and, as part of the Tohoku region, return dynamism to Tohoku as a whole.
More than two and a half years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake wrought an unprecedented level of damage on Japan. Following the quake, Yamagata Prefecture acted as part of the Tohoku region to provide human and material resources, take in evacuees, institute radioactivity countermeasures, receive industrial waste and debris, and take steps to counter reputational damage.
However, there are still around 7,000 evacuees in Yamagata Prefecture who have been unable to return to their homes, living every day in a state of uncertainty as to their future.
As we expect that there will still be a long and hard road to recovery ahead, rather than letting the lessons from the disaster fade away, we need to join hands and hearts with disaster-struck areas and evacuees and draw closer in working toward the recovery of the whole Tohoku region and the rebirth of Japan.
The export environment remains difficult following the Fukushima nuclear power accident, with Japanese food and other products facing import regulations, reputational damage and other obstacles. However, we have drawn up the Yamagata Prefecture International Economic Strategy as the basis for our international economic engagement, and we are working to promote local product exports.
2. Creation of the Yamagata Prefecture International Economic Strategy
The Yamagata Prefecture International Economic Strategy was drawn up to guide the prefecture's international economic engagement for roughly five years from 2010. Focusing particularly on business in rapidly developing Northeast Asia, the strategy's aims are to shift expansion into China into top gear; to move into the Russian Far East; and to accelerate and expand efforts in traditional key regions such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea.
Identifying East Asia and Southeast Asia as Yamagata's main targets, the strategy sets overall targets and indicators for individual areas—tourism and trade, etc.—to stimulate tourism and local product exports and promote technological and cultural exchange.
3. Effort to promote local product exports
(1) Establishment of the Yamagata International Economic Development Support Organization (YES)
These days, the drivers of the world economy are China, the ASEAN member countries and other Asian countries, and Yamagata urgently needs to tap into their economic vitality and link it to Yamagata's own development. The Yamagata International Economic Development Support Organization was established in July 2012 to develop a framework enabling industry, relevant associations (YES) and government to work together to internationalize local industry, as well as supporting local businesses in developing more trade with into the above countries and expanding their business.
To fulfill its role as Yamagata's comprehensive support organization for offshore business, the YES is providing powerful support for the expansion of food and other local product exports and diverse offshore business development.
In particular, the YES is serving as a bridge between local businesses and chambers of commerce and industry, JETRO, the prefecture's offshore offices and other relevant organizations, aiming to provide a one-stop consulting service.
(2) Efforts by country
In China, which continues to grow as a world market, we have been working to open up markets through participation in local business talks and local sales promotions in the major consumer areas of Harbin, Beijing and Tianjin.
In October 2011, we set up a prefectural office in Harbin in China's Heilongjiang Province, and we are using this office as a base to promote economic exchange, actively developing economic exchange as well as multi-faceted technological, academic and cultural exchange and partnership that takes advantage of the personal networks built up over a long history of exchange in provinces with which Yamagata has friendly relations.
In Taiwan and Hong Kong, both of which are very familiar to Japan, we have been holding local business talks and participating in trade fairs for a number of years now, building up trust with export partners including local importers, retailers and restaurants. Ongoing trade in rice, peaches, jelly and other processed fruit products, as well as other local products, continues to grow.
Because the Russian Far East has great trade expansion potential as a new market, we have deployed a local trade coordinator in Khabarovsk as of 2010, and we have been inviting Russian importers to Yamagata for individual business talks as well as holding local business talks in Khabarovsk and Vladivostok.
The ASEAN member countries have been attracting attention for their remarkable economic development and their emergence as the world's consumer market, so to feed that economic growth capacity back into the Yamagata economy, as of this fiscal year, we have been actively engaged in a number of initiatives such as holding business talks to expand our exports in line with the characteristics of each particular market.
In addition to these efforts, to further expand trade, as of July this year we have dispatched a prefectural official to Singapore as the business hub of ASEAN. This official has been tasked with finding reliable partners—trading companies and buyers, etc.—who will handle Yamagata products and developing connections with government organizations and local companies, regarded as key issues in terms of developing overseas trade. We are also using these connections to collect fresh local information and pass it on to Yamagata businesses, as well as providing support geared to the diverse needs of local companies, such as dealing with various types of queries and introducing human resources.
Yamagata Prefecture is working strategically to open up and expand new sales channels for local products in East and Southeast Asia pursuant to the Yamagata Prefecture International Economic Strategy.
To feed the strong economic growth capacity of these countries and regions into the development of Yamagata industry, we have been providing expert advice and other support to companies wishing to secure offshore staff and expand offshore, as well as engaging in a strategic export promotion program geared to conditions in offshore markets, actively promoting the expansion of sales channels for local products.
Next year we will also be running the Yamagata Destination Campaign—a major national tourism campaign—from June through to September. The film Oshin which has been screening nationwide since 12 October is not only set in Yamagata but was entirely filmed there, and consequently paints a vivid picture of the place and the people.
Our plan is to use our economic exchange program promoting local product exports, as well as the above tourism exchange program, designed to inform people at home and abroad of the attractions of Yamagata Prefecture as the heroine Oshin's hometown as a means of boosting inbound tourism, to stimulate Yamagata Prefecture and the Tohoku region as a whole. We look forward to your continued cooperation and support.
(original article : Japanese)