| Top Page | Category: IIST activitiesTohoku Reconstruction |
Back number Search (FY2011- IIST e-Magazine):| Category Search | Keyword Search | Article List |
Back number Search (FY2001-FY2010 IIST WORLD FORUM Mail Magazine): | Keyword Search | Article List |



e-Magazine (For the Japanese version of this article)

IIST Industrial Tour in Northern Tohoku (September 30 to October 2, 2014) | Dr. Stephan GRABHERR Minister / Counsellor, Economic and Scientific Affaires Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Japan [Date of Issue: 28/November/2014 No.0237-0954]

Date of Issue: 28/November/2014

IIST Industrial Tour in Northern Tohoku (September 30 to October 2, 2014)

Dr. Stephan GRABHERR
Minister / Counsellor, Economic and Scientific Affaires
Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Japan

I was appointed Head of the Economy and Science Department of the German embassy in Tokyo only recently, in summer 2014 in fact. So this tour organised by the Institute for International Studies and Training was my first real opportunity to gain insights into Japan away from its large cities, and to learn how the Tohoku region has developed after the terrible earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Accompanied by diplomatic representatives from embassies of various countries, this tour proved to be an extraordinary experience, rendering many new impressions which will surely be of great value to my future work in Japan.

At the beginning of the tour we were given a factual survey of the economic situation in the Tohoku region, which is recovering slowly but steadily. The power and confidence of the local people looking towards the future is remarkable, and it is amazing how companies are once again searching for new opportunities in the market.

Thanks to the careful preparations by IIST, the companies visited during the three days of the tour were not only chosen very carefully but also in a well-balanced manner. Thus, on the first day we visited the highly modern plant of Seiko Instruments where we saw production on the highest technological and handicraft levels, with careful attention paid to the smallest details of hand-made watches that can truly be described as masterpieces. There is also the machine production of clockworks, which is marked by highly complex production processes for which intricate machinery is necessary. Next, we witnessed the production of an indigenous Japanese product, namely tea kettles. The company, IWACHU, showed us each step of the manufacturing process. With much effort, and partially by simple means, the workers manufacture an emblematic product that is increasingly sought after even outside of Japan. The company plans to reach more customers overseas by designing the kettles in even more colourful ways.

Our meeting with the governor of Iwate Prefecture, Mr. Takuya Tasso, formerly attached to Japan's Foreign Service, provided us with insights into the region's political challenges. For me it was particularly interesting to learn that the region wants to use more sustainable energy and that this is viewed as an important issue of energy politics.

The first day ended in a perfect way with an excellent reception attended by various leading figures in the business, social and scientific worlds, and this delightful opportunity to meet such individuals also broadened our impressions. And of course, we enjoyed a rich and delicious buffet as well as traditional dance performances.

The second day was reserved for the mining industry and its challenges. Mining industry regions are subject to various structural changes - this holds true for Germany, too. These structural changes should be supported by the government and must be recognized by such enterprises as a chance for new business models. Therefore, we were particularly impressed to learn how this task is being tackled in Kosaka. The Institute for Mining, for example, offers its rich knowledge in the field of mining not only to Japan, but to the world. In this respect, we had a very pleasant meeting with foreign students who want to enlarge their knowledge in Kosaka. And with the opportunity to actually hold a gold ingot at Kosaka Smelting and Refining Co., we were able to glimpse what the term "recycling" implies and the significant business changes connected to it. Here they retrieve precious metals and other valuable materials from electronic scrap such as mobile phones and computers, which is mainly purchased in the USA. This new kind of mining industry is known as "urban mining" and it clearly has the potential to become a successful business model.

Hirosaki was our last station. I adore the big, red apples sold in supermarkets in Tokyo - now we could see where they come from. The area boasts a beautiful landscape as well as a warm-hearted mayor, Mr. Noriyuki Kasai, who kindly welcomed his visitors. We used the opportunity to exchange information and for networking, both at the evening "Sky Banquet" reception and during lunch in the middle of Hirosaki Apple Park, surrounded by over 1300 apple trees with more than 60 varieties of apples.

It was also in Hirosaki where we visited two more companies which unite tradition and handicraft skills. One was BUNACO Ltd., which combines modern design and high quality production to manufacture furniture and interior goods from beechwood. The president guiding us through his company surprised the group by asking us to form a bowl or some other vessel from thin pressed strips of beechwood. Some members of our group seemed to have some natural talents whom the president said he would like to hire on the spot. However, for most of us we were quite glad to return to our diplomatic professions, as it is anything but easy to form an attractive product from pressed beechwood in a short period of time. Similarly, long experience and skill ("monozukuri") are necessary to forge knives and swords. We learned about this during an authentic demonstration at Nigara Forging Company.

Let me thank IIST for this well-organised information tour. Our impression of the region, which is experiencing an economic upturn while preserving their rich treasures of tradition, was deep and long-lasting.


(original article : German (116KB))
(For the Japanese version of this article)


| Top Page | Category: IIST activitiesTohoku Reconstruction |
Back number Search (FY2011- IIST e-Magazine):| Category Search | Keyword Search | Article List |
Back number Search (FY2001-FY2010 IIST WORLD FORUM Mail Magazine): | Keyword Search | Article List |