Mrs. Rui Matsukawa
Member of House of Councillors, National Diet of Japan
Mrs. Rui Matsukawa is a National Diet member of Japan. A strong and experienced advocate of women’s empowerment, Mrs. Matsukawa is famous for being the person behind the WAW! Conference, an initiative to achieve a society where women shine. She has been recently appointed to Committee on Financial Affairs and Committee on Budget by the Abe Shinzo cabinet, where she will play an important role for the Osaka region development. She shared her thoughts with JAPAN and the WORLD on women’s situation in the Kansai area as well as her vision for Osaka’s development.
—Mrs. Matsukawa, could you please share with us your thoughts on Osaka’s bidding to host the 2025 World Expo and what you think this would mean for Osaka?
It is very good for Osaka’s economy and also for the mindset of the locals. For instance, when Tokyo bid for the 2020 Olympics and eventually was selected to host it, the atmosphere greatly changed in the city with citizens and companies working together for the better for Japan. I think the Osaka World Expo will have the same effect on the city’s economy and development. It is not just for Osaka but for Japan as a whole. Tokyo 2020 will serve as the locomotive but it will end in 2020. Therefore, after that, it will replace it. Secondly, it is a way to reduce the imbalance of development in Japan. At the moment, Tokyo is like a black hole that attracts business investments, people and culture. In the case of a disaster in Tokyo, we need to have a backup plan in the west and there is no other city than Osaka that already has a lot of infrastructure for being a global city.
Economically speaking, it will bring a massive surplus to the Kansai area and it is estimated to reach 2.5 trillion JPY coupled with infrastructure enhancement. Osaka has been stagnated in a way, many companies moved to Tokyo and other cities. I think it is because of the lack of aggressive economic policy by the Osaka governor. Osaka despite its location and potential, has seen is development stalled.
—Being elected to the House of Councilors as of July 2016, what do you aim to achieve while in this position especially in terms of bettering the economic situation in Osaka being part of the committee in charge of financial affairs and budget?
I act as an intermediary to help them build new networks. Osaka can benefit greatly from connecting to the world, and it has a lot to offer to the world as well.
Osaka has the biggest assimilation of small and medium companies in Japan and many of them have unique technologies. The problem is that a lot of these companies close their businesses due to the lack of successors. Therefore, we need to find successors and help them connect to the world. Another issue is that many people are not as ambitious and we need to encourage young talented individuals to join these companies and make them move to business entrepreneurship and help them grow. I have been in the field of diplomacy for more than 20 years so my strength is the ability to help connect these small businesses to the world. Also, we have to make Osaka a world city by hosting G20, obtaining UNESCO World Heritage entitlement for the Mozu Furuichi Old Tomb, as well as hosting the World Expo 2025. I am currently in consultation with local politicians and businesses that would like to expand their activities overseas or attract major international events to the city. I act as an intermediary to help them build new networks. Osaka can benefit greatly from connecting to the world, and it has a lot to offer to the world as well.
—What, in your opinion, sets apart women in the Kansai region from those in Tokyo and what would you say could be learned and used efficiently from both sides?
I used to think that Osaka and Tokyo were similar in terms of women’s status but I found out very interestingly that women, just like men, are quite conservative. In Osaka, discussion on women’s status is less advanced than in Tokyo where the central discussion usually revolves around how to increase the amount of female business leaders. Nonetheless, in Osaka, we have a few women who occupy significant positions like Ms. Hiroko Watanabe, CEO of a manufacturing company here in Osaka and president of the Nadeshiko Female Entrepreneurs League.
—What is your vision for Osaka?
Osaka is undergoing significant changes. Some companies are doing business with foreign companies in Asia but most of them are operating in the domestic market. It is partly because they can survive in the domestic market. Since the domestic market is shrinking due to the decrease of labor force and consumer population, Osaka companies will need to explore foreign markets in the long run anyway. I believe a series of international events unfolding in the upcoming years, including G20 and World Expo, could change Osaka people’s mindset.
—You have come a long way from Director of Gender Mainstreaming at MOFA, to being the inspiration behind the now renowned WAW and now, member of the House of Councilors. What is your message to women like you here in the Kansai region, in Tokyo and around the world?
Believe in yourself and don’t give up anything you think important in your life. Life is long; now 100 years long lifetime is not a joke, it is a reality. So choose to live a life you like at each life stage at your own pace. Don’t confine yourself to one role. You can be a career woman, a wife, a student, etc.