Osaka is the second largest city in Japan. Its tourism industry is booming to a point where the overseas visitors growth rate surpasses that of Tokyo.
Mr. Manatsu Ichinoki
Managing Director of the Kansai Economic Federation (Kenkairen)
Secretary General of the 2025 Japan World Expo Committee
Osaka is a serious contender in the race to win the World Expo 2025 bid, and many economic and political stakeholders are in motion to support Osaka’s candidacy. JAPAN and the WORLD interviewed Mr. Manatsu Ichinoki, Managing Director of the Kansai Economic Federation (Kankeiren) and Secretary General of the 2025 Japan World Expo Committee to learn more about their strategy for the regional development.
—Can you please tell me about yourself and your career?
I was born in 1958 in Awaji Island, Kansai, and started my career as an engineer for the Kansai Electric Power Co., Ltd. After that, I moved to the office of secretarial service, corporate planning and so on. Then, I became the executive officer, head of Shiga branch office prefecture area, surrounded by the famous Biwa Lake. After four years in Shiga, I became the Managing Director of the Kansai Economic Federation (Kankeiren) and, at the same time, the Secretary General of the 2025 Japan World Expo Committee.
—Can you tell me about Kankeiren and its role in the Japanese economy?
Kankeiren is an independent, private, non-profit organization of the economic sector. Osaka/Kansai has a long industrial history and more recently, the business scene here has been booming. Kankeiren has a role to promote Kansai’s economy, businesses and many aspects of Kansai society. We have a three-year medium-term goals for activities, spanning from 2018 to 2020.
—How do you see the future of the Kansai region?
At the moment, the economic condition is very good for us and for Japan as a whole. Kansai’s economic average growth rate is stronger than the rest of Japan. In 2017, the exports by the manufacturers and the service industry were very strong. Almost half of Japan’s export of ICT goods such as semiconductors and battery are provided by the Kansai region. This equipment is used in smartphones, IT machines and computer screens. It is also remarkable in Kansai that the inbound economy is very important. Inbound tourism is very strong and visitors are consuming products, giving a lot of oxygen to the local businesses. By 2020, we are aiming to welcome 18 million foreign tourists in Kansai.
We wish to grow the economy of Osaka/Kansai in preparation for 2025. Before that, we will host the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games so it will help us achieve this goal. However, after that, we don’t have any major events in Japan, so we will have to focus on other projects to revitalize the economy.
—Do you have any examples of projects you share with other countries?
We think that the development of human resources is very important. Since 1980, we have been organizing the ASEAN Management Seminar for management level trainees from ASEAN member countries. We have already invited more than 400 business people, and there are many alumni becoming ministers and top managers in the business field. We want to enlarge that kind of human resources exchange program in cooperation with METI, JETRO, JICA and such. By having face to face discussions with business people and other stakeholders, we hope that we can deepen investments and trade activities, especially with Asian countries.
—How will the private sector be involved in the World Expo 2025?
The private sector can play a very big role in the World Expo 2025. They can provide new technologies and showcase their innovative products and services to the world to reach the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They can show their new concepts for a green future.
The private sector can use this expo to renew their way of thinking and reach Society 5.0, a concept in which IT will go beyond traditional activities such as manufacturing and the service industry.
—With the Rugby World Cup in 2019, the Olympic and Paralympic games in 2020 and possibly the World Expo in 2025, how do you think Japan’s image around the world will be impacted?
We think the impact will be very positive for Japan. Hosting world-class events will help us progress as a society and will improve our capacity to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs, and this will be beneficial to the world as a whole. Together, we hope we can work to make the world a better place.