Foreign Minister Hayashi Visits Okayama Prefecture
(“Local to Global” Project) (Result)
On February 5, Mr. HAYASHI Yoshimasa, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, together with the diplomatic corps in Japan consisting of members from 9 countries, visited Okayama Prefecture for the third round of the “Local to Global” Project that aims to promote the attractiveness of regional areas of Japan worldwide, following the visits to Nagasaki prefecture last November and to Miyagi and Yamagata Prefectures last December. Minister Hayashi was accompanied by Mr. TAKEI Shunsuke, State Minister for Foreign Affairs. The overview is as follows:
The “Local to Global” Project aims at stimulating inbound tourism and further vitalizing each of the regions by having members of the corps experience its charm and deepen their understanding through dialogue with the local people, and encouraging them to promote such regions to citizens in their own countries.
1. Site visit in Kurashiki (in the Morning)
(1) Marugo Company Inc.
In the morning, Minister Hayashi and the diplomatic corps visited Marugo Company Inc., a long-established footwear manufacturer founded in 1919, and inspected manufacturing process of ”Tabi Shoes” (Tabi:Japanese socks with split toes) in this company which offers a wide variety of products by utilizing Tabi Shoes manufacturing technology and has a proven track record of overseas transactions with approximately 30 countries.
(2) Kurashiki Bikan Historical Area
Minister Hayashi then started from “Kurashiki Ivy Square,” the main venue for the G7 Labour and Employment Ministers’ Meeting to be held this April, and walked along the beautiful streets of the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Area, including the exterior of the “Kurashiki Archaeology Museum” and the “Kurashiki-kan” (Tourist Information Office),” and the Kurashiki Riverbank, which was designated as an "Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings.”
(3) Ohara Museum of Art
After then, Minister Hayashi visited the Ohara Museum of Art, Japan's first private art museum focusing on Western art, founded in 1930, and had a look around the Honkan (main building), which exhibits Western art and works by Japanese artists, and the Crafts Art and Asian Art Galleries, where Japanese crafts, woodblock prints, and dye works can be viewed, all guided by a curator.
2. Exchanges of views over lunch with Okayama Governor Ibaragi, and Kurashiki City Mayor Ito, the local business communities, and the diplomatic corps
Over lunch, Minister Hayashi, together with Governor Ibaragi of Okayama Prefecture, Mayor Ito of Kurashiki city, members of the local business representatives, and the diplomatic corps, exchanged opinions on effective communication of Okayama Prefecture's attractions to stimulate inbound demand and further revitalize this region.
Minister Hayashi touched upon the history of Kurashiki, a "textile town where Japan and the West are woven together," and expressed his hope that the diplomatic corps in Japan would promote the attractions unique to Okayama, which they experienced during this visit, by means of social media and other means. He also stated that the G7 Kurashiki Labour and Employment Ministers' Meeting would be a good opportunity to communicate the attractiveness of Okayama and Kurashiki to the world and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will also continue to make efforts to promote Okayama’s appeal.
3. Site Visit in Kurashiki (in the Afternoon)
(1) Washuzan Hill (Second Lookout Point) in Shimotsui
After the opinion exchange over lunch, Minister Hayashi and the diplomatic corps visited Washuzan Hill (Second Lookout Point), a representative scenic spot of the Seto Inland Sea National Park, the first designated as a national park in Japan, to see the beautiful islands of the Seto Inland Sea and the magnificent Seto Ohashi Bridge connecting Honshu and Shikoku.
(2) Betty Smith Co., Ltd.
Minister Hayashi then visited the Kojima district of Kurashiki City, known as the "Mecca of Jeans" in Japan due to the development of the textile industry since the late Edo period, and received an explanation of the history and manufacturing process of jeans at Betty Smith Co., Ltd. This tour also included a visit to the oldest existing jeans factory in Japan.
4. Roundtable dialogue with people based in Okayama
Finally, Minister Hayashi held a round-table dialogue on the theme of "Okayama to Global " with six people, including youths, who are based in Okayama and active in diverse fields such as culture, international exchange and cooperation, tourism, start-up companies, agriculture, and overseas operating companies that carry out the work style reform.
Minister Hayashi introduced his views on the current situation in the international community and expressed his appreciation for the active efforts of the people of Okayama Prefecture in supporting Ukraine, including the acceptance of Ukrainian evacuees. He also stated that Okayama Prefecture has potential for increasing inbound tourism through its resources and prosperous exports of agricultural products such as fruits.In this context,he said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will firmly support the inbound tourism by promoting the overseas expansion of Japanese products and advanced technologies, and by communicating the attractiveness of local regions in Japan.
Participants offered a variety of opinions and suggestions based on their own experiences, and a lively exchange of views took place.