Diplomatic Bluebook 2016
Japan’s Diplomacy Open to the Public
3.Cooperation with Local Governments
Regional revitalization is one of the priority issues of the Cabinet. The Minister for Foreign Affairs is a member of the Headquarters for Overcoming Population Decline and Vitalizing Local Economy in Japan. MOFA implements all-ministry initiatives to promote regional revitalization. In addition, MOFA, through the efforts of the entire nation to enhance diplomatic capacity of Japan as a whole, engages in various collaborative activities with local governments.
Within the country, a new scheme to support regional revitalization started in 2015, using Iikura Guest House, the Ministry’s facility, with the initiative of Foreign Minister Kishida. This is a measure to promote various attractions of Japanese local areas, reaching out to embassies in Tokyo and Japanese and foreign media by inviting ambassadors residing in Japan to seminars and receptions at the Iikura Guest House, co-hosted by the Foreign Minister and chiefs of local municipalities. The first project was jointly implemented with Kyoto City (February), the second with Fukushima Prefecture (March), the third with Hiroshima Prefecture and Hiroshima City (July), the fourth with Mie Prefecture (October) and the fifth with Aomori Prefecture (November). Chiefs of local governments held seminars to directly introduce sightseeing spots and local products and showed local performing arts. The projects had news coverages both nationally and internationally. Participating local governments and municipalities highly evaluate the public relations effects of the projects as those municipal organizations can promote their attractiveness to many ambassadors posted to Tokyo at one time by co-hosting the events with Foreign Minister. Furthermore, to support the international initiatives of cities and special wards (of Tokyo), a “Reception Hosted by Foreign Minister on the Occasion of the General Meeting of the Japan Association of City Mayors” was held in June.
Besides, “Regional Promotion Seminars” and “Diplomats’ Study Tours” were also organized for the diplomatic corps in Tokyo. In July, MOFA co-hosted the 18th “Regional Promotion Seminar” together with Matsudo City and Chiba Prefecture, Sagamihara City and Kanagawa Prefecture, Saitama City, Toyota City (Aichi Prefecture), and Mitake Town (Gifu Prefecture) to promote their respective attractions and invited 75 people from diplomatic corps in Tokyo and other organizations. At the seminars, participating local governmental units introduced their latest information and products to the diplomatic corps, exchanged opinions and interacted with one another, over food and drinks produced in each area. “Diplomats’ Study Tours” (Matsudo City in September, Kanagawa Prefecture in October, Saitama City, Toyota City and Mitake Town in November) also took place with about 20-50 participants per each tour from diplomatic corps in Tokyo. The diplomatic corps inspected facilities in local municipalities as well as exchanged opinions with local administrative chiefs, and conducted exchanges with various local organizations and students.
Furthermore, MOFA actively provides local governments with opportunities to explain things such as Japan’s current diplomatic policies, etc., and exchange views. As a part of such activities, a “Local Partnership Cooperation Forum” was held in January. Part 1 of the forum was the foreign policy briefing session, where MOFA explained how to transmit information strategically outside the country. In Part 2 of the forum, participants exchanged views in four sectional meetings titled “information transmission to the world by municipalities making use of foreign media”, “regional vitalization and showcasing local attractions by attracting foreign tourists, in particular, from ASEAN and Muslim nations,” “promoting cultural exchanges,” and “assistance for overseas business expansion of Japanese companies and local public entities through public-private partnerships.” About 130 people, mainly local government officials, attended the forum.
Outside Japan, a new scheme was launched in 2015 to assist in recovering reputational damages. This is a comprehensive PR project to support the recovery and regional revitalization of disaster-stricken areas by countering unfounded rumors circulated worldwide following the Great East Japan Earthquake and by showcasing regional attractions as well as providing accurate information on food safety and other concerns through the cooperation and participation of local governments, plagued by unfounded rumors and import restrictions imposed on food produced in certain prefectures in Japan. First of all, in August in Hong Kong, the Japanese Booth “Delicacies of Eastern Japan” exhibition was set up at Hong Kong Food Expo 2015. With the participation of Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Chiba, and Niigata Prefectures, MOFA promoted Eastern Japan’s foods and tourism by offering food and drink tastings at booths of each prefecture, and by doing stage performances. About 470,000 people visited the Expo. Mr. Yoshimasa Hayashi, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, participated in the Japanese Booth. Support Ambassadors of the project, AKB48 Team 8, an idol girl unit, and Funassy, a mascot character, appeared at the opening event, and enlivened the venue, providing excellent publicity. Subsequently, in November in Shanghai, “Visit Eastern Japan and Experience All of Its Charms!” projects were deployed in cooperation with Aomori, Miyagi, Fukushima, Yamagata, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, and Niigata Prefectures and MOFA showcased the attraction of cuisine and tourist spots of each prefecture through booths and stage performances, etc. Prior to the on-site events, bloggers, food and drink connoisseurs and people from tourism industry in Shanghai and other areas were invited to Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Akita, Yamagata, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Chiba, and Niigata Prefectures from mid-September to mid-October. They were divided into five groups and made a travel along each themed itinerary such as tourism/meal attraction and food safety. These invited bloggers and others promoted the charms of Eastern Japan in their own media like blogs and directly talked about their experiences at talk shows in promotion events in Shanghai. At the opening ceremony, Vice President of Shanghai People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and members of SNH48, an idol girl group based in Shanghai, attended as guests. In total, about 15,000 people came to the three-day event and those residents living in the vicinity of Shanghai had a chance to know firsthand the charms of Eastern Japan.
In addition, 15 “Regional Promotion Projects” were conducted in Asia, North America, and Europe as measures to support local governments in promoting the attractiveness of each region and in developing local industries and regional economies by making use of Japan’s diplomatic facilities overseas. For example, in July, Abashiri City (Hokkaido) and the Consulate-General of Japan in Vancouver co-hosted a promotional event aimed at importers at the official residence of Consul-General in order to promote the expansion of sales channels for such local specialty products as Japanese yam. After the event the City side conducted business negotiations with business operators who were highly interested in the yam produced in Abashiri.
In addition, MOFA supports sister-city exchanges between Japanese local bodies and their counterparts abroad through various initiatives. Specifically, to support the international initiatives of local governments and communities, Japanese diplomats visit sister cities of Japanese municipalities and share each other’s opinions with officials responsible for international/economic exchanges. Also, heads of the diplomatic missions overseas visit local cities in Japan to have dialogues and deliver lectures on sister-city exchanges prior to leaving for new posts or when they temporarily return to Japan. In addition, if a foreign local governmental body wants to establish a sister-city relationship with a Japanese one, MOFA indirectly supports such a move by providing prefectures and 20 major cities with relevant information and posting it on the “”Glocal” (global and local) Diplomatic Network” on the website of MOFA.1 As part of efforts to promote diverse Japan’s local attractions overseas, the diplomatic missions overseas actively promote alcoholic beverages (Japanese sake and wine, etc.) produced in various parts of Japan. Specifically, the diplomatic missions overseas create opportunities to introduce Japanese alcoholic beverages, by way of offering them at lunch/dinner with government leaders of the assigned countries or diplomatic corps of other countries, and making a toast with Japanese sake at grand-scale events such as the Emperor’s birthday receptions. As a result, participants in these wining and dining or receptions organized around the world have given positive feedback and evaluations on Japanese alcoholic beverages. The opportunities have increased their understanding and initiated their interest in Japanese alcoholic drinks.
MOFA also works on supporting local companies. With the rapid economic development, the demand for water treatment, waste disposal, urban transportation, and anti-pollution measures, etc., have sharply increased in developing countries. In cooperation with Japanese local authorities and by making use of ODA, MOFA supports the overseas business expansion of local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which have accumulated knowledge on countermeasures against such problems, and increases development cooperation. This contributes not only to the global outreach of local companies, development of globally competent human resources, and Japanese style of infrastructure export but also to vitalizing the economy of whole Japan as well as some local areas.
- 1 Currently (as of February 29, 2016), the countries with large number of Japan’s sister and partnership cities (including municipalities such as prefectures, wards and towns) are, in descending order, U.S. (446), China (362), ROK (160), Australia (108), and Canada (70). (Calculated by the Council of Local Authorities for Internal Relations; See its website: http://www.clair.or.jp/j/exchange/
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) is implementing ministry-wide initiatives to realize regional revitalization, which is one of the priority issues addressed by the Abe Cabinet. In this Column, we focus on “people” responsible for cooperation with local governments at MOFA, and introduce their efforts.
In August 2006, the Local Partnership Cooperation Division was established within MOFA. Currently, about 14 people, including some local officials dispatched to MOFA, receive enquiries and consultation from local governments as a point of contact for the cooperation, and carry out a variety of local revitalization support programs in cooperation with such municipal organizations.
Under the “personnel support system for regional revitalization (FY2015)” intended to dispatch personnel such as national public officials to municipalities eager to actively address regional revitalization, as the mayors’ assistants, Mr. Naoki Sasahara is sent from the MOFA to Iki City, Nagasaki and currently serving as deputy mayor. Mr. Sasahara, immediately after returning home in late August 2015 from Cuba, his former post, went to Iki City for his new post with his family members – five in all. Taking advantage of his work experience overseas as well as at MOFA, he is working hard for revitalization of Iki City, right in the very forefront.
Furthermore, MOFA accepts municipal employees as seconded staff, as part of a staff exchange with municipalities. The scheme is expected to help municipalities to develop globally competent human resources, through 2-year work experience at MOFA headquarters, followed by serving at diplomatic missions overseas for another 2 years. After being posted overseas, they return to their municipalities, and continue to play active roles in the international relations and other departments. As of December 2015, 57 seconded staff from local authorities are working at MOFA headquarters and diplomatic missions overseas. We have a track record of accepting approximately 400 such trainees so far. MOFA also dispatches its personnel, mainly senior officials, to municipalities. Currently, five such officials in total are sent out to Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Yokohama City, etc.
In addition to the above, there is an Osaka Liaison Office set up in Kansai (Osaka) as a major domestic base for MOFA. The resident ambassador in charge of Kansai is posted to serve as a contact for facilitating cooperation with the region.
Furthermore, local partnership cooperation officers are assigned, in all diplomatic missions overseas, to serve as a direct point of contact for enquiries from foreigners, and to gather information about interests and needs for Japanese local areas.