Governors Seeking to Revitalize Local Economies

The following is the summary of a session that was part of the 2018 Annual Conference.



  • Moderator: Daniel I. Okimoto, Ph.D., Co-Chairman, Silicon Valley Japan Platform; Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Science, Stanford University
  • Ryuta Ibaragi, Governor, Okayama Prefecture, Japan
  • Heita Kawakatsu, Ph.D., Governor, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan
  • Hidehiko Yuzaki, Governor, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan


Dr. Okimoto announced that the panel will discuss how to strengthen U.S.-Japan relationships and revitalize local economies.

Dr. Okimoto requested the governors to explain their roles in the prefectures and their agenda to help revitalize economies. Mr. Yuzaki replied first by mentioning that Hiroshima’s plan is to put a lot of resources into tourism. He emphasized the importance of traveling to Hiroshima in order to revitalize the economy. Getting the fullest potential from the talented people of Hiroshima is another key to revitalization. Hiroshima Prefecture is putting a lot of investment in education. For example, the prefecture is opening a new global academy that has an emphasis on teaching students how to be global leaders. This academy accepts students from junior high school to high school with hopes of having a 50/50 gender mix. Innovation is also important for revitalization, and the entrepreneurial spirit in Hiroshima is a key factor for innovation. There are many successful pioneering companies from Hiroshima, so the prefecture wants to follow those successful companies’ paths and further cultivate the entrepreneurial spirit for future generations. For example, a digital innovation center was opened to promote development using supercomputers established for small and medium-sized companies. In the end, Mr. Yuzaki stressed the fact that education is the key to revitalizing the economy.

Mr. Ibaragi started his response by explaining that education and investments are essential for revitalization. In addition, nurturing global talents fuels growth and development. So, Okayama Prefecture is promoting people to study abroad and has opened programs to support people wishing to study abroad. Mr. Ibaragi mentioned that his citizens had concerns over studying abroad such as safety and quality of education. He suggested that they go to the U.S. because of its safe qualities and good higher education. Mr. Ibaragi also emphasized the importance of foreign investment which has three merits in Okayama: the price of land is much cheaper than Tokyo; there are very few active faults, so earthquakes are not frequent; and it has good transportation access to west Japan which is great for large distribution facilities.

Dr. Kawakatsu touched upon the positive aspects of Shizuoka Prefecture that could attract outsiders. These included the demographics, location, resources, and economy. He also spoke on the strong entrepreneurial and innovative spirit, the focus of the health and medical industry, the bay providing many resources from the sea, and new types of industries like photonics. He also mentioned that tourism in Shizuoka involves a large amount of people flowing in and out because it lies in the corridor between west and east Japan.

Dr. Okimoto opened the floor to questions and asked the first question himself. He said that healthcare for the elderly should be a big segment for the Governors’ economies. So, he asked if they are adopting digital technology for health care in the prefectures.

Mr. Yuzaki answered first by mentioning that they are trying to develop artificial intelligence (AI) which gives health advice through smartphones. Mr. Ibaragi expressed that they are trying to digitalize the patient’s information to locate room for improvement. Dr. Kawakatsu noted that they are trying to develop robots to help automation of taking care of patients.

Dr. Okimoto shifted topics and explained that, in the U.S., the unemployment rate is historically low. However, large companies have not been generating jobs. Startups are generating jobs. There is an education system that is producing capable people. So, Dr. Okimoto asked what the governors are doing to create startups and jobs.

Mr. Ibaragi replied first by saying that startups can create action and mobility. So, the prefecture is trying to help startups, but they have not been successful thus far. Mr. Yuzaki said that, in Hiroshima, they are trying to support startups in the forms of creating business plans and hubs for networking. However, increasing the number of startups is a challenge they are facing. Dr. Kawakatsu answered that it seems that smaller companies are important for the future. So, they have established open innovation in Shizuoka Prefecture, which focuses on small companies which have the possibility to develop and has programs which support entrepreneurship and innovation. Some of those companies are going global, mostly to Southeast Asia and India. Mr. Yuzaki mentioned that there are a lot of opportunities for Japanese small and medium-sized companies in Southeast Asia, especially in environmental services.

Dr. Okimoto concluded the Governor’s Circle Plenary Dialogue by emphasizing that the Japanese market is big enough for SMEs to be comfortable, but not big enough for them to compete in the long run without globalization.


Click here to see the video of the session.