Kansai has skillfully shifted its industrial structure at the turning point of the times. Its culture, which appreciates originality and taking the initiative, has been creating numerous new products and services that have revolutionized our lifestyles.
In the Meiji era, many business people from outside the region played an active role on the stage that is Kansai. The region has opened its doors to and taken in many people, and based on a spirt that thrives on failure borne of effort, has respected challenge.
The spirt of the common good between sellers, buyers, and the public shared by merchants from the former province of Omi is the underlying concept that has been passed down uninterrupted as the culture of many Kansai corporations. This often conforms with the concepts of SDGs and investments in ESG, which are gaining widespread adoption throughout the world. Throughout the towns, there are numerous social, cultural, medical, and educational institutions nearby built by the private sector.
There is a wealth of universities in the region conducting advanced research worldwide. Six out of ten Japanese Nobel laureates either hail from Kansai or studied at universities and other educational institutions in the region. There is a climate that endeavors in new fields such as regenerative medicine. And the percentage of joint research between industry and academia is above the national average.
Osaka is ranked as the fourth most livable city in the world by the Economist, and the quality of the living conditions in Kobe and Kyoto as well are praised. And the quality of life (QoL) including leisure time is high.
Kansai, which has traditions based on its long history and a culture created by those tradition, is matchless not only in Japan but in the world as well. The natural environment from the sea to the mountains is close to the city centers, and the region has its own attractions that have gained the notice of the world such as the Seto Inland Sea and Mt. Koya.
The prefectures were demarcated in an age when horses were a means of transportation. Today, economic zones transcend prefectures and the traffic is bustling. While friendly competition between regions has its place, there is room for improvement in joint development that makes the most of their respective strengths, refines them, and establishes them as a brand. The development of initiatives that take the perspective of overall optimization in the greater area such as emergency response and industrial promotion is imperative. Although the development strategy is making progress ahead of other regions owing to the presence of the Union of Kansai Governments (which our association was deeply involved in establishing), it is difficult to say whether or not it is producing fruit commensurate with the expectations from the time of its establishment, and it is expected to demonstrate its further potential.
Although Kansai has unique cities and it displays diverse attractions, it is difficult to say whether or not it as a region called Kansai is recognized by the world including Asian countries and the brand strength of Kansai isn't fully recognized to attract its fair share of corporations and people from both inside and outside the country, and it needs to increase its visibility as a region as a whole both domestically and abroad.
Digital technology is causing a revolution in socioeconomic realities. Amidst this, Japan has fallen behind with its digital competitiveness ranked 23rd among 63 countries by the IMD World Competitiveness Centre. Even among Japan, we cannot say that Kansai has been successful taking the initiative in digital shift, and there is great room for improvement.
Japan is trailing globally in environments where women can actively participate, among which the three worst employment rates for women by prefecture are Nara, Hyogo, and Osaka. The rate of permanent employment is also low among the whole country. There is great potential to make rapid progress by thoroughly endeavoring in the development of workplace environments that balance diverse, flexible work styles as well as work and family.