Holding a Large Scale Propositional Exhibition

Seeking “Values that Only Foodservice Can Provide”

A comprehensive exhibition for the foodservice industry, Takase Foodservice Expo 2014 (hosted by Takase Bussan Co., Ltd., of Chuo-ku, Tokyo) was held for two days on June 10 and 11 in the exhibition hall of the Tokyo International Forum. “Specialite: Specialty Values that Only Foodservice Can Provide” was set as a theme of the exhibition. Having been organized once every other year, nearly 220 companies (about 330 booths) from all over Japan presented a total of more than 10,000 food products at the event.



A Long Queue at the Opening

Mr. Tomoyasu Takase, the president and representative director of Takase Bussan, made a welcome speech at the opening ceremony held prior to the actual opening. “I would like to propose not only delicious, affordable food but also a new value that people can experience only when they eat out. I’ll do my best to contribute all I can to the foodservice industry,” he said.


Authentic Ingredients and Lively Business Talk

The exhibition hall was packed with 330 booths, and each company presented its signature ingredient and dish with samples for tasting. The special booth occupied by the host, Takase Bussan, drew the attention of visitors with various clever menus such as the original domestic wine, “Super food (menus to energize the body),” carefully selected products from Hokkaido, menus for the current boom in bars, and desserts using liqueurs.

Slightly unconventional was a mashed-potato dispenser presented by Nestlé Japan (Chuo-ku, Kobe). Many visitors stopped to watch the machine produce creamy, fresh mashed potatoes just with a press of a button.

Moreover, elements to characterize the expo were many value-added, upscale ingredients that were prepared in accordance with the theme of the expo (Values that Only Foodservice Can Provide). Various processed-meat products offered by Fratelli Beretta, an Italian company that formed a business alliance with Takase Bussan this month, were representative of such elements. The dense flavor of well-aged prosciutto and salami impressed the visitors who stopped by for tasting.

Visitors were also strongly motivated to find ingredients that might lead to a hit menu or that are utilized in their restaurants. Every booth seemed to have a visitor who was engaged in an intense conversation with the operator of the space.


Presence of a Celebrity Chef

There were other performances such as a cooking demonstration by a celebrity chef and a lecture by a famous foodservice entrepreneur, thus attracting the attention of visitors who were eager for such a rare opportunity.

Visitors particularly admired the demonstration of making “ice-cream combination dessert” by Mr. Roger Van Damme, the Belgian maestro of desserts who was recognized as the Chef of the Year by GaultMillau (the most influential restaurant guidebook in France) in 2010. Furthermore, the booth was extremely popular, since a limited number of the ingredients used for the demonstration were offered for tasting. It seemed that those foodies were more than satisfied with the offerings.


Further Vitalization of the Foodservice Industry

The foodservice industry has faced difficulties, including higher ingredient prices due to the depreciation of yen starting last year and rising costs of energy and labor. Also, consumers’ needs change year after year as seen in the boom of pancakes and Spanish bars that target a young female audience.

Tackling such needs is a challenge faced by the entire industry. However, as the foodservice exhibition was aiming at “creating new value,” there was a passion in the convention hall that was sure to spark a boom in activity.

Visiting Colorful Chichibu Abundant Nature and Historical Street Views

Chichibu is located in the western portion of Saitama Prefecture. It consists of Chichibu City and other towns such as Yokoze, Minano, Nagatoro and Ogano. The area, which is adjacent to Gunma Prefecture, Nagano Prefecture, Yamanashi Prefecture and Tokyo, is blessed with an abundance of nature and a deep history.

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Water Resources with Excellent Quality: Chichibu Headwater Area

Chichibu area is ideal for the harvesting of delicious fruits, because it has superb water resources and significant day-to-night temperature differentials. There are farms and orchards for strawberries, grapes, blueberries, cherries and other crops, and the farms that open to tourists welcome numerous visitors on holidays.

The area is also well known for soba noodles. The Arakawa district (formerly Arakawa Village), where the cultivation of for soba is especially thriving, counts over 60 farms and about 30 soba restaurants. They offer freshly grained, kneaded and cooked soba noodles. There are also facilities where you can experience the craft of soba-noodle making.

Additionally, shaved ice made by Asami Reizo, a natural ice refrigeration store in Minano-machi, Chichibu County, is introduced by a variety of mass media every season. It has become so popular that there is always a waiting line at the store.


Whisky and Wine, Grown in a Productive Environment

The tasty water and ice provided by a productive natural environment would naturally lead one to think of whisky. Also, delicious fruit (particularly grapes) could lead one to think of wine. In fact, whisky and wine are currently hot topics. Ichiro’s Malt, distilled by Venture Whisky Ltd. (Midorigaoka, Chichibu City), offers lines such as the Card Series and Leaf Series other than the flagship single-malt known as Ichiro’s Malt Chichibu. This whisky has received high praise throughout the world, starting with the highest evaluation in the Japanese whisky section by the British, “Whisky” magazine. It boasts huge popularity despite its relative scarcity.

Also, Chichibu Rouge, produced by Fukada Shoten (Hinoda-machi, Chichibu City), is a brand of red wine (white wine is Chichibu blanc) that was developed in collaboration with local grape farms and brewers. The wine was awarded a silver medal at the Japan Wine Competition in 2011 and the “Best in Division” award in the European/domestic improved variety blended red wine category in 2010. There is now a plan to construct a winery in the Yoshida district to vitalize the production of good-quality wines as “Chichibu-proud fine wines.”

A Traditional Craft from Chiba Prefecture: Boshu Uchiwa

Boshu Uchiwa – Characterized by a rounded handgrip that utilizes the natural form of bamboo, Boshu uchiwa is recognized as a Japanese national traditional craft and has long been regarded as one of the top three uchiwa, along with Kyo uchiwa from Kyoto and Marugame uchiwa from Marugame City, Kagawa Prefecture. I suggest that everyone experience Boshu Uchiwa’s cool soft breeze, which is completely different from what a plastic uchiwa would produce.



The Beginning of Uchiwa-Making

The production of uchiwa in the Kanto region began in the Edo period. At that time, the southern part of the Boso peninsula was an area for the production of bamboo, the main material of uchiwa-making, and supplied it to craftsmen in the Edo region (Tokyo). It is said that uchiwa-making in Chiba Prefecture began in the Meiji period.

Later, uchiwa wholesalers in Nihonbashi, Tokyo suffered from the disaster of the Great Kanto Earthquake. The production of uchiwa expanded when the craftsmen from the affected area moved to the current Funakata, Tateyama City, which was located near a bamboo production area and had access to the sea via the port of Nago.

Nago, Funakata and Tomiura (presently Tomiura-machi, Minamiboso City) were fishing villages in those days. Uchiwa-making became popular as a side job at home among the fishermen’s wives, who took care of the households when their husbands were away. Thus the area became known for uchiwa-making and produced 7 to 8 million a year during the end of the Taisho period through the early Showa period.


Twenty-One Steps in Handcrafting

Uchiwa-making starts with the selection of bamboo. The complete process consists of 21 steps, all of which are performed by hand.

Medake (Simon Bamboo) is used as the main material. Bamboo is trimmed during the colder months from October to January, as bamboo’s interior becomes denser. First, the bamboo’s skin is peeled, after which the bamboo is washed with water and polished. Next, the bamboo is cut. A hole is opened in the part that will become a grip. The bamboo “bones” are woven with thread, a bow is inserted into the hole of the grip, and both ends of the thread are tied to the bow when the weaving is finished. This creates a window (mado) and the bone structure that opens in a shape of a fan is completed. However, the finishing process continues. The curves in the bones are adjusted by burning, paper or fabric is pasted on, the unnecessary bones are trimmed away, the edges of the fan are finished, and so on.

Only four or five uchiwa per day could be made if the entire process is handled by one person. Thus the work is divided among several people.


Lack of Successors, Aging Craftspeople

Boshu Uchiwa was, in March 2003, recognized as Chiba Prefecture’s only traditional craft designated by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry. At that time, Bosyu Uchiwa Shinkokyogikai (Boshu Uchiwa’s promotional association) had seven corporate members, but eventually one company closed its doors. Today there are only six members. Craftspeople are aging, and under the current conditions it is difficult to ensure that the skill will be passed on to a succeeding generation.

Uchiwa-making originally thrived as a side job at home, based on the divided-work system. The system is a challenge if one person is to complete entire process by himself/herself, but it is also a burden for teachers to train others in the skill. The number of successors will not increase unless an added value is adapted to products to sustain reasonable prices that allow the craftsmen to earn a living.

The price of Boshu Uchiwa varies from 800 yen for a small example to several tens of thousands yen for a more elaborate or high-quality product. People would be willing to pay over ten thousand yen to a product when they see a craftsman’s demonstration at a department store. The unit price becomes higher if traditional craft is recognized as an added value.

Various attempts have been made, including that of making uchiwa using traditional Japanese paper or textiles for yukata (summer cotton kimono) from other regions; or by collaborating with craftspeople for tegaki-yuzen (hand-painted dyeing designs for kimono). Hopefully, this proud traditional craft from Chiba Prefecture will gain more recognition and the skill will be passed on to the next generation.

This summer, I suggest that you experience the unique characteristic of Boshu Uchiwa. Savor the soft, cooling breeze that a whip of bamboo can create.

UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction to be Held in Sendai

The third United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) will be held in Sendai City over the five-day period from Mary 14 to 18, 2015, when more than 5,000 people in related fields–including heads of state, cabinet ministers, government officials, representatives of international organizations and NGOs from a total of 193 UN member states–will gather to discuss a new global action framework for disaster risk reduction. With less than a year to go till the opening of an international conference on a scale unprecedented in the city, Sendai has launched “Preparatory Office for the UN WCDRR” in order to get ready, seeing it as a perfect opportunity to show the world the progress of the reconstruction efforts initiated in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake, as well as the high levels of disaster preparedness technique.








Sharing the experiences and lessons gained from the Great East Japan Earthquake

The first and second UN WCDRR events were held in Japan (Yokohama in 1994 and Kobe in 2005). The last conference yielded successful outcomes, including the formulation of the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA), which outlines international guidelines for action to reduce disaster riskswithin the time frame of 2005 to 2015. The plenary meeting of the UN General Assembly, held on December 21, 2013, selected Sendai as the venue for the third WCDRR. The fact that Japan was chosen for the third straight time shows the high recognition that the country receives for its accumulated know-how in disaster management, such know-how being obtained on the basis of various disasters.

The main purpose of this conference is to formulate international strategies for disaster risk reduction for the next generation that will spearhead the HFA. At the same time it seeks to contribute to the development of a global culture of disaster preparedness by sharing the experiences and lessons gained from the Great East Japan Earthquake and the current status of recovery, and to express gratitude for the aid and support that so many countries offered in the aftermath ofthe disaster.


Related projects also to be carried out in the disaster-stricken prefectures

One characteristic of the UN WCDRR in Sendai is the collaboration that occurs among local governments, universities, businesses, NPOs, NGOs and other organizations in the Tohoku region. In October 2013 a local preparatory organization, “Promotion Council for the third UN WCDRR in Sendai,” was established as a cooperative effort between the public and private sectors, which disseminates information on the recovery status and disaster preparedness efforts in Sendai and the Tohoku region from its own dedicated website. During the conference, various related projects are scheduled to take place in Sendai and the four prefectures in Tohoku affected by the disaster (Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima), including public events, a welcome reception, official visits to affected areas and press tours.


High level of interest among construction businesses and industry groups

In order to reignite the awareness of disaster preparedness among citizens and publicize the progress of reconstruction efforts and disaster readiness activities across the nation, more than 100 symposiums and seminars will be held at public facilities in Sendai and multiple sites in Tohoku under suchdistinctive themes as “Experiences and lessons gained from the earthquake disaster,” “Disaster risk reduction and civil activities” and “Women and disaster risk reduction.”

Additionally, there will be an exhibitionregarding disaster risk reduction and reconstructionefforts with the participation of various countries, international organizations and governments of the affected areas as well as the Disaster Prevention Industry Trade Show through collaboration with Miyagi Prefecture and the private sector.

Because disaster preparedness techniques are directly linked to civil engineering, construction and urban development, construction businesses, plant manufacturers, energy-related businesses, industry groups and academic societies have high expectations for the conference. The number of inquiries made to “Sendai City Preparatory Office for the UN WCDRR” is also on the increase.


Showcasing reconstruction through hospitality

Starting with the reception, various other welcome events are planned. Through these events, reconstruction of the regioncan be showcased by providing menus that incorporate ingredients produced in Tohoku and promoting local tourism, which will play a significant role in eliminating the harmful rumors associated with the region and increasing the number of tourists. In order for this to happen, it is necessary to elicit interest not just among “some” people or the industries involved in the events but among all citizens. It is essential that a welcoming mood be fostered throughout the population. Indeed, high hopes are placed on the success of the third UN WCDRR as an opportunity to show the world, through hospitality, how far the region has come with its reconstruction efforts.

Tokushima Satellite Office Project

Due to the Great East Japan Earthquake, many people in the metropolitan area realized that there are potential risks in the overly concentrated economy. Therefore, the “satellite office” started to draw people’s attention as one of the countermeasures for the risks, and the Tokushima Satellite Office Project–driven by Tokushima Prefecture–has come under the spotlight. Currently, more than fifteen companies with an expressed support for the project have begun to set up satellite offices.








Get Away from the City! Off to Tokushima!

The Tokushima Satellite Office Project started as a movement after the Great East Earthquake, mainly among companies in the metropolitan area. It reconsiders the conventional manner of daily work and seeks to “telecommute” and “work in mobile mode,” in a style that uses information and telecommunications technologies to set people free from the restrictions of time and place.

Tokushima Prefecture was the first to focus on this movement. The region facilitated one of the best broadband environments by extending a high-speed broadband network throughout the prefecture, even to the depopulated areas known as marginal villages (villages in which at least 50% of the population consists of people 65 years old or more). By capitalizing on the advantages of the infrastructure, Tokushima has promoted an unprecedented “village revitalization model,” which uses old, vacant houses and idle facilities in the depopulated villages as satellite offices for ICT companies in the metropolitan area. This also serves to revitalize the depopulated areas.

Additionally, through the project Tokushima offers to provide a place to realize “a new form of work” and “a new lifestyle” amid its abundant natural beauty. Ultimately, Tokushima’s proposal for a new working style for the twenty-first century could transform Japanese society.


Broadband Kingdom: One of the Best in Japan

Tokushima offers an environment that enables one to enjoy the abundance of nature and a state-of-the-art IT infrastructure at the same time. The local public organization’s fiber-optic network is facilitated throughout the prefecture even to homes in mountainous areas where private-sector-driven operation is difficult due to low profitability. The length of the fiber-optic core installed by the local government per resident and per household in Tokushima is the longest of any prefecture.

All 24 cities, towns and villages in Tokushima are equipped with CATV service. In fact, CATV’s penetration to the households is nearly 90%, which is the highest ratio in Japan. Added to such an environment, the effect of “killing four birds with one stone” has been generated: It makes possible the maintenance of a high-speed, high-capacity, constantly connected broadband environment; the enhancement of the IP telephone network, which allows toll-free calls in the same area; the transmittal of regional information in communities; and local disaster prevention. It appears that “optic kingdom of Tokushima” has become a reality.


The Reason to Choose Tokushima Prefecture

First, as mentioned previously, Tokushima is an excellent choice for business due to its prefecture-wide broadband network. Secondly, the prefecture offers a rich natural environment and many old houses with historical sentiment, even though it comes with the major challenge of “marginal villages.” By combining the two assets together, it has created attractive new offices in a way that wouldn’t be possible in the heart of a city.

When we think about the future of Japan, with its increasing depth of information infrastructure, it isn’t difficult to predict that many companies will open satellite offices in places far from metropolitan areas. The ongoing effort to set up satellite offices in Tokushima therefore reflects the future of the nation.

A Spike in Popularity Among Cyclists

Shimanami Kaido

The Shimanami Kaido, an expressway that links Onomichi City of Hiroshima Prefecture with Imabari City of Ehime Prefecture, was opened in its entirety in May 1999. The route, which comprises ten individual bridges, required a total investment of approximately 746.4 billion yen.








An 80km “Bicycle Route”

Each bridge on the route has its own feature. Tatara Bridge, which stands above the border of Hiroshima Prefecture and Ehime Prefecture, opened in 1999 as one of the longest cable-stayed bridges in the world (as of the time of its construction). Its strikingly beautiful form, which resembles a bird with its wings open, attracts visitors from around the world. Additionally, Kurushima Kaikyo Bridge was constructed through the combined use of all modern construction technologies to become the world’s first triple-suspension bridge.

The route through the main island starts at Onomichi City in Hiroshima Prefecture, which is well known nationwide as a city of movies, slopes, temples and literature. Onomichi ramen and seafood dishes made with fresh fish caught in Setouchi (Seto Inland Sea) exemplify the region’s much-loved cuisine.

Imabari City, the starting point at Shikoku Island, has a rich historical heritage that includes Imabari Castle and Oyamazumi Shrine, the latter of which is known as a Japanese tutelary deity. Moreover, one of the area’s industries is Imabari Towel, which is famous for its excellent quality. Various shipbuilding companies are also based in the area.

Because the route allows cyclists to ride approximately 80 kilometers, it has become a favorite domestically and internationally. The Setonaikai-Crossing Bicycle Route is the first channel crossing in Japan that allows bicycle traffic.


Increased Attention on Setouchi Cycling

The exhilaration of cycling along the seashore draws cyclists from all over, and each year more enthusiasts visit the area. There is also a well-organized system to accommodate them. The Onomichi U2, a complex designed for cyclists located west of JR Onomichi Station, opened in March 2014 as a renovation of the former Prefectural Warehouse No. 2. The facility includes Hotel Cycle, a specialized lodging for cyclists, the Giant Store, a bicycle shop, a cafe and souvenir shops.

Together with the enhancement of the facilities, cycling events are held regularly. For example, The Third Setouchi Shimanami Kaido Cycling Ride 2014 will be held on May 25, 2014. Two courses will be offered: the Ikuchijima 70 course (around the three islands from the Mukaishima district of Onomichi City to Ikuchijima) for beginning and intermediate riders, and Omishima 100 course (around the four islands from Onomichi City’s Mukaishima district to Omishima) for intermediate and advanced riders. The event appears to be quite popular, as all the available applications have been filled and there is a waiting list of riders seeking to fill cancellations.

This year the area celebrates the eightieth anniversary of its designation as Setonaikai National Park, and the fifteenth anniversary of the Setouchi Shimanami Kaido. Thus one of the biggest international cycling events–known as Cycling Shimanami, or the Setouchi Shimanami Kaido International Cycling Event–will be held on October 25. While approximately 8,000 participants are called for domestically and internationally, the event gains added attention not only for the unique bridges but also for the opportunity to cycle the expressway, which offers beautiful views of Setonaikai’s islands.

Hiroshima Prefecture strives to lure cyclists not only to the Shimanami Kaido but also to the wider area of Setonaikai by placing the guiding lines through a route called Sazanami Kaido, which lies between Mihara City and Kure City–mainly along National Highway Route 185–as well as through the Kakishima Kaido between Kure City and Etajima, being linked by National Highway Route 487 and city roads.


Solar Energy Generation Underpinning the Economic Growth of Kyushu

Kyushu has experienced a surge in the installation of mega-solar power plants (large-scale solar power plants) under the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) program for renewable energy sources. When we consider Japan by region, Kyushu has the largest power-generation output. Lately power plant subdivision businesses have thrived, spearheading the economic growth of the Kyushu region.



The Majority of Plant Locations Are Intended for Electricity Businesses

According to a survey (flash report) on plant location trends among the seven prefectures of Kyushu, as published on March 28 by the Kyushu Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry, the number of plant locations in 2013 doubled from the previous year (167) to 333, approaching the high level (340) achieved 21 years earlier, in 1992. The electricity industry, which includes mega-solar businesses, has played a huge part in this increase. The number of plant locations for electricity businesses increased from the previous year’s 77 to 261, an increase of 340%, accounting for roughly 80% of all.

The same bureau also simultaneously released data indicating that the certified status of power plants under FIT as of the end of December 2013. According to that data, the total energy output of certified power plants in the seven prefectures was 7,180 MW, out of which 7,010 MW (a component ratio of 97.7%) was solar energy.

Of this, 3,810 MW was generated by mega-solar power plants, which was the highest among all regions of Japan, including Kanto (3,460 MW). Moreover, it accounted for approximately a quarter of the nation’s total energy output generated by mega-solar power plants. This output level is equivalent to that of roughly four units of the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant (rated output of 890 MW), which is currently undergoing safety screening by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in order to resume operation.   


Power Plant Subdivision Spreading Among Small and Medium-Sized Businesses

A surge in the installation of large mega-solar power plants has been seen in the coastal industrial zones of Kyushu. In Kagoshima City, the construction of the Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar Power Plant was completed in November 2013. This power plant is operated by the Kagoshima Mega Solar Power Corporation, which was co-founded by seven companies (including Kyocera). It has a power output of 70 MW, and its annual electric-generating capacity is equivalent to the annual electric power consumption of 22,000 general households, enough to cover 2.2% of the total electric power consumption within Kagoshima Prefecture.

Miyama City in Fukuoka Prefecture has the Kyushu Solar Farm 7 Miyama Joint Power Station. It’s a project of Shibaura Group Holdings Co., Ltd. (headquartered in Kokuraminami-ku, Kitakyushu City), in which the power-generating facility with an output of 23 MW has been divided into 13 sections for sale to investors. The power plant subdivision movement has also spread among small and medium-sized businesses.


A “Goldmine” of Energy Sources

Kyushu Economic Research Center has announced that the growth rate in the real GRP (gross regional product) of the Kyushu region (including Okinawa) in FY 2014 is expected to increase by 0.9% over the previous year. Among the mega-solar facilities certified as of the end of December 2013, the proportion of those in starting operation stood only at 21.6% on the basis of the number of facilities and at 11.8% on the basis of output. Thus, investment in facilities that have yet to start operating is expected to remain at a high level.

The cost of procuring solar panels has been coming down and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has lowered the purchase price for solar energy to 32 yen per kilowatt-hour (excluding tax) for FY 2014. The price will most likely continue to decline, and greater attention may also be paid to other renewable energy sources, including geothermal heat, small/medium hydropower and biomass.

The Kyushu region has “the innate qualities” necessary for the production of these renewable energy sources. First of all, there are hot springs scattered throughout the region. The heat from hot springs can be used for binary power-generating systems, which generate electricity by spinning turbines with the power of the steam produced through the process of heating and evaporating a low-boiling-point medium. Accordingly, it is possible to make effective use of unharnessed thermal energy. The mountain areas are suitable for small/medium hydroelectric power generation that utilizes the sloping terrain. Furthermore, technical development and the application of biomass energy production from forest thinning and waste from agriculture/livestock industries are expected to take place in the near future.

Kyushu is perhaps the only region in Japan that has such a wide variety of renewable energy sources. In fact, Kyushu is likely to lead Japan’s energy industry in a new direction with renewable energy.

A success of the third arrow of Abenomics–a growth strategy–is essential for the sustained development of Kyushu’s economy, since it will prompt increased capital investment in all industries.