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Video Report: July 22, 2009【Otawara Press Tour (Sustainable City Planning)】

post date : 2013.08.30

■"Local Wisdom" to stand up agains the global economic recession: Sustainable City Planning(July 22, 2009)





【Otawara City Information】


Otawata City is located in northern Tochigi Prefecture with a population of 78,000 and only about one-and-a-half hours away by bullet train from Tokyo.
The city is undertaking a unique style of city planning.


【City planning that strikes a balance in its industrial structure】


City Mayor Kazuo Senbo:
Since I became Otawara City Mayor, I have been trying to create a vibrant city although it has no express transportation network. I decided to promote city planning, taking advantage of this “disadvantage”.


【I. Promotion of Sightseeing: Use of Existing Natural Wealth】
The Japanese economy is stagnant, and the population of our city is decreasing.
This could lessen the vitality of this city. That is why we want to increase the number of tourists. Rivers and mountains are Otawaras’ assets. The Naka River that runs through the city enjoys the highest Ayu (sweetfish) catches in Japan. We are greatly blessed with mountains and rivers. I strongly hope that visitors will enjoy those blessings.


【II. Promotion of Environmentally-Friendly Agriculture】
(Voice: City Mayor Senbo)
Otawara City enjoys abundant food. 
It has been a food producing area and now plays a role as a food production base for the big city, Tokyo. 


-Maeda Bokujo(Pasture)-
Maeda Bokujo raises 2,000 head of cattle and grows various agricultural produce in an area of 33 hectares. Recycling-type agriculture has been practiced here for a long time.


■Why the Firm Started Recycling Agriculture
President Mr. Akira Maeda:
Animal waste troubled me because of the number of cattle I raised. I wondered how such waste could be transformed into something useful. I built two facilities to make compost from livestock excreta. Compost is used as fertilizer to grow agricultural produce. It is eco-friendly and makes the taste of the produce and the meat better. 


【III. Unique Corporations which support Otawara’s economy】
City Mayor Kazuo Senbo:
Otawara city started to invite enterprises. 
An industrial complex is located at the far end of the city. We have eleven companies that are listed in the first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange. 


-Otawara Plant of JUKI Corporation
The Otawara Plant of JUKI Corporation started up in 1971. It is the mother plant of JUKI Corporation, the No.1 supplier of industrial sewing machines in the world market. 
The plant introduced the “Digital Yatai” system in which craftsmanship was divided into eleven skills and digitized. It enables even first-year employees to do the same level of work as skilled workers. 


■Key to Success: Combination of High Technology and Human Resources Development
Plant Director Mr. Shuji Yamaoka:
We invest only in something value-added or new attempts and human resources development. 
They are our skilled workers. Approx. 64% of them have obtained national trade certificates. In addition, they go through in-house trade tests every three months. They aim to acquire A-level skills or above in all types of skills. 


Yamagata-ya is a metalworking factory with a 400-year history. In the Edo period, it was a family of master craftsmen making Japanese swords only for local feudal lords in Kurobane.


■Inheritance of hammering and forging techniques
President Mr. Toshikatsu Kato:
An 83-year old employee is still working for us. He has been working here since he was 16 years old, and his father and grandfather also worked here. So his family has contributed to our business for about 200 years. This is how small and medium-sized enterprises in Japan preserve their skills. 


■What SMEs, which support Japan’s monozukuri, are supposed to be …
President Mr. Toshikatsu Kato:
What is important for SMEs or “monozukuri (manufacturing, literally ‘making things’)” in Japan is to adjust themselves to changing economies or tools necessary in such economies. They should also strive to improve their skills. My company is currently changing its business direction to manufacturing original products. We are trying to transform ourselves from a subcontractor of big companies.


【What Otawara city cherishes in its city planning is…】
City Mayor Kazuo Senbo:
People in Japan tend to think that “development” means “industrialization” and “urbanization”. In this regard, I think this city should remain “underdeveloped”. This city did not really benefit in the high economic growth period. Instead, we have managed to keep what was valuable in this city. Otawara city should continue to protect such a heritage. 

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