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Date : March 27 - 28, 2023

Report: Gunma Press Tour

post date : 2023.04.14

Ahead of the April 2023 G7 Digital and Tech Ministers’ Meeting in Takasaki, Gunma, this press tour was held on the topic of an inclusive society, covering initiatives in Gunma Prefecture for multicultural inclusion and universal tourism, and efforts to use digital technology to create a society where no one is left behind. A total of seven journalists joined the tour, from media organizations based out of Bangladesh, France, Taiwan, Turkey, the UK, and Vietnam.


*This tour was sponsored by the Promotion Council for the G7 Digital and Tech Ministers’ Meeting in Takasaki, Gunma, and planned and operated by the FPCJ.

*For more details on the tour stops, see the tour notice here.


[Day One]


<Briefings from Gunma Prefecture and Oizumi Town Officials>

A Gunma Prefecture official explained the current situation of foreign residents living there, and the prefecture’s policies for living in harmony with foreigners, such as how it was the first prefecture in Japan to introduce an ordinance for the promotion of intercultural co-creation. explained the situation of the town, where nearly twenty percent of the population are foreigners, and the town’s initiatives for promoting multicultural inclusion, followed by an interview with a third-generation Japanese Brazilian town official who was born in Brazil and acts as a bridge between the town’s Japanese and foreign residents.




<Oizumi Town tour>

After visiting the Nippon Teiju Shiryokan, a museum introducing the history of , the tour heard from Mr. Isamu Paulo Hirano, a third-generation Japanese Brazilian who came to Oizumi when he was 10 years old and has seen the town change over more than 30 years, about the history of multicultural inclusion in the town from the perspective of a stakeholder. The journalists asked him questions such as whether he thought Japanese society as a whole would become like Oizumi, where Japanese and foreign residents live together in harmony.



Next, guided by Mr. Hirano and Mr. Masaki Nakayama, director of the Oizumi Tourism Association, the tour looked around the town. The tour visited a grocery store which carried a variety of Brazilian foods, a Brazilian restaurant, and a store selling South Asian ingredients, and interviewed the managers of each.




<Ishikawa Construction Co., Ltd.>

The tour visited Ishikawa Construction in Ota, a business which has been actively hiring foreign workers since around ten years ago and has been certified by the prefecture as a Gunma Intercultural Co-creation Company. The journalists heard about the company’s initiatives to create an environment enabling foreign employees to actively participate, and spoke with two Vietnamese employees, from the design and marketing departments.




<Usaburo Kokeshi>

Gunma Prefecture is the No. 1 producer of sosaku (creative) kokeshi (traditional Japanese wooden dolls) in Japan. The tour visited Usaburo Kokeshi, and saw how sosaku kokeshi were made. The journalists showed great interest in how the artisans carved kokeshi from lumber using lathes, taking many pictures and videos, and were extremely surprised upon hearing that during the busiest times, 100,000 sosaku kokeshi were exported to the UK per month.




[Day Two]

<Ikaho Onsen>

After staying overnight in Ikaho Onsen, early the next morning the tour was shown the stone steps that are the town’s symbol, guided by a representative of the Shibukawa Ikaho Onsen Tourism Association. Although they are normally not opened, the tour was able to see through one of the viewing ports set up along the stone steps how hot water was flowing vigorously beneath the steps, from the spring uphill.



Learning about the universal tourism initiatives in Ikaho Onsen, the tour used the Shibukawa/Ikaho Onsen Barrier-free Map, made by the City of Shibukawa, to look around the stone step area together with members of DET Gunma (DET=Disability Equality Training) who were wheelchair users and helped create the map. At Hotel Matsumotoro, one of the first onsen ryokan in Japan to begin work on becoming barrier free, the tour saw a barrier-free room designed without any elevation differences, and facilities in the ryokan for tourists with small children.




The Japanese Federation of the Deaf was also founded in Ikaho Onsen, and many deaf people from around the country still visit there. Via a sign language interpreter, the tour was briefed by representatives of the Shibukawa City Deaf Welfare Society who created a tourism map for Ikaho Onsen complete with sign-language videos, and saw a demonstration of how a sign language video could be played by scanning a QR code on the map.




<The Use of Digital Technology Towards an Inclusive Society>

With a growing number of people without sufficient access to transportation, such as seniors, becoming an issue, an initiative has begun in Gunma Prefecture to use AI to take advantage of empty seats in shuttles operated by senior day care services to provide transportation to seniors. The tour heard from staff at Social Action Organization who developed this system.

In Maebashi, the Mebuku Eye system uses smartphone cameras and AI technology to help support pedestrians with visual impairments. Mr. Naohisa Fukuda, president of Japan Communications Inc. and the “architect” for the City of Maebashi’s Super-City Framework, also explained Mebuku ID, a digital personal identification system developed by Maebashi as part of Mebuku Eye, and mentioned how that development was one of the reasons that Gunma Prefecture was selected as the venue for the G7 Digital and Tech Ministers’ Meeting.




<Initiatives to Make Gunma One of Japan’s Top Digital Pioneering Prefectures>

At Netsugen, a public-private co-creation space on the 32nd floor of the Gunma Prefectural Government Building, the tour heard an overview of this facility which was established to support startups and entrepreneurs who would bring Gunma Prefecture into the future. At Tsukurun, a center for nurturing digital creatives, the tour saw children making digital art and programming. The journalists seemed impressed at how elementary school students were engaging in creative activities using the same latest equipment and software as professional creators.



◆Below is some of the reporting based on this tour.


UCA News (France)

"Japan’s welcoming immigrants and no one’s complaining" (31 March)


Dhaka Courier (Bangladesh)

"Migrants from Brazil still struggling to find their identity in Japan" (7 April)

"Preserving an old tradition with a new touch" (14 April)


L’EXPRESS (France)

"Pénurie de main-d’oeuvre : comment le Japon chouchoute ses rares immigrés" (9 April)


Anadolu Agency (Turkey)

"Japonların ahşap Kokeşi bebekleri 200 yıldır vitrinleri süslüyor" (10 April)


Huanyu Global News (Taiwan)

"坐輪椅也能進浴場!伊香保溫泉打造「無障礙溫泉旅館」" (11 April)

"日本有座巴西城!滿街葡萄牙文.巴西料理" (17 April)



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