Challenges of senior aging prefecture : A look into marketing in Kochi Prefecture | BIGBEAT

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2019.1.22 Discussion

Challenges of senior aging prefecture : A look into marketing in Kochi Prefecture

Declining birth rate, population, economic scale - It’s a nationwide problem in Japan, but Kochi Prefecture, the hometown of CEO Hamaguchi, is said to be 10 years ahead in terms of the aging demographic.

Mr. Masato Takechi of the Industry Creation Division came into our office from Kochi.
Before Kochi where he currently promotes enterprises in the IT and content creation industry, he had previously been working as a system engineer for 7 years in Tokyo. He hosts an event called “Community Leaders Summit in Kochi” (CLS) which was held twice in 2018, where he actively works towards solutions for the challenges Kochi Prefecture faces. I asked Mr. Takechi about the current state of the local and prefectural governments from a marketing perspective.


Prefectural Department of Marketing of “Aging” Kochi Prefecture


Hamaguchi:
Kochi is facing a big problem, isn’t it?


Mr. Takechi:
Yes. Up until now, the young people are moving out of the prefecture in search of employment, so it’s said that we’re ten years ahead of the rest of the country in terms of aging population.
But this problem being so apparent also creates a business opportunity. As a prefecture, we are trying to boost the agriculture, forestry, and fishery industry by growing local commerce activities and promoting purchasing outside the prefecture.
My own mission is to attract more IT/content companies, favored among young people who can work with just an Internet connection, thereby preventing them from leaving and doing I-turns and U-turns in the first place.



Masato Takechi, principal chief of industrial creation department, Kochi prefecture commerce and labor department
 

Hamaguchi:
I heard you are studying marketing.


Mr. Takechi:
Out of necessity, I became more involved in the marketing community. As I learned, I realized all of the ideas I thought of trying were explained in marketing.


Hamaguchi:
If a prefecture is a company, I think the prefectural government is like the marketing department.


Mr. Takechi:
Yes. At times I’ve been told it is marketing itself. We don’t refer to it as “marketing”, but I think we have a similar awareness.

 

Hirome Market culture + new content, a more attractive Kochi


Hamaguchi:
Marketing to put it simply is the activity to become chosen for something. When putting out goods and hit products, the important thing is to be chosen by consumers. In recruitment, to be a workplace that is chosen by potential hires. Being chosen is important in so many ways.



Bigbeat President Hamaguchi
 


Mr. Takechi:
People come to Kochi and enjoy the nature—the southern sea, fishing and surfing. There is Hirome Market which is culturally known as a place where you can easily make friends over drinks. These are things we already have. In the future, my hope is that people will continue to associate Kochi with interesting things, especially through IT / contents. It’s still only been a few years since we started promoting these industries, but I have a feeling we can prepare something impressive. 



“Hirome Market” - a gathering place of Kochi’s local cuisine and people
 


Hamaguchi:
On top of “Okyaku” (Kochi style reception) representation of the original drinking culture, you want to create content that will attract people who want to do a good job and succeed.


Mr. Takechi:
To attract companies obviously requires human resources. For that I urge UI turns, but some people feel that one would have less things to learn in Kochi. While you could learn on your own, the study groups commonly held in Tokyo aren’t so readily there in the countryside. So people might worry about missing out on trends. I want to make it easier for people to migrate by building an IT community in Kochi. The prefecture can create opportunities for study, but the information should be acquired by the individual, so I started thinking about “community support”.



Japan’s globalization, a slow spiritual disintegration


Hamaguchi:
CLS (Community Leaders Summit in Kochi) has already been held twice. How was it?


Mr. Takechi:
The first summit was held to gather people to Kochi.
The second round was to highlight the importance of understanding what’s happening on the outside, with a theme built around how Ryoma wouldn’t be Ryoma Sakamoto if he stayed in Kochi. We discussed how to lessen dependence on the homeland or organization one belongs to, a spiritual departure to gain a breath of fresh air and expand perceptions, without actually leaving town.



Kick-off panel "Where did Sakamoto Ryoma become Sakamoto Ryoma? - Explore common points between the end of Edo period and the present day community"
 


Hamaguchi:
I like the keyword “spiritual departure”. That said, I do feel Japan’s globalization is lagging behind.
We had established an affiliated firm in Bangkok in 2018, and have been working abroad, but I feel Japanese companies are not competing abroad in a real sense. Depending on the industry, but Korean and Chinese companies don’t have the “us vs. overseas” mentality. They are expanding in the market abroad as they would locally. Japan on the other hand... 


Mr. Takechi:
Like Japanese students abroad that just stick together? (Laughs)


Hamaguchi:
Yeah. You notice how there are so many Korean and Chinese products in Asia, not Japanese. I know Japan is trying to go global, but I have yet to see true “spiritual departure”. Historically, is it like the advancement overseas while being protected by the Tosa clan? Honestly it seems to surprisingly be the reality. 


Mr. Takeshichi:
Something being “Made in Japan” no longer necessarily equates to winning in this day and age.

 


On another note...


Hamaguchi:
What are some inherent challenges marketing as the prefectural office?


Mr. Takechi:
The effective results can’t be seen immediately. Gauging how to spend on experimental efforts proves to be difficult not knowing whether or not results can be seen two or three steps down the line. Also, things take time as there are many stakeholders.


Hamaguchi:
To us, CLS has been successful in inviting many people, and the word got out wonderfully. It’s difficult to explain the charm of it all because the value of personal brands can’t be quantified.



Community Leaders Summit in Kochi Returns
 


Mr. Takechi:
That's right. It is difficult to convey the meaning and value of that group gathering.


Hamaguchi:
One might think, “Seems like just a bunch of folks getting together eating bonito.” (Laughs) But actually, some amazing people are getting together here. 


Mr. Takechi:
The community is a great place where you can be frank and talk about anything. But the culture hasn’t fully permeated. After two summits, we’re realizing how this chance shouldn’t be wasted. And we’re thinking of ways to spread the word.


Hamaguchi:
Our ideal form of marketing is to know who our biggest customers are and to impress them. I think the marketing is successful if this is accomplished. But in the case of the prefectural office, things might not be so easy.


Mr. Takechi:
It’s hard to be understood at times. On the surface, the target is in the number of participants, etc., but in reality I’m always thinking of how to deliver these ideas to the people.

This year, I invited a certain HR startup company to collaborate on making the event. We taught programming to college students who would then in turn teach to junior and senior high school students. With a capacity of 80 people, there were over 200 junior and senior high students who participated.



It was a success from the number of entries we had, but more than that, because we developed instructors from the college community.  
After the event, they carried on to continue the activities which gave the whole thing excitement. There was a lot of good energy and a sense of progress. And that’s exactly what we are striving for.
The advertising base that is First Pin is being born for the challenge of participant numbers. And this present situation is what I believe to be representing the charm of Kochi. We are trying to get on our feet. Through enterprise and UI turn, wouldn’t it be exciting to make this growth together! 

 


Prefectural government that connects people


Hamaguchi:
30-50% of people in Kochi leave the prefecture after high school. But there are many who return home during key times in their lifetime.


Mr. Takechi:
On the bright side, our people like Kochi. People who can’t return to the hometown but want to show support, people who have connections in business, related interests are paying attention. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is making a portal site to keep up to date with the growth. We want to connect with people outside of the prefecture as well to continue enlivening Kochi.


Hamaguchi:
Tokyo shouldn’t be the only place that sustains the nation. There should be more energy in the outside city towns. When I went to Germany last summer, I felt like they got it right in this regard. Lots of cities with a population of 500,000-1,000,000 people, but they all have places to work and solid global jobs. Different than the city center versus countryside style of Japan. The country is dotted with main cities linked with the Autobahn.


Mr. Takechi:
Wow! So every town is independent in their own industries and people converge.


Hamaguchi:
By the way, I stopped by a Japanese teppanyaki restaurant in Frankfurt named “Restaurant Kabuki” where they dynamically prepare dishes right in front of you. Founded in 1989 so likely popular for a long time. Excellent. So at the counter I was talking with my wife letting out my Kochi dialect. I was asked where I was from by the attendant, and when I answered Kochi, he said he was too! He then brought out some Dabada Hiburi sake. (Laughs)



Restaurant Kabuki, with Naoki Sakamoto from Kochi!
 


Mr. Takechi:
Like John Manjiro! Hope we get more and more people who leave town to build up experience and come back. 


Hamaguchi:
The returning bonito. (Laughs) Hopefully the case for all regions of Japan, not only Kochi. Then the future of Japan might look quite different.




Hamaguchi:
Before we end, and it would be kind of awkward asking you about “dreams”, but tell me what is something you wish you could do.


Mr. Takechi:
It would be the best thing for my kids to enjoy life in Kochi too. That’s why it’s fun creating jobs and livening up the region with the community. I want to make an environment where one feels something interesting is happening. On the other hand, I personally think that people should, including my own child, go out of the prefecture once to build connections that eventually tie back to the region. We want to be a prefectural office that connects people.


Hamaguchi:
As a related person, I am cheering you on. And in Bigbeat, we have a Kochi club that does extracurricular activities welcome to anyone. If we get more members and can further contribute to Kochi, that would be fantastic. Thank you for today.

 

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[Recruiting for Kochi Club Members]
Original hometown not relevant for entry. The activity content is “to enjoy Kochi”.
Please contact us at nishitai@bigbeat.co.jp or sales representative.

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