This is a guest post authored by Amanda Imasaka. She is a Tokyo-based writer specializing in ICT and high technology.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) held “Invest Tokyo Seminar Winter 2017,” headlined by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, on the 25th of this month at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) headquarters. Their message was strong and clear: create a “New Tokyo,” attract foreign companies and entrepreneurs (especially those from IoT, AI, and FinTech– the so-called 4th Industrial Revolution-driven sectors), lead the world in business.
Over four years the government will construct a new Tokyo by putting, using a term coined by Governor Koike, “Citizens First.” Their goal is to create a diverse city where everyone can live peacefully in a sustainable Tokyo capable of continuous growth, which is congruent to also making it a smart city. She listed a number of challenges they are set to tackle, such as increasing Tokyo’s GDP and the number of inbound tourists, while also outlining her FIRST strategy for growth: Finance-Innovation-Rise-Success-Technology. With her commitment to, “no more NATO (No-Action-Talk-Only) meetings,” she seems poised to make this happen, although this comment was made as the lead-in to a brief introduction of the Advisory Panel for Global Financial City Tokyo, which is set to discuss how to revitalize Tokyo’s financial sector for a year and then compile a report.
To lead the world in business, the TMG plans to make Tokyo “Asia’s Top Global Financial City,” and they are hoping foreign financial firms will help them accomplish this, more specifically 40 foreign financial firms between 2017 and 2020. As of now they plan to offer services, such as free consulting, an accelerator program, a financial one-stop support service to provide information on the laws and regulations, as well as publish an English handbook by April of next year. And in true omotenashi style they have even thought of support for foreign families, with plans to build an international school directly attached to Tokyo station (with the area around marked as the main hub for financial talent, and home to both the Tokyo Stock Exchange and the Bank of Japan) and the easing of restrictions on foreign doctors practicing in The National Strategic Special Zone (previously they were only allowed to treat patients from their own country).
Foreign companies/entrepreneurs looking to set up shop in the various special zones could reap benefits along the lines of tax incentives, quicker immigration processes, subsidies and low interest loans, among others. Additionally, in an effort to attract another 40 companies involved in IoT and AI, the TMG has pledged to create desks in major cities around the world to establish communication with local hub organizations, as well as boost matching services between foreign companies and Tokyo-based firms. The TMG had previously established Tokyo One-Stop Business Establishment Center (TOSBEC), the Business Development Center TOKYO (BDCT), and the Tokyo Employment Consultation Center (TECC), who together offer full support to anyone looking to establish a business in Tokyo.
Governor Koike and the TMG provided a wealth of information on why Tokyo should be attractive to foreign companies and entrepreneurs, especially those from the healthcare, ICT, and environmental sectors. To give some examples, Tokyo ranks number 1 in terms of urban population, and ranks third on The Mori Memorial Foundation’s ranking of livability (safety, security, etc.). It boasts the world’s 3rd largest healthcare market due to the increasing population of elderly citizens, and after the devastating effects of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami there continues to be a demand for safe, stable, efficient energy infrastructure. Finally, with the upcoming Olympics and Paralympics it is estimated that the ICT market will expand to nearly USD130 billion by 2019.
Both the Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry, Mr. Toshinao Nakagawa, and the Chairman CEO of JETRO, Mr. Hiroyuki Ishige, summed up the TMG’s plans for Tokyo by expressing the hope of making it, “the world’s easiest city to do business in.”