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“Tremendous chance for profits” in Japan’s lowest-tax city

Interview - December 24, 2015

Nagoya, Japan’s third-largest incorporated city, is making every effort to preserve its culture and offer a rich history and entertainment to keep seducing people. Takashi Kawamura, Mayor of Nagoya highlights the importance of attracting more tourism and investors to his “city of dreams” while focusing their efforts on education.

 

TAKASHI KAWAMURA, MAYOR OF NAGOYA
TAKASHI KAWAMURA | MAYOR OF NAGOYA

What impact would you say has Abenomics had on the city of Nagoya?

First, I’d like to say that Nagoya had a very hard time during World War II. The war destroyed the center of the city and many people passed away. Now, Nagoya is the number one city in foreign currency trade surplus. Nagoya is the city of dreams. Abenomics is a policy that many people misunderstand. The financial deficit in Greece is very different when compared with Japan. In Greece they are having a really hard time. It’s different in Japan. In Japan there is too much deposit and too little investment. If investment is less than the deposit, then it becomes surplus money and goes to the national bonds and local bonds. There are a lot of newspaper misunderstandings about this. The Japanese deficit is not real debt. The economic policies aren’t shrinking the economy.

 

What opportunities from the TPP would you like to highlight here in Nagoya for American investors?

The TPP isn’t about low tariffs. The fundamental style of the TPP would need to change to benefit Japan. It probably won’t have a strong influence on the Japanese economy.

 

But the automobile sector would benefit greatly from the TPP.

There will always be exemptions, but in general it won’t be a tremendous shock to the Japanese economy.

 

You have brought an enormous amount of fresh energy to Nagoya. Your political platform, which includes tax-cutting, having Nagoya not Tokyo decide how to spend their taxes, and making elected officials more responsible for their spending, has made you extremely popular with the people of Nagoya, but what would you say has made you so popular and do you think your brand of politics will spread across Japan?

I am thankful to be popular. I’m the lowest-paid mayor in Japan, and those who make a living off others’ taxes should be modest. Before World War II, Japan had a similar salary system to the rest of the world where politicians didn’t make a lot of money. After the war, reforms through General MacArthur decreed that politics should be a profession that receives high salaries. The taxpayer should be number one in the Japanese social system. Nagoya is the number one city in Japan for low taxes, but nobody has thanked me for these policies.

 

Austerity is often very welcomed by the people in Nagoya. How you communicate the trust to investors?

Every year Nagoya Port makes a surplus of 6 trillion yen. If companies invest in Nagoya, they have a tremendous chance for profits. It’s not like in Tokyo, where the costs are very high. Nagoya’s low costs make it a great place for investment.

 

Unfortunately when investors think of Japan and which city to invest or start a company in all too often it starts and ends with Tokyo. Greater Nagoya includes 70% of Japan’s trade surplus and the headquarters of automobile giants such as Toyota and Denso. Now with the new Shinkansen line, Nagoya is poised to cement its status as a business hub, but how are you working to raise the international profile of Nagoya?

Working hard is the main thing. Nagoya is making efforts to preserve its culture. You can enjoy history and entertainment in Nagoya, and it’s convenient to stop and enjoy going to and from Tokyo with the Shinkansen. Many people are passing from Tokyo, via the Shinkansen, and enjoying our city. We are trying to improve the education of our children; that’s a priority now for Nagoya. We also have a Sister City relationship with Los Angeles and more.

 

How are you treating these Sister Cities and not make them just symbolic? How do you keep them not only as relations but also as economic trade?

Good question. Business in Nagoya is simple. I would like to meet the CEO of Google to invite him to Nagoya, but I don’t have that chance. Nagoya is an outstanding world city, and an inexpensive city.

 

Increasing tourism in Nagoya has been a passion of yours, so how are you working to increase Nagoya’s share of these historic visitor numbers? For example Japan’s first Legoland is being built in Nagoya.

After World War II our castle was destroyed. We managed to reconstruct it. We have the blueprints for the original pre-war wood construction, and I would like to rebuild the castle in the way it was 400 years ago. Legoland will be great for small children, but not as big as Disneyland.

 

How would you describe the Japanese culture to somebody who has never been to Japan before?

The Japanese culture is rather simple, where we sometimes hold back our emotions and are serious about our work. Honesty is an important value to us.

 

How you would describe your political platform and management style? The Economist has called you a maverick, but what separates you from the average Japanese politician?

Japanese politicians’ salaries are too high. In Tokyo they have very high salaries and a good life. That’s not a sustainable system. The most important thing is the taxpayer.

 

You have municipality reforms, education reforms. What would you say are your top priorities?

My top priorities include supporting children’s education with specialist regular school counseling staff, and cutting taxes. In order to do this, we need financial resources. As long as taxpayers support these programs, we can do it.

 

Intelligence is the symbol of your city. How are you working to communicate this to the international community?

We have an exhibition center and conferences. There are many in Tokyo, but we can attract more companies and neighbors if we can build a new large-scale conference center in the Port of Nagoya. Nagoya University has produced many Nobel Prize Laureates, and is the number one city for industry. We have an international conference center, and Nagoya has many places to enjoy drinking and singing.

Not only does our city have a trade surplus, it also has great entertainment. By changing the heart of the citizens, we can change the city. Many may consider Nagoya an average citizen, but I want to change that. As an ambassador of Nagoya, I’d like to go to other cities, sing to them and show them there are places they can enjoy even in Japan.

 

How are you planning to attract international companies to come to Nagoya?

This interview is a great chance to attract attention to Nagoya. It’s important to visit the headquarters of foreign companies and explain to them how attractive our city is. The press should come here instead of Tokyo. Let’s get together! 

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