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For the first time, Chiba Prefecture welcomed representatives from a select number of embassies to an investment tour. Five ministers were invited, including Andrew Wylegala, minister counselor for commercial affairs at the US Embassy in Tokyo.
Hosted by the Investment Promotion Division of the Chiba prefectural government, the tour aimed to boost foreign direct investment in the region.

Chiba’s push to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) is part of the national government’s efforts to entice foreign firms via National Strategic Special Zones. Both Narita City and Chiba Prefecture (in addition to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government) have been part of the initiative since it was launched in 2013.
The government’s ultimate aim is to double FDI in Japan to ¥35 trillion by 2020. It also aims to lower the effective corporate tax rate from 32 percent to 20 percent in the next few years, and to support foreign business entry into Japan.

CHIBA IN NUMBERS
Chiba has a population of some 6.2 million and a GDP of around ¥19 trillion ($158 billion). In terms of shipment value, the prefecture is ranked first in Japan for petroleum and coal products (¥2.7 trillion) as well as chemical products (¥2.6 trillion). For iron and steel production and agricultural output, Chiba is ranked third in Japan (¥1.7 trillion and ¥414 billion, respectively).

The prefecture has a suite of services that support foreign businesses, including an advisory office for market-entry companies that is managed by the Japan External Trade Organization. A startup facilitator in Makuhari New City, called the Foreign Affiliates Startup Center (FASuC), is available to assist. In addition, a number of grants and subsidies for investment in headquarters, laboratories, and factories in the prefecture are on offer.

What is more, two large-scale logistics facilities—Prologis and Goodman—are being built to make the most of Makuhari New City’s location between Narita International Airport and central Tokyo. Both facilities are due for completion by summer 2016. Two further complexes—Sodegaura Shiinomori Industrial Complex and Mobara Niiharu Industrial Complex—are expected to be ready in 2018.

Chiba3

ATTRACTING INVESTORS
During the all-day investment tour, ministers attended seminars conducted by representatives of government and industry, and paid a courtesy visit to Chiba Prefecture’s Governor Kensaku Morita. The Journal was among a handful of international press in attendance.

Held earlier this year, the tour showcased a number of Chiba’s research and development assets as well as infrastructure development. Some of the facilities visited were Kazusa Akademia Park (KAP), a bio-tech research facility; Kashiwa-no-ha campus, a life sciences hub; and Kazusa DNA Research Institute, a public sector laboratory.

Speaking to The Journal, Wylegala said that the tour was a “very well organized program that showed off the advantages that Chiba Prefecture has to offer to not only foreign companies but also Japanese firms: the infrastructure, the logistics, the progressive ideas we’ve seen at this new facility” in Kashiwa-no-ha.

“I think this is a good story that reflects a concerted effort at various levels of government, and also in the private sector and educational institutions in this region and this country, to up its game and attract more investment.”

R&D INCENTIVES
The day began at KAP, a sprawling research facility set within the manicured green hills between Kisarazu City and Kimitsu City. A science park, KAP hosts bio-tech research institutes and incubators, as well as R&D and private sector manufacturing facilities for electronics, materials science, and energy companies.

The park benefits from city- and prefecture-wide tax incentives and subsidies for startup businesses. Further, access to KAP from Narita International Airport, Tokyo International Airport (Haneda), Yokohama City, and Kawasaki City has been facilitated by the Tokyo Bay Aqualine, a 14-kilometer combination bridge and tunnel that runs across Tokyo Bay.

Kazusa DNA Research Institute (KDRI), a non-profit organization established in 1994, is located within the park. An institute for human and plant gene research, the center is noted for its contributions to research in medicine, pharmacy, and diagnostic methods.

A joint venture between KDRI and the Japanese arm of US bio-tech firm Promega Corporation began in 2015. The spinoff company, which uses KDRI resources, was created in part to explore commercially the ideas flowing from the NPO. Addressing the gathered dignitaries, KDRI Director Michio Oishi noted an increase in partnerships between the facility and the international community.

The Kazusa DNA Research Institute

The Kazusa DNA Research Institute

SMART MONEY
The next stop on the whirlwind tour was Kazusa Arc, a conference and resort complex. Surrounded by a genteel lake and lush greenery, the facility is designed to host business and cultural events.

After welcoming speeches from Kisarazu City Mayor, Yoshikuni Watanabe, and Kimitsu City Mayor, Hirokuni Suzuki, a presentation was delivered about Chiba by Megumi Asou, executive director at the prefectural office.

Watanabe emphasized his city’s strengths, which include a scenic countryside with strong agricultural production, as well as its location near major transport hubs such as Narita International Airport.

“Kisarazu City works together with Chiba Prefecture to attract research institutions and private companies. We are working hard to expand environmental, education, and medical services,” Watanabe said.

Suzuki’s welcome was equally warm. In addition to KAP, Kimitsu City is endowed with an attractive countryside and modern industrial complexes, especially for steel production, he said.

Asou shared similar thoughts, adding that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policy, dubbed Abenomics, has increased Japan’s attractiveness as an investment destination. Further, Chiba was “the most smart investment destination” in three areas.

The first is ease of access to major international transportation hubs, such as Narita International Airport and the Port of Tokyo. The second is convenient access to the rest of Japan via a network of cost-effective expressways. And the third is competitive land prices, with Chiba being cheaper than Tokyo, Kanagawa Prefecture, and Saitama Prefecture.

Asou’s address was followed by that of Tomohito Ihara, the CEO of Green Earth Institute Co., Ltd. (GEI), a company in the biofuels and biorefinery industry. GEI, which is located in the area, has partners in Asia, Europe, and North America.

OPEN FOR BUSINESS
To close out the tour, visitors were conducted to Kashiwa-no-ha, an international academic town that contains national research institutes and centers. Tokatsu Techno Plaza, a core facility of the town, was also visited. This smart city supports small and mid-sized businesses by renting testing facilities and providing product development technologies.

Hiroyasu Akiyama, mayor of Kashiwa City, and Hiroya Mimaki, vice president of Urban Design Center Kashiwa-no-ha, addressed the ministers, who were gathered within the facility. Akiyama reminded guests that the 2015 Nobel Prize Winner for Physics, Professor Takaaki Kajita, is based on the Kashiwa-no-ha campus of The University of Tokyo. The mayor also encouraged them to spread the news that Chiba was open and ready for business.

The highlight of the day, however, was the courtesy call to Morita. To show their welcome, staff at the prefectural office came out in force and lined the first floor of the building. They broke out into rapturous applause when the ministers arrived.

Before retiring for an exchange-of-opinions session behind closed doors, Morita and the ministers posed for a commemorative photo op to mark the special nature of the tour.

The Urban Design Center at Kashiwa-no-ha life sciences hub

The Urban Design Center at Kashiwa-no-ha life sciences hub

John Amari is a writer and editor from the UK who specializes in articles on startups, entrepreneurs, science, tech, and business.
Chiba’s push to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) is part of the national government’s efforts to entice foreign firms via National Strategic Special Zones.