The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Christopher J. LaFleur and Kansai World Masters Games 2021 Director General Hiroo Kinoshita.

Christopher J. LaFleur and Kansai World Masters Games 2021 Director General Hiroo Kinoshita.

On October 14, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) held a panel discussion in Osaka with the Union of Kansai Governments (UKG) to discuss the 2021 World Masters Games, synergies with inbound tourism, and collaboration between the ACCJ and the UKG.

Since the ACCJ’s One Kansai viewpoint in 2010, the ACCJ–Kansai External Affairs Committee (EAC) has invited the ACCJ Board of Governors to hold their October meetings in Kansai and has held an annual discussion with the UKG.

Japan’s first cross-prefectural union of local governments, the UKG was formed in 2010 with the intention of creating a “Kansai age” and represents seven prefectures: Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Shiga, Wakayama, Tottori, and Tokushima.

The UKG has secured rights to hold the World Masters Games in Kansai in 2021. The World Masters Games is an international multisport athletic competition for senior athletes held every four years in the year following the Olympics. Athletes over the age of 30 are placed in various age categories. There is no age limit. Like the Olympics, the World Masters Games has opening and closing ceremonies and awards medals to athletes. However, participants do not represent countries, and one does not need to be an elite athlete to enter. In most sports, no qualifying is required—anyone can register and pursue their own goal, be that to win, have fun, beat a personal best, or travel to a new part of the world.

The Kansai World Masters Games 2021 will be the 10th edition and the first to be held in Asia.

The ACCJ–Kansai EAC believes tourism is an engine for the Kansai economy that is growing in power. It will be a uniting force for the region and is an area in which the ACCJ and its members can make significant contributions.

The EAC therefore proposed that key leaders be invited to the games, and collaborated with the UKG in the planning. Those to be invited are World Masters Games 2021 Director General Hiroo Kinoshita, Shiga Prefecture Governor Taizou Mikazuki, Sakai City Mayor Osami Takeyama, and Yosuke Wakabayashi, head of Kansai Bureau, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. Prior to the panel discussion, a 10-minute explanation of the World Masters Games was given by Takeo Mori, COO of Kansai International Tourism Organization.

Representing the ACCJ were Governor–Tokyo Tim Brett, ACCJ Vice President–Tokyo and Olympic and Sports Business Co-Chair Jonathan Kushner, Christopher R. Clark, general manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Osaka, and Akio (Arthur) Matsumoto, chairperson, ACCJ–Kansai EAC.

Steve Iwamura, ACCJ special advisor–Kansai, moderated the discussions, which centered on:

  1. Using the Kansai World Masters Games 2021 as an opportunity to promote the Kansai brand overseas and to synergize with inbound tourism promotion.
  2. The potential creation of a destination managementorganization for Kansai.
  3. Collaboration between the ACCJ and the UKG on the World Masters Games and inbound tourism in areas to be agreed upon.

According to official figures, there were 7.16 million overseas visitors to Osaka Prefecture in 2015, up 96 percent from the previous year. Counting Kyoto and the other prefectures, Kansai probably accounted for more than 40 percent of the 19.74 million inbound tourists who visited Japan in 2015. Through September 30, Osaka was up another 35 percent year on year.

The Kansai chapter of the ACCJ has recruited 10 general managers of hotels as the nucleus of a new tourism initiative. We also intend to work on hospitality education, to merge the best practices of the global hospitality industry with Kansai omotenashi, and to raise the standard of English in the Kansai hospitality industry.

Steve Iwamura is vice-chair of External Affairs Committee, an ACCJ–Kansai special advisor, and a partner with Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.
Japan’s first cross-prefectural union of local governments, the UKG was formed in 2010 with the intention of creating a “Kansai age”