The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Nagoya, in many ways, is the Chicago of Japan.

The US and Japanese cities share many characteristics: both are centrally located in their respective countries, their economies are by and large manufacturing-based, and their population bases are comparable in size.

As of 2014, Chicago was home to 2.7 million, whereas within the city limits of Nagoya, there are 2 million residents.

That figure grows to 8 million when including residents of the surrounding metropolitan region. Where it differs from Chicago is in terms of diversity.

According to Nagoya City Hall, there are only 65,363 non-Japanese living in the city, less than 3 percent of the total population.

Typically, such a small, non-voting population is invisible to government and other native residents, but this is not the case in Nagoya.

Nagoya’s progressive mayor, Takashi Kawamura, has sought out and solicited the opinions of the foreign population in the form of an international relations cabinet.

The mayor’s International Relations Council is a forum where foreign residents consult with members of the city government, and contribute to the betterment of the community.

I was honored to receive an invitation from the mayor’s office to be a council member last year. At the first meeting I attended, the council discussed the city’s objectives and policy direction.

The latter is three-fold, encompassing the tenets of communication, living, and community.

The overall objective is to create an environment in which a diverse group of residents work together to solve problems that arise related to the policies set forth by the city’s International Relations Department.

Council members agree that a society that has a global perspective is a rich society, continually creating new opportunities for all of its members.

Tsuyoshi Ito, director of international relations, Nagoya City Government, stated that, “The city’s goal is to realize a society that is multicultural, where people of different nationalities and ethnicities can accept the differences in each culture and build equal relationships, living together in a vibrant community.

“In order for this to occur, one must listen to the voice of foreign residents. The Nagoya City Foreign Residents meeting is important for understanding foreign residents’ opinions first-hand, and having the policies of Nagoya City reflect those opinions.”

Target issues
Some of the discussions at meetings center on retaining foreign exchange students.

Many efforts have gone into establishing foreign-exchange programs, but there are few initiatives to assist students who would like to seek employment in Japan after completing their studies. The council agrees this situation should be addressed and rectified.

Furthermore, the council believes Nagoya needs more Japanese language training institutions, as some students need to travel one hour to attend Japanese classes.

Despite its size, Nagoya has very few language training centers in city limits. Fluency in Japanese—including speaking, reading, and writing—is a necessity for foreigners to not only take advantage of all that Japan has to offer, but also for them to contribute to its betterment.

In the coming months, the council will address a broad range of topics, including the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, international business, tourism in Nagoya City and the greater Nagoya area, the potential impact of the linear Chuo Shinkansen (magnetic levitation bullet train) on the region, and foreign business exchange programs, in addition to other topics.

I am looking forward to engaging with the council on these diverse topics, and as a representative of the American Chamber of Commerce Chubu chapter, I hope that the Council’s collaboration with the city through the Mayor’s office will benefit the community and society at large.

Jonathan Hobbs Ph.D. is the founder of Hobbs & Associates and the treasurer of the ACCJ Chubu Chapter.
”The city’s goal is to realize a society that is multicultural . . . ”