Fukuoka the Most Innovative City of Japan
Tucked in the western corner of Japan between the coast and mountains, Fukuoka is a city poised to reinvent its image. The charismatic leader of the city has managed to convince the citizens to follow in the footsteps of innovation hubs from the US and to turn Fukuoka into a Silicon Valley of Japan, a town where startups can thrive. Regardless, whether the town can actually replicate the success of its idols, it is important for it to exist to encourage young and brilliant minds to stay and find their own place within the country.
Sōichirō Takashima was the youngest mayor to ever be elected, and after his victory, he paid a visit to Seattle. What he noticed is that the two towns were very similar. Both were coastal cities surrounded by the scenic natural environment and had developed and well-organized means of transport, opulent in human resources, and with a solid infrastructure. However, Seattle used those elements as pillars for market giants like Microsoft and Amazon, and to top it all it had a healthy and thriving startup ecosystem.
After seeing the similarities Takashima was encouraged that Fukuoka can achieve similar if not the same success. He stated how startups are an essential ingredient for adding value and breaking out of the economic stagnation and decided to use startup support as a growth strategy for Fukuoka.
Support from the government of Japan
In the year 2014, Fukuoka became a designated strategic special zone of the nation, and the central government allowed for corporate taxes to be cut down for new businesses. They also allowed for special visas to be designed in order to draw in foreign entrepreneurs. As a leader of this initiative, Takashima started an aggressive promotional campaign both on the national and international levels, which definitely had positive outcomes. Corporate deals were signed with startup hubs with Taipei, San Francisco and Helsinki, which allows for Fukuoka companies to expand abroad.
Advantages of living in Fukuoka
Even though there are no major breakthroughs in the city, the results are still encouraging and show promise. In fact, Fukuoka has become the fastest growing city in Japan, with the highest number of young people. Moreover, the rent is cheaper there and it is located close to Shanghai and Seoul than Tokyo, so the city became a gateway to Asia. Furthermore, the city is compact and as a result, the entrepreneurial community is both diverse and yet tight-knit. This allows for a better team building, and it makes it easy for startups to establish networks of partners. Finally, the airport is only 15 minutes drive away from the town center, which means people don’t spend too much time transport.
What is missing?
Even though the city has implemented a successful branding strategy and made an impact on both domestic and international levels, there are still some areas that need improvement. The city still needs more talented people and more investors, or funding. In other words, Fukuoka is a great place for a startup, both your company will likely face harder growing pains, as you would have to go to Tokyo to find investors.
Currently, the city rests most of its hopes in Skydisc, which works on implementing AI in order to boost factory productivity. However their operation is split between Fukuoka and Tokyo, and most of their clients are located in Tokyo. Still, the city boasts a number of opportunities and has multiple advantages that Tokyo does not offer, which is why the spirit of hope still remains.