Awaji Conference Statement

Forum of the 19th Asia Pacific Forum,Awaji Conference Japan
Saturday, August 4, 2018

At the beginning of the first day of the conference,we had a presentation from Mr.David Atkinson,which many people said was quite shocking.Some may argue against or dispute the ways in which individual data are interpreted and how trends are observed,but broadly speaking,I think there were two points that he raised.

First,we should change how we view things.You can say“Please come”to tourists,but I think the approach is wrong when you think about what the tourists are seeking.Therefore,a shift in mindset is needed.Mr.Atkinson told me the following story once.He worked at Goldman Sachs for a long time and there was an executive in the human resources department whose performance was always disappointing.The people hired by this executive would fail to do well at work after a few years or would repeatedly make mistakes.In Japan,it would be natural to think that an executive in charge of human resources who cannot handle human resources properly should be transferred to another department,but Goldman Sachs did not think so.In fact,they thought this executive was a big asset.They continued to have this executive be in charge of human resources,but avoided hiring the people that this executive chose,making this person's faults a great contribution to the company.This is an example of a change in mindset,and I think Mr.Atkinson was raising the point that a similar change in mindset is needed in the tourism business.

There were also various discussions yesterday including those citing examples of Fukuoka and Shiga,and also Kyoto and Kobe from the standpoint of creative city theory.Today,on the second day of the conference,other issues were discussed,such as what would happen if we think about cities again from the perspective of culture and what to think of community-building through landscape and greenery.Furthermore,issues were raised such as whether competition is really needed among cities even though the theme of the day was“Cities in Competition.”Perhaps we need to rather focus on cooperation and that sustainability will become more important in the future.We also had many opinions stated in the plenary session just now and although we had little convergence in views,it was proof that the issue of cities is truly multifaceted.I think the discussions over the past two days have reaffirmed the fact that every city is diverse,their functions are versatile,and they are multifaceted.

As various topics were discussed,I think there were several core issues that many people referred to repeatedly.The first,as expected,was demographics.The major issue of how the declining population will affect Japanese society and cities was raised in the first lecture by Mr.Atkinson and was a recurring theme throughout the conference.It was also discussed in the plenary session.First,we held discussions in line with the radical approach suggested by Mr.Atkinson,that because population decline is inevitable,there is no option but to bring in foreign tourists to maintain productivity and that cities must think about how to become more attractive to foreign tourists.In other words,we must accept the declining population as a given and think of countermeasures.On the other hand,there was also the view that although population decline is inevitable,it has been limited to a certain extent,and that appropriate measures could still be taken within that range.

Dr.Shigeyuki Abe said that statistics can also be seen in many ways.Generally speaking,forecasts for the future do not turn out right most of the time.Various think tanks publish economic forecasts for the next 20 to 30 years,but they have never turned out right.Economic activity has too many variables and if innovation takes place unexpectedly,the trajectory of economic growth will also change.Therefore,it is not easy to predict the future 20 or 30 years from now.In contrast,demographic patterns are relatively easy to forecast in the longterm, although forecasts still come in a range.The British politician Benjamin Disraeli once said,“There are three kinds of lies:lies,damned lies,and statistics,”but when we ask ourselves how much we can trust statistics,we must avoid succumbing to pessimism,knowing that there is some leeway. I think there was a point made that we should instead do what we can now to increase the population as much as possible and think about what we should do to maintain and nurture this country's dynamism.

A female politician recently drew criticism for saying that the LGBT community was unproductive,but demands for people to recognize the human rights of minorities is related to increasing diversity.There is the argument that cities should embrace minorities and become more diverse so they can become more appealing and compete with others.However,the danger of efforts to increase the population is that we may inadvertently put pressure on people who cannot have children or choose not to have children to feel that they are a burden on society.It is important to create an environment where people can feel more comfortable having and raising children,but we must also not force such lifestyles on society.In our discussions,I think there was the big question of how we can find the right balance of valuing diversity and maintaining growth.

Another issue was something that was repeatedly mentioned during the plenary session,which was how to deal with matters under the concept of“Tokyo vs.regions,”and whether such a way of thinking was appropriate.

One view was that Tokyo is not competing with regions in the first place,but rather with other metropolitan areas and megacities,and that it should be strengthening its competitiveness against those places.There was also the argument that under the“Tokyo vs.regions”concept,places like Kyoto,Osaka,and Kobe cannot compete with Tokyo on their own,although they could think about how they could work together to increase their appeal under inter-city cooperation.Still,even among regions,there is a difference between attractive places like Kobe,Kyoto,and Osaka,which have large populations,cultural assets,universities and pleasant landscapes, and other places which, without sounding offensive,have very little appeal,with declining populations,no universities,no pretty parks or gardens,and with dwindling local budgets.I think there was again the big question of how people in places like Kobe,Osaka,and Kyoto can cooperate with each other and what smaller cities can do to cooperate with each other while trying to survive.

Finally,I would like to conclude with a story of an interesting movement pertaining to the relationship between cities and universities.There is a university called Minerva Schools at KGI attracting much attention in the United States.Based in San Francisco,the university started classes in 2014 and its unique feature is that it has no campus.All courses are taught online.Since there is no campus and classes are online,tuition is also inexpensive.It is common for elite U.S.universities such as Harvard and Stanford to cost 5 to 6 million yen a year including dormitory fees,but you can study at Minerva Schools for a third or quarter of that cost. An added benefit to the tuition being relatively inexpensive is that it creates diversity.Only wealthy people can afford to go to Harvard or Stanford nowadays,and there is no diversity in the students’social backgrounds.The students tend to be rich and elite,with parents who also graduated from Harvard or Stanford.It is hard for children whose parents only graduated from high school to go to such universities.Minerva Schools,on the other hand,has a much lower tuition which is not impossible for lower- to middle-class people to pay for,so the social background of the students is diverse.

Furthermore,because there is no campus and all courses are online,the university does not place priority on close relationships between students and faculty members.However,it requires students to live in dormitories and it is very small like a high school,with only 500 students in the undergraduate program.During their four years,or eight semesters,at the university,students spend their first year,or two semesters,studying in San Francisco and the remaining three years,or six semesters,studying for one semester each in Buenos Aires,Berlin,Hong Kong,Mumbai,New York and London,moving to each city with the people in their dormitory.

Several dozens of students travel together to the seven cities to study while living together and also attend training sessions held at local municipalities and companies.I did some research and it seems that Minerva Schools currently has an acceptance rate of 2.8%,which means it has become more difficult to enter than Harvard or Stanford.Moreover,during the first year in San Francisco,the school does not teach subjects such as history, economics,and computer science,which are commonly taught at Japanese and U.S.universities,but rather just the three subjects of critical thinking,creative thinking,and effective communication.

Since Minerva Schools is new,we do not know what kind of people it will nurture and how it will be acknowledged internationally,but if this type of university education succeeds,there may be a second or third Minerva School that may open and we could even see one open in Asia.This would mean several hundred students would be traveling around many cities in the world.When we think about whether they may choose to visit Awaji,Kobe or Kyoto,the answer may not be Kyoto or even Tokyo,but Seoul or Shanghai.When the number of nomad-type universities like Minerva Schools grows,we must think about what we can do make our cities places where students want to study for one semester.I think the concept of matching universities and cities has emerged as a new challenge.

This 19th conference,as with the previous 18 conferences,gave us a great opportunity to brainstorm over two days,with participants from the business community,universities,and government all presenting various ideas and examples from their respective experiences.I would like to conclude by saying that I think this two-day conference was a valuable lesson for all of us in critical thinking, creative thinking,and effective communication

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