Prefectural Government set up a study group on fermentation as the next key industry

The Shiga Prefectural Government (SPG) set up the Study Group on the Development of the Fermentation Industry in Shiga on September 6, intending to nurture the fermentation field as a key industry expected to lead the local economy. Shiga has so-called "fermented food culture" represented by funazushi (fermented crucian carp sushi), and it is largely believed that this food culture has helped the prefecture acquire NO.1 regarding healthy life expectancy across the nation.

The SPG is to have consecutive discussions with business leaders on the current situation regarding the fermentation industry and a possible industrial development plan, exploring the possibility of expanding business opportunities for growth.

The study group was attended by 7 experts including Professor June Shima of Faculty of Agriculture, Ryukoku University, fermented food producers, cooking specialists, chamber of commerce and industry representatives.

The first meeting was held on September 6 at “Unoya,” a public hall once used as a Japanese sake brewery, formerly owned by former Prime Minister Uno and now owned by Moriyama City Office. It was reported and confirmed that traditional fermented foods such as funazushi, Japanese sake, and soy sauce were produced in the prefecture and that there were several universities and research institutes specialized in agriculture and biotechnology as well.

“If small-scale enterprises network themselves with each other, it will revitalize the fermentation industry in the area as a whole,” says Kotaro Ikeshima, owner of HAPPY TAROU JOZOJO, which produces and sells koji (malted rice) and miso (fermented soybean paste).

"Small businesses are better at creating unique products, and this should be their strength," adds Tsuyako Kokabu, president of Kokabu Farm, which handles sweets using cheese.

“Local people think it is usual for them to consume fermented foods, but this can be appealing to people out of Shiga,” explains Takashi Aoki, secretary-general of Takashima City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which organizes study groups and shops.

Considering that the fermentation industry deals with various fields such as chemicals, medicines, and agriculture, the study group confirmed at the first meeting that the study field would cover medicines, cosmetics, bioplastics, bioethanol, and environmental cleanup.

The SPG is to organize several meetings to discuss the current situations and challenges, intending to incorporate an industrial development plan on the fermentation industry into the Shiga Industrial Development Vision, which will be revised within FY 2019.

(Sankei Shimbun, September 7, 2019)

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Otsu City to bear the cost of renovating the exterior of JR Otsu Station

The City of Otsu has signed an Memorandum of Understanding with JR West on May 8 to share the cost of renovating the exterior of JR Otsu Station, starting to rehabilitate the timeworn station itself and its surrounding area.

Mayor Naomi Koshi and Kyoto Branch Director Ushio Kurahara held a joint-press conference. Koshi underscored the importance of the renovation project, saying “We will not only renovate the exterior but also improve the area. This is just the beginning.” Director Kurahara added, “We would like to make the building seem friendly to citizens rather than surprising.”

The construction project costs one hundred million yen and will be equally borne by three organizations: the city government, the national government, and JR West. The project is scheduled to be started in autumn and to be completed in March 2016. Although the design of the building has not been determined, JR West, in consultation with the City, will attract tenants to the station building which is now deserted. The City plans to rehabilitate the surrounding area by conducting land reallocation and cruise tours in Lake Biwa Canal.

According to a survey targeted at passengers as well as companies in the area in 2014, 56.6% of the respondents answered that the renovation of the exterior should be first priority, and 55.7% of the respondents answered that the station should be proper enough to be a symbol of the capital city of Shiga Prefecture.

JR Otsu Station opened in 1975 and hasn’t experienced any major renovation project since then. The average passengers per day in 2014 is 35,306, ranking as the 6th busiest station in the prefecture.

(Chunichi Shimbun, May 9, 2015)



Shiga-produced beef to be exported to the Philippines

Shiga-produced beef called "Omi beef" will be exported to the Philippines from June 23. This island country in Southeast Asia will be the fourth destination for the Shiga Meat Center, a processing facility dealing with Shiga-produced beef, to export Omi beef to. "We will dig into markets as many as possible," says Governor Yukiko Kada with great enthusiasm.

According to the Shiga Prefectural Government, delegates of the Philippine Government inspected and evaluated the Center in June 2013, and based on the results, in May 2014 Japan's Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare gave the Center a license to do business with the Philippines.   

Starting with Macau as the first destination, the Center has been exporting the beef since June 2010, and Singapore and Thailand were later included in the list. The amount of beef exported to the three destinations in FY 2013 is 18 tons, which is equivalent to 304 head of cattle. "According to the local people, Omi beef, which is soft and has a high degree of marbled fat, has gained a good reputation as tasty high-quality Japanese beef," confidently says a Prefectual Goverment official.

In addition, Omi beef is exported to Hong Kong via a different processing facility located out of the prefecture. "The domestic market is shrinking due to decrease in population, and we expect a huge potential in Southeast Asian countries as their economies are expanding," says the official.

(Chunichi Shimbun, June19, 2014)



Shiga's rice has been adopted by Cathay Pacific Airlines

Mizukagami, a new breed of rice developed in Shiga, has been adopted by Cathay Pacific Airlines and All Nippon Airways as in-flight meals for some of their international flights, and 300 servings per day have been provided for first class and business class passengers since April 15.

Last year, Shizuaki Mori, head of chef, Cathay Pacific Catering Services (H.K.) Ltd. had a chance to sample the rice at the occasion of a sales promotion campaign in Hong Kong led by executive officers of Union of Kansai Governments. "This rice is springy and tasty, and this doesn't become dry and brittle even after getting cold. This is cut out for in-flight meals," says Mori, who is from Nagahama, Shiga.

The rice is provided for 19 Cathay Pacific Airlines flights plus 5 All Nippon Airways flights per day, which depart from 5 airports in Japan including Kansai International Airport.

"I am proud of confidently providing the Shiga-produced rice. I would like to help Shiga-produced foodstuff expand its markets overseas,"commented Mori, who graduated from Torahime High School in Shiga and was trained at Nadaman, a Japanese food restaurant in Osaka.

(Asahi Shimbun, April 16, 2014)



Shiga's tourism industry sees huge potential in Muslim tourists

A seminar on how to show hospitality to Muslim tourists from the ASEAN countries was held at Piazza Omi in Otsu for the first time in Shiga Prefecture, providing tips on religious practices including food and worship which should be considered.

There were 39 participants from local hotels, restaurants, and tourism-related companies. During the seminar, they did some tasting of a lunch box made for Muslims who are prohibited from eating pork and were informed that Muslims pray their daily prayers five times a day.

The seminar was organized by the Biwako Visitors Bureau, a prefecture-level tourism association, in response to the new policy adopted by the Japanese government in July 2013 to ease visa requirements for the ASEAN countries where Muslims constitute one of the major religious communities.

(Chunichi Shimbun, February 27, 2014)



Shiga has the greatest number of McDonald's restaurants per 100,000 people - but why?

With sales figures falling from the previous year, Sarah Casanova, CEO of McDonald's Company Japan, unveiled the company's plan to enhance the overall appeal of their products to increase the number of customers who buy at the existing McDonald's restaurants, according to Nikkei Newspaper.

The fast food giant currently operates about 3,300 restaurants nationwide, and the average number of restaurants per 100,000 people is 2.58. Among 47 prefectures in Japan, Shiga surprisingly has the greatest number - 3.7 restaurants which is 1.43 times more than the national average. The second is Tokyo with 3.46 restaurants, followed by Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara.

Why is Shiga ranked top? McDonald's closes non-profitable small restaurants in downtown and opens profitable suburban-type restaurants with drive-through to attract families in recent years. Shiga has become one of the suburban areas for commuters to major cities such as Osaka and Kyoto in the Kansai Region, and families busy with child-rearing tend to reside in such areas. Shiga is currently ranked in second place regarding the number of child-rearing households and children per capita nationwide. It can be largely seen in Shiga that young parents take their children to McDonald's on weekends.

On the other hand, Mos Burger, one of McDonald's competitors, has the smallest number of its restaurants in Shiga. Mos Burger seems to avoid Shiga because of the strong presence of McDonald's. Looking into the food-service industry helps us understand each company's history and strategy.

(Zaikei Shimbun, November 24, 2013)



Shiga-based firms to raise summer bonuses for first time in three years

Along with some signs of improvement seen in the Japanese economy, such as the recent bull market, Shiga's firms are expected to raise summer bonuses for first time in three years. According to a survey conducted by Shigagin Keizai Bunka Center, the average summer bonus paid by Shiga-based firms is estimated to be 353,078 yen, up 1.1 percent from last summer. With this, businesses are trying to boost their sales for summer season.

The survey was conducted from May 8 to June 5, and 387 companies in Shiga submitted the questionnaires. 74.5 percent of them answered that they are planning to pay bonuses this summer, which has increased since last year by 1.6 percent. Classified into sectors, the construction industry will pay the average bonus of 338,004 yen, up 11.0 percent from last summer, and the non-manufacturing industry will pay the average bonus of 315,292 yen, up 1.9% as well. On the other hand, the manufacturing industry's average will be 388,923 yen, down 1.0 percent from last summer.

Considering this as a chance, retailers have already taken a different approach to hype sales. Seibu Department Store, located in Otsu, expanded their high-end lineup of goods at a floor prepared for summer gifts.

The travel industry has seen a more significant change. According to Ryokoya Hompo, a local travel agent in Hikone, their packed tours for Kanto region, including Tokyo Disney Land, have been sold well. It has already become difficult to make reservations for August. "People tend to hasten their reservations for summer holidays this year, about a month or two ahead of schedule," says a sales representative of the agent.         

(Chunichi Shimbun, June 20, 2013)



Shiga Aquatic Environment Business Promotion Forum was established

With the population of Asia growing, pollution abatement and the demand for water have become key issues that attract public attention. Considering that lessons learned from Lake Biwa potentially could contribute to solving those issues, the Shiga Aquatic Environment Business Promotion Forum was established on March 25, by various organizations from academia, the public sector, and businesses.

A kickoff seminar was held at Korabo Shiga 21 building in Otsu, where Governor Kada described the aim of the Forum, saying "we will disseminate sustainable development based on the Lake Biwa model that balances economic development and environmental conservation, promoting international cooperation."

(Chunichi Shimbun, March 26, 2013)



Otsu City to open a tourist information center in Kyoto

Aiming to attract tourists who visit Kyoto, Otsu City is to open a tourist information center on October 30 at Keihan Sanjo Station which offers quick access, via the Keishin Line, to Hamaotsu Station, a gateway for the downtown Otsu. The city office will assign two of its officials to manage the center equipped with a large LCD monitor showing the city's major tourist attractions such as Biwako (Lake Biwa) and Hieizan Enryakuji Temple. The tourist information center is scheduled to be run until the end of March 2013, but the extension of its operation will be considered if the center gains popularity.

Mayor Naomi Koshi promised to attract tourists from Kyoto to Otsu in her campaign pledges, and the creation of the tourist information center was conducted in line with her policy. Its social background is that there is a tremendous gap between Kyoto and Otsu in terms of tourism although the two cities are close to each other. There are high expectations for the center as a drive to boost the city's tourism industry.

The tourist information center opens from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. everyday except Year-end and New Year holidays. In the upcoming autumn when leaves turn red, however, the center will extend its business hours, and affiliated organizations like the Biwako Otsu Tourism Association will dispatch its staff members to conduct advertising campaigns to attract more tourists to the city.

In addtion, the city office will collect information from tourists who visit the center to formulate public policies in the future. "We would like to take a survey to comprehend market developments so that more tourists will visit Otsu," says Mayor Koshi.

(Sankei Shimbun, October 28, 2012)



Otsu City tackles unemployment caused by a renowned hotel shut down

On October 18, Otsu City Office established the Task Force on Unemployment to tackle problems caused by the recent announcement of Biwako Onsen Koyo, a renowned Japanese-style hotel in Otsu, scheduled to be shut down in January 2013. The city is to take a comprehensive approach to handle the problems of the hotel as well as of the manufacturer Renesas Kansai Semiconductor conducting large-scale lay-offs.

"It is regrettable that the hotel made such a decision while we have public policies in place to develop the tourism industry. I was personally fond of Koyo Paradise (former amusement park next to the hotel). We will take necessary measures in cooperation with related organizations to support the employees," Mayor Naomi Koshi instructed the task force at its first meeting. The Task Force is to be chaired by Satoshi Inoue, Director General, Department of Industry and Tourism.

(Mainichi Shimbun, October 19, 2012)