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Yokohama PR touts IRs for post-Covid recovery


The administration of Mayor Fumiko Hayashi has begun efforts to persuade local residents to embrace IR development in Yokohama, but has so far failed to present compelling new arguments.

The city government has launched its efforts under the slogan “Yokohama Innovation IR,” which so far includes a visually attractive website carrying basic information and, as its only social media branch, a Facebook page which has collected, at the time of this writing, a grand total of 158 “likes,” including our own. The population of Yokohama city is over 3.75 million.

There’s really not much reason for anyone to tune in. The messaging sounds like what it probably is—the overcautious production of local bureaucrats working by committee.

There’s little that is either entertaining or informative in the campaign. The main objective always seems to be simply to avoid any overt mistake or to say anything that might be regarded as controversial. The city bureaucrats were tasked by their superiors to unroll a campaign and do so in a manner that generates the least turmoil. There’s no real commitment or passion involved.

The latest production is a two-man interview between Yokohama Vice-Mayor Toshihide Hirahara and Keio University Professor Hiroyuki Kishi, a fellow who puts forward the conventional pro-IR arguments with the added spice of possessing academic credentials.

One of Kishi’s points, however, does have a bit of a contemporary spin. He states that IR development is now important as an “after corona” economic growth strategy.

That’s about as far as innovation goes in the materials that have been released to date. The transformation has been from “society is aging and therefore we need an IR to drive economic growth,” to “corona had a big impact and therefore we need an IR to drive economic growth.”

Does the pandemic require any revisions to the same pro-IR arguments we’ve been hearing for the past five years? Nothing about that.

As for public concerns about problem gambling, the message hasn’t moved an iota in three years. They repeat a few of the requirements written into the July 2018 IR Implementation Act, none of which are likely to pass muster with medical professionals as being genuinely effective.

Nevertheless, the academic pronounces these to be “strict” measures and Vice-Mayor Hirahara praises the law as mandating “the world’s highest-level regulation.” (The latter of which is precisely the same wording that the Japanese government routinely uses to describe its regulation of the nuclear power industry.)

The bottom line is that the pro-IR forces in Yokohama really need to start upping their game in many spheres before they can convincingly argue that they will are offering a “world-class” anything. Simply using the buzzwords doesn’t get you there. How about employing arguments that demonstrate you are reacting and adapting to new and emerging challenges?

If you are going to bring in an academic from a major university to prove that an IR is necessary in Yokohama for “after corona” economic reasons, then he should have more to say than that—aside from the casino—there will also a mall and restaurants with delicious food that he too wants to eat. Are the people of Yokohama really being denied dining options today?

Basically, there’s no sense yet that the Yokohama city authorities are grappling seriously with the arguments of their critics. Instead, they are just going through the motions, anticipating that the establishment can simply roll over public objections with their societal and institutional power. (AGB Nippon)

Michael Penn
Michael Penn
Michael Penn is a journalist and scholar based in Tokyo, Japan. As a journalist, he both writes print news articles and produces news videos. On the video side, he has several years of experience doing it all by himself: reporting the stories, shooting the video, and editing the packages. As a scholar, the bulk of his past publications have been about Japan's modern relations with the Islamic world.