Mention Oita, one of forty-seven prefectures or provinces in Japan, and inevitably the
name of Governor Morihiko Hiramatsu comes up. After all, as the unchallenged four-term
governor from 1979 to 1995, he is regarded as the father of this booming progressive
prefecture, moving up from a backward place in Japan to become one of the country's most
desirable places to live. A new measure of life satisfaction, coined by Hiramatsu as the
"gross national satisfaction" (GNS) index, has, as one of its indicators,
comfortability of life. Oita Prefecture was ranked twelfth in the country and number one
in Kyushu on this indicator by the Economic Planning Agency of Japan.
Hiramatsu was born in Oita in March 1924. His father, Oriji Hiramatsu, was a school
teacher in Oita before moving to Nagoya to become the vice-principal of the Nagoya
Teacher's College. However, Oriji returned to Oita to run his own father's hat-making shop
in the city. Oriji's idealism led him to put up a night school for working students, which
he ran for over twenty-five years until it was bombed during World War II. The school's
motto was "Perseverance Is Power" and a monument from the graduates now stands
in honor of Oriji Hiramatsu as its founder.
Though his father's Manila hat factory and wholesale shop was located within the family
compound, little Morihiko did not see that much of him. Busy managing the prosperous
business in the daytime, his father moved between his night school and public service
commitments as vice-speaker of the municipal assembly. Aside from that, he authored
Somehow, Oriji's three sons took after their father in their firm belief in human
development. The eldest son put up a day school called the Hiramatsu Education Group, of
which there are several branches today. The second son, Morihiko himself, is the president
of a twelve-region educational program called the Toyonokuni Development Program, more
recently renamed the NEO Twenty-first-Century Training School. The youngest son, who
pursued a doctorate in law, later became a professor at Nagoya University. Oriji also had
Morihiko remembers that his mother placed great importance on health. In junior high
school, he became an expert fencer and, for five years straight, never missed a day of
class. Unfortunately, his mother died during that period, but one of his sisters and his
nanny cared for his personal needs. To this day, he prides himself on being able to throw
a good pitch on the opening day of Oita Prefecture's annual high school baseball
Hiramatsu attended elementary and junior high school in Oita's public schools. He made
friends easily and was the acknowledged leader among them both in and out of school.
Consistently at the top of his class, he finished junior high school in 1941.
Attendance at senior high was considered a privilege, given the limited number of senior
high schools in Japan at the time. Entrance examinations were competitive and only a few
students passed them. Hiramatsu did so, and was sent to the neighboring Kumamoto
Prefecture to attend senior high school. From 1941 to 1943, he basked in the light of
academic freedom and rose to become head of the student council.
While Hiramatsu studied, his country was at war. Japan had invaded China in 1937. In the
meantime, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy rose to power in Europe. In East Asia, Japan also
had its own agenda for domination. In September 1940, a pact was signed by Germany, Italy,
and Japan. The three powers agreed to assist each other in creating a new world order and
to recognize the supremacy of Germany and Italy in Europe as well as of Japan in East
Asia. Since the Philippines was an American colony with Commonwealth status, it was allied
with the United States. When Japan attacked the Philippines in December 1941 (the same day
that it bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii), the United States declared war on Japan and its
European allies. World War II was underway.
Nineteen-year-old Hiramatsu could not understand these hostilities. Having learned English
and German from English and German teachers, he had only experienced friendly relations
with both nationalities. Yet their respective countries were now at war with each other
and Japan was allied with Nazi Germany. The war curtailed his high-school education by
half a year. He was called to take a six-month training course at the Kaigun Keiri Gakko
(Navy Finance School) in Tokyo. He was then given a commissioned officer's rank in the
Imperial Navy and dispatched in 1945 as a navy accountant to the Kurile Islands, formerly
occupied by the Russians. He remained there for several months, far from the fighting and
from any news about developments at home.
On 14 August 1945, following the U.S. atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
Hiramatsu and his small contingent of two hundred soldiers left the Kuriles to participate
in the defense of Japan's main islands against rapidly advancing Allied forces. Japan
surrendered the very next day. Russia now moved quickly to regain control of the Kurile
Islands and imprisoned the remaining Japanese forces there. Hiramatsu says that if he had
stayed a day longer, he would have had a completely different future, serving prison time
in Siberia under the Russians. After helping his men return safely to their homes in
Japan, he himself went home to Oita.
Hiramatsu had never embraced the idea of war and says that Japan took the right step in
adopting a pacifist stance after the Pacific War ended. He is glad that Article 9 of
Japan's postwar Constitution abandons war as an instrument of foreign policy. This,
Hiramatsu points out, is why Japan continues to remain at peace with the world fifty years
after the war's end, practicing parliamentary democracy and enjoying unprecedented
In 1946, young Hiramatsu, like many former soldiers, went back to school. He took up law
at Tokyo University, following in the footsteps of his younger brother who earned a
doctorate in jurisprudence at the same prestigious school. While there, Hiramatsu enjoyed
debating the merits and demerits of Marxism vs. capitalism in the context of the
reconstruction of Japan's economy.
He put great store by certain professors, such as Professors Masao Maruyama, Yoshitake
Oka, and others, who taught him the history of politics. He particularly enjoyed studying
the history of the Meiji Restoration, Western history, and the Constitution of the United
States. He found it intriguing that the revolutionary spirit of the Japanese--their desire
to change the status quo--did not begin in Tokyo but in the faraway prefectures of
Kagoshima and Yamaguchi. This has been a pillar of his belief: that Oita, a rural
prefecture, and not Tokyo, can spark the energy needed to create a modern-day peaceful
Marriage and work were next on the agenda. Like others who wanted to settle down after the
war, Hiramatsu was married in 1949. Instead of using a go-between as other men did, he
went into "direct negotiation" with his prospective father-in-law, then the
mayor of Oita City. He claims this direct approach is the secret to his success. Thus, he
married the mayor's only daughter, Chizuko Ueda.
His father-in-law, Mayor Ueda, together with his own father, are the two people Hiramatsu
most admires and from whom he has learned the most. Ueda had the gift of turning a
community problem into an opportunity. When people started to complain that monkeys were
eating their crops, for example, he suggested that the monkeys be contained and fed
regularly in a public park. Takasaki Mountain is now home to two thousand wild monkeys, a
national attraction visited by thousands of people every year. A statue in the city
recognizes the accomplishments of Mayor Ueda, including the Monkey Nature Park and the
Marine Palace, another of his innovations.
It was not difficult for Hiramatsu to decide where to take his career after graduating in
1949 from Tokyo University. Following the tradition of graduates of Tokyo University, he
joined the bureaucracy. Having developed friendships from the war as well as in the
classroom, he had good contacts in various ministries. One such person was Shigeru
Sabashi, chief executive director of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry
(MITI)-a key player in Japan's economic growth. Sabashi invited him to join the ministry.
As one of the most powerful government agencies in Japan, MITI in those days assigned
production quotas to producers of different types of goods so that every Japanese firm
would share in filling the total demand of a given market. The super-body prepared
allocation certificates for manufacturers and sub-traders. Due to a serious shortage in
foreign exchange, MITI also made decisions on the importation of materials such as raw
cotton. As the controller of Japan's economy, MITI played a critical role in the country's
remarkable postwar economic development. With trade liberalization in the mid-1960s, MITI
continued to guide the economy as a national agency for economic planning. (MITI is now
known as the Ministry of Economics, Trade, and Industry, or METI.)
Hiramatsu worked at MITI for twenty-six years. He moved from post to post, department to
department, storing up experiences and insights that would later inspire his programs as
governor of Oita. He started in the Textiles Bureau where he was involved in allocating
raw materials and import and production quotas.
In the 1950s, Hiramatsu was assigned to MITI's Industrial Water Division. The division was
charged with regulating the use of Japan's precious groundwater and, at the same time,
with creating a new water supply system to serve growing industries throughout the
country. After this, he was put in charge of industrial relocation, i.e., dispersing
industries from overpopulated Tokyo to the countryside. He traveled to Europe and the
United States to study how this was being done in other industrialized societies. Becoming
the ministry's first specialist in this field, Hiramatsu was instrumental in turning this
policy into law as the Industrial Location Act.
In 1964, Hiramatsu was appointed director of the Industrial Environmental Protection
Division of the Enterprises Bureau of MITI. Reducing air and water pollution had become an
important issue in Japan. Hiramatsu now worked to control pollutants in the country's oil
refineries, testing for ground concentrations and atmospheric scattering. Among the sites
for these environmental-impact assessments was his hometown of Oita.
In 1965, Hiramatsu joined MITI's Mines Bureau. As director of the Petroleum Planning
Division, he promoted Japan's oil-refining industry and helped to form Kyodo Sekiyu
(Cooperative Oil Company, Ltd.), a Japanese-owned oil-refining and sales cooperative to
stand against foreign domination of this critical industry in Japan.
Hiramatsu was seconded in 1967 as director of the Export Insurance Division of the Trade
Promotion Bureau within MITI.
In 1969, as MITI director of the Electronics Policy Division, he promoted intercompany
tie-ups for the cooperative development of supercomputers and other electronic devices as
well as shared research and technology and other strategies to promote national
self-sufficiency. In this connection, he helped set up the Japan Electronics Computer
Company (JECC). With financing from the Japan Development Bank, JECC supported Japan's
neophyte computer makers by buying their computers directly and then leasing them to
users. Thus shielding the emerging industry from risks associated with the
lease-and-buy-back system used by its foreign competitors, JECC helped Japan's new
computer companies to prosper and grow. As director of the Electronics Policy Division,
Hiramatsu also promoted the computer software industry and the internationalization of
Japan's computer industry in general-all of which contributed to the early growth of
Japan's remarkable information technology industry today.
Hiramatsu's last job in Tokyo in 1974 was as deputy director-general of the multifaceted
National Land Agency, a policy-making body. The agency's main task was to plan national
development projects that would encourage people who had migrated to overcrowded Tokyo to
go back to their hometowns.
Hiramatsu himself remained in Tokyo for thirty years before returning to Oita. The MITI
assignments on factory dispersal, industrial water systems, electronics, and industrial
location policies served him well when he later became Oita's governor. Among other
things, he was able to persuade some of Japan's largest companies, such as Nippon Steel,
Sony, and Toshiba, to relocate their offices and factories in the prefecture.
Morihiko Hiramatsu's wife Chizuko died of cancer in 1970, leaving him with two daughters.
The elder one, Sekiko, attends university and the younger, Makiko, is in high school. A
visit to Oita in 1975 led to his second marriage the following year to Teruko, whose
father had long practiced medicine there.
In 1975, at the invitation of Governor Masaru Taki of Oita Prefecture to join him as
vice-governor (and at the urging of his hometown friends to return to Oita), Hiramatsu
decided to leave the central government in Tokyo. With persuasion from Ueda and other
business leaders in Oita, he accepted the vice-governorship. While not an elective
position, the post required the consent of parliament, which he easily obtained.
As vice-governor, Hiramatsu could have coasted comfortably. He had no formal duties except
to serve as stand-in for the governor. Instead, he took the opportunity to travel all over
the prefecture to get to know the people and their concerns. He visited farming villages
and mountain villages and town after town. Everywhere he heard the same complaints: no
doctors, no schools, no budget, poor roads, and so on. Since he had no legal
implementation powers, he could only listen. But he listened well. In the process,
Hiramatsu observed that Oita's rural folk tended to think only of themselves and to lack
drive. He encouraged them to be self-reliant and to solve their own problems. Thus was
born a key idea of his future governorship.
In the midst of an electoral campaign in 1979, Governor Taki was hospitalized, throwing
his candidacy into doubt. When asked whether he would take up the race, Hiramatsu kept
silent and continued to support Taki. This paid off. When it became clear that Taki could
no longer run for governor, he endorsed Hiramatsu to take his place. Like his predecessor,
Hiramatsu was not affiliated with any political party. This turned out to be an advantage
since it allowed him to garner the support of all parties except the communists. With the
help of good friends such as Masuji Yoshimura of the Chamber of Commerce, Hiramatsu built
up a network of support groups in the fifty-eight municipalities, villages, and towns of
Oita. The campaign lasted twenty-five days and, in the end, he won. This victory at the
age of fifty-five marked the beginning of Hiramatsu's four successive four-year terms as
Hiramatsu attributes his success in Oita to three things: (1) his father's motto,
"Perseverance Is Power"; (2) his understanding of the power of the computer from
his work at MITI; and, lastly, (3) the credo of his father-in-law Mayor Ueda, "Do
what is right, and convert Negative to Positive through action."
As governor, Hiramatsu watches over Oita Prefecture, one of eight prefectures on Kyushu,
an island that occupies 11 percent of Japan's land mass. Oita is home to 1.25 million
people living in eleven cities, thirty-six towns, and eleven villages. Its capital, Oita
City, is eighty minutes by airplane from Tokyo.
In the seventh century, Oita was split into two ministates, Buzen and Bungo (Oita's old
name). However, the ministates united under the Otomo dynasty, which conquered the
Kunisaki Peninsula in the thirteenth century and attached Buzen and Bungo to their larger
domains covering all of northern Kyushu. Like the rest of Japan, the region was
predominantly Buddhist. But in the mid-1500s, it became one of the first to be exposed to
Christianity. The Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier himself was instrumental in the
Catholic conversion of Otomo Sorin, the reigning daimyo, or feudal lord, who subsequently
became a vigorous proponent of the new religion.
Bungo's strategic location in the northeast section of Kyushu made it an important center
of commerce. Under the stewardship of Otomo Sorin, it became an international trading
post. Ships from China came to call for overseas trade, and European influence, through
good relations with Christian Portugal, brought in Western music, theater, schools, and
However, Otomo Sorin was eventually overthrown by Japan's passionately anti-Christian
unifier, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The vast Otomo domains subsequently fragmented into small
feudal enclaves and it was not until three centuries later, following the Meiji
Restoration of the late nineteenth century, that the modern prefecture of Oita was
The meaning of Oita is Toyonokuni (Land of Abundance). This haiku, printed in one of many
brochures on Oita, describes the land:
Look around and there's one continuous meadow.
Look up and there's one continuous sky.
From Yufuin to the highlands of Aso-Handa
Nature is at her grandest,
Leaving humans to feel their nothingness.
Despite Oita's prominent past, it has been surpassed in modern times by Tokyo and Osaka as
Japan's centers of wealth and power. Oita Prefecture remained relatively poor until the
late twentieth century, relying mostly on agriculture (rice, oranges, and vegetables),
forestry, cattle breeding, and a bit of tourism as well as fishing along its 746
kilometers of coastline on the Inland Sea.
Hiramatsu changed all that. He initiated the Isson Ippin ("One Village, One
Product") campaign, in which he encouraged Oita's communities to become self-reliant
using local resources combined with their own energy and creativity. He asked communities
to identify and work on a local product in which it could excel, and which would make them
economically self-sufficient and proud.
The development and promotion of furusato sanpin, or local products, was not new to Japan.
In 1960 in northern Japan, Hokkaido had developed its own brand of wine, called Tokachi,
which has since become world-famous. Another example is the mountain town of Oguni-Machi
in Kyushu, which constructed the largest wooden gymnasium to show off its cedar wood. In
the beginning, people said the money for the gym should have been spent on welfare for the
elderly, but they changed their minds when they saw visitors and reporters coming to
admire it, and the economy began improving. This led the private sector to invest in new
wooden products and to hire more workers. Now, cedar wood is used in the best homes and
resorts in Japan. Even Oita's own town of Oyama had developed a reputation for its plums
and chestnuts before Hiramatsu's time.
But these early examples of successfully marketed local products were few and far between.
It was not until Hiramatsu pushed the "One Village, One Product" concept that
the strategy for revitalizing rural areas through product specialization became prevalent.
Moreover, it took time for people to grasp and implement the idea.
Rather than going through the bureaucracy, the governor started by taking the
untraditional route of talking directly to the people. Instead of calling a meeting of
department chiefs, who would then inform the division chiefs, who would then inform the
chiefs of municipalities and agricultural cooperatives, Hiramatsu sent out invitations to
the lowest level of town officialdom as well as to traders, manufacturers, and farmers,
inviting them to dialogue directly with him about what products they could specialize in.
He then offered fully subsidized government television airtime for the communities to
promote their products and to share their ideas with other villages. This allowed a better
understanding of the "One Village, One Product" concept and encouraged other
villages to join.
As they did so, fruit growers began to develop by-products such as juices, jams, and
spreads. Fisherfolk converted their marine catch into fish paste, soups, and chowders.
Other communities experimented with new products such as mushrooms, beef, prawns, limes,
pickles, sardines, bamboo craft, plums, furniture, and pearls.
In rural Oyama, for example, rice farmers shifted to ume (plum) and chestnut cultivation,
not so much to go after the highest possible yield, but more to be able to work fewer
hours and yet earn higher incomes from these higher-value crops. By working a four-day
workweek, they could enjoy a more leisurely lifestyle. To promote the plan, farmers and
youth were exhorted to grow plums and chestnuts with the promise of a trip to Hawaii for
the best producers. Today, rural Oyama is known the world over for these two products,
although the town has diversified and now makes over fifty other processed food items. Its
inhabitants now tune in daily to cable broadcasting to keep up-to-date on prices, new
technology, and emerging markets for their agricultural produce.
In a similar vein, the remote fishing village island of Himeshima turned away from
salt-production and refocused on the higher value-added prawn-farming industry. To convert
salt beds into shrimp farms, the local government formed a corporation with private firms
and became its top shareholder. Despite several failures in the beginning, this
technology-driven joint venture eventually succeeded and Himeshima is now the single
largest producer of prawns in Japan; many of its young workers have migrated back to Oita
from the country's big cities to participate in the thriving local industry.
Kitsuki City on the Kunisaki Peninsula is known for its satsuma mandarins. Now grown in
temperature-controlled greenhouses as part of the "One Village, One Product"
Movement (which brought stable, managed production), these high-quality mandarins are
available even during the off-season for higher prices.
The "One Village, One Product" Movement is not limited to physical, tangible
produce from the land. Yufuin was a small, quiet spa town. Located behind the more
touristy hot-springs town of Beppu, Yufuin was included in golf course development plans
that would have potentially destroyed its environment. The resident farmers grew concerned
over the destruction of their beautiful surroundings and came up with the idea of using
cattle to protect their grass ranges. Since they could not afford to buy the cattle
themselves, they invited city dwellers to invest in at least one head of cattle. Although
owned by urbanites, the cattle are cared for by Yufuin resident farmers. Both sides have
benefited. The cattle feed on the grass prairies, keeping the habitat green while catering
to the farm dreams of urban folk.
In the mountain village of Nakatsue, the people found that they could turn their defunct
Taio gold mine into a tourist attraction with a little renovation. The mine was reopened
to the public as a museum. Much to their surprise, instead of the expected 110,000
visitors per year, the gold mine takes in more than 500,000.
The "One Village, One Product" Movement is graphically illustrated in Oita's
promotional materials with a map of the prefecture divided into fifty-eight areas, each
with colored drawings of one or two products such as Ski mackerel, strawberries, shrimp,
cows, tomatoes, grapes, mushrooms, leafy vegetables, and chrysanthemums. A partial list
reflects the variety and volume of products from Oita today:
· Oita City: strawberries, cucumbers, leeks, loquats, oranges, leafy vegetables, parsley,
yuzu oranges, pork, figs
· Beppu City: bambooware, boxwood crafts, bath powder, sugared pomelos, floral goods
· Nakatsu City: clam sweets, ham, dried persimmons, kabosu noodles, Chinese cabbage,
broccoli, green onions, pears
· Hita City: watermelons, beef, milk, pears, Chinese cabbage, wood products, pottery,
lacquerware, geta sandals
· Saiki City: dried sardines, pearls, strawberries
· Kunimi Town: melons, frozen vegetables, tiger-striped prawns, pheasant, oranges, egg
· Musashi Town: green onions
· Aki Town: tomatoes
· Hiji Town: cucumbers, oranges, flatfish, greenhouse oranges, barley spirits, dried
· Yayoi Town: chrysanthemums, mushrooms, baked sweet fish, Japanese paper, limes
· Ume Town: mushrooms, chestnuts, tea, eggplant, Chinese lantern plants
· Mie Town: sweet potatoes, asparagus, limes, pork, mushrooms
· Ogata Town: taro, limes, beef
· Yabakei Town: milk, tea
· Innai town: yuzu oranges
· Honjo Village: mushrooms, tea, miso, baked sweet fish, parsley, chrysanthemums, barley
· Yonouzu Village: oranges, dried fish products, cultivated yellowtail
· Sanko Village: broccoli, miso, strawberries, peaches, green onions
Continuous attention to quality, backed by publicity and marketing efforts, has brought
Oita products to global standards. Some of these world-class products are shiitake
mushrooms, sake, a wheat-distilled spirit known as shochu, shiroshita flounder, blowfish,
Seki mackerel, kabosu limes, Himeshima kuruma prawns, Onta pottery, and Beppu bamboo
crafts. Today there are some 273 products, of which about one-half earn one hundred
million yen or more a year, with twenty products bringing in one billion yen.
One of the principles of the "One Village, One Product" Movement is independence
and creativity. Governor Hiramatsu did not force the idea on anyone. He said each
community would have to decide whether or not to join the movement and what product to
select. (But he also told them that doing nothing would result in depopulation and a dying
community.) Adoption of the "One Village, One Product" Movement would be at
their own risk and to their own account. No subsidy would be given because, he believed,
once it was removed the product or project would disappear and the people would go back to
feeling inadequate and dependent. Governor Hiramatsu said, "Because it is their
money, they will work harder since they will not want to fail and lose their money. We
have to get rid of the top-down strategy of designating a product for individual
municipalities and offering subsidies and other assistance to them. Efforts may fail in
some cases since people are inexperienced, but their motivation is more important than the
risk of failure"
While no subsidies or cash dole-outs are given as part of the governor's program, other
kinds of assistance are provided. These include technical assistance to improve product
quality as well as assistance in marketing and publicity. In 1988, a "One Village,
One Product" Corporation was established to target new markets for distribution.
Hiramatsu himself is the number one salesperson for Oita, using his connections to
introduce various products to the Tokyo market and beyond and to invite new investors to
the prefecture. For example, he initiated product fairs and food exhibits in Tokyo and
other major cities in Japan to show off Oita's wares and tapped his influential business
friends in Tokyo to locate new branches and ventures in Oita.
The "One Village, One Product" Movement is not limited to merchandise. It has
also led to several initiatives for the preservation of local arts and culture, such as
the music festival to commemorate musician Retaro Taki, the art museum in honor of
sculptor Fumio Asakura, the Oita-Asia Sculpture Biennial Exhibition (to nurture young
sculptors in Asia), and Kitchom's Folklore District. And because of this growing awareness
of the value of culture and history, a prefectural library, sports center, and cultural
hall have been built. Hiramatsu wants to make sure his constituents will be comfortable
growing old in their own communities.
The "One Village, One Product" Movement was further broadened in 1993 into what
Hiramatsu calls the "One Village, One Style" Movement. This is another way of
tapping into each municipality's own strengths. Under this concept, differences in
population, environment, and tastes among cities, towns, and villages are acknowledged,
allowing each one to establish its own individual identity. Oita's municipalities, each of
which is closely linked to particular topographical and geographical conditions, has a
unique contribution to make to a broad integrated area. For example, while Hita City
cultivates eels through its hot-spring waters, Kokonoe Town is home to the geothermal
power plant of Kyushu Electric Company. Each municipality thus contributes to regional
development in step with its own unique resources.
The cultivation of regional products and cultures opened up new avenues of cooperation
between Oita and the rest of the world. Hiramatsu chaired the first Kyushu-Asian Summit
for Local Authorities, also called the Asia Kyushu Regional Exchange Summit, in 1994. It
was intended to foster regional revitalization through better relations between Oita and
other local economic centers. The Oita Declaration was adopted to ensure continuity of
As chairperson of the Kyushu Governors' Association, Hiramatsu proclaims "Toyonokuni:
Open to the world" as his motto for the entire region. At the same time, under what
he calls the Kyushu Government Plan, Hiramatsu has recommended that a regional office
functioning as a representative of central government should make all decisions related to
the Kyushu and Okinawa Islands. The same arrangement should be adopted by other areas or
regions of Japan, he argues.
Hiramatsu's achievements in Oita have added another feather to Japan's global cap. Aside
from having contributed new models for industrial management to the West, Japan has now,
through Hiramatsu, offered local governments around the world a new model for planning
local economies and revitalizing lag-behind regions. The "One Village, One
Product" Movement has been studied and copied in such faraway places as Louisiana and
Los Angeles in the United States; Languedoc-Rousillon, France; Kedah, Malaysia; in the
Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon) provinces of the Philippines; and
in Shanghai and Wuhan, China. Variations on Hiramatsu's now famous theme include "one
factory, one product"; "one village, one treasure"; and "one person,
Imbedded in the "One Village, One Product" Movement is the principle of thinking
globally but acting locally. According to Hiramatsu, the more local the product, the more
global its appeal-given the right quality standards. This means that appropriate
technologies will have to be studied and applied in order to bring local products up to
global standards. This is where subsidies have been critical in adding value to Oita's
As globalization makes the world smaller, states and their capital-centered governments
are no longer the only entities engaging in "international relations." Cities
and towns are now doing the same through trade and other kinds of direct exchanges. In his
book, Think Globally and Act Locally, Hiramatsu explains his views on borderless
economies, the decentralization of government, and the importance of regional pride and
people power. He argues that individual districts and regions should link up directly with
their counterparts in other countries. In fact, he says, residents of Oita's
municipalities should actually meet their counterparts in similar municipalities around
the world. To foster such "grassroots-level diplomacy," he has set up homestay
and sister-city exchange programs; invited foreign-language instructors, particularly
English instructors, to teach in Oita's schools; and established the Oita International
Exchange Center. Oita's citizens have now enjoyed grassroots and government-to-government
exchanges with people from the European Community (EC), China, South Korea, Russia, Wales,
Brazil, Canada, Malaysia, France, the Philippines, and the United States. The friendships
these programs generate lead not only to mutual understanding but also to practical
advantages in trade and technology exchange.
In 1993, Oita celebrated the 450th anniversary of contact between Portugal and Japan. For
the occasion, the prefecture hosted the president of Portugal and the Portuguese sailing
ship Sagres, which docked at Oita Harbor to commemorate the pioneers of the past. Oita's
citizens came from far and near to see it.
Another basic principle of the "One Village, One Product" Movement is human
resource development. Hiramatsu knew that one of the ingredients for success was having a
resource pool of educated and committed individuals. His own father had established
training schools for young adults where the spirit of being creative and different could
Today, Hiramatsu leads a system of "Land of Abundance" Training Schools located
in each of Oita's twelve regions, where young local people learn needed professional
skills to become, he hopes, the nucleus for the creation of a "land of
abundance." Called Toyonokuni-zukuri Juku, the schools' main objective is to foster
human resources to revitalize rural areas. Furthermore, the schools challenge their young
wards to follow the governor in thinking globally and acting locally. The
Toyonokuni-zukuri Juku schools have already created a network of young leaders who are
eager to promote Oita's advantages to the rest of the world. One day soon, Hiramatsu
envisions an Asia-Pacific University in Beppu, offering a four-year course with enrollees
coming from all parts of Asia. (Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University opened in Beppu City
One of the major problems Hiramatsu had to confront when he first became governor of Oita
was its depopulation trend. The number of people leaving the prefecture exceeded the
number of newborns and immigrants. Even with the presence of a Nippon Steel plant and the
Showa Denko petrochemical company, he observed young people still migrating to Tokyo or
Osaka for better job opportunities, leaving behind an older population. To counter this,
Hiramatsu offered not only a child-raising plan but moved quickly to keep youth in Oita.
It was not enough to develop Oita's indigenous products into world-class items; it was
equally important to attract new industries. To do so, he combined a local low-tech
strategy with a global high-tech strategy. (The island of Kyushu is host to 40 percent of
Japan's integrated circuit manufacturers.) Relatively quickly, he built up Oita to make it
attractive to electronics and computer software manufacturers, giving it the label Silicon
City, the equivalent of California's Silicon Valley. Soft Park, for example, houses
high-tech industries, academic research facilities, and nearby transport and urban
facilities-an attractive, holistic environment for Oita's new e-workers.
Hiramatsu knew that local economic growth programs required several elements: local
commitment, the identification of a central community resource, consumer research, and
self-reliance. Traditional company towns dependent on large manufacturers were not good
models for Oita. He preferred highly diversified communities supported by a range of local
high-tech companies. Thus, he made sure that large companies such as NEC, Sony, Canon,
Fujitsu, Toshiba, Texas Instruments, and Materials Research Corporation would be able to
rely on smaller local suppliers for their component requirements. These local companies
were therefore encouraged to enter the high-tech world of electronics, mechatronics, and
Information network systems, combined with continuous research and development, became
tools for technology transfer between Japan's universities and Oita's industries.
Hiramatsu says that if he had a choice, he would decongest Tokyo and develop regional
intellectual centers by moving universities out of Tokyo. This would increase levels of
technological and human exchange among local cities, thus easing the information burden on
Oita's industrial zone is in a coastal district that houses about six thousand factories
and businesses, a third having been established there since 1979. Heavy industry
factories, such as oil refineries, steel producers, and petrochemical and electric power
plants, are located beside software companies and other information-based firms. The
prefecture's unemployment rate has gone down from 10 percent to 2 percent between 1985 and
1995. And now the young people of Oita prefer to stay and work at home.
Hiramatsu, the consummate planner, did not limit his dreams to simply enticing businesses
to Oita. He also promoted other regional development schemes based on the following
strategies: (1) creating an attractive urban region with multiple centers; (2) creating a
bustling urban center to entice the young to settle in Oita; (3) enhancing industrial and
business services and, thus, job opportunities through industrial estates and facilities;
(4) improving educational, cultural, and leisure activities through new libraries,
museums, sports facilities, schools, and colleges; (5) offering commercial services,
shopping, and "after five" leisure activities; and (6) supporting all the above
through town lot adjustments, new streets, sewer systems, and the like.
One of the first such projects was the Kenhoku-Kunisaki Technopolis. This was conceived
with the airport as a central node, not only to facilitate tourism and convenient travel
to and from the prefecture but also to provide quick and easy access for industry.
Integrated circuit manufacturers, for example, require efficient air transport both to
bring in components and spare parts and to ship out their finished products. At Oita's
Technopolis, passenger and air cargo facilities are conveniently nearby.
The Technopolis is built on three principles: (1) environmentalism, as shown by the
protection of three natural parks; (2) internationalization, to encourage exchange with
foreign regions; and (3) local governance, in which each area takes care of its own local
facilities. Aside from Oita Airport, the Technopolis comprises four cities, thirteen
towns, and two villages spread over a 1,230-square-kilometer area. It houses an industrial
complex supported by the two central cities of Oita and Beppu, which in turn provide
logistical and cultural support to the Technopolis industries. It also serves as a tax
base for business.
But the Governor did not stop at the Technopolis. He also created a Greenpolis, a
Riverpolis, and a Marinopolis. Industrialization is balanced by the Greenpolis where 75
percent of the area is forest complex. Oita has 460,000 hectares, or one million acres, of
lush forest cover, occupying about 73 percent of the prefecture. This makes Oita a leading
supplier of wood and bamboo. Hita Japanese cedar is popular in constructing log houses,
and shiitake mushrooms are grown on oak logs. Of course, there is a need constantly to
revitalize lumber areas and to preserve parks and nature. The Hita-Kusu-Shimoge-gun forest
areas are both exploited and protected; its forest products are processed and distributed
in an environment-friendly manner. Recreation and tourism are offered in this area.
The Ono River runs for seventy-six kilometers, or forty-seven miles. It covers one city,
nine towns, and two villages in the upper and middle portions of the river, providing
irrigation through its tributaries to the once-dry farming belt. Fishery management groups
abound. The Riverpolis incorporates a system of rivers and agricultural roads that have
been converted into airport runways for easy transport of goods to Tokyo. This allows
farmers to grow tobacco, sweet potatoes, green peppers, and other vegetables that are sent
off in small planes to the big city. The 937 hot springs of Yufuin provide a tropical
climate in which to grow greenhouse orchids, chrysanthemums, and roses. Being water and
air pollution-free, Riverpolis has become an attractive settlement area for its residents
as well as a place for tourists to enjoy the sights of nature. Hand in hand with the
Riverpolis, an Agropolis is being planned to advance agricultural industries.
Hiramatsu is also proud of his Marinopolis fish-farming project, which is a marine ranch
in Saki Bay. Here fish, tiger prawns, and sea bream line up to listen to music as they
eat. This allows for easier cultivation and harvesting. This unique sonar feeding system
was the result of a cooperative research effort between shipbuilding and electronics
companies. Continuing experiments to promote aquaculture, resource management, and marine
processing are creating more jobs for people. Young people have been drawn back to Oita by
the new technologies and the ability to market dried fish at profitable prices. Marine
tourism is also growing rapidly.
The governor has invested heavily in upgrading telecommunications and transportation
facilities in Oita. The Trans-Kyushu Expressway will provide two hours' easy access from
Oita to Fukuoka, the main city of Kyushu. It will eventually reach Nagasaki City via Saga,
Tosu, Hita, and Beppu. The East Kyushu Expressway will connect other parts of the island
to Oita. New national and trunk routes are being added to decongest the area's older
roads. Similarly, the ports of Oita, Beppu, Tsukumi, and Saiki are being upgraded.
A related endeavor involves Governor Hiramatsu's plan to boost domestic and international
tourism. He believes that "the real Japan is not in Tokyo, but in the regions."
Myriad attractions await Oita's visitors: the Usa Shrine, the Kunisaki Peninsula's ancient
Buddhist temples and stone images, the samurai houses of Kitsuki, the Oka Castle in
Taketa, and the merchant houses of Hita as well as various artifacts of European culture
introduced during the reign of Daimyo Otomo Sorin.
Oita's Beppu offers the greatest number of hot springs in Japan; indeed, it has been
referred to as a "department store of spas". Sand baths, mud baths, steam baths,
rotenburo, and shaddock baths are all available in Beppu. Or one can also enjoy viewing
the sakura (cherry) trees during cherry blossom time. Then there are the festivals such as
Hita's River Festival, Beppu's Bon Festival, and the unique-to-Oita One Person Keeping One
Cow in the Pasture Festival of Yufuin.
Hiramatsu has not neglected the elderly people of Oita. In fact, the percentage of elderly
people living in Oita is relatively high compared to the rest of the country, at 18.6
percent in 1995. To keep the elderly living comfortably while staying in touch with daily
events, he set up the New Life Plaza in Beppu where they learn skills such as computer
programming and basket making. He also started the Social Welfare and Nursing Care
Training Center to deal with this aging society. A nursing insurance system is also being
proposed as part of a total care system to advance the quality of life and health of the
Similarly, a welfare program for the disabled is in place. A laudable activity of the
program is the international wheelchair marathon held annually in Oita since 1981. As of
1994, twenty-seven foreign countries and regions had participated in the marathon.
Hiramatsu worries about Oita's having the lowest birth rate in Japan, because this can
have negative consequences for the prefecture. First, there will be fewer young people to
take care of the elderly. Second, adults will know less about child rearing. And third,
the children themselves will be overprotected and not learn the social skills developed
when dealing with many siblings and peers. Hence, the government of Oita provides
incentives such as gifts and educational allowances to families with children.
Governor Hiramatsu's plans for Oita's residents are being realized. Oita is now ranked
eighth in Japan for providing the best child-raising environment, sixth for spiritual and
mental rehabilitation, and fourth for recreation. It was ranked number two in economic,
cultural, and political vitality by over a thousand business executives. Its 370,000
households enjoy a "quality of life" ranking of twenty-eight, up from
forty-seven a decade ago. Overall, Oita is in eleventh place for "gross national
satisfaction." Per capita income grew from 1.6 million yen to 2 million yen in the
prefecture over a ten-year period; in 1995, it jumped to 2.52 million yen or U.S.$22,700
(at the exchange rate of 111 yen to U.S.$1.00).
Oita's occupational profile has also improved tremendously. Fifty-nine percent of its
workers are now employed in tertiary service-related and professional jobs; 27 percent are
with the secondary industries of mining, construction, and manufacturing; while 14 percent
work in basic services such as agriculture, forestry, and fishing. In 1975, when Hiramatsu
became vice-governor, 50 percent were working in tertiary services, 25 percent in the
secondary industries, and another 25 percent in basic services.
Hiramatsu dreams of Oita's citizens one day enjoying a harmonious coexistence with their
environment, where solar energy is used to run towns, chemical-free agriculture will be in
place, and electric cars will provide pollution-free transportation. Under his dynamic
leadership, this may happen sooner than anyone thinks.
Hiramatsu, Morihiko. Interview by James R. Rush. Tape recording. Ramon Magsaysay Award
Foundation, Manila, 30 August 1995.
______. "'One-Village, One-Product' Movement and Regional Revitalization in Oita
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______. "Power to the Provinces: How Far Can It Go?" Paper presented at
Awardees' Forum, Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, Manila, 1 September 1995.
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