The Japanese economy is being struck down by the corona virus. How to lay out a strategy for future growth for Japan in the midst of worries about a deflationary economy is a major issue for today. Japan’s provinces, outlying cities and rural areas (governed by local authorities) face a major turning point. Regional disparity in Japan is growing as some areas prosper while others fall into financial collapse as a result of failed planning. All Japan’s localities need to come up with viable strategies for growth.
In the past, local economic revitalization strategy generally took the form of luring manufacturing and industry to the area, but lately policies that have more to do with the lifestyle of local residents have been coming to the fore. One example of this type of movement is helping local food (designated Go-Touchi Gourmet, or popular dishes locally prepared, comfort food) catch on as a means of economic revitalization, equaling community rebuilding. A B-class Gourmet Grand Prix chooses the best fare among simple local dishes all over Japan. This event has been the chance for some local dishes to instantly attain national-level popularity. Boosting the name recognition or branding of a local product has in some cases brought more tourism to the area. In addition to these new movements, there are also efforts to bring back traditional foods of a particular area and link that to regional revitalization. Whether they are less traditional comfort foods or venerable old stand-bys, these movements are like an experiment in how to create a prosperous community by changing the flow of people.
But competition among communities and menus has become fierce, and it seems we are already in an era where a local revitalization effort cannot survive just on the topicality of its local ingredients or cooking style. What is the key to succeeding in local food-based community revitalization? Let’s look at last year’s B1 Grand Prix venue and winner Yokote City (about 100,000 population) in Akita Prefecture.