Nagasaki has been a gateway to Japan since antiquity and now it is trying to make a space for itself on the central stage once more. Japan’s first IR will open somewhere between 2024 and 2025. Sasebo City’s Dutch inspired theme park Huis Ten Bosch meets the criteria and is considered a key candidate site for one of the three IRs that will be built across the country. But will Nagasaki clear the final hurdle?
There is not a single obstacle to developing an IR in Nagasaki. At least, that’s how it appears. The push for an IR bid started in the private sector in 2007 and has been unwavering since, and those who are in favor of the initiative have been in the majority.
That fact hasn’t wavered despite political changes. In 2014, the governor announced at the Prefectural Assembly that he would be promoting an IR bid and this has formed the backbone of the prefecture’s aspirations. The majority of residents agree, particularly among the youth. That Nagasaki has already reached consensus is no doubt a point of envy among many other prefectures.
GOVERNMENT AND BUSINESS WORKING TOGETHER
There are many strengths to Nagasaki’s proposal. In April this year, approximately 30 hectares of land on the west side of Huis Ten Bosch was purchased as an IR candidate site with the prefecture, city and Huis Ten Bosch all in basic agreement. The infrastructure is already in place thanks to the existing resort, which attracts around 3 million visitors annually, reducing the initial outlay. Potential IR operators will welcome this discount on their initial investment. Further, part of the candidate site looks over Omura Bay and is located only a 30-minute high-speed boat ride to Nagasaki Airport.
Nagasaki also benefits from its location. Although It feels quite far from the capital of Tokyo, it is within a 500km radius of the major cities of West Japan, including Osaka and Busan. Within 1,000km is Shanghai, Seoul, Tokyo and Yokohama. Stretching to 1,500 km is Beijing, Wuhan, Taipei, Sendai and more (Hong Kong and Sapporo are just outside of this range). That means a whopping 1 billion people are within comfortable range of this location.
There is also a lot of potential in the sea routes, with Hakata Port in nearby Fukuoka Prefecture the country’s top port of call in 2018 with 279 calls and Nagasaki Port third with 220.
There is still room for improvement on the land routes. However, there will be work done on Nagasaki’s high-speed rail line and freeways.
IAG speaks with Shinichi Yoshida, Policy Director of Nagasaki Prefecture Planning and Promotion Department, about the progress of Nagasaki’s IR bid.
Tomo Yamamoto: In Nagasaki both public and private bodies are working together for the IR bid. When did that start to happen?
Shinichi Yoshida: As soon as we got set up. The driving force was the former Democratic Party administration. But this will never change, even though the administration has.
TY: What is the reason behind this? Is it the prefecture’s residents?
SY: We need to stop the falling population and revitalize the region. In order to do that, there is a lot of will to do things that will stabilize employment, expand employment and promote the economy.
A consensus has been formed and both political and business forces are united in firing the Kyushu/Nagasaki IR bid as the first bullet for Kyushu. This has given impetus and created a stage for success.
TY: Is ground access to the IR location an issue?
SY: We decided to purchase the western part of Huis Ten Bosch at a reasonable price. It faces Omura Bay and takes about 30 minutes by high speed boat from Nagasaki Airport. Osaka and Seoul are around 1 hour and 15 minutes to Nagasaki Airport, too. Shanghai is a little closer to Nagasaki than Tokyo. There are five international airports within a 2.5-hour drive so it is highly praised by operators as an internationally favorable location.
TY: There are several cruise ships already calling at Nagasaki. How important will this be for a Nagasaki IR?
SY: Kyushu accounts for 48% of all incoming cruise visitors and Hakata Port is the top. However, if you also include Nagasaki Port and Sasebo Port it’s even more. In the future, Uragashira Port will open and is capable of accepting large cruise ships, so we’re expecting 1 million visitors.
TY: What are the prospects for success and the schedule moving forward?
SY: We would like to make a schedule to start collecting concepts as Osaka has done. We are currently negotiating with 20 companies. I hope to also work with Osaka as well.
Ideally the schedule will move forward as quickly as possible. We would like to lead regional revitalization, which is a goal of both Kyushu/Nagasaki IR and the national government. We will work hard to be selected as one of the three locations.