On 12 April, the inauguration ceremony of the Kyushu IR Council (KIRC) was held at Hotel New Otani Hakata in Fukuoka. KIRC is an organization consisting of the Kyushu Governor’s Association, the Kyushu Prefectural Assembly Chairpersons’ Association, the Kyushu Economic Federation and other Kyushu economic organizations. Yutaka Aso has been appointed as chairman.
This council has declared that attaining an IR in Kyushu and appealing to MICE demand and inbound tourism in Kyushu is the best chance for rapid growth and development of not only Kyushu’s economy, but Japan’s economy as a whole. It has also declared that the council will execute three items: an IR bid in Kyushu, ensuring local procurement for IR demand and conveying the charm of all regions in Kyushu.
Yutaka Aso is a businessman serving as Chairman and Managing Director of Aso Cement and of Aso Corporation. He is an executive board member of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics as well as chairman of the Fukuoka Directive Council and the Kyushu Economic Federation.
For generations, the Aso family has included royalty and politicians, such as the 92nd Prime Minister who is now the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Taro Aso – the older brother of Yutaka.
Their great-grandfather, Toshimichi Okubo, was considered a person of merit in the Meiji reforms, serving as the first Lords of Home Affairs (equivalent to the Prime Minister). He oversaw the Meiji political world prior to the inauguration of the cabinet government.
Grandfather Shigeru Yoshida served as prime minister for five terms, starting soon after WWII, and is the person who laid the foundation for post-war Japan. The younger sister of Taro and Yutaka Aso, Nobuko, married Prince Tomohito of Mikasa, nephew to the Heisei Emperor Akihito (and cousin to the current Emperor Naruhito), becoming Princess Tomohito of Mikasa (Nobuko). The Aso family has a deep and long-standing relationship with the imperial family.
In 1872, the Aso family started a coal mining business in Chikuho (Fukuoka), Aso Corporation, then continued expanding. The current Aso Group is made up of 101 companies including medical, construction and real estate companies, and the group’s 2020 annual sales exceeded JPY414 billion (US$3.8 billion). Yutaka Aso’s son, Iwao Aso, has taken over as Group Chairman.
Yutaka Aso graduated from Keio University’s Faculty of Law in 1969. After that he graduated from Oxford University in the UK and worked at a trade company. He joined Aso Cement in 1977. At the time, the company president was his older brother, Taro Aso, but when Taro decided to go into politics in 1979, Yutaka took over. In 2013, he was appointed chairman of the Kyushu Economic Federation (KEF), where he had served on the board since 1996.
In 1961, amidst advances in energy revolution from coal to oil and rapid economic growth of the time, there were a myriad of problems for Japanese companies that each individual company couldn’t face on their own. In response, the KEF was established as the fourth comprehensive economic federation in Japan after the Federation of Economic Organizations (Keidanran), Kansai and Chubu.
The KEF worked to integrate the vehicle and IC industries, open the Kyushu Highway and Kyushu Shinkansen (bullet train), and establish the Kyushu Tourism Promotion Organization to promote tourism over a wide area, in order to create a new tourism economy.
On the KEF website, Yutaka Aso is quoted as saying, “It is important for the private sector to take initiatives, make moves and produce results. As corporations, companies and regions with strong motivation, we will create examples of success, share them with the rest of the country and help Japan get healthy, starting with Kyushu. This is the KEF mission, to motivate all of Japan from Kyushu.
“With the 60th anniversary of the founding of KEF approaching in 2021, we are progressing with the ‘Kyushu’s Future Vision’ concept and hope to disclose a specific action plan for a path to new growth, as well as how we want Kyushu to look by 2030.”
The long-term perspective of an IR bid, development and operation matches well with the Council’s 10-year vision in many ways.
Yutaka Aso closed his address quoted on the KEF website with, “… we have the will to motivate all of Japan from Kyushu, and we will form a regional revitalization model from Kyushu that will convey the bright possibilities for the future generations through daily activities and contribute to revitalization as well as new growth for Japan.”