First, get the citizens active.
From there expect an original, multi-tiered approach.

※This interview was conducted in 2016.

Department of Media Studies,
School of Letters and Culture, Tokai University

Professor Takayoshi Kawai


The more people talk about the city,
the more people want to make it a better city.

――The City of Nagoya is currently working on its “City Promotion Strategy,” which seeks to strengthen the “Nagoya Brand” and actively promote Nagoya through citizen activity. As a specialist in city promotion, what are your thoughts on this plan?

There are many ways of thinking about city promotion, but I find that increasing the amount of citizens actually doing the promotion is essential. Even if local governments are the first to lead a promotional movement, at some point the government alone runs out of steam. You can’t develop a community without the support of its residents. With the help of NPOs and businesses, all citizens need to proactively engage in a variety of city promotion activities. Creating an environment that leads residents to discuss Nagoya’s positives is one example of city promotion. The more people talk about the city, the more people want to make it a better city. This is tied to a real increase in city promotion participation. For this reason, the “City Promotion Strategy” isn’t just a plan to increase the amount of tourists or a website ranking, but a plan that considers an increase of citizens active in promoting the city as an important milestone. Since the plan seeks to nurture and inspire citizens as leaders promoting their own city, it’s a well-developed plan.

――How is Nagoya’s brand of tourism promotion different from what you’ve seen up until now?

The difference is that Nagoya’s plan targets its own residents to support city promotion, creating a soft infrastructure based on individual motivation. Other types of tourism promotion directly target people living outside the city, using an infrastructure made from specific city promotion policies put in place aiming to bring tourists in. Nagoya’s “City Promotion Strategy” focuses on stimulating hometown pride in its citizens.
Through this plan, Nagoya’s citizens aren’t relegated to passively accepting city promotion developing around them, but are motivated to be confident in their city and take actions promoting Nagoya of their own volition. As a mechanism to stimulate action, we can expect strong results from this strategy.

There is great potential for the city to grow,
and great potential for the citizens to grow the city.

――Why do we need the “City Promotion Strategy” right now?

Nagoya’s population has increased over time while backed by its strong economy. I too have lived in Nagoya for a while and think it’s a great city. But in 2016, a survey was conducted by the municipal government revealing that Nagoya was the major city least likely to be recommended by its citizens to others in Japan. It means that not many of Nagoya’s citizens are likely to call their city wonderful. As a result of this public survey, not just Nagoya’s government but outside organizations can sense there is something lacking about Nagoya as a city.
Japan’s population decline and ensuing guarantee of heavier individual burden is a difficult topic. It is no doubt a crisis to have a city with residents disengaged in active city promotion, despite them working so hard to advance the city to where it is today.
In a way, Nagoya has a key opportunity for promotion with the opening of the Linear Chuo Shinkansen in 2020, which will connect Tokyo to Nagoya in a 50-minute train ride. Yet we must be concerned with the possibility that this improved transportation method could cause Tokyo to absorb Nagoya’s population and economic activity, instead of bringing it into Nagoya. In order to prevent such an issue before it occurs, and make use of the opportunity given to Nagoya, the “City Promotion Strategy” seeks to boost the number of city promoting residents. If the city’s population decreases in the future, the strength of an individual’s resolute actions will have a larger impact. There is great potential for the city to grow, and great potential for the citizens to grow the city.

First, residents discover the wonders around them.
That’s where the real promotion begins.

――What do you find unique about the “City Promotion Strategy”?

While most local governments use a single-tiered strategy, Nagoya’s is a multi-tiered movement. I find this difference quite interesting. A typical single-tiered pattern is to gather a few residents already active in city promotion, have them talk about their city’s appeal, and spread the established brand message. Nagoya is different. The plan doesn’t just introduce basic sightseeing spots like the Osu Shopping District. First, residents discover the wonders around them, like “there’s an interesting character in my neighborhood” or, “the kids here greet you enthusiastically.” That’s where the real promotion begins.

――Not promotion led by administration, but using the experiences of each citizen as a starting point for promotion.

That’s correct. Someone isn’t pushing the idea that “Nagoya is this kind of place” from up top, but each resident finds what kind of place Nagoya is, and promotes that. This idea is fundamental in establishing the city’s brand. Nagoya doesn’t start with a brand image in mind. It has its citizens get active in developing their individual brand and starts by developing their promotional power. This causes each citizen to think about the words they use to describe the city. This first stage of promotion is a strength of Nagoya’s, and the natural progression to a multi-layered strategy will likely become the basis of community development from now on. Plunging into an age of population decline, the necessity for public administration can only expand, while the number of eligible workers shrinks. As a consequence, citizens cannot rely on their government for everything, as the quality of planning and services deteriorate. Citizens must use their own capabilities to make up for this. If Nagoya’s strategy continues, a style of regional management where citizens make their own plans and are then assisted by the government may develop.

In order to choose Nagoya,
Nagoya must become a city to be chosen.

――What direction should Nagoya proceed in?

Up until now Nagoya has mostly tried appealing specific points like its local cuisine Nagoya Meshi, which hasn’t conveyed the appeal of Nagoya. When you say Kobe, you think urban and chic, when you say Yokohama, you think of a port city with interesting foreign influences, yet no clear image comes to mind when you say Nagoya. With such potential, Nagoya cannot simply promote specific points in an attempt to create an image. Nagoya must clearly promote its potential through its strategy. To put in different terms, Nagoya can define what people will be happy to be there. The type of people that thrive in New York, or Tokyo, or Nagoya may be different. Nagoya can clearly promote how people there can be happy. From that the attraction of the city can grow.
In order to choose Nagoya, Nagoya must become a city to be chosen. Just saying Nagoya is good for everyone is not beneficial to anyone. Nagoya must first find people with great admiration and pride for the city who will work proactively for it, and invite them in. Before this can happen, Nagoya needs to define what kind of city it is.

――What should be expected from public administration, businesses, NPOs, and citizens?

In broad terms, design should be expected from public administration. Design isn’t just what you see, but a method for how to create a device that solves problems. What should be expected of public administration is not one-sided promotional activity, but the creation of a design that citizens, businesses, and NPOs want to use their own resources to be active for. For businesses, citizens, and other private organizations, their own livelihood is important. Businesses must make jobs which in turn make things for the community. NPOs must carry out their own missions. Citizens must live happy and healthy lives. While all of these may seem unrelated, if public administration can make a design that implements what each group values most, it will make Nagoya all the more appealing.


Professor Kawai is a specialist in city promotion. He has worked with national and local governments, NPOs, and other organizations on a wide array of promotional activities and projects.