Officials and business representatives from Okinawa yesterday touted the islands’ historical and cultural links with Taiwan, while outlining new construction projects and incentive programs for three special economic zones being established in Japan’s southernmost prefecture.
“Taiwan and Okinawa are Pacific island neighbors bound by their geographic proximity. There have been extensive economic trading and cultural exchanges, along with many friendship and family links between Taiwanese and Okinawans,” Masakimi Kudaka, director of the Taipei office of Okinawa Industry Promotion Public Corp, said at a press event.
Kudaka outlined the many advantages that investments and joint ventures in Okinawa offer, including tax incentives and land subsidies in the special economic zones, which are projected to become leading high-technology and logistics hubs in the future.
Okinawan officials said that an increasing number of Taiwanese are visiting the various islands of Okinawa Prefecture for their fresh seafood, specialty products and ocean leisure parks, while taking in the World Heritage sites of the historic Ryukyu Kingdom, such as Shuri Castle, Katsuren Castle and Shikinaen Garden.
“We had 150,000 Taiwanese tourists last year, and as of September of this year, we already had 200,000 from Taiwan,” Okinawa trade official Satoshi Takeda said.
With government-led projects and infrastructure already in place and ready to take off, Takeda said there are good investment opportunities for Taiwanese companies, especially as some of the designated business sectors complement economic development in Taiwan.
The special economic zone on the main Okinawa Island includes an information technology (IT) and telecommunication industry cluster, based mainly in Naha City.
The other two designated projects are an international logistics hub for transshipment of international container cargoes, which will be based in Uruma City and Naha Port, and a financial services center that will be based in Nago City.
For the IT and telecom hub in Okinawa, officials said a number of leading Japanese and international firms have already established operations there, including IBM, Oracle, NTT, Cisco, NEC, Hitachi, Softbank of Japan, Orix, AIG, Nomura Holdings, Ando Securities and Citibank.
The hub’s cloud computing center also began construction this year, Kudaka said.
Okinawa will become an important networking bridge linking Japan’s IT and telecom industries with their Asian counterparts, he said.
The IT and telecom hub will also house companies specializing in software programming, media services, television and broadcasting, film and video production, network database services, mobile applications and Internet-derived services, he added.
Okinawa will seek to attract IT talent across Asia to turn it into a leading testing platform for the next wave of mobile applications, multimedia services and gaming entertainment programming, the officials said.
Local officials and executives at the event expressed an interest in investing in Okinawa, saying it has both the public and private sectors working together to realize these goals.
They said Taiwan can learn from Okinawa’s example and cooperate on investing in the IT and telecom hub and the international logistics hub.