Innovation Dojo

From Past Challenges to Future Opportunities: Fukushima's Innovation Coast Initiative

In November 2023, Innovation Dojo Japan had the honor of being invited to tour Fukushima as part of the Fukushima Innovation Coast Promotion Organization initiative.

Looking Back: A Decade After the Disaster

Our first stop was at the Heritage Museum, where a comprehensive account of the origins of nuclear power plants during the high economic growth period of 1967 was presented. The museum shared week-by-week details of the March 11th earthquake and the ten years that followed, capturing both big-picture perspectives and stories from local residents. The impact of the nuclear accident was palpable as we learned that seven municipalities in the Hamadori region were designated evacuation areas. The return rates varied, with Tomioka at 13%, Namie at 9%, Okuma at 7%, and Futaba at 0% (population ratio in 2020 compared to 2010). Even now, with the partial lifting of evacuation orders in Futaba last August, the town is home to just over 80 residents. Passing through Route 6, towns like Futaba and Okuma revealed a haunting scene of deserted homes and numerous abandoned stores, transforming the typical rural landscapes into ghost towns.

Fukushima's Forward-Thinking Plans

On the second day of our tour, we explored Fukushima's innovative initiatives. Fukushima faces unique challenges distinct from any other region in Japan, enabling bold innovation policies and support from the Japanese government.

The Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field, in particular, aims to establish a self-sustainable model, focusing on the establishment of necessary "technology" using practical-scale facilities. Efforts include balancing the demand and supply of the power system by utilizing hydrogen, establishing sales business models, and developing and implementing large-scale renewable energy management systems.

Our visit to one of Japan's leading robot demonstration fields showcased facilities replicating real usage environments such as infrastructure and disaster sites. This unparalleled facility allows for performance evaluations, training, and practical support for companies, startups, universities engaged in basic research, technology development, performance evaluations, and product/service validation, guiding them towards business realization, entrepreneurship, and market introduction.

Additionally, the Okuma Incubation Center, utilizing the former Okuma Elementary School building, symbolizes the region's new progress and commitment to reconstruction. This center provides facilities and support services for startups and innovators, urging people worldwide to see Fukushima not as a place of past trials but as a land full of opportunities for the future.

We also connected with organizations supporting migration. Ms. Goto, the representative, originally from Kumamoto Prefecture in southwestern Japan, shared her experience of relocating to Fukushima after working in Tokyo. They offer comprehensive support through consultations, events, and community building for companies and entrepreneurs venturing into this region, providing essential resources for their integration.

IDJ's Support

Fukushima Innovation Coast Promotion Organization initiative, Fukushima Prefecture, local municipalities, and JETRO Fukushima have shown an open-minded approach to providing opportunities for demonstrations and facilities. However, challenges such as access from Tokyo (requiring car travel from the Koriyama Station of the Shinkansen) and language barriers still pose hurdles for foreign entrepreneurs. In response, Innovation Dojo Japan is committed to assisting businesses in Japan and Fukushima by facilitating introductions to key local players and arranging language support.

By sharing these stories, we hope to shed light on Fukushima's resilience, innovation, and the strides they are making towards a brighter future.

From Past Challenges to Future Opportunities:  Fukushima's Innovation Coast Initiative
Innovation Dojo

Innovation Dojo Japan is where ordinary people make extraordinary impacts. Founded in 2016, we have developed experience and know-how across three key areas: entrepreneurial talent development, startup incubation and services supporting innovation-related business development and capital raising. 

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