Monday, March 29, 2010

Gifu Japan, a handful regional renaissance blessed by World Heritage and Hi-Tech!

Gifu Mino City under Washi illuminations

Gifu Prefecture will host the APEC Small and Medium-sized Enterprise Ministerial Meeting in October.

What a remarkable contrasted land! On one side Gifu State is a hi-technology hub for nationwide manufacturing industries and on the other side, Gifu offers the pattern of a traditional society and of a prosperous land whose history is enriched by the eminent Shogun Oda Nobunaga, the initiator of the unification of Japan in the late Sixteenth Century. Today Gifu, hallowed by a sumptuous nature, knows what the 2 words "precious environment" truly refers to as Gifu is described as the "Land of Clear Waters" with no less than 8 large rivers running through the prefecture.

Thanks to the Guide Michelin who rated very high this province located in the middle of center Japan Chubu region, Gifu-ken (Gifu prefecture) is a paradise for tourists who journey here massively. Flocks of visitors gather annually to Shirakawa-go village and its large houses with their steeply pitched thatched roofs that are the only examples of their kind in Japan, a patrimony registered on the Unesco World Heritage.

Shirakawa-go village

Gifu is described by the famous poet Basho in one of his "travel diary" poetic journey in Ogaki city. Basho, the greatest maker of haiku poetry wrote his most famous book "Oku no Hosomichi 奥の細道" "The Narrow Road Through the Deep North" after a trip in 1689 around Tohoku and Hokuriku, and the book ends in Ogaki, Mino (Gifu prefecture) with one of his haiku where he hinted that he wanted to visit Ise imperial shrine after staying in Ogaki.

Gifu is also known for the beautiful Hida and Takayama cities, with picturesque and well preserved old streets. Other locations offer Onsen and ski resorts, Eco-tours in Goshikigahara forests, and not to forget the amazing Gifu city "Cormorant Fishing", a 1300 years tradition and a serious activity since the fishermen are assigned by the Imperial House agency!

Cormorant fishing

The Governor Mr Hajime Furuta, a distinguished francophone who graduated from France Ecole Nationale d'Administration (ENA), is making active efforts to tackle challenges facing Japan in a rapidly-aging population environment in his prefecture of over 2 million souls. A rich one: about 30 000 Euros per capita.

Gifu Governor Furuta, worked for the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, he was elected Governor in 2005. Reelected in January 2009, his goal following the hardship of the economy is making the prefecture “a town where people can live with hope and pride,” the governor announced Gifu Prefecture’s Long-Term Initiative last year. Amid the great change of the times as represented by shrinking population Governor Furuta has his ideas on the demographic problem. "Bring people in", he told me:

Gifu Governor Mr Hajime Furuta

Among the industries, I visited the Yamazaki Mazak firm. Gifu is Classed "A" for the innovation industry such as aerospace, automobile (Toyota), machine tools (Yamazaki Mazak Optonics Corporation with machines regulated to the nanometer!)

Yamazaki Mazak Corporation

Science and robotics

The laboratory of Professor Haruhisa Kawasaki, Associate Dean of the Faculty of Engineering of Gifu University, is researching on an intelligent machine system and human interface robot, which is capable of dexterous and autonomous work just like a human being.

Professor Haruhisa Kawasaki

The Gifu Hand project, an anthropomorphic Robot Hand, which has been developed over ten years in corporation with local SMEs, is aimed at producing a complex and dexterous hand motion just like that of a human being. How fantastic! Gifu Hand has as many as 859 sensors that “feels” things it touches. It can pick up an object with its fingertips and hold a paper cup without crushing it or massage your shoulders!

The Gifu University anthropomorphic Robot Hand

Gifu Prefecture is also appealing in the sense that it preserves traditional Japanese culture such as the nationally-famous Mino washi paper (Japanese Paper) and the streets where traditional houses built in the Edo and Meiji periods still exist as they were. In a corner of Mino City, which once flourished as a key junction of transportation and a shopping district, there are still rows of houses built in the Edo and Meiji periods. In October every year, the city holds a contest called the Mino Washi Akari Art Exhibition, in which artistic lanterns made of Mino washi paper are displayed in the streets of Udatsu. During the contest, visitors can enjoy fantastic scenery.

Gifu was under a warm weather and ravishing orange colored sun when I visited the place thanks to the "Foreign Press Center Japan" press tour which always bring the vast Japanese archipelago diversity and realities to my eyes, encountering places and people of Japan. I would have never met this reality should I only have stayed in Tokyo. My last word about Gifu whom I mentioned earlier is about "The Narrow Road to the Deep North". Poet Basho's poem and study in eternity. Well, as I've seen in Gifu prefecture, the region is succeeding in her attempt against the flow of time to keep the place up with trustful renaissance!

A VDO about Gifu Cormorant Fishing

Sources: Foreign Press Center Japan, Gifu prefectural government, Michelin Guide, Unesco , Keidanren, Reporter's notes.

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