Fukuoka Startup City
Fukuoka is a city you’ve likely never heard of. It’s Japan’s fourth-largest, a few hours south on the bullet train from Hiroshima. It’s not really on the tourist circuit, and I wouldn’t have found myself there were it not for a friend’s first-hand reports (which I took close to heart). Not knowing what the city was known for per se, I was open to browsing the tourist pamphlet at my accommodation. It highlighted the specialities of its regional cuisine, boasted beautiful manicured gardens and beaches (an easy day trip away), and recommended independent shops and cafes dispersed along the downtown canals. And right in the middle leaflet, it pitched Fukuoka as a “Startup City”. This made a lot of sense as it felt like a very livable place.
In only four pages they packed in a lot of information, selling the city as exactly that – a comfortable but fertile environment to nurture a new business venture. Targeting foreigners specifically, one focus was promoting a high quality of life, specifically targeting a healthy work/life balance, which is still for example, not often found in the deep corporate centres like in Tokyo. (Word of mouth has it they’ve just passed a policy to enforce naps during the workday to relieve stress and promote productivity!) Fukuokans have a shorter commute time than three other large cities. They say that it’s a friendly and welcoming city, though I’m not quite sure how you prove that sentiment, and that its popularity is growing. It has the highest growth rate of teens/twenty-year-olds “among all metropolises” and has had a noticeable population increase in the last few years.
To help newcomers arrive and more importantly stay, the city is offering “unparalleled support” in a few different ways. A startup visa is available, valid for twelve months. An individual needs a business plan and the beginnings of the requirements for obtaining their residential status – an office, two full-time staff or capital/total investment of at least 5 million yen (equivalent to approximately $62,000 CND.). If these requirements are met within the year, the visa can be renewed for another twelve months. They can apply for financial aid for help with renting residential and office spaces, potentially received a reduction on their taxes (if in the appropriate industry), and receive aid in finding “human resources” for mentoring, recruitment, connecting with lawyers, accountants, experts from government financial institutions, and help opening a bank account. Not too shabby! I’m curious to see how the numbers of start-up ventures grow from this initiative, and if targeting the tourist market has any real staying power… worth keeping in the back of my mind.
By Megan Katz
On a one-way ticket, Megan is taking time to follow her curiosity literally. Fortunate enough to be on unfamiliar soil, she is keeping her senses clear and her wit sharp. As a maker, dancer and enthusiastic conversationalist, she is seeking meaningful ways to move through new spaces. Endlessly fascinated by human behaviour, local food and cultural norms, stay tuned as Megan shares her thoughts navigating newfound perceptions and impressions