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KOBE (Kyodo) On man-made Rokko Island last summer, many people, including non-Japanese, danced to fast-paced music during a Bon festival.

The event was sponsored by a neighborhood association and employees of the U.S. household goods giant Procter & Gamble Co., whose Japan head office is located on the island. Their families, clad in “yukata” summer kimono, joined locals in the dancing.

“Those coming from abroad have a different energy,” said Masami Inari, 72, head of the local association.

About 300 people from 28 countries work at P&G Far East Inc. and many have brought along their families.

Good relations with the community are essential if they want to live comfortably.

The company is active in local events. It is donating money to a city-building fund and to a library so it can collect books written in English.

When the Great Hanshin Earthquake struck 10 years ago, P&G chartered a large boat to evacuate employees and local citizens from the island, which helped to cement relations with the local population.

P&G had been based in Osaka until 1993, but it moved the head office to Kobe because it is close to a bullet-train station and an international airport, and is also an international city in its own right that is easy to live in.

The port city is near the sea and mountains, and the average housing space is 1.5 times larger than in Tokyo. Commuting hours are much shorter than in the capital and it has a good international school where foreign kids can study.

P&G thought about moving to Tokyo but decided on Kobe out of consideration for its employees.

“There are many parks, and the scenery is beautiful,” employee Suda Sudarsana said. He invites his Japanese friends over during the weekend to try out the dishes he prepares. He is satisfied with his life here.

Foreign firms are trying to make overseas postings less stressful for employees by focusing on their living arrangements, business analysts say.

In Europe and North America, headquarters are sometimes located in smaller cities or quiet towns. P&G is based in Cincinnati and Nestle, whose Japanese office is located in Kobe, has its head office in a small town in Switzerland.

The president of P&G Japan, Ravi Chaturvedi, wonders whether Japanese firms give enough thought about where they should locate their head office.

According to the analysts, if Japanese firms actually paid attention to the lifestyles of their employees and not just the bottom line, they might reconsider being in Tokyo. And this would be a boon for places like Kansai and other regions.

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