OSAKA – In the Kansai region, known mostly for the cities of Kyoto, Osaka, Nara and Kobe, Wakayama Prefecture rarely tops the destination list of most tourists.
It’s little known overseas and it’s name doesn’t have the cachet that universally conjures up an iconic Japanese food like, say, Kobe beef.
Wakayama wants to change that.
Late last month, Wakayama Gov. Yoshinobu Nisaka lobbied Tokyo to help fund or support 58 different proposals to raise the prefecture’s profile — if not to the level of its Kansai neighbors, then at least to the point where it’s better known abroad than it is today.
Among the ideas were promoting exports of fruit like Wakayama peaches, persimmons and especially plums.
Wakayama plum wine that’s been aged three to five years is rapidly becoming a highly sought summer drink among local gourmands.
The prefecture hopes to sell to Vietnam and China in particular, and the governor called on the central government to work with both nations to raise exports of its fruit.
Exports of Wakayama fruit and fruit-based products were worth around ¥430 million in 2015.
By 2026, the prefecture is hoping to raise that figure 16-fold to around ¥7 billion, viewing Asian markets as particularly ripe for sales.
In addition, Wakayama is interested in hosting an integrated resort with casinos. The Diet is slated to pass a legislation by the end of the year establishing guidelines for operating casinos.
Potential locations for the first site include the Marina City theme park sitting on an artificial island in the bay south of the city of Wakayama. It takes less than an hour to reach the city on the fastest trains from Kansai airport.
But Wakayama faces stiff competition from neighboring Osaka, and there are questions about whether a Wakayama gambling resort could draw enough foreign visitors to turn a profit.
Only a few initial projects for casino gambling are expected to be approved.
In the end, if it fails to get a casino, Wakayama may find that its fruit may turn out to be the better bet in raising its profile overseas.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.