Osaka is unique in Japan, being the only big city facing west. This makes it a popular destination for tourists who want to witness seaside sunsets. However, according to vice-mayor Seigo Tanaka, the city is also on a roll when it comes to attracting international investors, because of its central location in Japan, its excellent transport links by air, rail and sea, its well-developed urban infrastructure, the strength of its well-established pharmaceutical industries (which date back to the Edo Period of 1603 to 1867), and major investments in new developments and regeneration projects.
"When people think about Japan, they know more about Tokyo. But Osaka is only 30 minutes from Kyoto by train and both cities were the ancient capitals for years, rich in history, culture and food," says Mr Tanaka.
Beyond the beauty
But Osaka's appeal to international investors does not begin and end at the quality of living that it offers. "Being located at the centre of Japan's land, sea and air transportation networks, Osaka City provides an ideal environment for business, logistics and tourism. We have easy access to major domestic cities and also cities in China and the rest of Asia," says Mr Tanaka.
Two large development and regeneration projects, at different stages of completion, are attracting international investors in the fields of science and technology, healthcare and pharmaceuticals and tourism, as well as inspiring young people to resettle in Osaka.
"The first [such project] is the Osaka Station District, western Japan's largest [rail] terminal, with 2.36 million passengers daily," says Mr Tanaka. "Called Grand Front Osaka, it completed in 2013 and consists of business offices, commercial facilities and a hotel and condominium on 7 hectares of land. The next phase will see the development of a further 24 hectares, with 17 hectares designated for green space and the remainder to attract and implement hi-tech companies, with The Knowledge Capital, a centre for intellectual creation, situated at the hub of Grand Front Osaka, acting as a major pull. It offers a place for interaction between people and services in cutting-edge technologies."
The second major project is the development of the Bay Area. "This is ideal for environmental, new energy and life science industries," says Mr Tanaka. "It comprises three artificial islands. Two are already developed, with residential developments alongside logistics facilities, an R&D centre and a major sports centre.
"The third island, Yumeshima, is due to be completed in 2020, and is now being developed to create a tourist resort. The town development project committee has developed new policies on land use and town use to allow the creation of an integrated resort with a hotel and convention centre as well as hotels."
Showing its class
Mr Tanaka says there are new government regulations to allow the renovation of historic buildings and a change of use from office to residential.
"We are hoping these projects will attract foreign investment from healthcare, medical, pharmaceutical, environment and energy companies who will also be attracted by the fact that the Osaka region has a high concentration of universities and research institutes," he says. "We are open for business and want more investors and to come and visit."
Mipim Japan – an international property fair – takes place in Osaka on September 8 and 9, 2016, offering an opportunity for many to visit and see for themselves. And enjoy the unique sunset at the same time.