- In 1979, Hiramatsu was elected governor of Oita Prefecture, his birthplace, a quiet corner in Kyushu Island economically underdeveloped compared to the rest of the nation. To revitalize Oita, he encouraged every community to devote itself to a single product it could produce excellently. This concept became the basis of HIRAMATSU’s innovative development plan: One village, one product.
- He incited competition among the prefecture’s diverse communities for each one to develop a product to be proud of: Kakosu limes, Himeshima prawns, Oyama plums, and Beppu bambooware and hot springs. Building self-reliance was an important goal of the program.
- HIRAMATSU complemented the “one village, one product” movement by aggressively recruiting high-tech industries to Oita and by building an infrastructure commensurate with the prefecture’s growing economy.
“Think globally, act locally” was HIRAMATSU’s motto. Put in practice, Oita’s signature products were marketed aggressively abroad. Foreign exchange programs and special events linked its citizens to dozens of countries.
- Oita Prefecture gradually realized higher incomes, lower unemployment rates, and more young people staying home in pursuit of a good future.
- The RMAF board of trustees recognizes “his awakening the Oita Prefecture to self-reliant economic growth through the “one village, one product” movement and a spirited call for local products with global appeal.”
For Tokyo and other Japanese metropolises, the post-World War II boom years were the best of times. Not so, however, for Japan’s remote provinces and rural areas. Here, incomes declined and populations dwindled as young people drifted away in search of better lives in the city. Oita Prefecture, on the northeast coast of Kyushu Island, was such a place. Once Japan’s gateway to the outside world and an early center for Western learning in Asia, by the 1970s Oita was merely a backwater. In a nation rising quickly to wealth, Oita idled in relative poverty.
Governor Morihiko Hiramatsu has changed this.
Born in Oita City in 1924, Hiramatsu rose through local schools and served in the Imperial Japanese Navy. Later he studied law at Tokyo University and, upon graduating in 1949, joined the powerful national ministry now known as MITI—the Ministry of International Trade and Industry. There he helped to regulate and advise Japan’s emerging electronics industry and observed the world-changing impact of computer technology. In 1975, he returned to Oita as vice-governor. Four years later he was elected governor.
How to revitalize Oita? Solving this problem became Hiramatsu’s passion. Certain regions, he knew, had made a name for themselves by producing signature products—tangerines, pottery, shiitake mushrooms. Why not encourage every community to devote itself to a single product in which it could truly excel? This concept became the basis of Hiramatsu’s innovative development plan: One village, one product.
Exploiting the spirit of local rivalry rooted in Oita’s feudal past, Hiramatsu incited competition among the prefecture’s diverse communities as each one sought to identify and perfect a product of its own: Kakosu limes, Himeshima prawns, Oyama plums, and Beppu bambooware and hot springs. Building self-reliance was an important goal of the program. There were no subsidies. Instead, Hiramatsu provided technical assistance to improve the local goods and to develop “value-added” byproducts: sauces and jams from the prefecture’s cornucopia of fruits; chowders, dried sardines, and animal feed from its marine life. The prefecture also publicized and marketed Oita’s products. Governor Hiramatsu himself became the prefecture’s preeminent salesman.
Hiramatsu complemented the “one village, one product” movement by aggressively recruiting high-tech industries to Oita and by building an infrastructure commensurate with the prefecture’s growing economy. Today, Oita’s flowers and mushrooms can be flown directly to markets in Tokyo—”ninety minutes fresh.” And futuristic new towns called Greenpolis, Marinopolis, and Technopolis are being developed as centers for forest, marine, and high-tech industries as well as centers for research and education.
“Think globally, act locally” is a motto Hiramatsu repeatedly invokes. Oita should not become an economic appendage of Tokyo, he asserts, but a free-standing participant in the borderless economy of the globe. This is why Oita’s signature products are marketed aggressively abroad and why the governor has been vigorous in promoting foreign exchange programs and special events that link its citizens to dozens of countries around the world. Moreover, for several years now Hiramatsu has been preaching the benefits of the “one village, one product” system to local governments near and far. From Louisiana (“One parish, one product”) to Fujian (“One village, one treasure”), Hiramatsu’s idea is catching on.
Meanwhile, life in Oita is getting better. Unemployment is down. Incomes are up. And for Oita’s young people, a good future now beckons at home. Little wonder that ever-smiling Hiramatsu has been elected governor five times running.
In electing Morihiko Hiramatsu to receive the 1995 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service, the board of trustees recognizes his awakening Oita prefecture to self-reliant economic growth through the “one village, one product” movement and a spirited call for local products with global appeal.
It is a great honor and privilege for me to receive this world-famous award, which is often referred to as the “Nobel Prize of Asia.” I must say, however, that I cannot accept this award alone. I humbly accept this award on behalf of all the people of my prefecture who are persistently working toward regional revitalization.
Furthermore, this award will not only encourage the people of Japan involved in the “One Village, One Product” Movement but, I believe, it will inspire the people of various regions of Asia who have adopted this movement as well. The ultimate goal of the “One Village, One Product”’ Movement is to foster human resources. I sincerely hope that the movement will further create people who can think globally and act locally.
Last year, the first Asia-Kyushu Regional Summit was held in Oita. And the next summit will be here in Manila in October of this year. It is my earnest hope that this award, together with the summit, will further facilitate the peaceful interchange between various regions of Asia.
I would like to thank you once again for the great honor that you have bestowed upon me and, with my heartfelt gratitude, I accept this award.
Mention Oita, one of forty-seven prefectures or provinces in Japan, and inevitably the name of Governor Morihiko Hiramatsu comes up. After all, as the unchallenged four-term governor from 1979 to 1995, he is regarded as the father of this booming progressive prefecture, moving up from a backward place in Japan to become one of the country’s most desirable places to live. A new measure of life satisfaction, coined by Hiramatsu as the “gross national satisfaction” (GNS) index, has, as one of its indicators, comfortability of life. Oita Prefecture was ranked twelfth in the country and number one in Kyushu on this indicator by the Economic Planning Agency of Japan.
Hiramatsu was born in Oita in March 1924. His father, Oriji Hiramatsu, was a school teacher in Oita before moving to Nagoya to become the vice-principal of the Nagoya Teacher’s College. However, Oriji returned to Oita to run his own father’s hat-making shop in the city. Oriji’s idealism led him to put up a night school for working students, which he ran for over twenty-five years until it was bombed during World War II. The school’s motto was “Perseverance Is Power” and a monument from the graduates now stands in honor of Oriji Hiramatsu as its founder.
Though his father’s Manila hat factory and wholesale shop was located within the family compound, little Morihiko did not see that much of him. Busy managing the prosperous business in the daytime, his father moved between his night school and public service commitments as vice-speaker of the municipal assembly. Aside from that, he authored several books.
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