Panasonic's presence in Japan literally reaches into every business, every community, every home. A company with a 100-year legacy of innovation, it has been adapting to market forces requiring the closure of massive manufacturing plants in Japan by turning those large-scale sites into Sustainable Smart Towns, or cities of the future. Two of these towns exist in the here and now, and a third is on its way. Panasonic has also gone global in its smart town planning with a major project in Denver, Colorado.

Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town, or FujisawaSST, located about an hour west of Tokyo, opened its 'virtual gates' to the world in 2014, and is steadily enacting evolving technologies involving a variety of stakeholders that are informing the development of other smart town projects. TsunashimaSST, located a stone's throw from Keio University's Hiyoshi campus in Yokohama, opened in early 2018 and is an experiment in digitalizing an entire town to provide for high quality of life in a densely populated urban environment.

SuitaSST, near Osaka, is the third phase of Panasonic's approach to high-tech urban development. Planned to open in 2022, Suita Sustainable Smart Town considers a forward-looking approach to the medical and health needs of a community in an aging society, through a concept called KENTO: Knowledge, Exercise, Nutrition, Town.

Adapting to Changing Society Norms

The font of knowledge gained from these three smart towns will not only be technology- and infrastructure-related, but will be human-centric from the standpoint of how people embrace the benefits that evolving technology has to offer, and what is learned from the real-world application of smart town concepts and their unfolding results.

But the idea of just what a 'smart town' is in Japan requires a deep look into forward-thinking cities located outside of the country, plus the fortitude to challenge traditions in Japan that are holding the society back, say a group of panel members assembled to discuss the future of smart - or innovative - cities, on November 2, at the Tokyo International Forum, on the occasion of Panasonic's 100th anniversary.

Panel members included Hideki Koizumi, lecturer in the Department of Urban Engineering of the University of Tokyo; Hiromi Ozaki (also known as Sputniko!), an artist who has lived in multiple cities around the world; and Hitoshi Kinoshita, CEO of Area Innovation Alliance, a company that orchestrates alliances between regions in Japan and companies for economic revitalization. Panel moderator was Yasuhiro Kawai, Director of Nikkei BP Intelligence Group.

Learning from Seattle's Managed Growth

Panel moderator Yasuhiro Kawai kicked off the session by asking the question, in the future, what will make a city smart or innovative, and who will create it? Hideki Koizumi, who has engaged in extensive research on the land use control system and citizen participation system concerned with residential areas in the inner area of Tokyo, said that much can be learned from the successes and stumbles of Seattle, Washington, which he believes is a flagship 'smart city.'

"Seattle has been evolving according to some basic principles that we can say are key components of a smart city," Koizumi said. These include the application of e-government, a smart grid, energy management for a low-carbon footprint, innovative use of information and communications technology and AI between the private and public sector, and intelligent innovation. He noted that he has been researching Seattle for more than 20 years, and that the city has purposely developed into a center with a rich urban lifestyle without spoiling nature or suffering from urban sprawl.

Hideki Koizumi, Professor in the Department of Urban Engineering of the University of Tokyo at the Panasonic CROSS-VALUE INNOVATION FORUM 2018

"The city has lots of civic activities, and is actually an aggregation of neighborhoods," he said. "It continues to be an attractive place to live, thanks to smart city planning and the participation of local residents and corporate interests." These are the keys to the creation of a smart city, Koizumi noted, and pointed to Seattle's ability to attract great talent, as the home to such tech giants as Microsoft and Amazon, and household-name brands Gap and Starbucks.

Forcing Change in a Highly Regulated Environment

Japan, like many nations, is adapting to diversification and changing lifestyles, as ways of thinking evolve and entrenched traditions steadily fall by the wayside. Hiromi Ozawa, a Japanese-British artist based in Boston and Tokyo, believes the smart city of the future must enable a sharing economy. Now in her thirties, she interacts with other women her age in Japan, and takes note of discussions about the desire to forego marriage, make one's own money, being a single mother, and forming clusters of likeminded women who live their lives and raise their children together in shared housing. "Such a community cannot be enabled by the government, since people who work for the government are people comfortable with the status quo, and therefore cannot come up with new ideas," she said.

Hitoshi Kinoshita, acknowledged the regulations that prevent such a place from being established, and responded by saying that it's the people themselves, in concert with real estate owners and "coordinators of good ideas" who need to create such a community. "If you can make a place that's sanitary and demonstrates it's a healthy environment, and it becomes successful, the Japanese government tends to take notice and respond with a snowballing of deregulation," he said.

[Leaders Session] Lifestyle with a Connection - Smart City of the future -
Date and Time
November 2, 12:15 p.m. -1:15 p.m. JST
Mr. Yasuhiro Kawai, Manager of Cleantech Institute, Nikkei BP Intelligence Group, Nikkei Business Publications, Inc.
Mr. Hideki Koizumi, Professor in Collaborative Community Design, Planning, and Management, Dept. of Urban Engineering, the University of Tokyo
Ms. Sputniko!, Artist
Mr. Hitoshi Kinoshita, CEO of Area Innovation Alliance.Inc

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