Yeutter Institute

Yeutter Institute

Lessons from Nebraska help alumnus to govern Japanese prefecture

Governor Kabashima and Ralph Inforzato
Ikuo Kabashima, governor of Japan’s Kumamoto Prefecture, and Ralph Inforzato, chief executive director of the Chicago office of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), speak during a forum at the Clayton Yeutter Institute of International Trade and Finance.

Ikuo Kabashima is using lessons he learned from Nebraska to lead a Japanese prefecture in its efforts to boost trade. Kabashima, a University of Nebraska–Lincoln alumnus and governor of Japan’s Kumamoto Prefecture, shared his success story at the university on Sept. 7 at a forum of the Clayton Yeutter Institute of International Trade and Finance. Japan is Nebraska’s fourth-largest international trading partner and the world’s No. 1 importer of Nebraska beef, pork and eggs. Governor Kabashima highlighted his efforts to promote international trade in Kumamoto Prefecture. From 2013 to 2017, exports from Kumamoto more than doubled from $24.4 million to $53.9 million. Kabashima said he drew upon his experiences in the United States, especially in Nebraska, to increase agricultural productivity and encourage an attitude change among all involved in the prefecture’s agricultural industry. “When our farmers began to think about exportation, they expanded their thinking about many agricultural goods,” Kabashima said. “There was a realization that Kumamoto agriculture can compete with the world.” Kumamoto Prefecture leads Japan in the production of watermelons and tomatoes.

Kabashima also focused on the branding of the prefecture’s agricultural commodities and other products. He led the development of Kumamon, a promotional mascot that has driven product sales and gained popularity in Japan and beyond. Development of Kumamon has resulted in a $5.1 billion impact on the economy of Kumamoto Prefecture. Kabashima has been governor of Kumamoto Prefecture since 2008. Prior to his political career, he was a professor of law at the University of Tokyo. He holds a bachelor’s degree in animal science and a master’s degree in agricultural economics from Nebraska, along with a doctorate in political economy and government from Harvard University. The forum also featured remarks from Ralph Inforzato, chief executive director of the Chicago office of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO). Japanese companies have invested over $4.4 billion in Nebraska since 2010 and created over 9,400 jobs. Investment from Japan in the United States overall is 90 times greater than it was in the 1980s. Inforzato said one critical driver of this increased investment is a sustained focus of govenors in both countries on encouraging business ties between the United States and Japan. “It doesn’t get talked about, but I don’t want you to underestimate the power of governors to go global,” Inforzato said.

Gov. Kabashima also appeared on Market Journal while on campus.

Watch the interview Watch the feature story

You can view the slides that accompanied both Kabashima's and Inforzato's remarks.

kabashima's slides inforzato's slides

About the Yeutter Institute

The institute prepares students to understand, participate in, and shape global trade and finance in a world that is increasingly interconnected. It builds on the strengths of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, College of Business and College of Law to offer undergraduate and graduate education, facilitate faculty research and conduct outreach efforts, all related to international trade and finance.

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