TOPICS November 2023

Raising Awareness of Population Decline

Ehime Prefecture’s population is now approximately 1.29 million people. Since 2014, it has decreased by more than 10,000 per year. According to the prefecture’s future estimates, if no new measures are taken, the number of people will be approximately 780,000 in 2060, a decline of approximately 40% compared to 2020. If things continue like this, there is a risk that the economy will shrink and some local governments will find it difficult to maintain administrative functions.

On October 18, the prefecture launched a “Population Decline Countermeasure Awareness Campaign” with six mass media companies in the prefecture, to make people more aware of this crisis. Measures such as work style reforms that allow for a balance between work and family life, a review of roles between men and women, and community-wide support for marriage and child-rearing are being promoted.

(October 19, Ehime Shimbun)

Nagahama High School Wins Top Prize at the Canned Food Grand Prix

The final competition of the Local Fish Can Grand Prix 2023, where high school students nationwide compete with ideas for canned fish, was held in Tokyo on October 8. Three students from the aquarium club at Nagahama High School (Ozu City) won the Grand Prize for their canned product named “Buri-no-Hone-Jan” made from the discarded parts of yellowtail.

The aquarium club noticed that the discarded parts of farmed yellowtail in Ehime are too hard and are used as fish feed. Last year, they competed in the finals with a canned product using these yellowtail parts that was processed to make it easier to eat, but they missed out on the Grand Prize because a judge pointed out that the bones were too hard.

This year, innovations such as marinating the fish in vinegar were successful, and they received high praise: “Even though the bones are big, they are soft, which enables the elderly and children to eat them.”

Sora Shigematsu (3rd year) said in an interview: “Last year, we were told by a judge that the bones were hard, so getting a positive comment that it was ‘really delicious’ boosted our confidence. Because the canned product is high in nutrition including calcium, we want to propose it to Ozu City as an emergency stockpile item.”

(October 11, Asahi Shimbun Digital)

Regional Revitalization Through Silk

A silkworm larva spins thread and creates a cocoon to envelop itself. The silk industry, which spins raw silk from these cocoons, once supported Japan’s modernization as a pillar of the export industry. However, the spread of synthetic fibers after the Second World War caused the rapid decline of domestic cocoon production from about 400,000 tons in around 1930 to just over 50 tons.

In Ehime Prefecture, there is a lustrous silk called Iyoito, which has been used as an imperial silk by the Ise Grand Shrine and the imperial family since ancient times. A startup company in Ehime is focusing on silk as a raw material for food and cosmetics, with the goal of trying to revitalize the region.

The Setouchi Silk Factory (Imabari City) was established by United Silk (Matsuyama City). In the factory, there are box-shaped containers about three meters wide and three meters high. Inside each container, silkworm larvae up to five centimeters long are on shelves feeding. The feed is a paste made from mulberry leaves, which makes it possible to raise silkworms all year round.

The eight shelves in the device rotate automatically to maintain a constant temperature and humidity to prevent uneven growth. This device is called the “Smart Sericulture System”, which has increased the number of silkworms raised per unit area by approximately 12 times compared with traditional sericulture.

At the factory, the cocoons are dissolved and centrifuged to extract a protein called fibroin, known for its excellent moisturizing properties. Fibroin is then processed into powder or a water-soluble solution.

United Silk sells shampoos and hand creams containing fibroin under the brand “Silmore”. The company also produces sweet and moist bread, enriched with silk components. Takashi Kawai (49), president of United Silk, says, “The possibilities of silk are limitless. We want to use it as a material for semiconductors in devices such as smartphones.”

Kawai is from Osaka Prefecture. After working for Sumitomo Corporation in the raw textile material trade, he worked for 10 years at a textile trading company in Imabari City run by his wife’s family.

From around 2015, he wanted to start a business and help revitalize the region, so he participated in a project involving sericulture at a large-scale plant in Kumamoto Prefecture. He saw the potential in silk because it doesn’t require vast land for production like cotton or wool, can be efficiently mass-produced in factories, and can generate industry and employment in the region by supplying raw materials. In 2016, he started his own venture and launched United Silk.

Last year, they invested 200 million yen to establish the Setouchi Silk Factory in Imabari and a factory in Matsuyama, creating a system capable of producing one ton of cocoons per year. Furthermore, they plan to build another factory in Matsuyama by 2025 that will be automated by robots to produce 500 tons of cocoons per year. Kawai says, “We want to recruit partners and expand production bases across the country, aiming for an annual production of 1,000 tons.”

Information: United Silk

The Ehime Silk Showroom (3-2-8 Okaido, Matsuyama City) sells shampoo (395 ml, 3,850 yen including tax) and hand cream (20 ml, 1,650 yen including tax) that contain silk components.

Telephone: 089-909-7793

(October 9, Asahi Shimbun Digital)

The Income per Person in Ehime in FY2020

The Cabinet Office released the latest report on the per capita income by prefectures in the fiscal year of 2020. According to the report, it was 2.471 million yen in Ehime; -9% compared with the 2019 survey, and the 43rd among 47 prefectures (37th in the 2019). It was the lowest rank in the last 30 years, and Ehime ranked at the bottom of the four Shikoku prefectures. The national average was 3.123 million yen (-6.5%). The highest was Tokyo, 5.214 million (-9.4%).

Except for the 2011 report, which was strongly affected by the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake, Ehime has placed in the mid-to late 30’s. In FY2020, it is obvious that manufacturing, fisheries, restaurant, and travel industries were damaged by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ehime prefecture said that there were many industries in the prefecture which were significantly damaged.

However, in referring to the reports on the per capita income in the last 10 years, there are a number of regions which show bigger increase than Ehime, which means that Ehime might have been behind on the competition among regions.

The prefecture with the highest per capita income in Shikoku is Tokushima, 3.013 million yen, followed by Kagawa at 2.766 million, and Kochi at 2.491 million.

Ehime set the goal for FY2026 to raise the income per person to 2.884 million yen in the General Plan of Ehime formulated in June this year. It states that earning power in the prefecture will be enhanced by improving labor productivity of middle and small size enterprises, agricultural and forestry industries and fisheries, creation of new industry, and by attracting and inviting companies to the prefecture.

(October 9, Ehime Shimbun Online)

Experiment of EV Car-Sharing

The Ehime Bank, Ltd. is participating in an EV car-sharing trial implemented by the Taiyo Oil Co., Ltd. An EV car, which does not emit any CO2, is shared by bankers and community residents to explore a way to contribute to the realization of a decarbonized society.

An off-grid solar carport isolated from the electric power system was installed at the parking lots of the Yugun Branch of the Ehime Bank, located at 2 chome Fujiwara, Matsuyama. Electricity generated by solar power is used to charge a “Sakura”, a small EV car by Nissan. The carport is equipped with an 100V outlet which can function as an emergency power source in the event of a disaster.

The EV car is used by the bankers during bank office hours, and the residents use it outside business hours, weekends, and holidays. It can be reserved by the app “SOLATO Car Share”, and the rate is 265 yen every 15 minutes. Payment is by credit card only. The trial will continue until March 31, 2025.

(October 2, Ehime Shimbun Online)

Acquisition of App: (Only in Japanese)

Ehime Rates Highest Rate for Helmet Wearing Cyclists

On September 14th, the National Police Agency announced the results of a survey on the rates of cyclists wearing helmets conducted for the first time nationwide in July, and Ehime Prefecture came out on top at 59.9%. The national average was 13.5%.

The survey was carried out by police of each prefecture in response to the amendment to the Road Traffic Act in April, which made it compulsory to make efforts to wear a helmet. Other prefectures follow Ehime at 46.3% in Oita, 43.8% in Gunma, with the lowest in Niigata at 2.4%. In 2013, Ehime enacted the Prefectural Bicycle Safe Use Promotion Ordinance, which requires helmets to be worn, and in 2015 it became compulsory for students in prefectural schools to wear helmets in response to a series of bicycle accidents that resulted in the deaths of some high school students.

The Ehime Prefecture survey was conducted in Matsuyama from July 3rd to July 21st. During busy weekday hours police officers kept records at four locations, including some stations with bicycle parking lots and near shopping streets, and 863 out of 1,440 people wore them. The rate was 70.9% in front of the stations during morning commuting hours, and 37.2% in areas around shopping districts in the afternoon. The police analyzed that in front of the stations there were many junior high and high school students and working adults who are required by the office to wear bicycle helmets, while near the shopping district there were many shoppers and elderly people.

The prefectural police had conducted their own surveys before, and in May, just after the April amendment, it was 75.4%, with high school students at a high rate of 98.7%, adults at 38.6% and seniors at only 34.1%. Wearing helmets is one of the key points of this autumn’s national traffic safety campaign.

(September 14, Ehime Shimbun)