2024/07/24 00:38

The Rebirth of Japan from Tokyo



The Rebirth of Japan from Tokyo


From CEO to challenger of the political world: interview with Miki Watanabe

One out of ten high school  students studying overseas
From seven million to fourteen million tourists

After succeeding in the restaurant business at a young age, Miki Watanabe then expanded into other fields like nursing, agriculture, medicine, and education, reforming their harsh business environments through his own individual style. During this period he ran into the “political wall” of regulation; he therefore decided that using his managerial skill he would revive Japan by standing in the Tokyo gubernatorial election. He has won the hearts and minds of mainly young people with his messages of “No apathy” and “A Tokyo overflowing with dreams and thank-yous”; words rarely heard from your usual politician. Zhang Xin , a junior from Watanabe’s alma mater Meiji University, spoke with him.

Q1: What was the main reason you decided to run in the election?
A1: Using a trillion yen budget, I wanted to “manage Tokyo” and bring joy to its 13 million citizens. I’ve started businesses in fields like restaurants, nursing, agriculture, medicine, and education, and in 27 years have managed to achieve rising sales and profits. Utilising an entrepreneur’s perspective, by making operations more thorough and efficient, and cutting waste, I think Tokyo can be run more efficiently.

Q2: I am in total agreement with your idea of having one in every ten Tokyo high school students study overseas, but what should be done in order to make students want to go overseas and expand their potential?
A2: In the current situation it may sound like a dream, but as long you create a system that supports students, I think it would be more than possible to have one in every ten students study overseas. I believe that impressionable high school students who see the world will be able to expand their limitless potential. Japan is the only advanced country where the number of students studying overseas is decreasing. It is really important for Japan’s future to change this situation.


Q3: Tokyoites don’t really recognise Tokyo as a “tourism city”. What do you think is the most important thing in order to increase Tokyo’s appeal as a city for tourists?

A3: I want to make Tokyo into a brand. When people hear the word “Tokyo”, I want them to recognise it for “that thing”, whatever it may be. People from all over the world identify Tokyo for its many attractions, like fashion, anime, and gourmet. If I’m elected as governor, I want to double the number of tourists from the current seven million to fourteen million. I want to make Tokyo into a town where Tokyoites recognise its appeal and warmly welcome foreign tourists.

Q4: How should one motivate themselves when they’re having trouble achieving their dream?

A4: It is important to have a dream and never give up pursuing it. I’ve written it in my book as well, but I believe that by “putting a date” to your dream and then imagining what it would be like if it was achieved, you can increase your motivation.

Q5: I would like you to create places in Tokyo where overseas students can become more actively involved. How do you view, however, a Tokyo with increasing numbers of foreigners and overseas students?
A5: That’s a very important point. I would like to, for example, turn the city-run Tokyo Metropolitan University into one that people all over the world want to attend, by opening its doors and inviting large numbers of talented professors and overseas students.

Q6: Please give a message to both Japanese university students and foreign students studying in Japan.
A5: When I was student, I travelled around Asia, Europe, and America. One time, I was in a live music club in New York, and saw people from many different countries mixing with one another. This experience motivated me to start a dining business. These days we live in an age where national borders are less recognised. Whether you’re Japanese or not, as people of the earth I think it is important to think of our friends across the world the same as we would our own countrymen. If we encounter one another with a determination to understand each other, I think the world will become a wonderful place.

At the age of ten Watanabe lost his mother, and his father liquidated his business. Raised by his grandmother in difficult circumstances, he decided in grade five to become a company president.  “Putting a date” on this dream he overcame the difficulties that came his way, and has achieved enormous success in many business fields. During the interview, I felt that Watanabe truly believes in the idea that “as long you stick to the belief that everything you do is for the customer, you can succeed in any business”. There are many young people who are distrustful towards those involved in politics and administration. However, in the upcoming unified local elections, let’s judge candidates not by their political and administrative experience, but rather in terms of who will seriously consider the needs of the local people and work to break through the current situation. Let’s take responsibility for our future, get out there, and vote!

Zhang Xin’s (Meiji University second year) impressions:


It was real honour to meet directly with and talk to Watanabe-san, a “big senior” from my own Meiji University. I think his ideas, such as sending high school students overseas to study, and turning Tokyo into one brand and transmitting it to the world, are really great. Someday I want to become a person like Watanabe-san – someone who can change the world. Watanabe-san, please win in this election and make Tokyo a more open and spirited place. (Last year, Zhang-san completed a one-month long-term internship in the property industry, and with other graduates of the program is currently studying for the “Real Estate Transaction Specialist” exam)


Running Tokyo
Author: Miki Watanabe   Publisher: Sunmark Publishing Inc.

From a “management pro” with experience in a wide range of fields including restaurants, nursing, agriculture, education, and medicine, comes an outstanding work offering his opinions on the administration of Tokyo. How can we break down the wall of ‘politics’ that he experienced as an entrepreneur? The author argues that what is most important is a “management perspective”. How can we rid ourselves of our shackles and fundamentally remake Tokyo? Awash with ideas from the author’s original perspective, he presents the fruit of his efforts – the “Tokyo Reconstruction Theory”.


Miki Watanabe – Profile: Born 5 October 1959. After graduating from Meiji University’s School of Commerce, he worked for half a year in an accounting firm in order to learn about the financing and accounting required in order to run a company. After this he worked for one year in a transport company and saved three million yen in capital. In 1984 he founded Watami, and under a doctrine of “becoming the business group that gathers the most thank-yous in the world”, constructed an original business model in areas such as dining, nursing, agriculture, environment, education, medicine and welfare. He has worked as director of the Ibunkan incorporated school, the Kishiwada-Eishinkai Hospital, the NPO “Everyone’s Dream”, and Nippon Keidanren; he was a member of the government’s “Education Rebirth Council” (2006), Kanagawa Prefecture’s board of education (2006-2009), the Japan Sumo Association’s “Independent Committee for the Improvement of Governance” (2010); and an advisor to the Japan Tourism Agency (2010). At the same time, as representative director of the public service corporation “School Aid Japan”, he is also involved in the construction of schools in Cambodia.

Miki Watanabe’s official websites: