In 2014, Kobe City’s Agriculture and Fisheries Promotion Division launched an urban branding strategy, “Gastropolis Kobe 2020” that aimed to create a “local production for local consumption” lifestyle and eventually establish an urban brand that focuses on food.
Drawing Kobe’s future with “Food”
The Agriculture and Fisheries Promotion Division asked us for advice on how to promote their local delicacies, which is a common concern among local governments. First, we tried to determine how Kobe City should paint their future through the broad perspective of “food.” We also focused on places such as San Sebastián and California, where “food culture” has become that city’s asset in recent years and is an essential element for their industries and tourism.
The hurdle was Mt. Rokko
We had to tackle two issues. Firstly, “local production for local consumption” became an issue. If you look at Kobe on a map, you can see that agricultural land occupies one-third of the city. The production region and consumption region are only a thirty-minute drive away. The warm climate is a blessing and helps Kobe produce a wide variety of products. However, no matter how much the producers and users (citizens, restaurant owners) want to make “local production for local consumption” a reality, the lack of information and distribution infrastructure as well as the geographical obstacle of Mt. Rokko separating the north (rural area) and the south (urban area) made it difficult to put “local production for local consumption” into practice.
Secondly, to turn “food culture” into a city’s asset, they had to expand their perspective of food literacy into a more global one. In recent years, it has become all the more important to go beyond just “gourmet food” and link food with social issues to improve people’s lifestyles and natural surroundings.
Starting point of gastropolis
We launched the local “EAT LOCAL KOBE” project, provided information via the website and posters, hosted a farmer’s market as a social experiment, and provided an opportunity to experience a “local production for local consumption” lifestyle with the help of young local producers and urban planning professionals. The key to success was to cultivate the community. When committed producers gather in one place, they tend to attract like-minded users. This synergy helped this project develop into a profitable business.
During the Olympics in 2020, many people will visit Tokyo and Osaka. As part of our global strategy, Kobe City, and the international food organization, Slow Food International, partnered up to increase the number of visitors to Kobe. They searched for yet-to-be-discovered food-related efforts that had brand values. Their efforts so far include registering the local Arima Sansho (Japanese pepper) internationally, hosting seminars to train young producers, and holding an international conference attended by young Asian food-related entrepreneurs and activists.
Breathe new lifestyle into Kobe with “Food”
This project took place when we had just founded AKIND. This local-based branding project that combined our global perspective as branding professionals and our local perspective as Kobe citizens attracted much attention. Currently, EAT LOCAL KOBE has grown into a “local production for local consumption” lifestyle infrastructure hosted almost every Saturday through the efforts of local supporters. Their network with Slow Food International has grown into a community where young food enthusiasts gather, learn, and interact with Italy, and will flourish into the future.