On Wednesday, Kanji Yamanouchi, Minister of Economic Affairs at the Embassy of Japan, met with Andy Icken, Chief Development Officer for the City of Houston, to discuss the opportunities for partnership between Japan and Houston in the medical and transportation industries. Houston is Japan’s 11th largest international trade partner and the importance of the Japan-Houston relationship was emphasized last fall with Mayor Parker leading a trade delegation to Japan. Yamanouchi expressed high hopes Japan has for establishing the Shinkasen transportation system in the U.S. with the strongest prospect being the Houston-Dallas project. Icken updated the Embassy team about the Houston’s rising prominence in the medical industry, specifically demonstrated by the $1 billion project that Baylor College of Medicine is embarking upon to build a new hospital and hotel at the TMC.
Japan’s Shinkansen, “Bullet Train”, network placed Japan at the forefront of high-speed railway technology. The Tōkaidō Shinkansen bullet train began service in 1964 and in just three years had transported about 100 million passengers. In the contemporary era, the bullet train saves about 15,000 tons of CO2 per year. Texas Central Railway, a privately funded project aimed at bringing high-speed rail travel to the Lone Star State, hopes to revolutionize the U.S. transportation system by partnering with Central Japan Railway Co. to build a bullet train line between Dallas and Houston by 2021.
In talks about the medical industry, Yamanouchi expressed how important the Life Sciences are to Japan and specifically as part of “Abenomics”. Historically, Japan has looked to Boston/New York City/etc. for this type of industry, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that Houston is a key player in the healthcare industry. He expressed hope for continued and further collaboration between Japanese companies and this industry. Houston’s biotechnology industry presents an opportunity for investment and has been attracting greater attention. The Texas Medical Center has been building funding and an accelerator, which bode well for the start-up sector of bio-technology as well.
The Japanese Embassy and Consulate General organized this meeting. Shinya Iwata, Consul of Economic Affairs and the Consulate General of Houston and Yoshiro Taguchi, Counselor of Transportation for the Embassy of Japan were also in attendance.