It was in the 1960s when Tetsuro Akanegakubo, little more than twenty years old, arrived in Italy for the first time during a promotional world tour campaign. Since then, the journalist has actively promoted relations between Italy and Japan, as well as working in the art field with Fondazione Crocetti (of which he is president). He has collaborated with some of the top Japanese newspapers such as The Nikkei, the most important financial paper in the world. Akanegakubo is presently a correspondent for the Shakai Shimpo.
InvestorVisa: Your interest for Italy came about almost by chance: you arrived from Calcutta on a motorcycle, when you were forced to stop in Rome for repairs. This unforeseen event gave you the opportunity to cover the 1960 Rome Olympic games as a reporter for Mainichi Shimbun. You were twenty-one. What made you stay?
Akanegakubo: It was all by chance that I discovered the beauty of Italy, and found true love. It all happened so quickly, and today I still consider myself very fortunate for the way things turned out. Italy is a splendid country and as time went by I learned so many of the nuances that a tourist or foreigner rarely discover. And those nuances still fascinate me. A mountain road, the waves of the sea, a wine cellar, the laughter of people. Time seems to go slower, the imperfections that make Italians perfect and envied by the whole world. These are just some of the reasons why I decided to stay.
You are one of the foreign correspondents interviewed by Dutch journalist Maarten van Aalderen, Vice President of the Foreign Press Association in Italy, who collected the experiences of some of his colleagues living in Italy in the book “The Beauty of Italy. The Belpaese seen by foreign press correspondents” published in 2015 by Albeggi Edizioni. In your article, you affectionately focused on what you like so much about the Roman trattorie which are simple restaurants and their capacity to recreate a home-cooking like ‘mamma’ made. Do you think this is the secret to the success of Italian cooking all over the world?
The real flavours of Italian cooking are found in people’s homes. This is probably the secret to Italian cooking. An enormous variety of good ingredients, cooked in a simple and genuine way. Just like a mother would cook for her child. And I feel right at home in the Roman ‘trattorie’ of today.
It seems that a passion for Italian cooking has captured Japan as well, where Italian cuisine is second only to Chinese in terms of the number of restaurants. Do you think this is an attractive business sector for a Japanese investor who would like to invest in Italy?
The agricultural sector is certainly one of the strongest in Italy. Many Japanese investors are attracted to our cooking, as evidenced by the high number of Italian restaurants that open in Japan. Mediterranean cooking is very close to the Japanese way of eating, especially for seafood. So it is easy for the Japanese to accept Italian cooking. However, I don’t think investors are interested in this sector in Italy because they prefer to buy products directly from Italians.
As you know, the Italian Government has adopted a series of measures to encourage foreign investment in Italian companies or donations towards public projects. Among these, one can obtain a visa and a residency permit (both valid for the Schengen area and extendible to immediate family members) with a tax break on personal income. Do you think these terms are attractive to a potential investor?
These are certainly very important measures. What holds investors back is the bureaucracy and fear of corruption, but also high taxation. Whichever of these three aspects the new policies can solve is surely an advantage for foreign investors. Transparency is the most important since investors are often discouraged because they don’t know what amount of taxation they will have to face, where/how to expedite the official procedures, basically what an investor needs to know and do.
During the ceremonies for the international journalism award Sicilia Terra Mediterranea in 2012 you stressed the importance and prestige that Sicilian food products, especially wine, have on the Japanese market. What could be done to make Sicily even more strategic for business with Japan?
Good wine is certainly an excellent meeting point between Italy and Japan. Sicily could aim at the fish sector, where it has much to offer to Japan.
Italy does not only have food: what are some of the other sectors that you think could spark the interest of Japanese investors?
We could do quite a lot in terms of scientific and technological collaboration. In many sectors, for example aerospace, we could create a strong collaboration. I also think there would be much interest in the robotics sector, in which Italy has excellent centres that can be of much interest for companies and centres in Japan. Above all, the manufacturing sector is a point of contact that is very important for Japan. The large Japanese companies are definitely interested in this direction (for example Ansaldo).
Concerning potential donations, taking into account the Japanese culture and its relations with Italy, which fields would a patron be most likely to give money to?
The Japanese were very affected by what happened in Italy as a result of the earthquakes, as demonstrated by the large number of donations. If you mean donations towards the arts, then I think theatres and sites, those that are ancient and most characteristic, such as Ostia Antica, would probably be most interesting for potential patrons and donors.