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Japanese City Kanazawa Aims To Become ‘Esports Mecca’

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Due to the obviously digital nature of the industry, there is no centralized hub for esports on the global scene. Certainly, South Korea and China are powers, but that pertains more to esports’ cultural influence than its physical footprint.

But now, as reported in the Japanese national daily newspaper, The Mainichi, Kanazawa, a city based in Japan’s Ishikawa prefecture and with a population just short of half-a-million, is hoping to reverse a worrying trend in its population demographics. Basically, Kanazawa is trying to halt its “brain drain.” Young people are moving to more prosperous and vibrant cities, such as Tokyo, Yokohama, and Kyoto.

Kanazawa’s governors are seeking ways to retain its younger inhabitants. So they convened a panel of creative thinkers and innovators. The new vision is this: turn Kanazawa from a quiet, mid-sized city into a thriving esports hub.

The challenges and the plan

The result of these talks saw the city government allocate 4.5 million yet to esports development.

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The initial aim of the plan is to use the existing infrastructure within Kanazawa, such as the universities, businesses and local residents, to help promote esports to a wider audience. The city is home to a number of technology companies, which makes it well-suited to this approach. It also boasts a number of art centers and technical colleges.

To start, students at these institutions will be offered courses and internships at one of the game-related companies in the local area.

“We’d like to create an environment where young people can join new businesses through esports,” stated one city official.

Alongside this, the city aims to try and attract a number of popular Japanese tournaments. The panel has drawn up a wish-list of tournaments, such as Puyo Puyo, a big esports hit in Japan, as well as the soccer game Winning Eleven, which is also known as Pro Evolution Soccer in other parts of the world.

Trial run

Kanazawa hosted an event in April to test the water. The Puyo Puyo event was deemed a success and, thanks to the participation of a number of players and fans with disabilities, also highly inclusive.

“We’d like to expand esports from Kanazawa as a communication tool that can be enjoyed by everyone including handicapped people,” stated the secretary general of the Ishikawa Esports Association Yuichi Yoshida.

More on physical esports hubs

It is not just Kanazawa realizing esports may be the key to a brighter future. Recently the Danish government started a similar process. In China, the UK, Australia, and the United States, there is a rapidly burgeoning esports scene at the university level.

In the Overwatch League, we are now seeing dedicated esports venues spring up across the world. A new one just opened in Dallas to great acclaim, and the eventual hope for OWL is that within a year or so, each of the 20 teams will have its own esports venue in its host city.

Globally, Kanazawa faces a steep haul to be considered anywhere near a true esports mecca. But nationally, with so many other business and industries competing for a share of the market, there is no reason why the forward-thinking city could not become the spiritual home for Japanese esports.

Photo credit: Masashi Hara / Contributor / Getty

Ian John

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A lifelong poker fan, Ian is also well-versed in the world of sports betting, casino gaming, and has written extensively on the online gambling industry. Based in the UK, Ian brings fresh insight into all facets of gaming.