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The future of transportation and the Nissan Leaf - on the streets of Takamatsu in Kagawa, Japan's smallest prefecture.

This is a continuation of our last NTM report article set in Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture. After traveling on the Takamatsu-Kotohira Electric Railroad (Kotoden), the duo of Mr. Manabe and...

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2010/12/24

Travel by kotoden, then transfer to a boat and you can visit many islands.

Takamatsu
Manabe: Takamatsu is what you could call a big city condensed into compact size and accordingly has a little bit of everything. In actually living here, I've almost never suffered any inconveniences. Until two years ago I lived in Tokyo but now I look back and wonder what I was thinking forcing myself to live there.

Doi: In this kind of town, while it is very suitable for living, on the other hand I feel it must be hard to be individual.

Manabe: That's right. The idea is not for the urban development to be unique, but to be able to be compared favorably with the bigger cities. Because of this, families that are transferred from Tokyo don't have much stress and can quickly adapt to the city. I feel the level of rusticity and localness is a little weak, and that's both a good and a bad thing.

Doi: But the atmosphere of the city can subtly change. In the shopping district there are many shops that would seem to attract young people, and I bet the city's atmosphere would also change if the number of those shops increased. I also thought it was quite an unusual location when getting off of Kotoden at Takamatsu-Chikko Station, with the ocean so close by.

Manabe: You can get to various islands from Takamatsu Harbor after getting off at the station. It's a unique aspect of the city and there aren't many other cities like it. Having someone from outside the city say that, it really reaffirms the possibilities of urban development, incorporating the ocean and islands. The locals didn't really pay much attention to the ocean before we started the Setouchi International Art Festival.

Looking for simplicity with impact

Takamatsu
Doi: With EVs, I'd really like to design a system of mobility that blends into a city like Takamatsu. In that case, using the idea of "EVs are eco-friendly" alone likely won't do well. In the compact city of Takamatsu, for example, I'd like to make it possible to directly introduce the Nissan Leaf as a replacement for the March compact car.

Manabe: How you go about presenting EVs as the best bargain, and most convenient replacement for current compact cars is very important.

Doi: One advantage of EVs is that electric costs are cheap meaning you benefit just from driving one. Right now, you could say that initial investment is relatively high but running costs are incredibly low. If you share and use an EV with several people, it means there is always an interval for charging. As long as you can ensure this charging time, the car can be used cheaply. Also, the Nissan Leaf's range is perfect for a compact city like Takamatsu.

Manabe: It's not that Takamatsu is particularly notable as a tourist town. We have nothing especially symbolic but people live comfortably in the city. In the future, as people become able to travel more freely and choose their means of transportation, they will continue to gather in the city, that is the type of city I am aiming for. What needs to be done then is not competition between cars and public transportation, but the offering of choices. That's a very simple idea, but I think it has a lot of impact for the people who live here.

Doi: Neither the Nissan Leaf nor March are supercars. They are normal cars that you use everyday. However, we would like to improve the customer's everyday life with a car that both soothes and exhilarates when you ride. It may be the vastness of your field of vision or it may be the moment when you plug the power adapter into the vehicle. Technology and cars that are easily able fit into your everyday life and enrich it little-by-little. That is the kind of value we want to create, and are thinking about every day.