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Modi and Abe sign pact to develop Varanasi on the lines of Kyoto: Reactions from Japanese citizens and Indian experts
The people of Varanasi are apparently not regretting their decision to back Narendra Modi from their constituency. The Prime Minister's own constituency gets a major boost in his recent trip to Japan after the two countries sign a pact to give Varanasi a face lift like the Japanese city Kyoto.
But what is the city of Kyoto all about? Why Indian PM Narendra Modi took Kyoto as an example to develop his parliamentary constituency?

Japan's heritage city, Kyoto, a symbol of Buddhism is a magnificent example of synthesizing cultural heritage and modernisation. Japanese people admire the historical city Kyoto like anything and are proud of it. Japanese citizens from its various cities share their knowledge about the city and Indian experts analyse the move.

Kohel Hattori, who hails from Japan's Saitama city:

Kohel HattoriKyoto is the city of history and tradition. It had been the imperial capital of Japan for more than one thousand years (794 -1868). Now it has approximately 1.5 million population, the 6th largest city in Japan, but is not a metropolis like Tokyo. Kyoto is famous for its temples and shrines. Therefore, tourism is one of the main industries. To take an example, in 2014, Kyoto was chosen as the most popular destination by U.S. travel magazine.

First, Kyoto is also known as the city of study. For instance, so far, there have been 16 Japanese winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics, Chemistry, and Physiology or Medicine. And 5 of them graduated Kyoto University. This is the largest number among universities in Japan. 

Second, there are some unique companies in Kyoto. Probably, Nintendo is the most famous one. In my opinion, companies in Kyoto are more innovative than companies in other Japanese cities. 

Third, as I mentioned before, tourism is a distinctive feature of Kyoto. India has a lot of historical spots as well, and therefore, it would be nice if Kyoto's hospitality could help tourism in India. 

Actually, it is not usual for important foreign personages to visit Kyoto for a diplomatic reason. However, as the examples above shows, I think that Kyoto is worth visiting. With favor, Japanese media reported Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's tweets in Japanese. Hope his visiting Japan is fruitful for both India and Japan. 

Atsushi Sobajima, who hails from Japan's Minokamo city:

Atsushi SobajimaKyoto is well-known as the most historical city in Japan. Countless historical temples and shrines still survive and entertain travelers in each season.There are various ways to enjoy Kyoto and they change from season to season. For example, many temples, which have beautiful gardens in Kyoto were designed to show different views in each season and each of them is brilliant. 

Education: Kyoto University is the one of the most famous universities in Japan and a number of talents graduated and are playing important roles in a variety of fields such as business, politics and science. Those graduates can contribute further development of both of India and Japan.

Environment: Kyoto is also known as the place of Kyoto Protocol. Unfortunately, this protocol is not working well as of now, but environmental issues are one of the most important issues every country on earth including India.

Innovation: In Kyoto, there are many global companies such as Nintendo known for Wii, and Kyocera, known for solar panels. Moreover, many innovative start-ups have grown from Kyoto. For example, in Kyoto Univ. there is an institution for incubation of start-ups called Venture Business Laboratory (VBL) and it's incubated many start-ups like Robo Garage, an innovative robot company. Collaboration with tech companies in India can be a great opportunities for growth for both of countries.

Satoshi KatagiriSatoshi Katagiri, a Japanese citizen who hails from Yamagata city:

 In my opinion the three unique features about Kyoto that India can benefit from are: 

  • Traditionally innovative: You can find a lot of companies and shops which are running their business in hundreds of years (e.g. Nintendo founded in 1889). They could continue their business because of continuous innovation. 

  • Industry-academia collaboration, especially software & contents business: There are a lot of IT companies based in Kyoto. I think there are two reasons: first, there are many prestigious universities and intelligent students; second, culture of innovation in Kyoto. There is unique Manga Museum in Kyoto, which is operated by an university and Kyoto city.

  • Touristic attraction: You can find thousands of typical "Good Old Japan" in Kyoto.

Satoshi was very much sure that the above features would provide some insight to Indian government. 

But developing Varanasi in India like Kyoto in Japan may not be an easy task - feels the Indian experts.

Rupa SinghRupa Singh, Asst. Professor, Centre for Japanese Studies, JNU while replying to this question said, "Well, I have been to both the places (Kyoto and Banaras) and there is extreme relevance of both the places. It is major point of tourism actually. It attracts tourists in both the cases, in Japan as well as in India. But developing Varanasi on the basis of Kyoto as a model, I am not sure how feasible it is." 

Prof. Rupa added, "Kyoto is the combination of historical, cultural and religious elements of course. Varanasi has a lot to do with religion, but Kyoto is more of a cultural hub. So, you would see a lot of example of Geisha or Maiko purely indigenous to Kyoto and not to other cities. And the temples for example there, the architecture one see there, is very typical of Kyoto. Whereas Varanasi is more focused on, I guess religion and the bed of river Ganges, the flow of Ganges in that city and developing that. So, in my opinion I am not too sure that how and what he has in his mind but yes off hand I am little doubtful on that if it can be practically materialized. I am not too sure. "

Naresh Kumar DhiranHowever, contrary to Prof. Rupa Singh's doubst, Naresh Kumar Dhiran, Town & Country Planner, Ministry of Urban Development under the Indian government looked very optimistic on the possibility of developing Varanasi on the lines of Kyoto.

"There is no problem if we can update and modernise our city by taking example of any part of the world. Not only Banaras but all the holistic regions of India can be developed on the lines of any city which is combination of heritage and modernity," said Dhiran. 

(With inputs from Rajni Verma)

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