Business | Feb 20

Global Semiconductor Giant Transforms Small Japanese Town

Kumamoto, Feb 20 (News On Japan) - A massive Taiwanese semiconductor company has made its way into a town in Kumamoto Prefecture with a population of 43,000.

The arrival of this global semiconductor giant, indispensable in many products from IT devices to household appliances, is bringing significant changes to the town's lifestyle and economy.

Kiire Tomohiro, a broadcaster, observed, "Commuters have suddenly appeared in large numbers, forming a long line as they disembark from the train."

This is not a scene from Tokyo's rush hour but a station in Kumamoto with no staff. There's also a long queue for the bus. Something unusual is happening around Kikuyō Town, with a population of 43,000.

At a local restaurant...

Restaurant customer: The atmosphere of the town has completely changed. There's a lively vibe."

"Kumamoto is experiencing a huge bubble right now."

The supermarket now has a "Taiwanese food section"...

Supermarket employee: These pineapple cakes and peanut products are selling well."

Tomohiro: Are there more Taiwanese customers in this store now?"

Supermarket employee: I'm pretty sure there are more. They buy in large quantities, which we're very grateful for."

When asked about the reason for the town's transformation, locals mention...

Residents of Kikuyō-machi and Ozu-machi: TSMC," "related to TSMC," "it's TSMC."

TSMC, the Taiwanese giant, is the world's top company in semiconductor production, supplying to clients like Apple and Intel. Semiconductors are essential in various products that are integral to our daily lives.

The entry of this industry giant into Kumamoto, where semiconductor manufacturing is thriving, is causing a ripple effect.

Near a cabbage field, a new factory set to open next week cost about 1 trillion yen ($6.6 billion) to construct. Over 300 transferees have already arrived from Taiwan.

The small town's rush hour is heating up, and a construction boom for apartments and other buildings has begun.

Tomohiro: Today is a holiday, but construction is underway. What are they building? It's a hotel with a national presence."

And just ahead...

Tomohiro: Construction is also taking place here. It's labeled 'Toyoko Inn Aso Kumamoto.'"

Targeting business travelers from Japan and abroad, hotels are being built even on holidays.

Existing hotels are fully booked, and some have hired new employees from Taiwan.

Tsai Meng-chun, Airport Hotel Kumamoto: This hotel has many Taiwanese guests, so I provide support."

Many business travelers from Taiwan stay for long periods, from one month to half a year, and some fall ill.

Tsai Meng-chun: I guide them to hospitals. Depending on their symptoms, I direct them to the appropriate hospital."

Wages in the region are also rising. The highest hourly wage for factory cleaning is 1,800 yen, and kitchen assistance in employee cafeterias starts at 1,300 yen.

The entry of the world's top company is having a significant impact on local employment.

Semiconductor-related company, recruitment officer: Until three years ago, the market rate for semiconductor engineers was about 250,000 yen per month, but now it's roughly 300,000 yen. The entry of TSMC has suddenly increased the difficulty of acquiring talent."

Semiconductor-related companies in the prefecture are facing intense competition for talent.

In the area where semiconductor factories are concentrated, there's a Hello Work employment office. The current minimum wage in Kumamoto Prefecture is 898 yen, which is low on a national level.

However, the situation is entirely different for TSMC-related jobs.

Tomohiro: For factory cleaning, the highest hourly wage is 1,800 yen. For kitchen assistance in employee cafeterias, it's over 1,300 yen."

Jobs at the new factory offer high wages comparable to urban areas.

Meanwhile, in Taiwan, TSMC's home country, there's a new development...

At a university in Hsinchu City, Taiwan's Silicon Valley, a "Japanese-only course" has been created in Taiwan's first semiconductor department. The plan is to train Japanese engineers in Taiwan.

Liu Guowei, President of Minghsin University of Science and Technology: Do you think Japan currently has talent for semiconductor manufacturing? There isn't. So, we thought we'd train talent for Japan. It's also for TSMC and Taiwanese companies."

Matsuda Doushi, a 20-year-old student at Minghsin University of Science and Technology, moved from Japan to this university at 18 to study semiconductor technology.

Matsuda Doushi: "There are quite a lot of people here with a strong competitive spirit, aiming to create better products and work harder than others, sparing no effort. I think that's amazing."

He continues his studies in Taiwan to realize his dream.

Matsuda Doushi: I want to create a 'flying skateboard' using semiconductors, so I'm studying semiconductors here."

In February, TSMC announced plans to build a second factory in Kumamoto, with construction expected to start within the year.

Why did TSMC choose Kumamoto for its giant semiconductor factory? One major reason is Kumamoto's "clean water."

Source: TBS


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