A small cluster of four villages about 100km from the bursting capital city Ahmedabad in Gujarat is fast taking shape of Mini Japan.

Today, Vithalapur, Becharaji, Jhalishana and Detraj villages in TalukaMandal of district Ahmedabad have Japanese restaurants serving authentic Japanese food, all-Japanese hotels, Japanese grocery stores, Japanese Park (Industrial) and other urban amenities like shopping malls, office complexes, saloons and games shops for the working Japanese nationals here.

The region has many All-Japanese hotels coming up.

And all this has happened in the last five years only.

Next, to come soon are Japanese Multiplex & Theatre, and for the golf courses the Japanese love most, an all-Japanese hotel AJU Imperial is going to install virtual golf till they get the real one in the region.

This area which was largely a span of green fields with villagers growing local crops for the living about five years back, now has over two dozen Japanese companies and their joint-venture partners largely in the auto sector, operate here from the Japanese Park and also in other places around it.

Japanese Park in the village Vithalapur. Its phase 2 also coming up here.

The major Japanese industrial players here are Suzuki Motor Gujarat – it was the first to enter in 2014, followed by Honda Motorcycles & Scooters India and by their ancillaries, JVs and OEM supplier and other companies like Toyota Tsusho. According to sources, even major Japanese carmakers like Honda and Toyota are also looking for a large chunk of land here.

Erstwhile sleepy villages as these were about five years back are now bustling with the noise of zooming cars, cabs, mini and large trucks, and containers and other commercial activities.

As MotohiroAtsumi, Managing Director, Suzuki Motor Gujarat puts it, “Five 5 years ago, there was no building or foreigners including Japanese here. We have made a lot of investment here and many venders have come here during the last 5 years. The main 2-lane road is going to be 4-lane soon. Maruti Suzuki Gujarat is going to get on contract a hospital and also a school in Hansalpur in the next two years to start operations.”

Suzuki Motor Gujarat that entered this region in 2014 got its battery and car plant operated in 2016 in village Hansalpur near Becharaji.

When asked about the reputation of this place, the MD said even in Ahmedabad there were only 2-3 Japan restaurants but here there were many restaurants offering Japanese food.

“Next five years, more investment is coming because currently lots of work is going on,” MotohiroAtsumi told Asian Community News (ACN) Network after inaugurating AJU Imperial hotel, the 110-room all Japanese Hotel in village Jhalishana.

There used to be thatch-roofed huts in these villages on both the sides of the single-lane road in 2014 but now one could see shopping malls, office complexes, hi-rise residential and commercial buildings majorly made for Japanese nationals as well as other Indian employees working with Japanese companies here, recalls PrakashYadav, Founder AJU Group of Hotels, that was the first and only organization that supported Suzuki by offering accommodation to its Japanese executives here.

A number of shopping cum office complexes have sprung up in the region since 2014.

“We were the first in 2016 when Suzuki Motor Gujarat plant started in Hansalpur near village Becharaji, to provide 65 apartments Sijacon only for the Japanese workforce. Next year, we came up with the 72-room AJU Ryokan Hotel in Vitthalapur for the Japanese again. And now we have launched 110-room all Japanese hotel with restaurants,” said InderYadav, Managing Director, AJU Group of Hotels that have provided a total of 262-room professionally managed accommodation in this area for Japanese only.

How Suzuki, other Japanese companies transformed local life:

However, the advent of Suzuki, Honda Motorcycles and other Japanese companies like TechnotrendsAutoPark – a subsidiary of ToyotaTsusho, and Komatsu, Minda here caused major transformation in the lives of the locals here about 100 km away from the main city Ahmedabad.

The 5,000 population village Vithalapur that hosts Japanese Park, popularly known as here as JETRO PARK was not the same five years back. This Japanese Park has 55 industrial plots only for the companies with 51% or more Japanese share/stake.

Bhupat Singh (L), Sarpanch, village Vithalapur, and PrakashYadav, Founder AJU Group of Hotels.

“We now have cemented houses, pucca roads, 24X7 water, and electricity supply and markets and shops, office complex and other urban amenities.  Earlier, the village had only 4-5 cars but now we have more than 100. About 70 village youths have got employment in Japanese companies,” said Bhupat Singh (35), the head of village Panchayat, Vithalapur.

He was earlier a farmer only but now had diversified into construction work too and had his income had increased multifold after the Japanese boom, Singh said adding that Japanese Park Phase 2 also was coming up in village BhagaPura near Vithalapur.

The total number of only-for-Japanese hotels in cluster villages has grown up top 10 Land prices shot skyrocketed 15 times:

Ashok Patel (54) a farmer from village Detraj, another hub of the industrial and urban boom about 15km from Vithalapur is completely a changed man, and is now known as a major builder. He has constructed three malls and shopping complexes in the regions and one more is coming up.

Ashok Patel (R) with his associate YK Malik. Patel is now a known builder of the region.

“Before 2014, I had never imagined such a drastic change in the area but as Japanese companies came, they brought its development too. The land prices shot up from Rs. 15 lacs per Bigha in 2013 to Rs. 2.25 crore in 2019. In malls, we have set up Japanese restaurants and office spaces for them and others. Next, we are going to open a Japanese grocery store,” said Ashok Patel and his associate Y K Malik.

Even at the time when the real estate and automotive sector is facing the brunt of the slowdown, the villagers here continue to hope for better prices for their land patches.

“It is very difficult to buy land here. Not concerned about the ongoing recession and economic slowdown, the villagers here continue to demand high rates for their land as they have the ongoing urban boom in their area in mind,” said PrakashYadav, AJU Group of Hotels.

Amar Singh Thakur, Chairman, ZilaPanchayat, Ahmedabad.

Amar Singh Thakur, Chairman, ZilaPanchayat, Ahmedabad said that more Japanese companies like HONDA 4-wheeler too acquired 600 Bigha of land in Maanpur village near Vithalapur. Likewise, Toyota too was looking for a large tract of land in the region, Thakur said hinting at large forthcoming Japanese investment.

Local economy and business opportunities looked up:

Nitin Patel of Miscon Corporation that sells fire safety equipment from its small office cum sales counter in New Shakti Arcade –a shopping cum office complex in Vithalapur, says the sales revenue had shot up 10 times and local economy had experienced unprecedented boom after the advent of Japanese companies here.

Japanese industrial boom here has given the opportunity to lots of youths from other states to set up their retail outlets here.

Deepak Chauhan, a scrap dealer from Haryana who moved to this place about 5 years back is astonished at the business prospects here.   He grew from a simple retailer to someone who owns a hotel and shop in the area.

“The business prospects here have attracted business seekers from other parts of the country to this place. Many others like me have come from Haryana to set up their small business here,” Chauhan said.

Bajrang (Sudhesh) Lal of Balaji Tours & Travels who is from Rajasthan said that the region offered immense opportunities for the transporters.

“Since the main airport is about 100 km from here, and the area lacks effective mode of transportation and mobility options, there was a huge demand for commercial passenger vehicles like cabs. Also, there are no vehicle aggregator services like OLA or UBER in the region,” Bajrang said.

The region is yet to get its Golf Courses, schools, hospitals, and liquor

However, the area is increasing Japanese presence lacks grossly on the big facility for Japanese – Golf Courses and for this they are still dependent on Ahmedabad.

PrakashYadav (L), Founder and InderYadav (R), MD, AJU Group of Hotels, which has the maximum number of Hotels room capacity for Japanese here.

“Till the time, the region has actual golf courses which are the responsibility of the state authorities, we are going to have virtual golf facilities for Japanese guests at our hotel itself,” said InderYadav, MD, AJU Hotels.

Since the region does not have adequate Japanese grocery stores, the Japanese executive prefers to venture out to Ahmedabad to buy articles of household necessity.

According to Shiv Kothari, Director, TOKYO Store which has a presence in Ahmedabad besides Baroda, Pune, and Surat, says that the Japanese visit Ahmedabad on weekend for recreation like playing golf, going to spas and buying groceries.

Shiv Kothari, Director, TOKYO Store, a chain of Japanese grocery outlets in Gujarat.

“Ahmedabad city has a very limited imprint of Japanese development as it is more felt in the region where Japanese companies have their manufacturing plants. Ahmedabad is a city of traders more and it yet to feel the impact of Japanese investment coming in Gujarat. The impact can be seen majorly in villages like Vithalapur, Becharaji, JhalishanaDetraj, etc,” said Kothari.

According to experts, despite the fact Gujarat is a dry state where selling and drinking liquor (alcoholic drinks) is banned, and drinking is a way of life for the majority Japanese, the Japanese companies are making a good investment here. However, liquor is available in 4-star above standard hotels here.

Schools and hospitals are coming up largely by the Japanese corporations and their Joint Cneture companies like Suzuki, Honda, and Minda.