Ishinomaki- Week 2 (Zak)

Hi Everyone! This is Zak again reporting from the Sosei Partners in-residence program at Ishinomaki City, Miyagi prefecture.

Following up to my previous post this is a summary of my 2nd week at Ishinomaki (12/25-12/31). A little bit behind schedule but hopefully I’ll catch up soon.

                Dec 25th: Christmas day

Ah yes Christmas in Japan, the western holiday that gets celebrated for very different reasons than the original. It’s a very widely celebrated holiday especially with the younger generations in Japan, that includes the regional areas too. Up till now I’ve only experienced Christmas in Tokyo. But now I know that it’s not that much different in the regional areas, or at least in Ishinomaki. Every store and service areas get into the holiday spirit and Christmas decorations. We can’t forget the special Christmas cakes and chicken. Of course being a small city the scale is much smaller than Tokyo. Sorry to say that I forgot to take some photos.

                Dec 26th: Ishinomaki 2.0 End of Year Meeting

Got the chance to sit in on and hear Ishinomaki 2.0’s end of the year meeting. It was generally about progress updates and how each of the projects were doing. I couldn’t catch all the projects that they talked about in the meeting, but they have more than 10 projects going on and a lot more that they’ve done in the past. One of their projects is Ishinomaki school. The main idea of the project is to have the whole city of Ishinomaki be a school for high school kids and younger. They create opportunities to learn directly from people in the city working in various fields. For example they had an event were a local professional photographer taught photography to some students. Or events like visiting local shops and asking about their work. I got the impression that it was one of the most active projects having done many activities throughout the year.

Something I understood from the meeting was that although many projects have been done and many are ongoing it’s not that simple nor is it easy to impact a city and the people living in it. It’s a complex synergy of various private and public stakeholders. However, Ishinomaki 2.0 is definitely making a difference and strongly marching on forward to make Ishinomaki City the most interesting city in the world.

Interestingly a participant in the meeting was from Gifu prefecture and apparently he had been learning from Ishinomaki 2.0 and its activities. Now he’s doing very similar projects in Gifu prefecture. So What they have done here at Ishinomaki City has actually been recreated in a different region. Can it also be taken in foreign cities facing similar problems?

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 Dec 27th: COMMON-Ship meeting

Suddenly started to snow heavily today with strong winds here and there. Was my first time riding a bicycle through heavy snow and wind. Because it was new for me I kind of enjoyed it drifting all over the place (wish I had Deja vu on my playlist).

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There is going to be a marketplace with a multipurpose event stage built soon called COMMON-Ship Hashidouri. It’s the upgraded renewal open of what was previously known as Hashidouri COMMON. Hashidouri COMMON was a place where anyone can try and start a new business with ease in a very open environment. All the shops are within movable containers, trailer vehicles and tents. The name COMMON represents the meaning “to share”; sharing future hopes for the city with one another and together moving forward to realize them. Hopes for a city that is about to be reborn.

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On this day they had their 2nd crew meeting for the upcoming COMMON-Ship Hashidouri. They talked about the layout and design of the place and how they’re thinking of managing it. It’s generally going to be similar to the old COMMON space in design, but becoming bigger with new containers that can be used for workshops and exhibitions…etc. While keeping the best part of the old COMMON space which was how lively it was with communication and interaction between people. COMMON-Ship is a place for everyone to enjoy and participate in. Even in the meeting we had people ranging from high school children to people in their 50’s.

The new COMMON-Ship is going to be a place where many people can come and together go forth towards their goals. A place where people from various fields acknowledge each other and support one another. The addition of Ship in the name signifies that it is a ship that anyone can hop on and sail.

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It was a relaxed and fun meeting filled with hopes and dreams. Actually realizing them is not going to be an easy task however it’s something that everyone is looking forward to. The concept is really interesting in the sense that essentially it’s an incubation center or a lab for small businesses. You can very much sprout a good business from here and take it to bigger cities if you wish. I became interested myself and considered some possibilities of what I could do here.

                Dec 28th: Trip to Ayukawahama and Sunny’s kitchen

I met a guy at the COMMON-Ship Meeting that was kind enough to invite me to a small hot pot dinner event with friends. He was young and had just graduated university in 2017. An interesting guy who did an year of working holiday in Australia, went to India many times for his undergrad research, lived in a Japanese jinjya shrine and backpacked around Japan ending up at Ishinomaki in an apprenticeship for surfing and painting. Today we drove together to a different coast on the Oshika peninsula called Ayukawahama its farther away from Hamagurihama. It was about an hour and half by car. We had some really nice views of the sunset over the ocean along the way.

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And then we reached an eatery called Sunny’s kitchen that was run by two old people. I was enjoying the insides of the place so much that I forgot to take a picture of the outside. It was really one of those places where you just feel at home. The people there were really kind and lively so your food there will never be lonely. Plus they don’t have a menu so you just have to order what they’re cooking for the day. Kind of like coming home and asking “whats for dinner?”. And they don’t have set working hours so you’ll have to go directly or call to check if they are open. They had about 6 tables including some outside. Coming in Spring or Autumn and eating outside would be a really nice experience. The food was really good with fresh seafood caught by the fishermen here and vegetables grown in the area.

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Just sitting there in the warmth of the house eating good natural food I thought one could really enjoy a comfortable life living in regional areas. You have electricity, heating and a sewage system. You can have internet connection too, and as long as you have a car you can go shopping easily. Since you have your most basic needs fulfilled I figure the real drawback is public facilities, entertainment and an income source. But there’s still much to think and learn about. This is just my speculation at the moment.

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