Hester (UK)

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Hester (UK) (Took part in Sosei Partners- Shimokawa)

Sosei Partners has been a unique experience that I am glad to have been given.  The task was not easy: a project no one, including this company, had attempted in Japan before; the challenge of appealing to foreign tourists to visit Shimokawa, a rural Hokkaido town located well within Japan’s “blank spot” for tourism; promoting a way of life that is in many ways strikingly different from typical foreign ideals of the ‘Japanese experience’; a target audience of only those few visitors who will appreciate the town’s unique outlook; and, most challengingly of all, do it in a way that truly reflects the local’s visions for their own town.

At times it felt like an uphill task that I wasn’t prepared for, like trying to hike in Shimokawa’s winter forests without snow shoes. At other times, I was startled by the generosity, the ingenuity and the shared visions of the townspeople with whom we spoke. We met children, adults and elderly all excited about the changes being wrought in Shomokawa, and how foreigners could contribute to that transformation. I have never felt so welcomed in my life.

Overall, it was a humbling experience unlike any other I have had during my time in Japan, with no shortage of humour and snow. I cannot thank the people of Shimokawa enough for giving me this opportunity, particularly Nana and Shimokawa’s Town Promotional Department, and the families that took care of me. I learnt more about Japan and spoke more Japanese, and felt more useful, in those two weeks than I had in an entire semester at university.

And of course, I have to thank Dennis for giving me such a unique and inspiring opportunity. Good luck to Sosei Partners, and Shimokawa. May we meet again soon!