Through our Sosei Partners project, we organize learning programs and create an empowerment platform for the international community in Japan by connecting them with regional governments, and together we strive to realize regional revitalization and sustainable development.
Our idea is to involve the international community, including international students and Japanese with international backgrounds, in the rural regions around Japan, so that we can learn about the charms and challenges faced by the rural areas, and how they engender innovation with design thinking to come up with sustainable solutions. In this process, the international participants can also contribute new ideas and inject fresh perspectives into the local communities.
Watch our introductory video here:
We emphasize a lot on building sustainable and harmonious relationships with the local communities, so as facilitate mutual understanding and effective communication. We treasure the connections with our partners in each region, as we work together toward a common goal of revitalization and sustainable development. Each project in every region has slightly different learning points and purposes as we adjust the projects according to the needs and visions of each place and their people.
Our main projects currently take place in the innovative coastal city of Ishinomaki in Miyagi, the little forest town of Shimokawa in northern Hokkaido, the town of Urahoro in Eastern Hokkaido and Minami Ashigara city in rural Kanagawa prefecture.
Sosei Partners (Ishinomaki) - Since December 2017
Sosei Partners founder Dennis first arrived in Ishinomaki April 2011, 7 weeks after the Great East Japan Earthquake, initially as a disaster relief volunteer. After repeated trips to Ishinomaki as an interpreter, volunteer, intern and visitor, we slowly built a strong rapport with the local community. The disaster swept away large parts of the city, but in the process created a space for innovative and entrepreneurial efforts to take place. Start-ups ranging from IT to craftsmanship sprung up in Ishinomaki where people of different sectors collaborate to rebuild Ishinomaki, not to what it used to be, but into a brand new innovative city.
Since December 2017, we have organized learning programs in English for international participants to experience Ishinomaki from a fresh perspective: interacting with locals, learning about innovation through hands-on experiences in fishing and craftsmanship, going onto fishing boats, making your own DIY souvenir and so on.
We have also sent 2 international interns (as of 2018)- one from Mongolia and one from France, to stay in Ishinomaki for close to two months, to establish the foundation of Sosei Partners in Ishinomaki, as well as to build harmonious relationships with the local communities.
Sosei Partners (Urahoro) - Since September 2017
Sosei Partners (Urahoro) started in September 2017, as we formed a partnership with our local coordinator companies Relation and Kizki. Our project in Urahoro is focused on two main themes- 1) Effective Reutilization of Local Resources and 2) Education.
Our main project in Urahoro is the reutilization of an abandoned school that has been transformed and renovated into a new space called Tokomuro Lab for innovation and interaction for both local residents and visitors. Our international participants get to learn about the innovative reutilization of local resources and facilities such as abandoned schools, as we work with the local coordinators to build up this space as an interactive space for international visitors.
Secondly, Urahoro is renowned for its unique education style where they incorporate the local primary industries of farming, forestry and fishing into the 9 years of elementary and junior high school education. Urahoro-styled education's main purpose is to instill hometown pride in the children, as well as providing local children with real life skills and knowledge outside the textbook and classroom.
Our first program in Urahoro took place in September with participants from USA, Vietnam and Spain. We interacted with people from all walks of life, including primary industries such as forestry and farming, teachers, students, government officials, NPOs, new residents, foreign nationals and so on. All of us gave us a slightly different perspective of this town but there was a sense of community and unity, which we believe is the true value of Urahoro.
Sosei Partners (Shimokawa) - Since March 2017
Our project in Shimokawa started in March 2017, where we partnered with Shimokawa's Town Promotion Department and Shimokawa Tourism Board. Sosei Partners (Shimokawa) focuses on Shimokawa's sustainable management of its forest resources and adaptation to aging society.
Shimokawa is a little town located in Northern Hokkaido, with 90% of its land covered with forests. Shimokawa has a sustainable forestry management system, where it utilizes every part of the forests- logwood, leaves, bark, branches, tree sap and even the wood chips, to build houses, manufacture furniture, make bowls and accessories, produce aroma oil, and even produce biomass energy. This comprehensive forestry management system was recognized by the national government, which led to its recipient of the first Japan SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) Award in 2018.
We have organized 5 learning programs since March 2017 involving more than 30 participants from 20 different countries and regions. In our program, participants get to experience first-hand cutting of the pine branches and leaves in the forests using a saw, and distilling them to produce aroma and essential oil. Participants also get to enjoy the vast nature and breathtaking sceneries on a bicycle, by the river and from an observatory tower that overlooks the gorgeous town.
Sosei Partners (Minami Ashigara)- Since August 2018
Sosei Partners (Minami Ashigara) started in August 2018, in a multi-stakeholder collaboration with Fuji Xerox, Yokohama National University and Minami Ashigara city government. Our areas of focus are in Minami Ashigara city and Odawara city, both of which are located in the western part of Kanagawa prefecture. Being just two hours away from Tokyo, yet surrounded by mountains and seas, Minami Ashigara is a hybrid of a city and rural town, that is actively engaged in community gardening and agriculture.
In August 2018, in a team of international students, architects and entrepreneurs from a wide range of countries such as Italy, Japan, Spain, France, Singapore and USA, we did a fieldwork on the grounds of Kataura district of Odawara and Yagurasawa of Minami Ashigara, spoke with locals to learn about the bigger picture of what they envision their hometown to be in the future. This project will be 3-year long, as we attempt to work with the locals to revitalize the region through community gardening.