"Strangers, Fools, and Newcomers" - 2nd Entry. Mukawa Town Tourism Organization's Secretary General - Mr. Kouji Ara
Welcome to the second entry of the Hokkaido Likers series "Strangers, Fools, and Newcomers!" This series takes an in depth look at human resources, one of the essential factors of successful revitalization in local governments across Hokkaido. The name is an example of three types of personalities that help shed new light on old problems. (Like I said last time, when we say the word "fools" we are referring to those with less experience, because they sometimes ask the most basic and important questions.) Today I'd like to introduce Mr. Kouji Aradate, the Secretary General of Mukawa Town's Tourism Organization.
Mr. Aradate was appointed Secretary General of the Mukawa Town Tourism Organization this past June, after working in a similar position in Yubari City. Born in Mikasa City, Mr. Aradate spent his college years in Sapporo. Before moving to Mukawa he had no connection to the city, but he was sure about the move before he took the leap. "After working for 15 years in Yubari, I began thinking that a move to another area might help open my eyes to new possibilities and give me a chance to reflect on all I've done."
▲Mr. Kouji Aradate, Mukawa Town Tourism Organization's Secretary General
As soon as he arrived, Mr. Aradate began his first task, a people search. "In any town, be it Mukawa or Yubari, government workers tend to know the things that aren't working or that need to change. But decisions are difficult, and it's easy for those that try to effect change to get bogged down by inter-departmental problems. On top of that is the cultural stigma that keeps the younger workers from voicing strong opposing opinions to their superiors. This means that, even if at the start the change was a small matter, by the end of the process it will have ballooned out into a massive set of problems. That's where I come in. Being a newcomer, I can act as an anchor point between the two sides. I made this my goal when I first arrived, so as soon as I could I began searching for those that were really interested in trying to make some progress."
Mukawa Town doesn't lack for resources. There are many local delicacies, the town's proudest brand "Shishamo" (a kind of smelt fish), as well as clams, melons, and Chinese yams. There are also several locations of interest, including a dawn redwood lined road and Clear Stream Mukawa. However, even with these attractions visitors to the city remain low. "It's very important that we start to make better use of media to get the word out. But before we can do that we'll need to go through and order the natural resources we have available. We need to get the people of the town to recognize that they have something to be proud of and boast about here in their city. Because when the population is proud of their local area the strength and popularity of the town grows."
▲Shishamo season begins in November. During the season this is a common sight around town.
▲The "Shishamo Utopia in Mukawa" festival began on November 4th. One hour before it opened the visitors were already lined up waiting to get in.
▲Any fish bought at the festival can be cooked on the spot with a charcoal stove.
▲Special Shishamo Soup.
In addition to these local efforts, the Tourist Association has begun making efforts to get word of the town out to the greater public. "To allow easy distribution from here on out, we've just opened our official online shop. We introduce specialty products, feature local goods, and post new information about Mukawa town and events, including new tourism information."
In the six months that Mr. Aradate has been in Mukawa town he's brought a proactive approach to his job, and enjoyed learning about the town first hand. In that time he's made some interesting discoveries that might not be apparent to those that just stop by to visit. "Mukawa Town (which is the result of a 2006 merger of Old Mukawa Town and Old Hobetsu Town) still has many characteristics of the two separate towns. The people of the town have two different temperaments, depending on which area they come from, and events are often held at the same time in two separate spots, meaning town committee meetings have been quite interesting. That's something you can't really understand without living here." This merger of municipalities is part of "The Heisei Great Consolidation," so it's likely that you can find this interesting duality all across Hokkaido.
While his days in Mukawa Town have been rewarding, Mr. Aradate has spent much of his time thinking through tourism strategies and worrying about results. "I really want the people of our town to think `Things sure have changed since Mr. Aradate moved here.' But making an impact like that takes time. Things that make immediate change are often great in the short term, but for a long term effect you need to really think things through and make fiscally responsible moves to achieve your goals. That's the way into the citizens hearts. So for now, I'll take it one step at a time and let the changes happen gradually."
Finally, I asked about the importance of building a strong community. "The things we've been facing, or are facing now, are all things that have been problems elsewhere in Hokkaido communities. And you often hear about a single "superman" taking on all these problems by himself. But I think it's important to get communication going between the various areas of the town so that we can build a stronger community together."
We're all looking forward to hearing great things from Mukawa Town in the future.
むかわ町観光協会 (Mukawa Town Tourism Organization)
Location: 88 Miyuki 2-chome, Mukawa-cho, Yufutsu-gun, Hokkaido
TEL : 0145-47-2480
Mukawa Town Tourism Organization's Official Online Shop:
(Hokkaido LIkers Writer - Miyashita)