February 14, 13 | Shuhei Miyashita
Welcome to the fourth entry into the Hokkaido Likers original series "Strangers, Fools, and Newcomers." In this series we take a look at the human resources helping to revitalize local communities across Hokkaido. As always, I remind you that the word "fools" is used to reference those with less experience in their position as they often bring a fresh viewpoint to old problems. Today I would like to introduce you to Mr. Kohei Sato, the Secretary General for Ikeda Town's Tourism Organization.
Mr. Sato, who joined the Tourism Organization three years ago, was born and raised in Sapporo and spent his college years in the city as well. The position of Secretary General was what originally drew him to Ikeda town. "My main reasons for applying were my previous job experience, where I worked in an event and advertisement position, as well as a strong desire to work in management. My parents have run a business since I was a child and I grew interested in their management work at a young age. I also felt a strong sense of tourism potential for the area when the Furusato Ginga train line was still in operation."
▲Secretary General for Ikeda Town's Tourism Organization, Mr. Kohei Sato.
One of the first ideas that Mr. Sato brought with him to the position was to 'know the reality of the situation.' "It took awhile to really gat a handle on the state of affairs, as I was trying to stay as out the way as possible. Of course, the local staff was working their hardest so the ideals we all had for the town matched up perfectly with the situation we found ourselves in."
Mr. Sato also made sure to attend every event held in order to form a personal connection with the town. "The better your connections the more efficiently the work proceeds. Attending events also allows the townspeople to get a taste of the results that the tourism organization has achieved. However, I wouldn't have been able to attend every event without the support and understanding of my family."
One unique event which was started after Mr. Sato joined the town is the educationally themed 'Children's Festival in Ikeda.' "We began this event to help the local children realize their hopes and dreams. Its focus is to help children become familiar with the workings of, and get some experience working in, different businesses. We're currently in our third year of the event, and the scope has gotten quite large. Participants no longer come only from our town, but from all across Hokkaido, which is quite moving to see. Naturally, when the scope of the event increases the work load also gets quite hard to handle, but the event is created to help out children so the reward of the work itself makes it all worth it."
There were 2,600 participants in this year's "Children's Festival in Ikeda" event.
▲Serious concentration as the children get experience making pastries.
▲Experience as a reporter and assistant director was also available. This 31 year old Hokkaido Likers writer would like to participate as well...
▲Children learning how to perm and style hair.
One creed that Mr. Sato always follows is "Don't be in a hurry, don't panic, be patient." Even though his current results are quite good, when he first took up the position he had a bit of a blunder. "About five months after I began work I decided to use local volunteers to plan the local Snow Festival. I decided to appoint younger members as the leaders of each group, but it didn't quite go as well as I'd hoped. After analyzing the event we determined that the two main problems were 'a failure to emphasize joint ownership of the event' and 'failure to turn a profit.' Because event planning and management are my two career niches the whole experience the whole situation really made me take a step back and reflect on my methods. It made me realize that events like this are held in order to bring the community together, to produce results (both monetary and the sense of achievement) and for the benefit of the region."
Finally I asked about his future development plans for the town. "To tell you the truth, right now I don't have any. I feel that the people of the town are the ones that will decide what we should attempt next, where we should go. I've just recently moved in to the town and so I wasn't involved in the push for tourism. Without that experience I don't feel that I have the qualifications to create a set plan for the future. That's why I make a point of going to all the events, it gives me a chance to meet the locals and hear what they would like to achieve for the town. For me that makes it quite a fulfilling job."
Ikeda town is well known across Japan as the hometown of the lead singer for the popular band "Dreams Come True," but Mr. Sato has turned his focus to promoting the "dreams of the residents." As always he will be working diligently behind the scenes to achieve this goal. I'm certainly looking forward to watching the town flourish in the coming years!
Ikeda Town Tourism Organization
Location: 11 Nishi 1-Jyo 7-Chome, Ikeda-cho, Nakagawa-gun, Hokkaido
TEL : 015-572-2286
(Hokkaido Likers Writer - Miyashita)