Chao Ping (USA)

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If you're a foreign student in Japan and you want to be involved in rural regions I cannot recommend Sosei Partners more. Of course there are many opportunities such as home stays and monitor tours to visit rural regions in Japan, but through Sosei Partners you are not simply a visitor but an integral part of a team aiming to better a certain region. Please note this is not a leisure trip, but a project where your skills will be put to the test. 

Looking back at my experience with Sosei Partners, I have received valuable experience working in the field while also making connections with people I may not have met otherwise.

Lee (Thailand)

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Joining with Sosei Partners has been one of the best valuable experience in Japan. Here is why. 

First, it gives you the best chance for you to interact and learn about locals in rural area. 
Sosei Partners works with the rural city with their current problems, or else with somethings that the cannot see with the eyes of locals themselves. We really go for a fieldwork in the real place with the real locals to see what is really going on and what they think about it. 

Second, you get to use your skills in the project. There are always openings in the project for you to throw your skills in it!

Last, you get to work with a potluck of colleagues from different fields and countries, ranging from students to professionals. 

So, I recommend Sosei Partners for several reasons. Go join it and you will know what real rural life works. Also, it is a good place to challenge whatever skills you have. By far, the best!

Trinh Doan (Vietnam)

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The summer with Sosei Partners in Tono and Urahoro has been the best summer ever! Since I had just been in Japan for a half of year before I joined the programme, I hardly could find any spiritual connection with Japan society. But I was so surprised how charming the rural parts of Japan is. Sosei Partners really brought me the opportunity to discover another face of the modern and luxurious Japan, let me involve in the revitalization movement in these places, let me feel like being a part of Japan society.

Moreover, there’s something about being surrounded by a group of interesting people, and that experience is heightened even more knowing that all of us are connected by the same faith with different missions. I’m not sure I’ve discovered everything that I have taken away from Tono and Urahoro with those interesting people yet, but I do know this: I’m more willing to grow and explore it because of what I’ve experienced in this programme.

I am more than happy to give this programme 5 stars and I have a strong belief that Sosei Partners will be really successful in the near future!

Alejandro (Spain)

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Company that promotes the active participation of foreign students in Japan in urban rehabilitation projects.

This summer I was fortunate to participate in two projects promoted by this group. The first one, in Tono, tried to change the downward trend of tourism through a new type of sustainable tourism, different from traditional mass one, taking into account the interests of citizens and tourists.

The second project, in Urahoro (Hokkaido), seeks to rehabilitate the city by promoting the branding of typical products of the region and the active participation of citizens in developing future plans for the city, through interviews, conferences and debates.

These two projects have been one of my best experiences in Japan, and thanks to them I have been able to learn more about the culture of rural Japan and civic collaboration. It is an experience that I recommend to everyone who has the opportunity.

Leandro (Brazil)

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Leandro (Brazil) (Took part in Sosei Partners- Tono):

By engaging foreigners who live in Japan, this organization promotes rich discussions, cultural exchange and tries to look for problems of local regions which are seeking for improvements with the help and advice of people of different backgrounds, certainly a valuable experience in a world where differences are to be more understood.

I had the chance to participate in one of the projects, where a group of 12 people from different nationalities helped rethink the local tourism in Tono, a small, rural city in Iwate Prefecture. I am sure that with our different points of view, we could collaborate and provide local authorities with a wider knowledge that they can further use to engage the local community in their planning decisions.

 

Hakim (Malaysia)

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Hakim (Malaysia) (Took part in Sosei Partners- Malaysia): 

I joined Sosei Partners during this summer (Sept 2017) to Tono-shi, Iwate Prefecture. I would like to express my gratitude to Dennis for giving me chance to join this and be able to experience myself the beauty of Tohoku area with welcoming locals and amazing teams.

The task was indeed challenging:to promote for tourism(with certain target groups), but not with the conventional ways. To promote Tono city as a tourist spot with its own attraction. We learn that there are a lot of things that can be improved, by viewing from different perspective of people from different backgrounds to be able create a lot of new interesting ideas.

At times I felt a bit worried since this is my first time joined this kind of things. However, with the support of other great team members and Dennis himself, I am able to learn and help to contribute for accomplishing the tasks. I was amazed by the ingenuity, welcoming hearts and the shared visions of the townspeople with whom we met. I have never felt so welcomed like home since I came to Japan, together making meals with host family and having dinners. I will always treasure the times joining Sosei Partners.

Overall, it was fulfilling experience unlike any other events I have joined in Japan. I am motivated to improve myself so I can contribute more to the society after joining Sosei Partners. Thanks for introducing me with all of this.

At last, I wish for the success for Sosei Partners, in hope to continue contributing to the society. I hope to able to join again in future. All the best for you Dennis!

Roger (USA)

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Roger (USA) (Took part in Sosei Partners- Tono):

Excellent organization capable of solving social problems through expert analysis, community engagement, and engaging foreign people living in Japan who can provide unique perspectives. I was fortunate to join Sosei Partners for a trip to Tono, Iwate to help offer city leaders advice for improving tourism.

The tour participants were diverse and could advise them on different tourist markets (Taiwan, Singapore, Europe, US), give unique perspectives as to what we enjoyed and what changes we'd like to see, and even made some improvements while we were there (helped them with English names, wrote online reviews etc.) I think this group could help fix issues that are identified as well and I hope communities in Japan will engage them to do so.

Gae (Thailand)

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Gae (Thailand) (Took part in Sosei Partners- Yame):

With Sosei Partners, I went to Yame city in Fukuoka prefecture. It is located amongst mountains, and is rich in nature. Yame tea is the most famous product of the city and our mission is to promote this city to foreigners by advertising Yame tea. It was a challenging task but I have learned a lot from spending time in this city. Yame is a city with a lot of kind and friendly local people who always welcome foreigners warmly. It is also a city steeped in history, beautiful culture and traditions. Another specialty of this city is “Washi” or “Japanese paper”.

Here, I enjoyed learning how to make tea while learning about its history, learning how to make Japanese paper and about people in old eras. I had fun hiking to the top of a mountain, where the statue of the monk who originated Yame tea is located, visiting a waterfall, and going for a walk along the river while viewing flowers.

I have been to almost all the places in Japan but this experience is different from others because I could really experience living in rural Japan and see another side of Japan, where not many travelers can experience. As such, it was very worth joining program. Participating Fukuoka trip with Sosei Partners was one of my unique and unforgettable experiences in Japan.

Jade (Thailand)

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Jade (Thailand) (Took part in Sosei Partners- Shimokawa):

Participating in Sosei Partners program was indeed a rewarding and eye-opening experience. As one of the members from Sosei Partners:Shimokawa project, I had an opportunity to learn about the local industries and the town's unique forest management system. Through staying with the host families, moving around town tackling various assignments and meeting key person such as the mayor, I strongly felt the town's enthusiasm to communicate its uniqueness to the outside. Every product and workshop has a lot of efforts put into them which makes scouting around town even more interesting. As a person who loves venturing into hard-to-reach places, the program was no doubt a valuable experience which i don't think will come around so easily especially for foreign students.

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!

Charles (Singapore)

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Charles (Singapore) (Took part in Sosei Partners- Shimokawa)

Sosei Partners was an extremely fun and rewarding experience! We spent a total of ten days in Shimokawa learning about its local industries also getting to know the townsfolk. I spent five nights staying at a local newspaper branch office and another five nights at a restaurant. Through conversing with my host families, I had managed to learn more about the allures of Shimokawa from a personal perspective and came to understand why they had moved there. The nature was grand, the town was sustainable, and most importantly, the people were warm. I had grown to love Shimokawa myself too! In order to repay my debt for the wonderful experience that Shimokawa had given me, as part of the program, I had designed three promotional leaflets for them. One was written in English by my fellow team member Hester, one in Mandarin Chinese by Joy, and one in Thai by Jade. These brochures have been placed in some youth hostels located in Sapporo so do check them out if you happen to be there! If not for Sosei Partners, I doubt I would ever get to immerse myself in a rural Japanese town, much less to create something for them. So a big thank you to our boss, Dennis, and his project, Sosei Partners!

Sosei Partners (Urahoro) 9/12 ~ 9/17

Sosei Partners (Urahoro) took place between 12 ~ 17 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.

地方創生パートナーズ(浦幌町)は9月12日〜17日に行われました。参加者はアメリカ、ベトナムとスペインの留学生4名でした。滞在中、農業や林業をはじめとする一次産業に取り組んでいる方々、学校の先生、学生や子ども、行政、NPO、移住者、そして浦幌町在住の外国籍の方など、幅広い浦幌町民と関わらせていただける、実り多き6日間でした。それぞれ意見が少しずつ違うのですが、なんだか一体感を感じることができました。この一体感は恐らく、このまちの強みであり、価値のあるものだと思いました。

Sosei Partners (Tono) 9/6 ~ 9/9

Sosei Partners (Tono) 9/6 ~ 9/9

Sosei Partners (Tono) took place between 6 ~ 9 September, where we had a total of 11 participants from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, Spain, USA and Brazil. 

地方創生パートナーズ(遠野)は9月6日〜9日に行われ、シンガポール、マレーシア、タイ、ベトナム、台湾、日本、スペイン、アメリカとブラジルからの11人の参加者が参加しました。

BOUNDLESSが目指す「地方創生」

2014年に発足した地方創生戦略とは、東京一極集中問題による地方における人口減少、少子高齢化、そして地方の一次二次産業及び伝統産業の衰退などの問題を解決するための取り組みだ。最終目標としては、都会に集中している人口を地方に分散することだ。しかし、日本の全体人口が減少している現状においては、すべての自治体が人口を増やす目標を掲げても、よっぽど外国から移民を受け入れない限り、現実的に不可能だ。そういう意味では、近い将来に市町村合併、または人口の集住化、コンパクトシティー形成は避けられないと考えられる。

地方創生で掲げられている地方における人口増加には2種類ある。定住人口と交流人口だ。定住人口は言葉の通り、都会から地方へ移住する人口。一方、交流人口とは、観光客(国内・海外)の一時的な人口。この2つの人口が増加すれば、少しでも地域経済が潤う。経済効果の大きい順には、移住→海外からの観光客→国内観光客。

弊社BOUNDLESSが目指している「地方創生」の実体と長期的な目標は上記の図で現れている。

まず、定住人口の話をしよう。都会から地方へ移住するためには、様々な壁がある。若者が地方に移住しない理由はたくさんあるが、敢えて2つあげると、1) 雇用の機会(働く場所)がないのと、2) 外の世界と繋がりにくい(不便)というところ。2番に関しては、若者に限った話かもしれない。もちろん、人はそれぞれ自分に合う環境や生活・ライフスタイルが異なるし、年を取ればまた変わるということは言うまでもない。また、世界的に見ても都会人口がどんどん増加する傾向にあるので、地方人口が都会人口を逆転することはほぼ不可能だといえる。そういう意味では、都会と地方を交互に行き来する仕組みを新しく築く必要がある。

なぜ地方では雇用が生まれないかというと、ひとつの理由としては、国内市場が縮小しているからだ。今まで日本国内にしか相手にしてこなかった地方の会社からみると、人口減少=市場縮小だ。しかし、海外では人口が増加しているし、未開拓の市場がたくさんある。海外展開をすることによって、市場が拡大し、雇用が生まれると考えられる。しかし、海外展開はそう簡単にはいかない。日本に留学生している外国人は年々増加している。そういう留学生とうまく連携すれば、海外展開という壁は乗り越えられるだろう。そして、留学生という架け橋を通して地方と海外が繋がれば、「外との世界」とは繋がりやすくなり、日本人の若者でも、田舎の古くさいイメージが覆され、地方でも世界との仕事ができる場所になり、地方へ流れる人口が増えるだろう。

次に交流人口の話をしよう。交流人口は簡単にいうと、インバウンド観光促進だ。しかし、現在日本のインバウンド観光には様々な問題点がある。一番大きな問題点は、海外目線に欠けているということだ。つまり、今まで日本人向けの観光をそのまま多言語化し、外国人にPRしようとしている。日本人が興味を持つことは必ずしも外国人の関心に合うとは限らない。また、歴史的な出来事や人物を知っている前提で話せる日本人向けの説明文章を外国人向けには通用しない。そのためには、新たな戦略が必要だ。外国人(といっても国によって違う)の切り口から地域の観光資源を新たに再編成する必要がある。

再編成された日本の地域には2つの役割がある。ひとつは、一般観光。これは今までの観光とさほど変わらないが、海外目線から見た地方の観光を対象国に一番響く表現を使い、対象国にとって一番しっくりくるブランディングをしなければならない。もうひとつは、所謂「学ぶ観光」。課題先進国の日本は、10年20年後の世界が直面する問題に今悩まされている。そのため、日本は、こういったグローバルな課題の解決策、または持続可能な将来を築くための智慧や経験などを世界と共有する立場にある。ここにこそ日本の本当の役割があるし、日本が活躍できる場があると思われる。

そして、以上に言った役割を担うのは日本人だけでなく、留学生も大きな力を果たせると思われる。2020年には留学生(大学・大学院生、専門学校生・日本語学校生)が30万人に増える見込みだ。そして、海外に在住経験のある所謂「帰国子女」も年々増えている。海外と繋がるための強力なパートナーは既に目の前にいる。

確かに、地方にはまだ外国人を受け入れる体制が整っていない。心理的にも、インフラ的にも、そして社会的にも。しかし、今から「留学生」という親しみやすい、そして入りやすい切り口から少しずつ実践していけば、留学生と地方が繋がれば、1. 留学生が地方を知ることができる、2. 地方が留学生を受け入れる練習になる、そして 3.留学生が将来自国に帰ったとき、地方との繋がりを持っていれば、直接地方とビジネスもできるし、技術交換・情報交換などもできる。

弊社が掲げているスローガンは「形にこだわらず、本質を大切に」。

時代とともに変化していく私達、そしてこの国。大切なのは、その形を守るのではなく、その中身、その本質をいかに次世代につないでいくかだ。

Sosei Partners for Summer 2017

This summer, we are organizing two projects with Tono (Iwate Prefecture) and Urahoro (Hokkaido) together with local companies and organizations. 

Click below for more information and to register for these activities.

Sosei Partners (Tono)

Sosei Partners (Urahoro)


Sosei Partners is an empowerment platform to connect the international community to the rural regions of Japan, with the aim of redesigning and re-imagining Japan and its tourism, in order to realize regional revitalization and sustainable development.

Through short stays in these rural regions, the international students learn about the local history, tradition and tourism, and what the locals value through interaction with them. Thereafter, the students will come up with different ways of rebranding the region and its tourism. The students will contribute their skills such as linguistic, IT and design, or other means and skills, and as a token receive free accommodation and meals.

So far, we have organized two other Sosei Partners projects with Shimokawa (Hokkaido) and Yame (Fukuoka). Please click below to get a clearer idea of our projects.

Sosei Partners (Shimokawa): 3 - 13 March 2017

Sosei Partners (Yame): 20 - 23 March 2017

Sosei Partners (SMEs) May Report 2017

Sosei Partners (SMEs) May Report 2017

As part of our Sosei Partners (SMEs) program, we organized an event where international students get to meet SMEs connecting Japanese rural regions with the world. We had the following two participating companies and international students from various countries, universities and schools at the event, where the companies shared their businesses, what they value, how they plan to expand, and the challenges they are currently facing. On the other hand, the students posed questions, gave suggestions based on knowledge of their own countries, and had a rigorous discussion on how these companies could further expand outside Japan.

本日は、地方創生パートナーズ(中小企業) のイベントを開きました。地方創生パートナーズ(中小企業)とは、日本地方と世界をつなぐ国際的なビジネスに取り組んでいる会社と、日本で勉強している留学生とつなぐ目的で始まったプロジェクトです。今回は以下の2つの会社と様々な国、大学や学校から来ている留学生が集まりました。中小企業からはご自身のビジネス、価値観、今後の展開、または現在抱えている課題について話していただいてから、学生のほうから質問したり、自分の国の市場や傾向に基づいて提案したりし、両者の間に活発なディスカッションが行われました。

DOOR to ASIA 2017

DOOR to ASIA 2017

Door to Asia is a Designers-in-Residence Program where designers from Asian countries gather in a community for a period of time to create "communication design" for the local companies. We are looking for interpreters to join us in this summer's program!