This is a social innovation workshop for students held in Ishinomaki. Learn about how social innovation is rebranding the city of Ishinomaki and spearheading the paradigm shift for rural regions in Japan!
We are doing a crowd funding campaign to spread the charms of rural Japan to the world! Please support us!!
Hello! This is Sosei Partners reporting to you from Ishinomaki City, Miyagi prefecture. My name is Zak and I’m a part of the Sosei Partners regional in-residence program. I will be living in Ishinomaki City for a little more than a month from Dec 18th 2017 to January 28th 2018. Mainly I’ll be researching the city while working together with local organizations and traveling around the city as much as possible.
The Sosei Partners team, comprising members from Spain, Mongolia, Nepal, Italy, Singapore, France and India, ventured into Ishinomaki to learn about the forward looking and future oriented projects driven by innovation that are giving Ishinomaki a brand new identity.
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.
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!
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!
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) (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) (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) (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) (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) (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) (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) (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) 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.
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。
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。
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.