Below are voices of past participants of Sosei Partners.
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!
Hester Mullen (UK)
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!
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.