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Living, Protecting and Building the Future, a survey conclusion on Rediscovering the Strengths and Challenges of Takachiho Town part 2

  • On 12 May 2023, the town of Takachiho hosted the event ‘Takachiho Town Strengths and Challenges Rediscovered! A concluded information meeting of the interview survey’. This meeting was part of Takachiho’s efforts to promote its sustainable town development. The contents of the report, presentations of case studies done in town and group discussions held at the meeting are here presented in a four-part series.

 

Report on the concluding meeting of the interview survey to rediscover the strengths and challenges of Takachiho Town, part 2

■ Part 2: Case studies of Takachiho Town’s local resources and tourism initiatives

  • The town case study presentations were given by two people who are working on tourism initiatives in collaboration with local resources. This time we will introduce the presentation given by Mr Kai, representative of the Ohira Village Development Council.

“To make this region a place of choice”

  • Yasuo Kai, representing Ohira Village Revitalisation Council

The Ohira district has a population of 112 people and 33 households, and is home to the famous Odo-no-Kuchi terraced rice fields, which have been selected as one of the 100 best terraced rice fields in Japan. Agriculture is very active in the area, with many of its farmers engaged in livestock farming. However, after opening the Hinokage Fukasumi IC on the Kyushu Chuo Expressway, car traffic has decreased and hardly anyone apart from the locals passed through Ohira.

  • In 2019 on the initiative of Miyazaki Prefecture and Takachiho Town Hall community workshops were held three times for residents of the Ohira and Nogatano districts. The workshops were held to share local challenges and exchange ideas on how to solve them.

After participating in this workshop, Kai sensed of crisis concerning the Ohira area, and immediately after assuming the post of head of the Ohira Community Centre in 2020, he invited residents who were interested in ‘village revitalisation’ to join the workshop. Around 15, mainly young people participated on the first meeting held in September with the participation joining from the Takachiho Town Hall. They shared a mutual will to make the Ohira area more prosperous together, and at the second meeting held the following month, the ‘Ohira Village Revitalisation Council’ was established.

As the first initiative of the Village Revitalisation Council, it was decided to organise a walking event using the Uenodake Forest Road. It was difficult to organise the event as some people were reluctant to it. We strongly conveyed the message that in order to sustain the Ohira area, the village revitalisation activities must be carried out now.

  • As it progresses, a member said, “Ohira is proud of its cows! Let’s feed them Takachiho beef at the top!” Many people from the women’s association and the San San Club (elderly people’s club) also came to support the project. Flyers were distributed, town announcements were made and the local mountain club were asked to cooperate in recruiting new participants. This resulted in the maximum number of 30 people joining. Locally grown vegetables were given as participation prizes, and the Village Revitalisation Council bought all the produce from the growers and gave it back to the participants.
  • The event has been very popular with participants and has been held three times with many returning participants. This event has helped to build momentum amongst the council members and local residents to ‘make the region more prosperous’.

Efforts were also made to create signboards to promote the local area. This is being done as a way of attracting tourists to the village and making it known that the village is a thriving livestock village. In summer, the village smells of cattle and silos (fermented cattle feed). The idea was that if there were signs with cows, people would be aware that the village is a thriving livestock village and would be convinced to come to the village even if it smelled bad. Dialects used in daily life were used as mottoes and illustrations linked to the words were added. After the signboard was installed, there was a great response, partly because it coincided with the Year of the Ox. The sign has been reported on by the media, and the number of tourists who come to see the sign has increased, leading to an increase in publicity for the Ohira area.

In addition, we are working on a project to attract visitors and exchange activities using the terraced rice fields. In cooperation with the Regional Development Cooperation Team in charge of outdoor promotion, we have started a terraced rice field camp using the terraced rice fields during the off-season, which runs from the end of October until the consecutive May holidays, and the warm hospitality of the local residents, who provide locally grown vegetables and local food, is much appreciated. Many repeat visitors come back, and exchange with local residents is also taking place. In October last year, a ‘Rice Terrace Appreciation Festival’ was held. In the future, we would like to conduct projects to attract visitors and promote exchanges using the terraced rice fields and mountainside canals.

The Village Revitalisation Council meets once a month. Our basic style is to summarise the main points and make it last less than an hour, in order to keep it going for a long time. This way, our members participate in every meeting.

  • Make the Ohira district a region that is always a hot topic and a place of attraction.
  • Raise awareness and attract people (make it a tourist destination and increase revenues and migrants)
  • Enlivening the region (fostering residents’ pride and attachment to the region and revitalising the area)
  • The goal is to make the settlements sustainable in the future.

Kai believe that if each settlement becomes sustainable, the whole town will become sustainable.

  • There is still a way to go
  • “Let’s try everything anything!”
  • “Next time we’ll figure out a way to do it even better!” is becoming out motto,
  • We want to work on community development.

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