町興し熱心@上田市 Crazy about civic improvement @ Ueda City

2011.11.26: 青い目のおもてなし This American’s Omotenashi

Unusual Kaizen-ji Temple

UPDATE: 当日の写真Pictures from the Event








それより、面白かったのは講師の二人は二人とも外国人でした: Tonoloop社のTom Vincentと、亀清旅館の青い目の若旦那(私)。上田市の有志の町興し集まりLoop38でした。



講演後、参加者からまた真剣な質問も出て来たし(普段は「身長いくつ?」ぐらい…) 参加者60人もいたという本当に熱心な集まりでした。



Meet Kaizen-ji, a temple in Ueda City. The temple is built near Ueda Castle, situated in such a way as to protect the castle from evil spirits.

Today the temple hosted a talk on civic improvement. An unusual location for such a talk, but the speakers themselves were a bit unusual: two foreigners -- Tom Vincent of Tonoloop Company, and myself. Loop 38, a group of volunteers looking for new ways to vitalize the town, organized the talk. Turnout was impressive -- 60 energetic people.

As an American, I encouraged the locals to appreciate what makes the area uniquely Japanese. Tom, from the UK, encouraged everyone to respect Japan's antiquity more. I think everyone inspired everyone else!

I've given a lot of talks in Japan, but normally on the topic of what Westerners expect in Japan (something I'm ideally suited for). But this time, the theme was civic improvement. I was concerned about my lack of authority on the issue, but was reassured that my perspective would be valuable. I have seen our onsen town Togura Kamiyamada work hard to attain much more vitality in the 6 years I've been here, so I basically talked about that.

At the ending Q&A, I normally only get asked lame questions like "How tall are you?" But this time, the participants had some very serious inquiries. For example, how to involve the various shops in town in civic improvement endeavors. In response, I gave the example of the Walking Map / Gourmet Guide I put together for Togura Kamiyamada Onsen. The various shops and restaurants aren't just volunteers -- they are trying to make a living. So it's important to approach them with proposals that monetarily benefit them. In my case, over the years I had introduced and/or physically escorted a number of customers to each and every shop and restaurant, hence enough cooperated to produce the map. Even with bringing them customers, some still refused to cooperate with the map. (On the other hand, one shop offered to buy an ad despite their being virtually no possibility of getting customers. He acknowledged my efforts for the town and just wanted to contribute!)

I hope my talk proved useful for the attendees. And I wish Loop 38 good luck!



戸倉上山田温泉グルメガイド・散歩地図 Onsen Town Togura Kamiyamada Onsen's Walking Map / Gourmet Guide


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