Paul Christie cuts a relaxed figure as he tunes into our interview from his home on the Kunisaki Peninsula in Oita Prefecture. A farmer, businessman and tourism ambassador who has spent the past 16 years working on a rural regeneration project in his adopted hometown, Christie exudes the infectious air of someone who loves what they do for a living.

“Somebody asked me in a bar last night if I had any hobbies,” Christie tells me. “And I said, ‘No, I don’t. My life is my hobby.’ I’m just invigorated by what I do and the people I get to work and share things with. I don’t need anything else.”

Christie’s work varies by the day. He might cultivate crops in the arable farmlands of Ota Village, turn empty properties into guesthouses or office spaces, or brainstorm new ideas for Walk Japan, a tour company focusing on chihō saisei (regional revitalization) at which he is CEO.