In a YouTube preview of a metalworking factory tour, Ritsu Yamada, a representative of the Tsubame-Sanjo Factory Festival, steps into a cacophony of industrial sounds.
He is guided through the buildings of tool manufacturer Maruto Hasegawa, where giant mechanical hammers pound slabs of red-hot metal while furnaces and heavy machinery hiss and whir in the background. Viewers catch glimpses of craftspeople diligently operating the machines, finessing metal components and assembling tools, before Yamada is led to an onsite store to peruse the company’s finished products — a vast array of pliers, clippers and other implements.
As communities and businesses decline in Japan's manufacturing regions, more prefectures are embracing industrial tourism as a potential key to revitalization. Maruto Hasegawa is just one of 82 businesses in Niigata Prefecture preparing attractions for “Beyond Kouba! A Three-Day Evolution from Festival to Mecca,” the 2022 edition of the annual Tsubame-Sanjo Factory Festival. A project meant to raise awareness of and support local industry, it offers tourists rare insights into metalworking factories, ateliers and other establishments in the Tsubame-Sanjo area. This year, after two years of primarily online presentations due to COVID-19 precautions, the festival is finally ready to welcome tourists back to the venues.