In my optimistic youth, I promised my Japanese wife that we would return to Japan someday to care for her aging parents. Twenty years later, she reminded me of my promise and that is how I came to be living in Yamanashi Prefecture at the age of 52.
I had grown used to the fast pace of change in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, where we had been living since 1998, and was more than a little concerned about how I would not just survive but thrive in my new home. I must admit that the first six months were very difficult for me, but I gradually began to see a path forward.
Knowing of Japan’s demographic challenges, I decided that I had to do something to help revive the local economy in Yamanashi, so I threw my support behind the local tourism industry.
I decided on a two-pronged strategy. First, I had to get foreign tourists interested in visiting, so I created a blog called “Close to Mount Fuji.” The blog is my attempt at creating top-down support. Secondly, I realized that it was no use creating a local tourism blog if tourists couldn’t visit Yamanashi without a Japanese-speaking guide, so I began to work on bottom-up support. This support includes things like creating local bus timetables, restaurant menus and easy-to-follow self-guided walking tour information in English.
In addition, I decided to help nurture the tourism support that is often lacking in Japan, that is, services in English. Thus, I began to instruct the local car hire agencies, the local bus companies, the local hotels, etc., in the use of hospitality English.
Gradually, my efforts have begun to bear fruit. I regularly receive emails from people around the world thanking me for creating my site and raving about the experience of getting off the beaten path in Yamanashi. In addition, I have been asked to officially assist my prefecture on numerous occasions. Furthermore, I have plugged myself into a network of amazingly hardworking people who all want to achieve the same goal of reviving the local economy of our area of Japan.
If you can, please help your favorite local restaurant, tourist attraction or anything else you can think of to prepare to receive the expected increase in new visitors in 2019 and 2020. If everyone does a little, it will mean a lot. I am sure that you will get much more out of the experience of offering your support than you can imagine.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.