Born and raised in a small fishing town in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Heartland Founder/CEO Keijiro Sawano grew up feeling inferior to his peers from the city. This is a very common phenomenon in Japan. People in the countryside often feel embarrassed about their rural roots. As he matured and grew up, he began to question why this was the case.
Post war Japan experienced a period of enormous growth. During this time almost all of the capital and human resources were concentrated in the big cities. Social attitudes made city life seem desirable, convenient and cool. The countryside was left with nothing to offer its younger inhabitants. There was a huge urban migration. One that continues to this day. By the year 2040, 523 of the 1,718 in Japan municipalities are likely to “disappear”. Many people’s hometowns have been lost already.
Against this backdrop, Keijiro Sawano lamented the town in which he was born and raised. He had no confidence in his roots and often lied about his upbringing to hide his shame. It was a chip on his shoulder that followed him around wherever he went.
When eventually he snapped out of it, he didn’t want to see more kids growing up with this sense of shame. He wanted to shift the paradigm and create a society where rural was cool and where locals could be proud of where are from.
Tourism is one of the tools that we can use. It can create both a source of income and pride for the residents. Once taken for granted, the natural environment, the cultural customs and the skills of the locals can be channeled into tourism and their value reassigned. Through this method, not only do financial circumstances change but also social attitudes. The countryside may become a desirable place to live and the locals can take pride in their hometowns.
It is often said that the home is where the heart is. And by sharing our homes we share our hearts. This kind of local, intimate travel touches both the visitor and the host in a meaningful way. It can pave the way for future generations to live in and love the Japanese countryside again. So, let’s go on a deep adventure into Japan’s countryside where authentic cultures and lifestyles remain.
This is “Heartland Japan”.