VIDEO: Before session (Part 1)
I interviewed two guests for the session before. First with Yuka Hirasawa in Japanese, and the second with Shion Nakamura in English. Yuka explains the motivation behind starting the Nanmoku University initiative. (1min 30sec.)
The second guest, Shion, explained the activities of Nanmoku university in English. She explains how their initiatives are different from other programs to rejuvenate declining local areas.
VIDEO: Opening & Talk (Part 2)
In the first 14 minutes or so, I took the lead. First I welcomed the participants and reviewed our last session of Davos Experience in Tokyo before the Golden Week.
I then briefly asked them what was their week like, before I asked about the “Fourth Place.” I named the place where you can relax and be yourself “Fourth Place” as Starbucks advocated the concept of the “Third place” as the place other than work and home. We are trying to explore the possibility of the “Fourth place” in this session.
I talked about the excitement and charm of living in cities, as well as some headaches such as commuting in crowded train day in and day out. I then explained briefly the concept behind the session—alternative lifestyle with times in local villages.
I asked participants to think of “the Fourth Place” for them and shared it with their neighbors. (first 5.5 min.)
Then we had general discussion about their Fourth Place. Some interesting examples were the time spent for biking, time spent on Metro, and time spent at gym. These responses were very interesting because the “Fourth Place” if defined as the place where you can relax and be yourself can be the activities such as biking and workout at the gym, rather than the physical place.
I also shared my own “Fourth Place” as the place and as the activities. It seems where you can relax and concentrate, forgetting other things for a while can be the “Fourth place” regardless of where and what it is. (8 minutes or so)
About 14 minutes or so into the video, Shion presented their activities in Nanmoku village. We found out that one of the participants came from the area near Nanmoku in Gunma. (He is the second interviewee after the session.)
Shion explained the location, data of Nanmoku village including demographic trend, age breakdown etc. She explained that Nanmoku is one of the villages with highest aging ratio and with highest probability of disappearing.
The main concept of Nanmoku university, their initiative, is NOT to help them or do something for them, but to LEARN from the people there. They showed many photos explaining what they have done at the village, people they met including carpenter, and what they have learned. They told the story of the man who got tired of living in the city, biked the whole country, and ended up living in Nanmoku village to grow vegetables etc. They shared how Nanmoku village has become their “Fourth Place.”
Shion shared her own experience of taking non-Japanese students and children to Nanmoku village to see high energy they displayed once they arrive at Nanmoku village. Her story of how children from cities became “kids” and “friends” when interacted with children from Nanmoku village was very inspiring.
Having people come to Nanmoku village to find out about the village from the people and the scenery, they believe, is the way to let both groups- people who visit the village and those who live there- appreciate what they have.
At the end, I explained two topics for breakout discussions. The first was 1) how to make their Fourth Place, and the second 2) how to recruit people to come to Nanmoku to see the alternative life style and beauty.
VIDEO: Presentation & Wrap up (Part 3)
Groups reported back ideas they developed in the breakout sessions. The groups for the 2) topic of how to recruit people to come to Nanmoku village made suggestions including:
- Target groups- foreigners, those who have no local home town,
- How to promote- develop programs such as camping, gazing stars, etc.
- Use social media extensively
- Make best of local food available in the village and promote them
- To resolve the issue of jobs for those who will live there, IT industry may be a good target to attract
- Build long term relationships through bus tours, offering programs for field study for schools
- Capitalize on advantages of low-cost living and resolve disadvantages such as few jobs
- E-learning and field trips for education for the long term impact- as adults may have stereotypical image of “dying local towns”
- Learn from the people in the area what they want
The groups working on the question 1) How do we make the Fourth Place? came back with some basic questions including the definition of the Fourth Place
Definition included new experience and new perspectives, rather than the physical place per se, some place away from your usual place, etc.
Why we want/need them and Reasons cited include “to escape” and “to refresh ourselves” “to change their mindset” and “to regain energy”.
One team proposed that the Fourth place depends upon the person, i.e., each person has different definition and objective. They can be place, activities etc.
They also propose that the Fourth Place can and should change and evolve. For example, after we retire, the Fourth Place may be different.
At the end, I made some comments from their discussion. One of them is the link between the Fourth Place and innovation. Groups suggested “different experience” “different perspectives” as the benefit of the Fourth Place and that is how innovative ideas are generated.
I also mentioned that changing the mindset can be accomplished without going somewhere or changing the physical location.
At the end I asked for comments from guests. Shion mentioned that the people in Nanmoku may not want many people to come, and may not want Nanmoku to become a visitors’ site. I thought it was very fundamental and good question to reflect.
VIDEO: After session (Part 4)
I interviewed two participants in Japanese and English. The first is with Yuta who participated for the first time and shared his impression of the people and experiences. He found the chance to deep dive into the issue of reviving local areas during the breakout sessions interesting and inspiring. (little over 3 minutes)
The second interview was with Katsunari who is from Gunma area and joined us as he wanted to find out what we discuss on the issue of rebirth of local areas. This interview was both in Japanese and in English.
He shared his own experience of going back to his home town after living in the cities. He found the breakout session provide the opportunity for members to think much deeply about how we live. His comment on the “fourth place” is very interesting. (4 min.)
＃Session 37 “Davos Experience in Tokyo” series
May 27, 2016
"Lessons from Nanmoku village where passion to keep our FURUSATO-home town and vitality to bring life back to almost extinct village is ALIVE."
How would you respond to a question “Where is your home town?” Is it Tokyo, is it another big city or is it a small town/village? Many of us have special affection and warm feelings for the town/village where we spend our childhood days, as we often call it “FURUSATO, my home town.”
At our session #37 of Davos Experience in Tokyo series, we will address the issue of ageing often debated and will shed the new light on the issue of disappearing local towns.
Our guests, Yuka Hirasawa and Shion Nakamura started Nanmoku University to give opportunities for young people to learn about the reality of local towns and to develop capability and skills to revive local towns. You can see the photo of their activities in Nanmoku.
Japan is the fastest ageing country and how to deal with the ageing issue has been debated often. Half of the population will be over 60 years of age in 2050. Local towns and villages suffer from the issue of ageing and of declining population. (I am often surprised when I visit local cities to see very low population density and see few young people.)
In 2014, out of 1718 local communities, 864 are reported to have high probability of extinction/disappearance and so designated.
Nanmoku, a small town located in Gunma prefecture, is one of the examples threatened with high probability of extinction in the near future, as it is ranked highest in Japan in ageing ratio.
In order to address the issue of overcrowding Tokyo and of ageing and the need to sustain local towns struggling with declining population, some attempts have been made to move/transfer some government functions/organizations and people away from Tokyo. But not much has been achieved so far.
Lately, the new life style of moving from big cities where you have to fight in rush hour trains to local areas where you can enjoy natural resources has been proposed. In fact, some young people have begun this new style of living in local areas and commuting to cities when necessary.
Nanmoku is rich in natural resources and great food. Let us find out how they began this initiative and where their passion comes from. Let us make every effort to keep cultural diversity by passing on the unique history and culture of these small towns. Join us to hear their stories of Nanmoku university and find out their activities to see what we can do to keep our home town spirit alive. It will open up more opportunities to explore work/life style you want to pursue.
みなさんは群馬県にある南牧（なんもく）村という場所をご存知ですか？南牧村は2006年から高齢化率が日本一になり、『最も消滅する可能性が高い村』と言われています。5月27日（金）に開催される第37回「ダボスの経験を東京で」は、この南牧村で「村の生きる力を学ぶ」をテーマに活動されているなんもく大学の平澤 悠花さんと中村 詩音さんをゲストに迎えて開催します。