How to Put Sakata City on The Map

Chokai-zan

My idea for a tour company in Sakata City

I spent this morning on a tour of Sakata for interpreter guides. I always knew this, but Sakata is a place with a deep culture and history that the city should really be proud of.

Sakata was a huge reason why Tokyo grew so huge in the Edo period, and because of that, they were also home to the richest family in Japan until the second world war, which links to the story of the real last Samurai, for example.

The problem is the way in which this is being presented to the world, or rather, isn’t.

Today’s participants were all extremely passionate and also on the whole able to speak both languages. The guides were also extremely knowledgeable. I have no doubt that if organized well, the city could utilize these skills, and create amazing experiences for people interested in what Sakata has to offer.

The problem, as I see it, is that there’s no one to lead such an endeavour. Sakata City would have the capacity to do it, if they had enough staff and resources. But there’s a few problems with this.

First, they would need a travel license, which in Japan is notoriously difficult (and expensive). I’m not sure how it would work for public servants, it would have to be a separate company or organization, rather than municipal government.

A separate company would solve this issue, but I also see a problem with the way staff are moved around periodically in the public service in Japan. The staff you work with one year, can be completely different the next. Therefore there’s little to no continuity on the projects that are often decided on an annual budget. This is not conducive to running a business.

There is an organization here, but they are not for profit. That could be good for certain people (ie the retired), but if you’re a not for profit, there isn’t as much incentive for creating a good service.

If you’re a volunteer guide, for example, you don’t really care if you screw up much. Or at least, there’s less repercussions for doing so.

If you were for profit, and if your company depended on it, you’d be much more incentivized to provide great service. Great service that can bring in good revenue, and provide jobs to those who specifically aren’t doing it voluntarily.

I envision something like what they are doing in Yamadera with Yamaderans. A set course with set content that doesn’t involve using transport besides your own two feet, or maybe a bike. All we’d need to do would be to create an itinerary with talking points, one with a strong story to it. Then we’d just need people to guide it, which we already have. Then of course we’d need a bit of marketing, but Sakata City could help with that.

Why don’t I do it? I hear you ask. Maybe in the future I could, but I’m busy elsewhere right now, unfortunately. It’s definitely something I would love to do, but it’s just not a priority right now, for better or worse.

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Sakata City, Yamagata, Japan 

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