How Yamagata can Build Transformative Travel

The point of travel shouldn’t simply be seeing new places or meeting new people. Don’t get me wrong, these are both extremely valid aspects of travel. However, the point should really be about creating a positive transformation in not only the traveler, but the people and communities they come across as well.

You could argue that new places and people alone are enough to do this, but there also needs to be some context given. That’s where the people who create the experiences come in.

I was recently asked how best to communicate the charm of the spiritual aspects of Yamagata with the world, and my answer is by creating life-changing experiences for the people who come.

The cheapest and I think best form of marketing is word of mouth. With enough core fans, people who come to this region and have a positive transformation alone should be enough to build even more core fans who can also bring a positive transformation to the local community.

Therefore, it is up to us to build that context through the experiences we create, and the people of Yamagata are living proof that this stuff works.

Yamabushi is a simple example, undertaking arduous training on the Dewa Sanzan mountains for self-development, or the Yamabushi running Shukubo pilgrim’s lodges who have provided spiritual journeys on the Dewa Sanzan for a few centuries now.

But there are tons more.

The Samurai culture of Tsuruoka, the merchants of Sakata, who together fought off the Imperial Government in the Boshin War, or the local grandmother who passes down generations and generations of local knowledge to those wanting to learn how to best live off the land.

For starters.

When asked how best to communicate the culture, I assume most people would be thinking the likes of YouTube or TikTok. These are great at building awareness, but how great are they at building transformation? Transformation that builds more transformation without a need for an advertising budget.

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Sakata City, Yamagata, Japan 

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