Continuous effort of a community to promote village tourism and environment education – a case of Kikuchi Water-source Village

Suigen village of Kikuchi city, Kumamoto prefecture, is located at western foot of Aso mountain in Kyushu island (western part of Japan). Suigen literally means “water (river) source” in Japanese, and the area is surrounded by beautiful mountains with full of forest, and it is really a place where rivers originate.
In 1947, only two years after the World War II finished, “Suigen junior high school” was established at a hill top of the village. The students, teachers, youth group members, and even the village office staff altogether participated in construction work of the school. They collected stones from Kikuchi river, brought them to the ground and made it hard, and cut down the trees from community forest. All the villagers contributed as much as possible from their own resources. It may be because most of them realized the importance of education. “After the war, a lot of people from the continent (once colonized by Japan) came back and they entered into mountain areas to cultivate. Suigen was one of those areas, and it was really hard to survive. We tried to eat everything that can be eaten, and we lacked of everything such as food, clothes, etc. However, at that time, we realized importance of helping each other, working hard, and taking care of the things in a proper way. It was because we wanted to educate children to be good human beings that we tried to construct junior high school by ourselves.” One of the old villagers recalled that time.
However, as time passed, the total population of the area drastically decreases, and the number of school going children also dropped off. At their busiest days, there were more than 400 students in the school, but in 2000, the number of the students was only sixty-seven. After a series of bitter discussion, the local government decided to close the school in march 2000.

Five years effort to open “Furusato Koryu-kan”
Immediately after the close of the school, the residents of Suigen area submitted a request letter to the city government asking for the utilization of the closed school stating the following possibilities;
1) It can be utilized for camping and outdoor activities
2) It can also be used as exchanging facility for the aged and children
3) It can become a base for nature observation activities
4) It can be a facility to promote forestry and agriculture
5) It can become a nature park where children can play with the nature
6) It can be a multipurpose facility utilizing old traditional school building
The villagers still kept strong feeling of attachment to the school. They established “Council for promotion of effective utilization of the closed Suigen school”, and had been conducting study tours, workshops, and meetings to see the possibilities of effective utilization. For four and half years (2000 – 2004), the council was actively searching for the possibility, and in 2003, the city government concluded to utilize the school for training facility to promote exchange between rural and city residents (“Green Tourism”). The school was given new name, “Kikuchi Homeland Suigen Exchange Facility” (Suigen Koryu-kan).
In the first two years after the establishment of Suigen Koryu-kan, the development of green tourism activities was entrusted to a NPO (Non Profit Organization) based in Kyushu, and it started monthly agriculture experiencing class “Tasty village creation”, and “Children’s village” at the summer holiday season. The activities involved the community people to be participants and teachers, and it created good opportunity to have exchange among the villagers and the city young families with small children.
Based on those experience, the leaders of the council continued to study about “green tourism” and “NPO”, and discussed with the villagers of eleven communities, and finally in January 2004, NPO “Kirari Suigen-Mura” (Kirari shiny village) was established among more than one thousand villagers around the area.

The NPO and its Green Tourism Activities
The web-site of NPO Kirari Suigen Mura introduce themselves as follows;
We are NPO established by ordinary people in the village. The people who have been living for long in the village, together with some people came from outside and started to live by a fortunate chance, initiated various activities in the NPO. It is not easy for any people to start developing the area where you live, partly due to its complicated social structure or costumes. However, those who realized that we had to do something took the first action and, accordingly, achieved some results, which consequently involved people around as well as the local government, slowly but surely making changes in the area. In addition, since its inception, we have been carrying out activities that involves children who will lead the next generation. And led by the children activities, we now see more young people in their 20s to 30s who had not been engaged in community development participating in the activities.
It is high time that we need a place to start activities, in which we can feel something real, genuine, and serious. In such a place, local community should play the leading role. The characteristics of our activities are:
1) All the villagers are taking part in the activities;
2) The activities are rooted in our communities;
3) The activities are developed in the communities;
4) We promote communication and interaction in a positive way;
5) Our activities are combined with those for profits and those for public interests; and
6) We aim at sustainable community management.
Based on those principles, the NPO has been actively implementing various programs that are categorized into the six kinds;
A) Local revitalization activities (=regional development)
B) Urban / rural exchange activities (=green tourism)
C) Nature-based experience support activities (=slow life)
D) Natural environment conservation activities
E) Entrusted activities
F) Sales activities
In the year 2007, it implemented the following activities;

“Kagura” (traditional sacred music and dancing) class / Suigen children’s square / Homeland food school / Puppet show / Training for food processing / Furusato school

One-year exchange and study program (Tasty village creation) / Traditional local food and talk events and festivals / Food tourism to Korea / Green tourism coordination (from Korea) / “Gazoo Mura” (exchanging experience through weblog supported by Toyota) / participate in ap bank festival / Work camp (agriculture volunteer) / Support for newly settled farmers

Children’s village / Tasty village creation / Leadership training / Suigen play village / Coordinating nature and agriculture experiencing activities

Suigen volunteer holiday / maintenance of bamboo forest and charcoal kiln / Youth forest cooperation volunteers / Homeland forest school

Entrusted management of Kikuchi Homeland Suigen Exchange Facility
(1850 persons lodged, and 27263 persons visited)

Various food products (pickles and jam made from vegetables) developed and sold
Meals also provided in the restaurant

Mr. Kobayashi, an outsider facilitating the process
Mr. Kazuhiko Kobayashi was born in Saitama (a prefecture next to Tokyo) in 1974. During his study in a university, he experienced a forestry volunteer and a leader of a nature camp. From 1996, worked as secretary general of NICE (Never-ending International work Camps Exchange), a Japanese leading NGO that facilitate international exchange through work camps and other volunteer activities. He had busy days as a NGO activist, but started to feel that he needs something different. Then, he decided to go wandering about the world, and visited more than 40 countries. During the wandering, he happened to visit Suigen area, and fell in love with the old school building of the junior high school. He realized that something he looked for is a “power”; power to think about tomorrow with excitement, power to talk straightly to others with own words, power to trust the ones near to you, power to contribute to others, and power to live to be oneself. And here, in Suigen, he found such power. So, he decided to start living in the village. Now, he works as secretary general of the NPO Kirari Suigen Mura, and facilitate various activities involving local communities and outside people.
Mr. Kobayashi regards himself in Suigen community as a “person of wind”. In Jimotogaku practice, outsiders who participated in are called “wind”, and it is considered that the outsiders’ perspective is important for the community people (insiders) to review the area and find out what the community has. Of course, there are many things that the remote rural community does not have, such as convenience store, shopping mall, leisure spots, etc. However, if the outsiders look into the life of rural community people, there are plenty of traditional wisdom and skills that the ordinary grandmothers and grandfathers have been inherited and maintained. Mr. Kobayashi highly appreciates such local wisdom and skills, and he think it is his responsibility to learn from them and to transfer to the next generation.

Community members actively involved
The various activities of NPO Kirari Suigen Mura are implemented by the community members. When the NPO was established in the community, some of the residents did not agree with the idea of forming NPO. They were suspicious and doubted that NPO would make profit only for some of the villagers, and the school might be took over by outsiders. As the NPO started activities such as work camp, green tourism, and environmental education, the village received various visitors from outside, and the villagers felt proud of their own life and culture. They became active to clean the facilities, to watch the security, to prepare various dishes, to serve them, and to teach agriculture and forestry activities. At first, the elderly villagers were mainly involved in those activities, but then, younger generation in Kikuchi city and surrounding areas started joining to the activities.
“I came to participate in “playing village” program implemented by the NPO, and after that I often come here to work as a volunteer. I coordinate “Suigen Children Square” where the local children learn various living skills. I myself can learn many things from the program”, stated one young volunteer living in the city center area of Kikuchi. Another volunteer said “at first, I felt suspicious to the NPO, but after participating a program, I could meet many people and learn many things. I am enjoying exchanging with the other participants coming from various part of the world.”
As a result of such active participation from both inside and outside the village, the elderly residents feel that their village has restored liveliness and activeness. Green tourism activities of the NPO have successfully attracted various visitors to join the program. Based on the profit from those activities, NPO Kirari Suigen Mura hopes to expand further activities for community development such as marketing food products, providing day-care services for the aged, and promoting community participation in the village planning and management.
The NPO Kirari Suigen Mura is a good example of community initiative to utilize “what they have in the community”, and its successful implementation of various activities shows real power of the local community to manage local resources. It also teach us how the outsiders can work as a “person of wind” who find out the existing local resources in a community and facilitate community initiatives to utilize them.

0 件のコメント: