We have invited people who have immigrated from abroad and are now living in the Shiribeshi region of central Hokkaido to contribute columns from a variety of perspectives. The columns appear in Japanese in the morning edition of the Hokkaido Shimbun newspaper every other Monday. https://www.hokkaido-np.co.jp/series/s_cool_otaru
In this section, the columns are posted in the author's original text.
【Column】Questions from a “Gaikokujin” to Otaru
Otaru: population 110,410, households 61,914.
This is what it read at the entrance of Otaru’s City Council a few days ago. A sign of many single-person households, a declining and ageing population, and young people abandoning the city for greener pastures.
Locals always talk to me about how vibrant Otaru once was, before the bubble burst in the 1990s. Epic stories of customers queuing in front of restaurants and bars and tales of a very sparkling life. It was surely a great chapter of the history of this city, but some considerations should be made on what is left after 30 years.
Why always focusing on memories of a glorious past gone forever instead of being more positive and constructive on creating a better future?
What are the opportunities for young people in Otaru? How easy is for people coming from outside to start something new? How attractive is this city to new businesses?
A local client once enter my wineshop just after opening in September 2020. He said: “it’s a very beautiful venue, but it is going to be hard to understand in Otaru”. I felt quite amused by the fact that he still had to order anything before making that comment.
He then had a glass of a wine that I imported from my hometown in the island of Sardinia in Italy. We had a very good chat about my cultural background and food and wines from Sardinia. When he left he told me he had enjoyed a different cultural experience.
The client has since come back a few times. At the third or fourth visit he said: “I remember saying that this would be difficult, but maybe it can really work”.
His words always make me think.
While it would be unfair to generalize, and I have met lots of people open to change, I still have the perception of resistance, some negativity, or at least scepticism , on any new ventures in Otaru.
I really enjoy living here, but I think that Otaru needs new blood, new ideas and more people like the open-minded client that I met.