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】Revitalizing Otaru through active learning
At my workplace we have a long tradition of the so-called seminar, or abbreviated zemi. The term refers to a class at a university in which a small group of students gather to conduct their own research under the guidance of a teacher, and then present and discuss their findings. This is also referred to as active learning as opposed to passive learning, which is the traditional way of learning featuring one-way lecturing in large classrooms. Although active learning has become a recent buzzword in Japanese education, the seminar has a long history in Japan and goes back to the Meiji era (1868-1912) when Japan borrowed the seminar concept (and the name) from the German educational system. In fact, the seminar was a notable feature of Kyoto Imperial University, established in 1897.
In my zemi we study and research two topics: international marketing, marketing to foreign customers in the foreign countries where they live, and inbound tourism marketing, which is also marketing to foreign customers, but in the domestic market, in this case Japan. This also fits snugly with the mission of my university, which is to educate glocal human resources: people who can think and act both at the global and local levels.
We first study theory and case studies and then we try to put this knowledge in practice by doing surveys or going on field trips to learn what goes on in the genba (in this case, the sales floor or place where the service provider interacts with the customer). The corona pandemic has caused Japan to shut the gates to foreign tourists, so if you want to do fieldwork it is better to shift the focus to marketing to domestic customers and tourists.
At the end of last year one of the students in my zemi proposed for us to get involved in a project featuring a part of Otaru that is relatively unknown, especially when compared to the main canal area of Otaru, though it sits right next to it. The area is known as the North Canal or Kita Unga and it features several cool bars, restaurants, shops, live houses, and even the Otaru Museum. These establishments normally cater to inbound tourists as well as locals, but they are surprisingly unknown among younger people from Otaru and Sapporo, which means most of the students at my university.
The students hooked up with several of the business owners in the Kita Unga district and decided to target young people and entice them to check out the area. So, they set up an Instagram account (otaru_kitaunga), featuring photos and short videos about the historic and scenic spots, bars, and restaurants in the area. They also prepared a photo contest campaign where people were invited to take and submit photos of the area in return for vouchers that they could use at collaborating shops. Then, the sixth wave of corona infections brought the project to a temporary halt….to be continued.