《Hokkaido: the migrants’ choice – from Niseko》

From the town of Niseko in the Shiribeshi sub-prefecture, where many migrants gather, we introduce stories surrounding the ‘choices’ of people who decided to relocate.

Dec. 25, 2020

Special feature

《Hokkaido: the migrants’ choice – from Niseko》② Kato Ryosuke and his wife attempt a new start after becoming frustration by changing jobs

At the end of October, before the snow starts to fall in the Niseko region, Kato Ryosuke (38) operates a grass cutter. He’s helping out at a local farm with the aim of becoming a farmer himself. Tomatoes, potatoes, lily roots, dairy farming …. Today he’s preparing soil in the vineyards of the Niseko Winery.

Kato Ryosuke – who aims to start farming – operates a grass cutter on undeveloped land. Niseko Town, October 30, 2020

  Approximately a year and a half ago, Kato began working for a mid-level management consultancy after working for a large enterprise for 11 years. He fell into the trap of self-confidence, believing to be “competent at work”, but everything there was different. Somehow, Kato managed to get by, but in his attempts to do so his spirit gradually became eroded. Six months later he tried to go to work but couldn’t get up. His doctor diagnosed “adjustment disorder”. Two months later he quit his job. Kato’s son Chihiro had just turned three; it was an ordeal for his wife, Eri (37), too.
 
  Ryosuke was originally from the town of Shiraoi. He studied metallurgical engineering at Tohoku University’s School of Engineering and Graduate School. He wanted to work on a global level, at a company that builds huge plants overseas. In 2008, he joined Chiyoda Corporation (Yokohama), the No. 2 company in the plant industry in Japan. In that year, he was posted to Qatar where a huge liquified natural gas (LNG) plant was being constructed. His job was to provide support for the site manager. He also spent time in Malaysia and Korea, and gained experienced at a number of overseas sites.

  About five years ago, Kato pulled out of his role in charge of a work improvement system. System development was perfect for him because he could build it all in his own head. Around that time, the company was experiencing a managerial crisis. In October 2018, the company recorded its largest ever net losses of 100 billion yen, bringing the total to over 200 billion yen. At the age of 36, he felt the time was right for a change of jobs. As a consultant with the acquired skills, he would be able to live and work in his hometown near his parents. He wanted to raise his son in Hokkaido amid the abundant nature so, with the future in mind, he made the change.

  However, Kato’s confidence was shattered; day after day he was criticized by his seniors. On October 7, 2019, strong criticism arrived by mail. “Amid all the body blows, it was like the final, strongest punch.” He never went to the company again. Kato left the family’s 150,000-yen-a-month rented condominium in the center of Yokohama and though about a future in Sapporo, where is parents live.

  Kato found farming appealing but was dubious as to whether or not he could provide for his family. The Town of Niseko was recruiting ‘local vitalization cooperators’ hoping to work in farming. This provided a stable position for the first three years, while preparing to become a farmer. Eri also became a ‘local vitalization cooperator’ as a childcare assistant. “From now on our income too, had to be two horsepower (that of both the husband and wife).”
  Ryosuke’s view on farming has changed. “The way strategies are formed is incredible.” Among them, Kato was particularly impressed by Honma Yasunori, who processes grapes into wine to increase their added value. Over ten years ago, Honma also relocated to Niseko after quitting his job at a bank.

  From migrant to migrant, Niseko’s genealogy is spun.

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