《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.
≪Hokkaido: the migrants’ choice – from Niseko≫ ④ Former government official Tsuchida Genki puts his faith in the potential of Niseko’s neighboring town
The Niseko region is world famous but the neighboring town of Rankoshi is relatively unknown, not just globally but in other parts of Japan, too.
It was that town to where Tsuchida Genki (38) relocated from Tokyo in April 2020, to be a ‘local vitalization cooperator’. His job involves supporting migrants to the region. “As a migrant myself, I understand the worries and feelings of people who relocate.” Six groups of people he was responsible for have already decided to relocate to the town.
At his desk, lined up with those of his colleagues in the Town Office, Tsuchida looks like a regular member of staff who has worked there for years. That’s not hard to understand, as Tsuchida worked as a government official in the administrative district of Tokyo until March. However, he abandoned his stable position to move to an archetypal depopulated town in which the population has decreased by 26% in twenty years. But what made him choose that town? “Being next to Niseko, the location is great. There’s so much potential, isn’t there?”
Almost every day since November, Tsuchida has driven around the town knowing that the greatest stumbling block to potential migrants is the lack of housing in the town. After marking locations on a Google Map, he drives to his destination to check electricity meters for movement, and to question neighbors. In just two months he has already identified more than 20 empty houses. He also heads to the depopulated settlements in the coastal areas, where the population has decreased almost 30% in ten years. “In summer, surely there are people who want to go surfing.”
Tsuchida is involved with preparations to deal with the varied demands of potential settlers.
Originally from Sapporo, after graduating high-school in 2001, Tsuchida worked as a government official. In approximately two years he was transferred several times. As manpower was reduced his workload increased. He became a civil servant as it’s “a job in which you work for the people” but began to question who he was working for, and lost sight of his purpose.
In November 2019, Tsuchida attended an event in Tokyo, held by Hokkaido authorities to increase interest in relocation, and it was there he became attracted by the appeal of Rankoshi. Established with rice production as its main industry, the town boasts mountains, rivers and the sea. What’s more, it is adjacent to the well-known Niseko region.
After relocating, Tsuchida began to sense he was “living such a luxurious life”. On days off, he rides his motorbike, ever impressed by the abundant nature and “360-degree views”.
The ‘potential’ that Tsuchida senses resonates with many of those wishing to resettle in the town. Of over a dozen consultations he has dealt with so far, half have been from the neighboring resort region of Niseko. As land prices and hence rents soar, many people look to relocate to the neighboring town. The remaining consultations were from Tokyo. With remote working now possible due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the number of people looking to move to Hokkaido is increasing.
“Migrant support says a lot about personal contacts both within and outside the town. I want to keep providing support for those wishing to relocate.” Tsuchida is now rewarded by his life as “a migrant providing support for migrants” – something that he was unimaginable one year ago.
There’s one thing that must be conveyed to those wishing to relocate. “The initial decision is the highest hurdle you have to overcome. Once that decision has been made, it’s surprisingly okay.”