It has been awhile. But it has been for good reason and there is purpose and happenstance, so allow me a few lines here to explain what that means.
I started this website a few years ago. The primary purpose was to bring some exposure to the Ohenro experience and to put more information out there about the Shikoku Pilgrimage. It was also a way for me to spread out my own brief experiences in the pilgrimage and to see them one by one, perhaps looking for strings of meaning through the route.
I live here in Shikoku, in Kagawa, in Takamatsu city, and my wife Kazuyo and I run our schools here. While we are often busy with our work, we do so in the backdrop and context of this pilgrimage which rings Shikoku. The local culture, the people, the geography, and the spirit of the place is inextricably linked to everything we see and touch every day. But often in way in ways that are difficult to explain, or articulate well.
We noticed that there is a groundswell of activity around us in local businesses and government for “inbound tourism” and we have been approached almost daily for assistance and counsel about how to make various events, attractions, transportation services, restaurants, and tour experiences more attractive for incoming guests and to do so while maintaining the integrity of the experiences.
So we started an experiment from last year October and developed a website to highlight various places and cultural activities for incoming guests to explore and enjoy. I made a sister web site called “Come to Kagawa” (www.cometokagawa.com) and in a few short months the traffic has been booming. We had initially wanted to simply make a public service site to help stimulate interest in Kagawa, but had no idea what would happen next.
This was completely unexpected and the response was very nice. We were noticed by JR Shikoku, the 114 Economic Advisory Board, Kagawa University, Takamatsu City, and a good number of business owners who work in the hospitality industry. We have been working closely with many members in these groups in their various projects and some intense planning has been going on (in the shadows, behind the scenes, in quiet whispered tones….). No, no… not really. Nothing so dramatic. But it has been a wonderful experience to meet some very creative and interesting people, and also to discover for myself more how we can be of service to new friends and inbound colleagues (co-conspirators).
In short, we’ve been able to accomplish a few significant things. First, we have established strong links with JR Shikoku and the local 114 Economic Advisory Board. We have plans in motion to set up “concierge” services for inbound guests. The format is being set up right now, but what that means for incoming visitors is that there will be an active robust resource of information of:
- How to get to Shikoku
- How to travel around Shikoku
- What events, festivals, cultural activities are available and when.
- Accessible accommodations from luxury hotels, to rustic inns in the mountains, to guest houses.
- Information on each and every temple on the Shikoku Pilgrimage
- Information on cultural and historical places to access and see
- Information on the Setouchi Experience with art, and islands, and food and drink
- Information on rental car services
- Recommended Shikoku experiences ranging from weekend stays to the full-on 2 month Ohenro trekking experience, and many between.
Our goal is to make clear a lot of information that is floating out there, and to work cooperatively with people who are “in the know” about so many of these things, to work cooperatively and collectively together to make a good thing.
We understand that Inbound Tourism brings with it two sides of a coin. One is the good: where people can come, explore, discover things, enjoy, dine, relax, and in doing so bolster and support local economy. We like this a lot, and as parents who have kids growing up in Shikoku we want to work like crazy to do our best for their future here. The other is the bad: where people come, make a mess, throw their trash in the street, carve their initials into temple walls, get inebriated on the street, demand to know why ketchup is not on everything they eat, and forget all their manners because they are “on vacation”.
I think that we can manage this situation, or at least do the best we can to accentuating the good and reducing the bad. And it comes by doing what we always do–creating and providing information about these places in Shikoku, telling the stories of people who live here, inviting people to enjoy things in a way that will give them a uniquely deep Japanese cultural experience, and developing a community of people who have come to love this land, this Pure Land, this beautiful and marvellous Shikoku.
More updates will come in rapid fire about the concierge services and how to access the format in the weeks to come. Much planning has been going on in the last several months, but now we feel like we have our feet in the starting blocks, and are really ready now to start this race in earnest.
I warmly and cordially and whole-heartedly invite you along with us, to contribute your experiences and insights, to share your perspective, and to help us develop this community.
Watch this site for details! In the meantime, thanks for reading, and have a great day.