|Revitalization of Arifuku Onsen, Gotsu, Shimane Prefecture: “Revitalizing the Community through Food”|
8.5 By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value
8.9 By 2030, devise and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products
11.4 Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritag
Ever since our company was founded, we have been in the catering party business, which involves generating communication between people through food. Since 2008, we have been using our strengths and skills to revitalize a farming community in the Yoshiyama area of Numatacho in Hiroshima City’s Asaminami Ward, which was suffering from a decline in resident population (people who live in the area) and transient population (people who visit the area). Our project titled “Revitalizing Agricultural Communities through Food” has had some success in bringing energy back to the community by opening a farm restaurant, making products using farm products, and holding a farmers’ market.
Through this project, we have been able to employ local housemakers and young people. This has led to the creation of jobs, a sense of purpose in continuing to farm, and health benefits, which has been greatly appreciated by the local community.
In 2021, we expanded our business beyond agriculture to create the Arifuku Onsen Revitalization Project Team, launching a project titled “Revitalizing the Community through Food” in collaboration with the city of Gotsu in Shimane Prefecture.
The hot springs at Arifuku Onsen have been flowing for 1,350 years from the Nara period to the present day and are famous for their benefits in promoting beautiful skin. However, this hot spring town has been shattered by the collapse of the bubble economy, recent floods and fires, and the recent COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a total wipeout of the town’s stores. Although there used to be 20 inns here, many have gone out of business, with just three now hanging on by a thread.
With the loss of places to work, the town’s population has decreased by 25% in the last decade. It is even said that if things continue as they are, the town of Arifuku Onsen will disappear from the map.
By providing central kitchen functions and front desk operations in the heart of the village for three existing inns and four revitalized inns in Arifuku Onsen, which had fallen into financial difficulties, our company has dramatically lowered the fixed costs of each inn. We also decided to aim for a “separate food and lodging” operation, which will enable the transition to a sustainable business model. In addition, we will invite businesses such as liquor stores, cafés, produce markets, flea markets, relaxation businesses, and renovators for private lodgings as needed, creating places to work in the local community and building a town where people can continue to live in the future. We also aim to make Arifuku Onsen somewhere that people can find fulfillment and hope for the future, making it the focal point of efforts to revitalize the Gotsu city area.
For many years now, 100% of the young people in Arifuku Onsen have left the area at the age of 18 upon graduation from high school, and most of them never return to the area. In addition, more than half of the houses in Yumachi, the center of the hot spring district, are vacant, and around half of the area’s residents are elderly. The main reasons for this are the lack of employment opportunities, the inconvenience involved in leading even the most basic livelihood, the difficulty of ensuring a comfortable life in the community, the absence of rewarding workplaces, and a lack of hope for the future.
To address these problems, we worked with the local community association and Gotsu City’s Community Development Division to create a vision for a community where people can find fulfilling work. We believe that if local residents, both the elderly and the young, can work together toward the future and take a leading role in revitalization projects that attract the attention of outside parties, each individual will be able to live in dignity and have the opportunity to shine.
To resolve the problem of vacant houses, we asked SUKIMONO Co. one of the leading construction companies in the area, to participate in the project and set up a new business model in which the landowner and the construction company share the income from lodging and renting the buildings renovated using the construction company’s funds. In this way, the power of the private sector is being enlisted to develop the town.
The key is to establish a local philosophy that says, “we will go on living here,” to ensure that it is shared by businesses and residents, and to establish a system that enables them to continue their activities based on voluntary self-governing partnerships, rather than depending on government subsidies.
4-35 Funairinakamachi Naka-Ku, Hiroshima