The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) conducted a 14-day training programme recently for a group of selected participants from various organizations of the Tourism sector. The programme was held in Japan from the February 18th to the March 3rd of 2019. It was titled as the ‘’Knowledge Co – Creation Programme for Community Tourism Promotion ‘’. The main objective of this training programme was to create awareness among the participants about the historical, cultural and economic aspects of Japan, and also its strategies in tourism promotion. 17 members from various sectors of Tourism & Hospitality industry participated in this programme which enhanced their respective fields and also to explore the undiscovered sectors of tourism promotion.
The 14-day training programme began with a courtesy call to the Governor of Iwate prefecture and the programme orientation, which was followed by the presentation of a country reportprepared by the Sri Lankan delegation. After the handing over a token of appreciation by the Sri Lankan participants to the Governor, the programme began with a visit to the roadside stations in Michi-no-eki, Kawasaki. In this 14 day training programme , The young leaders had the privilege of getting to know about the latest tourism developments initiated in Hanamaki city and experiencing the making of local traditional handicrafts, which included the famous hand painted kokeshi dolls. The training also included a lecture on Human Resource Development for Tourism at the Morioka College of Business, and participating in an observation tour with college students afterwards, which included a visit to a Shinto Shrine and a traditional merchants house. This provided valuable information about the traditional Japanese life style. Another impressive fact was, how they managed to keep those traditional values preserved for their next generation.
Promotion of green tourism with the participation of the local tourism initiators was another important aspect of the programme. This was done by introducing the agricultural lifestyle of Tono village, and experiencing how they had taken advantage of the local agricultural products to enhance the livelihood of the local community. In addition, the farm stay and home sharing in Kamashi city was a new concept that was introduced to the delegates. As the 2019 rugby world cup would be held here, that event was identified as an ideal occasion to generate more tourists to the city. All these aspects linked to green tourism gave a clear insight into their plans to encourage school children, university students, local and foreign tourists to experience the local lifestyle– making them take part in farming activities, traditional Japanese lifestyle etc. This could be regarded as a good concept in promoting tourism and also a great opportunity to experience and share local lifestyle with the local residents.
Another important aspect noted by the Sri Lankan delegation was the opportunity given to the local community to promote their products and to sell their products at roadside stations. This applied to their handicraft products as well. Traditional handicrafts were displayed and sold mostly to attract tourists, depicting the time, deft skill and energy which was needed to produce such items. In Japan, a roadside station includes every facility a long distance traveler needs — all under one roof – Super market, café, souvenir shop, agricultural products, etc.
Further information was gained during the training session by a lecture and presentation given on the experience of the Tsunami in 2011 and how the city managed to rebuild within several years, and its plans to regain economic stability. This was held at the Kesennuma Plaza Hotel, Kesennuma City, Miyagi prefecture. The delegation of young leaders also paid a courtesy call on the Mayor of Hiraizumi Town, who was delighted to welcome the Sri Lankans.
The Young leaders also got an opportunity to taste the authentic Japanese cuisine, varying from the ever so famous Sushi, to the various brands of sake, traditional mochi , tempura and various dishes which were unique to Japan. The breathtaking landscapes of Japan during the winter season was another unforgettable experience. It created a picture post card view of the land of the rising sun, which was a sight for the sore eyes. Visits to the world heritage sites, and getting to know about the tourism strategy in Hiraizumi town,were some of the unique experiences that were granted to the young leaders who also visited the Chuson – Ji temple & Konjiki –do Golden hall, which are acclaimed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The latter part of the programme included preparing of action plans, presenting them and evaluation meetings. After the handing over of certificates, the farewell party included delectable Japanese cuisine, a cultural performance by a Japanese dance troupe clad in eye catching attire. It was an interesting two weeks of fun, friendship, education and thought provoking information for the JICA participants, which enabled them to apply some of the innovative initiatives taken by Japan to their next action plan to be implemented back home.