Rural areas in Japan are increasingly experiencing negative developments such as high aging rates and declining populations. Under the slogan kankō chiiki zukuri (“tourism regional development”), the Japanese government is pushing measures to combat this socio-economic decline with the help of tourism marketing. The implementation of which is left to the local authorities. In the municipality of Minamiaso, Kumamoto Prefecture, located on the island of Kyūshū, one of the tools used is the video platform “Youtube”. The local tourism authority (Minamiaso Kankō-Kyoku) relies on this multimedia presentation to promote and sustain the area. It is a representation that I looked at more closely in the course of my research: A rural community is swiftly transformed into an attractive destination that invites (Japanese) tourists from near and far.
Situated in the caldera of the famous Aso volcano, Minamiaso impresses with its rich natural landscape – from large-scale pastures, and small, hidden springs to the pompous volcanic crater, the place invites you to pause and marvel at every turn. Whether during a visit to one of the onsen (thermal baths) or during a bicycle tour along small streams, relaxation through the soothing water is also omnipresent in the video presentation. It underlines the slow lifestyle that also characterizes the destination “Minamiaso” as a balance to the hectic city life. Minamiaso appeals to a broad target group through its diversity and relies equally on cooperation with regional brands such as the local kakigōri (grated ice cream doused with syrup) as well as with nationally known brands such as “Kumamon”, the mascot of the prefecture per se.
Problems such as steadily declining population figures and a high proportion of people over 65 have been known in Japan for decades. Officially, the Japanese government is trying to counteract these developments by implementing new strategies and programs. Local revitalization groups (chiiki okoshi kyōryokutai) as well as administrative units (DMOs, destination management organizations) geared towards tourism marketing are just a few examples of these revitalization efforts.