069: Lessons of Resilience, Revitalization, and Entrepreneurship From the Japanese Countryside w/ Adam Fulford

podcast Sep 08, 2020
 

On this episode of the Small Business Japan Podcast I talk with Adam Fulford...Let me tell you, sit back and get ready for a masterclass on the revitalization of the Japanese countryside, lessons of resilience, and what opportunities and challenges entrepreneurs have in rural villages of Japan.  

Adam Fulford was born in Devon, England and moved to Japan as an English teacher in 1981, at the age of 24. That year he also started working part time as a rewriter at NHK. His work at NHK increased, and in 1985 Adam set up the company that he continues to run: Fulford Enterprises -- or FE, for short. FE offers language services to NHK and various other clients. Adam himself serves as a language consultant for NHK. In recent years, he has been digging for buried treasure in regional Japan, with a special focus on Yamagata and Fukushima. 

 

(With Graham Lawrence - podcast episode 036)

Adam has a full language and translation service for NHK and has had a close connection with them ever since starting with them as a freelancer with a 4-hour shift starting at 6am.  

He has worked on such shows as the Japanology Plus series, Eigo De Shaberanito etc.  

He later became connected with tourism and was a judge in a contest with a focus on the sustainable development of beautiful villages.  

He sees tourism as a tool.  

"Through engagement with regional Japan, I began to think that I was returning to my roots...that’s because I come from rural England...and I grew up by the sea there in quite a small community.” 

“I was thinking this is a very strange feeling, I feel at home here. Even though I’m coming out here for the first time. There were just certain elements in people’s character that made me think, there’s a resonance here. There is something that is clearly transcending national, cultural, village, whatever it is, borders. And it’s a universal theme of village life.” 

Were there any values in traditional Japan that should be, not preserved, but reactivated? 

He wanted to look for seeds of resilience in the villages that might offer useful guidance to us all.

Now How” became his label for making the best possible use of the now, and of the people on all sides, to think.

Finding the Winning Formula for Revitalization in Japan – “Finding the formula is the activity, and there are many different formulas. Each of those formulas is associated with a particular geographical setting, a particular climate setting, a particular combination of available skills and resources in a local community. Combined with the people who interact with that community. “ 

 It’s also important to see what the village and community can do for itself. And "community interns" can play a key role as a catalyst for forward movement.

With over populated tourist spots like Kyoto, the government is starting to promote other alternative areas of Japan to visit. Japan leisure patterns are also beginning to change. The repeat foreign visitors are also starting to look beyond the standard travel spots.  

Problems in the countryside according to one woman working in agriculture - “No People, No Leaders, No Capital.” 

International entrepreneurs can definitely think of rural areas as needing a regional consultant, and there are a number of great opportunities for entrepreneurs there, but there should be some effort made to be a part of the community.  

Explore the opportunities and challenges of the rural areas.  

Look at the culture of Japan in the context of Northeast Asia. What aspects of Japanese culture has been around since the time of early Chinese culture? 

“In terms of these long-term streams in Japanese culture, streams of thought, if you are in alignment with those ways of thinking then what you start as a business, if you can align with those ways of thinking, it will give you a couple of steps up on people who haven't done that.” 

Gengo.com and DeepL are changing the game in automatic translation. Another 10 years from now the scene will be very different in the language translation business.  

Because Adam hasn’t scaled too quickly, he has been able to pivot along with the changing times. There is a power in staying small and growing strategically. I have an upcoming course on this exact business model which I call the Lifestyle Japanpreneur.  

Seeing Japanese culture in a unique way – embellishing a simple concept and coming up with numerous alternate versions.  

You get insights into Japanese culture and what you might want to be building a new product or service around.  

Look to Japanese history to see in what ways Japan is similar to and different from other parts of Asia.

 

Resources 

www.fulfordent.com 

Recommendations 

Another Kyoto by Alex Kerr

The Complete Guide to Japanese Kanji: (JLPT All Levels) Remembering and Understanding the 2,136 Standard Characters  

 

 

18 Small Business Startup Tips From Some of Today’s Top Japanpreneurs

 

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