8th Tokyo Treasure Islands Meeting Held

The eighth Tokyo Treasure Islands Meeting was held on Wednesday, February 9, 2022. Once again, urban Tokyo and each of the Tokyo Treasure Islands met online, due to the ongoing impact of the spread of COVID-19. As well as presentations about initiatives on each island, we had a lecture on an ambitious project on islands in another area, which could help us build positive momentum in future undertakings in the Tokyo Treasure Islands.

●The example of Koshikishima offers plenty of promise

An example of initiatives in another part of the country was presented in the first half of the meeting, where Kenta Yamashita delivered a lecture on his regional revitalization work on the Koshikishima Islands in Satsumasendai City, Kagoshima Prefecture.

Over 50% of people living on the Koshikishima Islands are over the age of 65, and the population is in decline. On the other hand, in the ten years since Mr. Yamashita founded the organization "island company", the area has seen growing participation from young people, women and new residents.

Activities in Koshikishima have also been catching the attention of people elsewhere.

However, activity on the islands did not grow immediately when Mr. Yamashita first returned to Koshikishima. While selling tofu through his shop, Yamashita Shoten, he travelled around the islands. Residents gradually began to speak to him, many people offered him help, and some spoke to him about their worries, thus deepening their connection.

At first, Mr. Yamashita himself found that few tourists came to the Koshikishima Islands, but the number of visitors has grown as his initiatives have expanded. Having had the chance to visit a variety of towns around the world, Mr. Yamashita felt that factors such as language, cuisine and culture contributed to each town's distinct character. He had believed that Koshikishima had nothing to offer, but upon returning to the islands, he realized that they were full of distinctiveness too. Because of that background, his goal for Koshikishima is "tourism without trying": rather than creating new sightseeing spots or products, he saw that experiencing the islands as they are can be a tourist attraction in itself.

There have been initiatives that are new for the area, such as the Koshiki Fishermans Fest which began in 2016. Mr. Yamashita is not a fisherman himself, but he organized a festival where fishermen are front and center, out of a desire to see them live their lives with pride in their profession.

Currently, initiatives on the islands are also being developed in conjunction with the rest of the prefecture's 27 inhabited outlying islands, through the Kagoshima Prefecture Outlying Islands Cultural and Economic Zone (RITOLAB). Future goals under discussion for RITOLAB include making it into a platform to allow Kagoshima's outlying islands to collaborate with enterprises throughout the country, and creating a fund for conserving and developing the islands.

Comments from participants in response to hearing about the active work being done on islands in another area included "this is extremely exciting" and "I hope we can work together and learn more in the future". A spirited question and answer session followed.

●Presentations on islands' initiatives and a lively exchange of views

Next were presentations from each island on their activities. As we were looking at the second half of the year, many could report on the specific results that they had found.

The first island was Hachijojima.
Based on the brand concept of "A rainbow-colored island where you can restore your colors", they promoted people's ideas about the appeal of Hachijojima, and the building of bonds with fans from elsewhere. They carried about a project to create connections with new Hachijojima fans through a hashtag campaign on social media, in which they used the Instagram account @7iro8jo to encourage users to post pictures from Hachijojima.

They have planned a tool for touring the island in the off-season called "Rainbow Hachijojima Palette", and a travel program called "Rainbow Hachijojima Mission" to increase awareness of the island's main strong points and enable visitors to make friends with island residents.

Local coordinator Ms. Tashiro:
"In order to work towards the goal of enlarging our fan community, I would like to make further use of social media, and expand and improve Rainbow Hachijojima Mission in the coming year."

The second island was Chichijima.
Chichijima's brand concept is "An otherworldly island where life shines as it is". They worked to deepen bonds with people who come to Chichijima to make a family, but out of consideration for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, their messaging aimed at tourists was limited.

Therefore, they are now trying to demonstrate the appeal of Chichijima's culture and island life via videos. The project has not gone quite according to plan as the members who would shoot the videos have been unable to come to the island, but they are hoping to resume filming once the circumstances allow those members to come.

Local coordinator Mr. Nishimoto and member Mr. Fukazawa:
"We want to show the world "Shusshu, Korokoro", our initiative to tackle Chichijima's environmental issues by having visitors clean the soles of their shoes to prevent the introduction of invasive species. In the coming year, we're planning to continue Oga Log and the Chichijima Mirai Conferences, and to turn our videos into a series."

The third island was Kozushima.
Based on the brand concept of "An island with an abundance of water that'll make you realize ordinary miracles", they have been organizing information in order to put the wonder of water and of fishing village culture into words.

Local coordinator Mr. Nakamura:
"We still have two more months to verbalize the distinctiveness of Kozushima this year, so I would like to have discussions to develop an understanding of islanders' shared knowledge."

The fourth island was Hahajima.
Based on the brand concept of "A motherly island where people can live as they like", they have been creating spaces for discussing the island's present and future, with the aim of creating more fans on the island and beyond.

Hahajima Bukatsudo, the template for such discussion spaces, made this a reality, enabling talks between various groups on the island and people from the Tourism Association. Moreover, ongoing exchange events with other localities like Teshima in Kagawa Prefecture and Teuri Island in Hokkaido Prefecture were seen as having invigorated people's spirits.

Local coordinator Mr. Miyagi:
"Next year and in the future, I want to create more spaces for discussion and continue to host exchange events with other places. I would also like to implement exchanges with Koshikishima, which we heard about today. There are many things that I would like us to try in the coming year."

The fifth island was Aogashima.
Aogashima's brand concept is "An island with picturesque views and superb oceans that waken your strengths". During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been hard to carry out activities to encourage people to visit the island, so they had difficulty in working out how best to connect with tourists. With that in mind, they distributed the "Hello Aogashima" leaflet and put out an appeal for social media posts using the hashtag #helloaogashima.

In January 2022, they organized an online Aogashima meetup, allowing them to interact on YouTube Live with regular visitors they had been unable to meet recently. There was an enthusiastic response, with many comments being posted and the view count reaching a height of over 1000 views.

Local coordinator Mr. Arai:
"In the coming year, I would like to use the comments we received at the online meetup as a basis for deepening our relationship with hardcore Aogashima fans even further."

The sixth island was Mikurashima.
Mikurashima's brand concept is "An island where everything becomes special and treasures you". Based on a theme of handing down knowledge of local cuisine to younger generations, this year they held interviews about local cuisine with island elders, harvested local ingredients and attempted to recreate traditional recipes at a test event.

Their goal is to use the recipe site Cookpad for posting information about Mikurashima's culinary history. They have already begun preparations, such as by setting up a special Mikurashima account page.

Local coordinator Mr. Inoue:
"It was hard work to recreate traditional dishes, and we could see how they had disappeared from modern life. However, we can really provide for the future by gathering these recipes and passing them on to younger generations, so I want to keep this going. In the coming year, I hope we can make dishes we couldn't make this year, and produce even better posts for Cookpad."

The seventh island was Shikinejima.
They continued their initiative based on the brand concept of "An island that creates a new nostalgia, where your workplace is a fun place".

Specifically, they made improvements to Shikinejima Academy, a workation program aimed at temporary and permanent residents, with the goal of increasing the numbers of these residents in the long term.
In November, workations of six days and five nights were arranged in conjunction with companies in Minato Ward and Shibuya Ward, which have exchange agreements with Niijima. Participants gave a variety of comments on the experience, noting that coming to the island reduced distractions and allowed them to concentrate easily, and that the orderly lifestyle enabled them to improve their physical condition. They also highlighted being able to use their breaks to walk around the island or go to onsen for a change of pace, and the island's great Wi-Fi arrangements.

Local coordinator Mr. Shimoi:
"In the coming year, I would like to improve our program aimed at businesses and implement projects like the workation in conjunction with other companies. I think it would be good to launch trials with businesses for building up our long-term population and to keep up our cooperation with Shibuya Ward and Minato Ward."

The eighth island was Oshima.
Based on the brand concept of "A repeat-worthy island where you'll find things just right", they have worked on offering first-hand experiences to communicate the appeal of Oshima to residents and others through the island's symbol of Anko-san.

This year, they carried out a variety of events. For example, they used the image of Anko-san to help publicize camellia oil produced at Oshima High School, and they collaborated with the IZUOSHIMA Anko Culture Preservation meeting on "Anko Exhibition: The Island's Treasure" and provided coverage of the event. They were also involved in participation in Kumiai Matsuri, an event focused around small and medium-sized enterprises in Tokyo, and in working together with Instagrammers with foreign backgrounds for the Tsubaki Festival.

Local coordinator Mr. Chiba:
"We developed a number of initiatives to promote the traditional image of Anko-san in cooperation with the likes of local financial and educational institutions. I would like to make effective use of close connections between Anko-san and other Oshima symbols like the Geopark to undertake further projects."

The ninth island was Niijima.
Based on the concept of "An island that connects with the new", they originally worked on a velotaxi initiative, but as the COVID-19 pandemic prevented them from carrying this out as planned, they redirected their goal to producing video messages.

Videos were made for communicating thoughts on the velotaxi initiative among island residents.

Presenter Mr. Nishitsugu:
"Young people born on Niijima agree with our initiative, and the fact they are preparing to return to the island after two years is a positive sign. Considering the possibility of these young people returning to Niijima in the future, I would like to ensure that people explain how to act approproately to those around them."

The tenth island was Toshima.
Based on the brand concept of "Fully enjoying the blessings of an island, providing happiness for 6,000 years", they worked to develop a product that the people of Toshima can love and be proud of.

Following taste-tests with island residents and inviting opinions to decide on the product name, packaging and price, they began to sell the product under the name of "Toshima Ashitaba and Camellia Oil Sauce". The product consequently debuted at the Aogashima Farmers' Market, where they sold all 100 jars. They also spread awareness about the island and the product in other ways, such as through an online experience event on Asoview on February 19, 2022.

Local coordinator Mr. Hasegawa:
"In the coming year, we are hoping to increase awareness and use of Toshima Ashitaba and Camellia Oil Sauce within Toshima. At the same time, I would like to work on realizing more product ideas, with the aim of creating a whole range of items."

Following the individual island presentations was a lively discussion where representatives shared some of the areas where they had experienced difficulty and asked questions about what they ought to do on their islands, whether they too could try activities they had heard about, and so on.

Chair of the Tokyo Treasure Islands Promotion Committee, Mr. Yamada, offered some final comments.

"Talking face-to-face has been challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is wonderful that we have been able to meet online. I feel that we made good use of the virtual space while having to change our plans at short notice.
Going forward, it will be important to build bonds between people on the islands and elsewhere, and between different generations. I also think that an important theme will be "purpose", that is to say, our reasons for existing. I would like us all to consider what each island's purpose is, what their needs are and how to respond to those needs."

This was a great opportunity for everyone in Tokyo Treasure Islands to take inspiration from the past year's achievements and to think about what more they can do for their islands from now on.