Inbound Ambassador

BRIDGE: Adam Fulford – Sustainable Tourism in Rural Japan

Social entrepreneur Adam Fulford has leveraged his deep love of the Japanese countryside and culture into meaningful sustainable tourism products.

Adam’s company Fulford Enterprises Ltd. offers a range of services to enrich international understanding of Japan. The Walkshops and KnowHow initiatives are effective ways to help revitalize rural communities as well as providing unique, meaningful experiences for visitors.

Overtourism has become a major hurdle to successful and sustainable tourism development in Japan. One way to ease the strain on cities and overly popular attractions is to draw visitors to the beautiful Japanese countryside.

I had a chance to catch up with Adam Fulford who has had a long and varied career in Japan as a teacher, consultant and founder of Fulford Enterprises, Ltd.

Since 1985, Adam has done great work as a writer, editor, and translator of material for Japan’s national NHK TV programs which are popular across the globe. These many years of working closely with Japanese locals and diving deeply into the culture gave him an insight into the challenges of population decline, lack of resources for heritage preservation, and difficulty maintaining quality of life that rural communities are struggling with.

In an effort to address these concerns, Adam has developed innovative initiatives such as the popular Walkshops, guided walking tours and NowHow projects. These programs and tours attract visitors into the countryside and important shrines and historical sites in order to enjoy a deeper Japan experience while spreading income and assistance into rural areas.

Adam describes Walkshop as,

Think about your own path through life. Your head is in constant motion, your mind’s eye engaging with anything that may help you achieve each goal, whether it’s a major objective or simply fetching a drink from the fridge. On Japan’s path through history, many minds have engaged with valuable cultural insights, ultimately distilling them into a shared practical understanding of how to get things done. Featuring an unforgettable visit to one of Japan’s most important and photogenic shrines, the Walkshop reveals the power and elegance of East Asian thought on the path—through beautiful woods—to a better future.

On the Walkshop, all the key ideas are explained in English with the help of cards that you can take home. No prior knowledge of Japanese is required.

A key element of sustainable tourism development in rural areas is finding ways to balance filling the needs of locals with creating attractive tourism products and services- this is what we discuss in this interview above.

Adam describes an innovative workshop idea in the YouTube discussion. The initiative combines Japanese staff English communication training with creating sustainable tourism products. By taking Japanese staff from international companies, which require the use of English, to the rural countryside to first learn about the local areas through research and interaction with the local residents, businesses and government officials. The second stage is to then act as guides to international visitors who visit in the following days. This program allows Japanese staff to improve their English skills in a more meaningful way- developing a deeper understanding of rural community issues.

From the international visitor perspective, travelers are provided with deeper, more meaningful experiences impossible to have in busy city centers or at crowded tourist attractions. This is a win-win-win in terms of staff training and understanding, assistance and preservation of heritage in the countryside communities, and providing high-quality tourism products and services.

An additional aspect of rural revitalization is to find ways to tap into the knowledge of the local elderly in rural communities. This elderly group offers a richness of culture, tradition, folklore, and heritage which may soon be lost if we don’t find ways to tap into it, preserve, and communicate it to future generations.

Find out more about Adam Fulford’s social enterprise at https://fulfordent.com/

More videos of Adam introducing the charms of the countryside and speaking about Rural Revitalization and other projects can be found on his VIMEO channel: https://vimeo.com/adamfulford