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Pride comes after a fall? The Japan Kamaishi Open Field Museum Concept

Guiding Principle 12: Protect sense of place: Encourage tourism policies and business practices that protect and benefit natural, scenic, and cultural assets. Retain and enhance destination identity and distinctiveness. Diversity of place is the reason for travel.

Kamaishi City perches on the Sanriku Coastline in the Iwate province of Honshu, Japan, surrounded by the rugged Kitakami Mountains and within the Sanriku Fukkō National Park. The region is known for being the birthplace of the modern iron industry and for its fishing production.

Kamaishi’s location may be beautiful and rich in history, but it is also prone to earthquakes and tsunamis, which cause mass damage to the city. Six years after the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, Kamaishi established the 10-year ‘Kamaishi City Tourism Vision’ to help the physical reconstruction of the city’s heavily damaged regions, but also to build back residents’ pride in the place they call home.

Part of the plan involves the concept of an ‘Open Field Museum’, where the whole city is viewed as an open-air museum. There is no building, just a system in place that provides visitors with a greater understanding of Kamaishi’s history and why it is unique as a place. The goal of the Open Field Museum Concept is to create meaning for both tourists and local people. KPIs look at the percentage of citizens who are proud of their city rather than solely focusing on tourist numbers and programs.

The Open Field Museum’s success comes down to the city’s residents, who are actively involved in being guides or hosts for visitors, telling stories about their city. The daily lives and routines of Kamaishi citizens are considered an important local tourism resource and a series of unique hands-on experiences that residents can offer visitors are based on day-to-day activities, and experiences of living in Kamaishi, such as tree planting with forestry workers, catching fish on local boats, craft sessions at the local ironworks or hiking in the national park. The impact of disasters is also carefully woven into the initiative. Disaster prevention talks are available from residents who have experienced them, Unosumai Station shares memories of the Great East Earthquake and The Miraikan Museum provides information about the magnitude of the damage caused.

By revisiting its history, culture, heritage and environment as a host, Japan’s Kamaishi City has helped residents to revive a sense of pride for their city and to become more involved in the local tourism industry.

Every month, the Future of Tourism Coalition highlights inspiring stories that bring our shared vision for tourism to life. Have a story to share? Submit yours today.

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