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  • Writer's pictureCory McGowan

Minakami’s First Foreign ‘Relocation Concierge’

On February 8, 2021, I had the opportunity and privilege to visit Mayor Haruji Kitou’s office in Minakami for the first time. The visit was for a ceremony to officially make me Minakami’s first non-Japanese ‘Relocation Concierge’ (article is in Japanese) (移住コンシエルジュ-ijyuu konshierju in Japanese). What does a relocation concierge do, exactly? To be honest, I’m not really sure yet, and the town is working on defining that as well. The most basic understanding is that the town will offer services to people/families that are considering moving to Minakami to make that process smoother through showing people around the town and connecting them to the community.

The evolution of how this ended up coming to me is more clear. Last fall I started working at the Minakami Telework Center, a great local place for shared office and event space. Suzuki-san, who is involved in many initiatives to support Minakami, including the NPO Flap (Japanese only) also works in that space, and we had the opportunity to start to get to know each other. He asked me for some support for Timeless Yukiguni ryokan consortium as an adviser to set up a partnership between Yukiguni and the Tokyo American Club (this is still in progress), who I am still closely connected to after managing the organizational development function there for five years. Suzuki-san is one of three Japanese relocation concierges in Minakami, and when the town decided they wanted an English-speaking non-Japanese person in this role, Suzuki-san kindly recommended me. I happily accepted as a way to support the Minakami community and future development!

What excites me most about this role is the possibility of helping the town to develop a vision for itself in future community development. When I met with Mayor Kitou and his team, that was the core topic of our discussion - how important it is to work on this vision, and how challenging it will be to develop in a way that takes into consideration not only the future community members (Japanese AND non-Japanese), but also that honors and prioritizes the local community as well.

Minakami is a place with a huge amount of potential, a stellar location, and a very rich history and culture. I’m excited to be a part of its development, and can’t wait to hear from you if you’d like to learn more about the area.

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