Highlighting JAPAN Vol.121 June 2018

environment. The first-time event had twenty-two participants. the event to October in 2013, and in 2014 added an event featuring stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), which is easy enough even for beginners, drawing over two hundred participants. In 2015, the event’s name was changed to Beach Marine Sports Festival in Atashika.and member of the Kumano Marine Sports Promotion Committee, was a competitor in Atashika’s SUP marathon event. “I participated twice in a row from 2014,” she says, “and fell in love with Kumano’s beautiful natural environment. When I found out that Kumano was recruiting members for its Local Vitalization Cooperator [see HJ February 2018, pp. 12-13], I immediately applied and moved to Kumano.” These members aim to attract people to regions with decreasing or aging populations, and help them get established and settle through community-run projects.They switched the timing of Sakie Onishi, a SUP instructor After joining Kumano’s Local Vitalization Cooperator, Onishi went to similar events in other regions as an observer while pondering ways to upgrade Kumano’s event based on her experience as a competitor. “We got the local women’s association to assist us, and served regional dishes such as ‘mehari sushi’ (rice wrapped in pickled mustard leaf) and mackerel sushi to participants after the event,” Onishi says. “We also paid attention to details such as making the buoys that marked out the course easier to see, and tried to improve anything we thought could be made better.” On the day of the event, the organization set up SUP tryouts, beach soccer, beach tennis and other activities for people who weren’t competing. The event grew to the point that the world SUP champion came from overseas to participate. In 2016, the Japan Sports Agency’s “Revitalization of Regional Communities and the Economy Through Sport” report [see pp. 6-7] listed the event as a successful case study, drawing many observers from other regions to see for themselves.“We want to anchor the meet as an event on Kumano’s autumn calendar,” says Koichi Ono, an officer of the Sports Networking Division at the Kumano City The local women’s association preparing regional dishes for visitorsIn 2017 Kumano began hosting bouldering meets as wellTourism Board about the success of previous events and upcoming plans. “We want to both increase the number of participants and expand outside marine sports into sports that use the city’s other natural gifts to revitalize the region. For example, in 2017 we staged a bouldering event on the crags in the city, which the city also supported.” attractions, beginning with the World Heritage Site of Kumano Kodo—an ancient Japanese pilgrimage trail—and the rocky wonders of outcroppings such as Onigajo and Hana no Iwaya. The city is working on guided tours to showcase such locations to people visiting Kumano thanks to its high-profile sporting events. Kumano is rich in tourist 17

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