Experience a Japanese Hagi Homestay with G Adventures
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Japan is on many Silver Travellers’
Holiday Wish List, a country that offers spectacular scenery, exotic food and
fascinating culture. But whilst there are many ways to tour its iconic sights,
there is nothing quite like a homestay for getting under the skin of the
country and its people.
Enter Hagi Homestay Association, a
meet-the-people tourism initiative organised through the Planeterra Foundation
and now offered to international travellers through Silver Travel partner G Adventures. Shared experiences are always a
priority when you travel with G Adventures, who specialise in small group
tours, safaris and expeditions to more than 100 countries. And if you’re a solo
traveller, you won’t be penalised either – single supplements simply don’t
Hagi is a former castle town in the
countryside of Yamaguchi Prefecture near the Sea of Japan coast. Capital of the
powerful Mori Clan in the feudal age, Hagi has retained many of its traditional
buildings, but the economic picture is bleak, the most famous local industry
being the Hagiyaki Pottery. Around 50,000 people live in the town today, around
half the population of the 1950s.
So the Hagi Homestay Association
fulfils a vital local need. Most young people are moving away from rural areas
to the city for work, which leaves an ageing society alone in traditional
farming communities - not great for morale amongst the elderly, nor for
economic growth. ‘It is like we are
becoming extinct,’ laments one elderly Hagi resident.
But now Hagi Homestay is starting
to make a difference by broadening the town’s tourism potential. Travellers can
stay with 15 local farmers and other senior hosts who have been trained in
English language skills, conversation aids for travellers, and everything they
need to prepare them for welcoming Western guests. This training is provided by
the Planeterra Foundation, a not-for-profit organisations which was established
in 2003. As the non-profit partner of G Adventures, they fund and launch social
enterprise projects designed for the tourist market.
Planeterra’s projects all fit into
well-defined categories: Meals and Food, Tours and Experiences, Handicrafts,
Accommodation, and Transportation. And for the Hagi Homestay project, they are
working closely with the Hagi Green Hometown Tourism Association. In 2019, G
Adventures brought their first travellers here to stay with Japanese farmers,
experience the community and culture, and thus support elderly local people.
A two-night Hagi Homestay experience
features as part of G Adventures’ 11-day Back
Roads of Japan tour from Tokyo to Kyoto. The small group arrives in time
for a welcome ceremony from local residents and the chance to get to know their
host family over dinner.
Next day, they explore rural Hagi
on a guided morning cycle tour that includes examples of samurai architecture
along the way. Then there’s free time to wander the quaint narrow streets and
perhaps visit some of the beautiful old samurai and merchant residences that
are open to the public. Spend late afternoon and dinner with your host family,
before moving on after breakfast next morning.
For both guests and hosts, it can
be an emotional parting. Guests are fascinated to find out about Japanese
cooking and ingredients, customs, culture and lifestyle, whilst the Hagi hosts
are equally interested to learn about Western equivalents. Want to master a
favourite Japanese dish? Your host might teach you. Fascinated by local
handicrafts or agriculture? Now’s your chance to see local people at work.
The unique insight afforded to homestay travellers is easy to understand, but how do Hagi’s Silver generation benefit? Far more than you might imagine. Quite apart from an increased sense of happiness and purpose, Hagi’s older residents become more active themselves as they interact with their guests. They can see income coming in for the Hagi Ageing Homestay Association and for local businesses. And, a real bonus, by generating new economic opportunities, they now have hope that the next generation will choose to stay in their rural community and buck the current trend.
‘I believe we can see many
different worlds if we observe from perspectives that are a bit different from
what we are used to,’ says Hagi Homestay Coordinator Taki Miyazaki. Visit Hagi
with G-Adventures and you can judge for yourself.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends G Adventures.
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