Locals of Amami Prepare to Welcome Back Foreign Tourists
It Started with an Assignment
Students at Sekitoku Elementary and Junior High School in Tatsugo Town, Amami Oshima, had a thought-provoking assignment this past summer. In order to both familiarize themselves with their community and to think about how to communicate and share information about the island of Amami Oshima with others, the students were given an English assignment of making their own tourist pamphlets!
This is a copy of 3rd-year student Miharu’s pamphlet. She is involved in various student activities, such as competing in long-distance running (up to the prefectural level) and serving as the Student Council Leader. Furthermore, her hobby is drawing. Miharu started learning English in Junior High, so with her two-going-on-three-years of language study and a passion for drawing, this assignment was perfect for her.
Miharu’s older sister, with her love of American movies, has significantly influenced Miharu’s interest in studying English. In addition, Miharu finds English class fun and interesting, with many new things to learn. One day she would like to put her English skills to the test by studying abroad in an English-speaking country.
Sekitoku Elementary and Junior High School
The pamphlet was a summer assignment for 2nd and 3rd graders in preparation for a virtual cultural exchange meeting with a school in Vietnam. Miharu wanted to showcase places she has personal ties to–not necessarily just popular spots. So, when creating the pamphlet, she picked many places she had personally gone to with her family. The English teacher, Ms. Yumi Beppu, noted during the interview that many students do not know much about Amami Oshima as a whole. Since they live here on the island, they do not often research and visit tourist spots. She hoped the students could familiarize themselves with their own island home by giving this assignment.
Miharu’s pamphlet alongside those of her classmates
While she found every part of making the pamphlet interesting, Miharu especially enjoyed drawing the map of the island and writing the section on Amami FM, a local radio station that showcases the traditional music and dialect of Amami Oshima.
Considering the Effects of Tourism
Miharu wants to share the culture and appeal of the island with the world and have people visit it for themselves. However, she also worries about protecting Amami Oshima and its nature from the harms of increased tourism, such as littering and harm to wildlife. While these are complex and difficult-to-solve problems, one of the things she can do to help is make information more accessible to non-Japanese speakers.
When asked if there were other places she would recommend tourists visit, Miharu recommended Oshima Tsumugi Mura. This facility offers tours to illustrate the manufacturing process of Authentic Amami Oshima Tsumugi, a finely woven silk fabric dyed using mud. However, in their pamphlets, none of the students wrote about Oshima Tsumugi Mura. One can deduce that these students either have not been there or would find it hard to explain it in English. Miharu visited the facility on a field trip during elementary school and learned all about tsumugi. Since she is originally from Osaka, she especially finds the process of creating such a one-of-a-kind fabric fascinating.
Miharu thinks that, at the moment, it could be difficult for non-Japanese speakers to travel around Amami. During the pandemic, there have been major changes, such as the island’s designation as a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site (along with Tokunoshima, Iriomote, and the northern part of Okinawa) in 2021. While this is a great thing, she believes the island needs to continue preparing for a rise in tourists. Since there have not been many foreign visitors due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, there has also been a lack of experience involved in the process of adapting to needs and issues as they arise.
Miharu realized through this assignment that foreign visitors coming to Amami Oshima is not just a thought; it is a real situation that will soon be happening. Learning how to showcase Amami and accurately share information in English is something anyone, even students, can do to make things easier for visitors.
Overall, Miharu would like to welcome those who see her pamphlet and show them that “Amami Oshima has such interesting places!”