Yatsugatake walk vol.7

a perfect guide of Yatsugatake area for tourists

People who sketch out the future of Nirasaki (P.8-9)

According to Mr. Masaya Masuda, owner of Masuda Coffee & A.G.cafe in Nirasaki as well as a staff member of Yatsugatake Walk, “Nirasaki is becoming an interesting place thanks to some intriguing people here. I hope more and more people choose to get on the highway from Nirasaki Interchange or get off the train at Nirasaki Station on their way to, or their way back from Yatsugatake.” Then he named those “intriguing people” one after another. We decided to ask them: “What kind of city is Nirasaki?”

There are several roads connecting Yatsugatake and Nirasaki. Hosakamichi, which runs trough the southern foot of Mt. Kayagatake, commands an astonishing view of the vineyards below. A farm road running in parallel with National Highway 141 lets you see rice fields; changing colors with each of the four seasons.
Driving over the Shichiriiwa Line, you enter Shimpu, famous for its peaches. In spring, peach blossoms there cover the fields in a blanket of pink. From Nirasaki, you can get the whole view of Yatsugatake and if you look back, Mt. Fuji towers over the (Kofu) basin.

There are certainly must-see sights along the roads connecting Yatsugatake and Nirasaki... when we were looking for someone who goes back and forth between Nirasaki and Yatsugatake, we found Mr.Kota Mikami, who used to work at ROCK in Kiyosato. 


“How to build a community”

Mr. Mikami was born and raised in the shopping district of Nirasaki. After graduating from high school, he had traveled around the world and after living in Tokyo for a few years, he eventually, got a job at Kiyosato ROCK. Until 3 years ago he commuted between Nirasaki and Kiyosato. When we asked him “what kind of city is Nirasaki?”, he answered, “I think it’s hard to see a structured vision for the city’s regional development. Although places where people can gather have disappeared over time, no one has done anything about it”, expressing his frustration. “However, now we have MIACIS and AMERICAYA here. These initiatives are the same as sowing seeds―we will definitely make those seeds sprout and grow”, he said firmly. Referring to Paul Rusch, who opened up Kiyosato, and to the city planning in San Francisco and Portland which he visited recently, he said: “I would like to revitalize my hometown without losing sight of how to create the whole society.” For him, “hometown” covers not only Nirasaki-city but also a wide range of area including Kiyosato, Yatsugatake, and Yamanashi.  “In addition, The nature is superb here don’t you think, and the mountains close.  I think the view of the Southern Alps from Hosakamichi is one of the best in the world”, he strongly recommended.   

“It’s just right”

AMERICAYA is a shopping complex that reopened in the shopping district in front of Nirasaki Station last spring after a renovation. It has drawn a great deal of attention, as the 50-year-old building seems to have been reborn. The renovation was conducted by Mr. Kenji Chiba from IROHA CRAFT. After spending his high schooldays in Nirasaki, he moved to Kyoto to study architecture. Since coming back to his hometown after graduation, he has devoted his passion for renovation.
As for the renovation of AMERICAYA, he said “first of all, I was drawn to the potential of this building. I was confident that this place would become the epicenter for revitalizing the shopping district.” He continued, saying “over the last year, AMERICAYA gathered the attention of those inside and outside the prefecture; as a result, many people got in touch with me. I fully realize that the whole region is supporting our initiative. We still have remains of aged buildings in Nirasaki, many of which I hope to renovate in the future. I would like to turn the whole shopping district and the entire city into an ‘area of renovation’.” 
“Even a small company like us can make a change in this city probably because its size is just right. It is easier to elicit cooperation from local residents and governments here.” Many of the sightseeing spots including the shopping district, Heiwa Kannon Statue, and Kutsu Kannon Statue are all located within walking distance. The public transportation is well-developed and the climate is favorable too. The city is certainly “just right.”

“Hidden potential”

“It has only been a year since I moved to Nirasaki but I have already seen a lot of potential in this city, of which people with interesting ideas can make the most of,” said Mr.Tsuchiya. Just by walking around the city in between work, you can feel its liveliness from a gathering of local elders at AMERICAYA, an always-crowded small riceball shop in the shopping district, a popular festival in a shrine, and so on.

“Connect, and get involved”

Mr.Kunugi runs 8Lab, a company that undertakes the planning/management of various projects. It has organized tours and workshops connecting Nirasaki and central Tokyo since 2 years ago. “Rather than promoting the notions of ‘big city versus small towns’ or ‘the young versus the elderly’, we uphold the concept of ‘connecting both sides and getting everyone involved’, ” he said and drew ∞ (infinity symbol) with his finger, which is where the “8” in his company name comes from.
His company undertook the management of Amariyama Green Lodge located in the western part of the city last May; since then, they have organized various events including a pizza party, in which you can even make your own pizza oven, and a Kotatsu & Hot pot party under a starry night sky. Many people from Tokyo come on tour buses to enjoy Nirasaki.
Mr.Kunugi has also been engaged in some other activities to enliven Nirasaki like directing “NIRAREBA”, a local media for people originally from the city, and planning a camp with MIACIS for middle and high school students. “Although people have different ways of thinking, I came to realize that everyone can unite when it comes to children and the future”, he said and drew ∞ again in the air.


“Raise people who want to improve their own locality.” 

Now, when people talk about Nirasaki, they mention AMERICAYA and MIACIS first and foremost. MIACIS is a facility for the development of young people, located on the basement floor of community center “NICORI” in front of Nirasaki station. Since its opening in October 2016 as a place for middle and high school students, approximately 1,600 students have registered to use the facility, and the number of visitors per day is 20 – 70. The middle and senior high school students are also actively involved in the management of MIACIS and the planning and management of events.
Mr.Nishida, who established MIACIS and heads the facility, talks about the significance of MIACIS as follows: “After graduating from college, I embarked on travels to search for a place to live, visiting countries such as Germany, the United States, mountainous regions in Canada, even Tohoku and Shikoku region. Among them, I was especially inspired by Denmark. I think that their approach to vitalizing the country and town by investing in “human resources” very realistic. I’m aware that Nirasaki doesn’t have enough resources but instead, we can invest in people. For that purpose, it is necessary that children will be raised not only by schools and families but also by the whole community.” “I would like to raise people who want to improve their own locality. They can stay in Nirasaki for the rest of their lives or come back to the city after leaving here once. If they choose to live in other cities, they can make those places better.” He talked about the bright future of society in a calm but assured manner. Middle and high school students in Nirasaki are lucky to have an adult like him in their daily lives.




The city that nurtured them, is a city that will be nurtured in return. Walking around Nirasaki, you can see the city’s future as they envision it. walking around in Nirasaki gives you a chance to think about the area you live in. Yatsugatake Walk would like to underscore to our readers that these realizations are one of the best parts of traveling.