Session ⁄ Event

04 Asahi Town

Session Information

Date and
December 3rd, 2023 (Sunday) 2:00PM - 4:00PM
Akibayama Recreation Hall
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Attendance is free
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Event Report

panel discussion
Panoramic view of the venue

This area session took place at the Asahi Town Akibayama Recreation Hall. The discussion was live-streamed online.

The third area session of the YAMAGATA Youth Summit 2023 was held on December 3rd in Asahi Town. The venue, Akibayama Recreation Hall, serves as a community hub in the northern district of the town, and its impressive design features wooden elements and a triangular roof.

Asahi Town is known for its specialty products such as apples and wine, and it is home to "Kuki Jinja" (Air Shrine) the world's first shrine dedicated to air. Particularly, the apples, originating from a revolutionary cultivation method called "mufukuro Fuji" - a method of growing Fuji apples without using fruit bags, have gained a nationwide following for their deliciousness. During the fall, it is a familiar sight to see long lines of people at local roadside stations and sales points, eager to purchase these apples. Additionally, Asahi has a strong awareness of town branding, as seen in its two-year commitment to the "Asahi Town Branding Project" from 2014 to 2015. This spirit of town branding continues to be passed down to younger generations.

This session, titled "Illuminate the World" Asahi Town!
– City Promotion to Convey Local Charm", was led by Kohei Sato, Regional Power Creation Advisor to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications and well-known as the man inside the Asahi Town mascot character "Momoiro Usahi." The panelists included foreign residents involved in inbound tourism, artists and designers, and young people with ties to Asahi. The panel discussion covered questions such as "How are you promoting Asahi?", "How does the world see Asahi?", and "How are you getting creative when promoting Asahi?"

The panelists, many of whom were already acquainted or working together, found many points of mutual understanding. They resonated with the idea that if each pewho feels a strong connection to Yamagata works together something interesting can be created!' They agreed that while external promotion is important, it is crucial for the 'insiders' of the region to genuinely enjoy and appreciate it first. Furthermore, in order to convey this to the 'outsiders,' it is essential for them to experience and understand the distinctive features of the area. The accumulation of such experiences contributes to city promotion, as highlighted in the conclusion.

Asahi Town Mayor Hiroyuki Suzuki

Asahi Town Mayor Hiroyuki Suzuki said in his opening remarks: "We are developing a one-of-a-kind town that makes people proud to live here."

Kohei Sato

Advisor Kohei Sato focuses his efforts on "life-size promotion" when promoting Asahi through the mascot character Usahi. He said, "When I promote Asahi, I promote it as the best! So I want to make sure that no one will be disappointed when they come see Asahi for themselves."


Lin, originally from Taiwan, said, "Taiwanese people who have visited Japan several times and are tired of the 'Golden Route' (Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka) are interested in rural areas and want to interact with the locals and experience life in the countryside - even including shoveling snow!"

Yu Nagaoka

In addition to being involved in wine production, Yu Nagaoka is also a member of "Bakkira," a community organization focused on fun events and activities for adults. He noted that "if adults don't enjoy themselves to the fullest, they won't be able to convey the good qualities of their hometown to the children."


Last August, music artist HAWKER 9 returned to his hometown in Yamagata from the Kanto region. He said, "Next year will be my 10th anniversary making music. I want to shoot a music video in Yamagata that makes people think 'this is Yamagata?' I want to contribute to my hometown by letting people know about Yamagata."


Designer and influencer Halube said, "Yamagata is a place where there is the potential to do anything, because there are so many things that have not been done yet. If more people leave the prefecture once and decide to come back, it will become a more interesting place."


Sarah works in inbound tourism, organizing school tours from the U.S. to Japan, among other projects. She said, "Young people in Yamagata tend to leave the prefecture, but I want them to see how many people from overseas come to Yamagata, and feel the value of their hometown."

Ken Miura

Ken Miura served as the discussion facilitator. He raised the point that the key to promoting one's hometown to those domestically and abroad is for locals to enjoy the town in which they live.

After the discussion

After the discussion, a networking event was held, where participants sat in a circle and exchanged opinions, opening the path for new opportunities and insights.

YouTube Live

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Regional Forum Area Session

"Illuminate the World" Asahi Town!
~ City Promotion to Convey Local Charm~


  • Kohei Sato
    President of Mayohiga Planning, Regional Revitalization Company / Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications Regional Power Creation Advisor

    Kohei Sato

    Born in 1984 in Fukushima Prefecture, Kohei Sato holds a graduate degree from the School of Design and Engineering at Tohoku University of Art and Technology.
    In 2010, Sato joined the second-ever batch of Regional Revitalization Cooperation Team members and became the Information and Exchange Advisor for Asahi Town in Yamagata Prefecture. He initiated the town's promotional activities using the rabbit mascot character "Momoiro Usahi" as a practical implementation of one of his regional development research areas, focusing on "community development facilitated through non-personalized mascots."
    Even after completing his tenure as a Regional Revitalization Team member, he established the regional revitalization support company "Mayohiga Planning" in Asahi. He has been actively promoting community development projects using experimental approaches in various fields such as the launch of the Matsumoto-Tei Guest House, hometown tax project, and community-based school education.

  • Lin Yichen
    Asahi Town Regional Revitalization Cooperation Team

    Lin Yichen

    Born in 1989 in Taichung City, Taiwan, Lin Yichen majored in Web Design at Ling Tung University. With a deep interest in Japanese culture and language through Japanese mythology and history, she visited Japan multiple times before moving to Asahi. Drawing from her experiences, she worked for a Taiwanese travel company, touring various tourist destinations in Japan - noticing that many tourist destinations offered similar tours, and the unique charms of each region seemed to go unnoticed by the local residents. Wanting to transform the appeal she felt for local regions into viable tourism products, she decided to apply for the position of Inbound Promotion Officer in Asahi Town.
    Currently, Lin serves as the Inbound Promotion Officer for Asahi Town, where she researches the town's tourism resources and disseminates information through blogs, Facebook, and the town website. She also utilizes her skills in social media to create opportunities for exchanges with Taiwan and other international communities.

  • Yu Nagaoka
    Yamagata Asahi Town Wine

    Yu Nagaoka

    Born in 1994 in Asahi Town, Yamagata Prefecture, Yu Nagaoka graduated from Yamamoto Gakuen High School and later earned a degree in Business Law from Ibaraki Prefectural University of Commerce.
    After his studies, Nagaoka joined local company Asahi Town Wine, where he became involved in grape cultivation and winemaking. In his private life, he is a member of the community organization "Bakkira," which is dedicated to creating fun local activities for adults and enlivening community events. He also coaches children's kendo as part of the Asahi Town Miyajuku Kendo Sports Youth Group.

  • HAWKER 9

    HAWKER 9

    HAWKER 9 was born in Yamagata City in 1996 and graduated from Yamagata Prefectural Yamagata Technical High School. He debuted at the age of 18 and is a talented singer who has gained support from a wide range of people, young and old, with his new pop music style that fuses Reggae and R&B. In April 2023, "FIRST NIGHT" was selected as the ending song for Sakuranbo TV's "Yamagata Choice". On top of being a singer, using his experience studying abroad in New York, he is also an English conversation teacher. Some of his notable works include: "La France", "Snow Monster" (No. 1 on iTunes Reggae Charts in Japan & Taiwan), and "I Don't Want to Lose" (No. 1 on iTunes Reggae Charts).

  • Halube


    Born in January 1995 in Yamagata City, Yamagata Prefecture, Haruka Kumagai is a native of the prefecture and has attended her entire education here from kindergarten through university. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, she focused her efforts on promoting the appeal of Yamagata, and has been active on social media, mainly Instagram and YouTube, to promote the prefecture using her experience from her main job as a designer and creator. In the winter, she works as a sports ambassador for Zao Onsen Ski Resort, showing the appeal of Yamagata in winter to the world.

  • Panelist
    Yamashin Travel Director of Inbound Promotion

    Sarah Dean

Ken Miura
Facilitator Ken Miura Brand new day Co., Ltd. Representative ⁄ Branding Producer

Born in Yamagata in 1993, after graduating from Nihon University Yamagata Senior High School, Ken Miura studied abroad at the University of Washington in the United States. After consulting for sole proprietors, he ended up working in brand strategy consultation development for corporations. Currently, he mainly works on helping small and medium-sized enterprises formulate their missions and visions in order to discover and verbalize their unique values. His services cover a wide variety of fields including websites, advertisements, new business development, and recruitment,all of which lead back to him providing a total brand strategy that instills a strong internal company philosophy reflecting their values as companies.

Naoko Inoue
Host Naoko Inoue

Born December 28, 1974, in Yonezawa City, Yamagata Prefecture, and raised in Kawanishi, Naoko Inoue is currently a proud resident of Nagai City. During her time as a student at Kunori Gakuen Girl's High School in Yonezawa, she transferred to Glendora High School in California, USA in 1991 before going on to study at California's very own Citrus College. In 1998, she returned to Japan after experiencing working at a travel agency in LA and trying her hand at the media talent industry.
Naoko has worn many hats over the years: Radio DJ, commercial narrator, lounge DJ, bilingual English and Japanese event MC, a TV reporter for YBC Yamagata Broadcasting, TUY, and SAY Sakurambo TV, magazine model (Bi Story), interpreter, and to top it all off, she is currently active as a preschool English teacher as well as performing as one of the Yamagata Maiko. In addition, she is one of the instructors of the Yamagata Prefectural Board of Education's "Learn from Professionals" program.

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