This post is a contribution made by Eric, a Travel Volunteer Team Member.
In an effort to show the world that Japan remains a safe destination and promote international tourism back to Japan, we are sponsoring two “Travel Volunteers” to visit Japan’s 47 prefectures during a 100+1 journey.
The idea for this project came from one of our employees at The Real Japan: three months after the events, we were brainstorming on ways to restore confidence and bring back tourism to Japan. We had all seen the coverage about Japan from international media and felt an important part of information was missing… Although the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear issue are terrible disasters which claimed many lives, Japan as a country was NOT entirely destroyed or irradiated. All other places outside the evacuation zone remained totally safe. But the media never mentioned it.
An idea arose and immediately caught everyone’s enthusiasm: ”How about creating a contest to win a journey through all 47 prefectures of Japan in 100+1 days and report on a Blog and social media? All travel and accommodation expenses, including international airfares would be covered by the project. Impossible? Crazy? The seed for the “Travel Volunteer” project was planted…
We also involved Japanese tourism businesses from all over the country to sponsor a part of the journey and many contributed in the form of complimentary room-nights at hotels and Ryokans, with local guides offering their services to escort the Travel Volunteer for free in their city. We would like to thank them for their support.
On July 6th , after one month of excitement and intense work, the Travel Volunteer website was launched. It took off immediately, with over 200 applications in less than two days. Two weeks later, the Facebook page of our project was shared more than 10,000 times!
On July 31st, the application closing date, we had received 1897 applications from 85 different countries in the world… Every applicant was requested to pay a USD 5.00 fee to enter the contest, thus ensuring they were serious and committed. The funds were raised to support “On The Road”, a grass-root NPO, actively involved in the reconstruction efforts in the devastated Tohoku region.
Board of Messages full of Support and Hope
On August 15th, we had read all 1897 applications and pre-selected 5 candidates based on their answers to three simple questions:
- What is your personal reason to apply for Travel Volunteer?
- If you are selected, what would be your dream while in Japan?
- Why should we choose you?
The “lucky five” were 3 single applicants – 2 female & 1 male) from Canada, Malaysia & Ukraine, plus two couples from the UK and the USA.
On September 13th, they were invited to join the final selection process (return flight paid) at Kaikaro, a prestigious Geisha Tea House in Kanazawa, in presence local personalities and Japanese TV’s covering the event. The selection process was broadcast live on U-Stream (watch it here) and on local & regional TV’s.
Foreigners (Gaijin) wearing traditional Japanese kimono with Geisha girls and learning more about Japanes tradition as well as culture.
This non-profit project also aimed at raising funds for a grass-root NPO called “On The Road”, actively involved in the reconstruction efforts in Tohoku region, through a USD 5.00 application fee. As a result, USD 10,000 have been raised and symbolically handed over to the President of “On The Road” by the 5 pre-selected candidates, at the end of the ceremony.
Contestant winners Katie & Jamie from the UK who will be visiting 47 47 prefectures of Japan while they blog about their experiences!
On September 15th, our finally selected Travel Volunteers – Katie & Jamie from the UK – departed Kanazawa at 08.50 am to their first destination, Toyama. They are now on their way through Japan and will keep blogging everyday about their journey in Japan, until Christmas Eve on December 24th, when they will be in Tohoku, distributing gifts to children displaced by the tsunami.
For more information, please visit:
The Website: Travel Volunteer｜トラベルボランティア
The Blog: (Japan) Travel Volunteer Blog
The Facebook Page
The Twitter Page