Becoming Japanese in Ugo
- Ugo Town in Akita Prefecture (Japan) wanted to attract more visitors
- The town launched a Japanese language experience but had to compete with Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto
- We created a longer-form documentary piece showcasing life in the town
- Our team spent 2 weeks filming in snowy regional Japan
- The film was received well and put the small town on the map with a successful language program
Japan’s Akita Prefecture is one of the country’s most untouched and beautiful regions. Nestled in-between the rice fields and mountain ranges lies the small town of Ugo. It’s the type of place where everyone knows each other, you bump into the mayor at the local Izakaya and traditional Japanese culture is everywhere. From a fifth-generation soba master whose family invented nishimonai soba to dance groups famous for their traditional Bon Odori dance.
Ugo’s and Akita prefecture’s ageing population are a real problem. If things keep going the way they are the town could be uninhabited in several decades. The local government has launched many programs to revitalise the town and bring more youth and opportunity to the area. One of these programs is a ‘living-in Japanese language program’ which has been developed with operator Travel Design. The program allows students to live for several weeks with a Japanese family in Ugo and experience real Japanese town life. They go to a local primary school for their language classes and in the afternoons they are immersed in Japanese culture with activities like making soba noodles and learning how to meditate. The problem is that Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto are the main destinations for travellers and students who wish to learn Japanese. We were tasked with creating content to show why Ugo is just as amazing a choice as the metropolises of Japan for students that want to learn Japanese.
SOLUTION: DISCOVER AUTHENTIC JAPAN
We created a longer-form hero piece and several shorter pieces under the ‘Becoming Japanese in Ugo’ umbrella. The concept behind the content was that we needed to reach the people who are after a real authentic Japanese experience. Yes, Tokyo will provide you with hectic Japanese city life but if you want to experience traditional Japan and live the country life with all its traditions, Ugo is the place to be. The film we created follows the story of three girls from other Asian countries as they make the journey to Ugo and experience what it is like to become part of the town.
SOLUTION: BECOMING JAPANESE
We combined a cinematic and documentary style to create a piece that feels real but also invokes wanderlust. The piece starts in Tokyo to show a strong contrast between the two regions before we move onto Ugo. The girls experience what it is like living in the town by meeting the locals and by being exposed to anything from learning how to dance the traditional Bon Odori dance to making mochi from scratch. As they move from experience to experience we are introduced to local characters in the town and a Japanese voice-over guides us through the story. We kept the entire piece in Japanese and involved the people in the town to feature in the film to appeal to the target audience. In the end, the girls have become part of the town and have truly experienced what it is like to live like a Japanese person in Ugo.
The videos were received extremely well by the entire town of Ugo.
We have since returned to the town to create more content about the heritage and people of Ugo such as our films about a ramen chef and kimono maker.
The film has been used online and in trade shows, and the town has since rolled out a full placement program for students.