Discovery Nanjo seeks to attract U.S. military to local businesses
By Jun Ikemura
Team Discovery Nanjo is a trade association that consists of over a dozen businesses in Nanjo City in the southern part of Okinawa’s main island. The team member businesses represent a wide variety of professions from fishermen’s union to small cafes, but they all share a vision of wanting to attract more foreign customers to Nanjo City, and introduce how great a place Nanjo is.
Nanjo City itself is a new city that was formed when four southern Okinawa towns of Sashiki, Chinen, Tamagusuku and Ozato merged in 2006. The shape of the new city on the map resembles a heart, which is why Nanjo is called the “City of Heart.
The city has many holy places like Sefa Utaki, one of the most famous holy places on Okinawa and Kudaka Island, which people call the “Island of Gods.” There are also many ancient castle ruins and superb viewing spots.
But the Team Discovery Nanjo members say that, “although we are very proud of having so many famous sightseeing spots in our city, tourists should get to know Nanjo in a deeper level, and get to feel more local Nanjo.
One member of the team, Yuuka Tanaka, is an official at the Chinen Fishermen’s Association who works with fishermen every day, but wonders why the price of fish are so low although fish are so delicious food, and fishermen work so hard to catch and the cost of fuel to their boats is high. “We should find a different way to market our fish, or another market, where we could get a higher value for our catch,” she says. She says that finally someone thought about foreigners on Okinawa, and “they are matching our aim.”
She explains that, “If people come to our fresh fish auction, the price we get would be higher or we could sell more than usual. At the same time, customers could get fish at a reasonable price because there are no middlemen.” The Nanjo Fishermen’s Association now has an early morning fish auction every 3rd Sunday of the month, and they hope that a lot of people come to the market.
At the market has now more than the fish auction, as the Team Discovery members set sales booths at the market selling everything from Shisa pottery, to fresh sweets, fresh produce and more. After the auction, team members invite people to explore more of local Nanjo City. Of course, there are the sightseeing places, but they urge visitors to find more local businesses like cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops. Although they are not hugely popular yet, many offering very special items.
As a part of their effort, Team Discovery Nanjo invited staff from Kadena ITT for a Nanjo tour Oct. 1st, then introduced team’s member businesses to Kadena ITT in hopes that ITT would make regular Nanjo tours available for members of the American military community.
The Team Discovery Nanho members believe it would create very special opportunities for both communities, as foreigners could find more local businesses to purchase from and more local places of interest to visit, while local people could gain a new market, and in the process make friends.
Discovery Nanjo has received positive feedback after attending U.S. military festivals like Torii Beach Caribbean Party, Kin Blue Beach Bash and others. They are scheduled to set up a booth at Saturday’s MCCS Comic Con event on Camp Foster, too, where the will sell local fish dishes and sweets. Don’t miss it, and after having a taste of local Nanjo, the next step is to visit there by yourself.
Discovery Nanjo Facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/discoverynanjo. Japan Update introduced Nanjo City in an article that is on line at http://www.japanupdate.com/2014/03/nanjo-city-is-full-of-history-beaches-places-to-see-2/
The Team Discovery Nanjo project is very meaningful that other local communities should catch up with. Okinawa is going to be more international as the number of foreign tourists is rapidly increasing. We living on this island should prepare to cater for their needs and create them places they want to go. We must also let them find out the true Okinawan heart, or they never return to the island because Okinawa’s best thing is its people and hospitality. For Japanese visitors, this is already well done, but to do the same for foreigners takes work. It’s the time to change, so let’s get into action!