Co-working spaces have long since taken root in the world, whether as event venues or offices for start-ups.
Unlike other co-working spaces, Naganuma White Base, located in the center of Naganuma, became a base for Local Vitalization Cooperators in November 2023.
Local Vitalization Cooperators are mainly comprised of people from urban areas who move to a rural area for a certain period of time to uncover the charm of the area, create a business, and establish a permanent residence. In most cases, the base of operations is located in a government facility, and there have been no cases of co-working spaces being used as bases.
Sakamoto Kazushi, who is a driving force behind the project, said, " "If the government takes the lead in creating a place like this, it tends to become a location that is difficult to utilize. It is important that anyone can come in." He himself was a member of the Naganuma Local Vitalization Cooperator. The doubts he felt at the time led to his decision to use the co-working space. He said, "If you stay in the town hall all the time, your interaction with local people is limited and does not lead to work, so you will not be able to establish a permanent residence in Naganuma." Since the program began in 2009, only a 2 or 3 people, including Sakamoto, have established a permanent residence in Naganuma. He says, “It is impossible to stay in the town hall all the time and then be thrown out to do the rest on your own because the three-year term of the Local Vitalization Cooperator is over. Without establishing connections with various people and planning for future career prospects, it is not possible to establish a permanent residence. In this respect, co-working spaces allow people to naturally interact with local people and build relationships, which leads to permanent residence. Even if they don't establish a permanent residence, they will maintain their connection to Naganuma and which will lead to increased relationships with the community.”
Sakamoto was in charge of the green tourism business when he was a member of the Local Vitalization Cooperator, but he left the team after two years because he felt that there were limits to what he could do within the town hall, even if he was free to take action on his own. He has since established his own green tourism business, focusing on inbound tourism, making use of the network of farmers he has developed.
In order to solve the issue of the low rate of people establishing permanent residence in the town, the government temporarily halted the recruitment of members and reviewed the activities of the Local Vitalization Cooperator. measures. They resumed recruiting in 2023, and on November 1, the first two members of the newly formed team arrived.
Tokudome Seiya was selected based on the idea that he would decide on his own activities and prepare for the start-up of a business. He said the deciding factor in choosing Naganuma was, "It is close to both Sapporo and New Chitose Airport, and has good accessibility. The location suited my lifestyle and the work aspect of my goal to commercialize a remote work personnel referral service." Tokudome does his work at Naganuma White Base.
Eto Masahiro enjoys the outdoors. He worked as a design personnel at a housing construction company in Tokyo. He says, “Both my wife and I, having grown up in a rich natural environment, decided to relocate to Nagasuna upon our marriage. Naganuma is also close to the airport, which met my requirements.” Eto works at the town hall in the mornings and Naganuma White Base in the afternoons promoting immigration and establishing permanent residency in Naganuma.
As a member of the general incorporated association, Sakamoto supports the Local Vitalization Cooperator members in coordination with the town.
How does the operator of Naganuma White Base view this initiative?
Masuda Kenji, a former JA employee and representative of Masuken, which is mainly involved in agriculture-related businesses, launched this co-working space in 2019. He says, "The idea was to make it a place where people who met here could connect and create new businesses."
Masuda says, “I think Naganuma is a place with business opportunities in terms of agriculture as well as tourism. I hope to create a place that will serve as a hub to facilitate connections between people in Naganuma.”
Content writer Sato Daichi, who has been using a private room in Naganuma White Base as an office since May 2023, says he enjoys the connections he makes because he actually meets people face to face. He laughs, "I often work with people I don't know online, but here, I'm getting more opportunities to work with people I can see face to face, such as when Masuda introduces me to people who come here."
Regarding the future of the Local Vitalization Cooperator, Sakamoto points out, "It becomes important to set our own goals and work towards achieving them." He adds, "It is important to ensure that even if entrepreneurship or settlement is not successful, team members and residents do not become negative as a result of that."
Naganuma White Base
Honcho Kita 1-chome 1-1, Naganuma-cho, Yubari-gun, Hokkaido, Japan
Hours: 10:00-18:00 (last admission at 17:00)
Closed: Saturday, Sunday, Holidays
*Parking lot available