Former CFO conveys charms of Okuaizu(移住半年…『奥会津魅力』発信 元米国日系企業CFO・今井さん) – 福島民友



 In the Okuaizu area of Fukushima Prefecture, a woman with an unconventional background — she was once the CFO of a Japanese-affiliated company in the United States — is now working hard to help revitalize local neighborhoods.
 Takako Imai, a native of Fukushima city, now works at the Okuaizu Promotion Center in Mishima, also in the prefecture. She is in charge of an Instagram account linked to Saijiki no Sato Okuaizu — a website that introduces information about the area — and regularly posts photos to the account.
 The 53-year-old is trying to attract foreign tourists by promoting the charms of Okuaizu — part of the wider Aizu area — by utilizing the perspective she gained through living overseas for a long period.

 奥会津地域おこし協力隊として、米国の日系大手企業で執行役員を務めた”異色”の経歴を持つ女性が奮闘している。福島市出身の今井隆子さん(53)。今井さんは奥会津振興センターに勤務しながら情報サイト「歳時記の郷 奥会津」のインスタグラム担当として日々写真を投稿。海外で長く過ごした視点を生かして奥会津の魅力を発信、インバウンド(訪日外国人)獲得に奔走している。

 The photos she has posted on Instagram include images of a train running along the JR Tadami Line in the snow, fog rising from the Tadami River, and nostalgic views of dry fields and paddies. She makes every effort to attach hashtags in English to make the photos more accessible to foreigners.

 雪景色の中を走る只見線、只見川の川霧、郷愁を誘うのどかな田園風景―。心を動かされた奥会津の風景を写真に収め、インスタグラムで発信している。外国人が閲覧しやすくなるよう、英語でハッシュタグを付けることも欠かさない。

 The Instagram account (https://www.instagram.com/okuaizu/) was started in July. About 200 images have been posted, and the number of followers, including people overseas, was more than 710 as of early January.
 ”Our main target is people living overseas. It’s important to let them see photos so they can develop an image of the Okuaizu area,” Imai said.
 In addition to Instagram, Imai also works on an English-language website.

 7月にインスタグラムのアカウント (https://www.instagram.com/okuaizu/) を開設。投稿数は今年の初めまでに200件を超え、フォロワー数は国外を含め710人以上に上る。「海外の方がターゲット。写真を見て奥会津のイメージを持ってもらうことが大切」。インスタグラムのほか、英語版のホームページ作成にも携わっている。

 Imai started working after graduating from a local high school, and went to the United States to study English when she was 25. She returned to the United States when she was 27 and started a new job in the country.
 She worked in accounting and tax affairs jobs, eventually serving as chief financial officer at Pasona N A, Inc.

 地元の高校を卒業後に就職し、25歳で語学留学のため渡米。27歳で再び渡米し、現地で再就職した。経理や税務などの仕事に携わり、米国パソナで最高財務責任者(CFO)を務めた。

 However, she felt the United States was a country where individuals and companies prioritize their own profits. “I began developing a desire to work for others, not only for myself,” Imai said.
 While those feelings grew, a video clip she happened to watch changed the course of her life.
 The clip, delivered via email in spring 2016, was from an association of people from Fukushima Prefecture. The video introduced, in English, a sake brewery in the Aizu area.
 ”I saw lines of sake bottles that resembled a wine cellar. I was surprised to find such a wonderful place,” Imai said.
 At the same time, she also learned that the prefecture was still suffering from a deep-rooted negative image that stemmed from the 2011 nuclear accident. Her enthusiasm about her home prefecture deepened.

 しかし米国は個人や企業の利益追求型社会。「自分のためでなく、誰かのために働きたい」。そんな思いが強くなっていた時に見た一本の動画が転機となった。
 その動画は2016(平成28)年春、県人会を通してメールで届いた。会津の酒蔵を英語で紹介する内容で「ワインセラーのように日本酒が並ぶ映像を見て『こんなすてきな場所があるのか』と思った」。同時に福島に対する風評が根強く残っていることも知り、古里への思いが深まった。

 Later, Imai contacted Hitomi Kumasaka, a woman in Fukushima city who produced the video clip. Kumasaka told her that she would show Imai around when Imai visited the Aizu area.
 Imai visited Kitakata and many other places in the Aizu area with Kumasaka. As Imai learned how attractive the Aizu area was, her enthusiasm about the area grew even more.
 Although there were some anxieties, Imai decided to settle in Mishima, a town in the Okuaizu area. At the time, Imai thought that “nothing will happen unless I go there.”
 Imai learned about her current job through the Furusato Kaiki Shien Center, a nonprofit organization for assisting people who want to resettle in their home municipalities.

 その後、動画を制作した熊坂仁美さん(福島市)に連絡を取ると、実際に会津を案内してくれることになった。熊坂さんと一緒に喜多方市などを巡り、会津の魅力に触れ、さらに思いは膨らんだ。不安は残ったが「行かなければ始まらない」と三島町への移住を決断。ふるさと回帰支援センターを通して今の仕事を知った。

 Imai moved to the town in June. Since then, she has deeply felt the charms of Okuaizu — an area said to boast a quintessentially Japanese townscape and scenery — but also thinks there are challenges ahead.
 ”The trend is for foreign tourists to travel independently, but there have been cases of tourists seeking to stay in the Aizu area finding accommodation websites that do not offer information in English,” Imai said. “More efforts are needed to improve the framework for accepting foreign tourists.”
 Imai, however, believes the Okuaizu area has enough potential to be a success.
 ”Collaborations encompassing a wider range of areas are needed to convey the charms of each one. I want to present my opinions without overlooking viewpoints from overseas,” she said.

( Translated by The Japan News )

 6月に移住してから半年。日本の原風景とも言われる奥会津の魅力を実感する一方、課題もあると考えている。「欧米人の主流は個人旅行だが、会津で宿泊しようとしても予約サイトが英語に対応していないケースがある。受け入れ態勢の整備が一層必要」と指摘する。
 ただ、可能性は十分あると考えている。今井さんは「地域ごとの魅力を発信していくため、広域的な連携も重要。海外の視点を忘れず、意見を出していきたい」と意気込む。

 【 2017年12月10日付・福島民友新聞掲載 】




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