Japan’s No. 1 Volunteer PrefectureJoint Project of The Nippon Foundation and Tottori Prefecture

Photo of a scene from the signing ceremony of Joint Project of The Nippon Foundation and Tottori Prefecture

The Nippon Foundation and Tottori Prefecture have agreed to work together on a project to make Tottori “Japan’s No. 1 Volunteer Prefecture,” as a way to invigorate and instill a sense of pride in the prefecture’s population. The Nippon Foundation Chairman Yohei Sasakawa and Tottori Governor Shinji Hirai signed the agreement at the governor’s residence on November 18.

The project, to which The Nippon Foundation plans to provide roughly ¥3 billion over five years, will develop programs with the aim of creating a “model for local vitalization” through the participation of individual prefectural residents.

With a 2014 population of approximately 570,000, Tottori is Japan’s least populous prefecture, and the population has been declining since 1996. At the signing ceremony, Governor Shirai noted that many people do not even know where Tottori is, and that the prefecture was the last in Japan to have a Starbucks coffee shop open. The prefecture has been working to raise its profile, including the official nicknaming of Tottori Airport as Tottori Sand Dunes Conan Airport in March 2015. (Tottori’s sand dunes are the prefecture’s most famous tourist attraction, and Detective Conan is a popular manga (comic book series) authored by Tottori native Gosho Aoyama.)

The Nippon Foundation has worked with Tottori Prefecture in the past, setting up a joint research group that led to the prefecture’s passing in October 2013 of Japan’s first prefectural ordinance officially recognizing and promoting the use of sign language. Tottori is also known for its Ai Support movement to raise awareness of issues faced by persons with disabilities. At the signing, Mr. Sasakawa expressed his hopes for the project noting, “A mindset of supporting and caring about others has taken root in Tottori.”

With a focus on creating a society in which everyone supports one another, and in which everyone can participate, the joint project consists of nine specific activities in three areas related to human resource development and assistance programs:

(1) Creating a society in which everyone supports one another

  • Support for the daily lives of people in the middle area of the prefecture*
  • Promoting health using a grassroots model
  • Community support for seriously ill children and their families

(2) Creating a society in which everyone can participate

  • Making Tottori Prefectural Fuse Sports Park barrier free
  • Incorporating universal design in taxis
  • Increasing employment among persons with disabilities

(3) Promoting projects

  • Tottori human resource development program
  • Tottori assistance program
  • Information dissemination
  • The middle area of Tottori Prefecture is a hilly and mountainous region where the prefecture’s population decline has been particularly pronounced.

For example, in terms of support for the daily lives of people in the middle area of the prefecture, under the theme of “protecting the daily lives of long-term residents,” as commercial facilities, medical and educational institutions, and other essential services leave areas where the population is aging and declining, the joint project will take the lead in implementing numerous programs for overall community development and social welfare, including traveling “stores on wheels,” home-care nursing, and health and exercise programs to support people living in the area.

At the signing ceremony, Mr. Sasakawa said that in talking with local residents earlier in the day, he was reminded, “People in Tottori are proud of where they have been raised and live. We want to provide support so that, even if there is only one person left in an area, they can continue to live a rich life in the area they love.” Calling on individual residents to become involved, he added, “Local vitalization is not something that can be provided by the national government. It is important that the prefecture’s residents take the initiative.”

Governor Hirai, comparing today to the 1860’s when Japan underwent major changes, expressed his determination, noting, “A similar time may have come again. At that time, the people of regions across Japan rose to the challenge. Each region of Japan needs to change. I hope Tottori Prefecture will become a model for the rest of Japan.”

Going forward, The Nippon Foundation will set up an office within the prefectural government offices to promote these programs, and work with a broad range of institutions including financial, medical, and social service, to implement programs that enable individuals from the prefecture to participate.


Communications Department
The Nippon Foundation