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The new vanguard of rural revitalization efforts in Japan

70 kilometers north of Kyoto, Japan’s vibrant cultural epicenter, lies the small fishing village of Takahama. Known today for its pristine beaches and surfing, during the Heian period (794-1185), Kyoto’s aristocracy imported saba (mackerel) from Takahama. So many silver-gray fish flowed from Takahama to the old capital that the roads connecting the two came to be known as the “Saba Kaido” (literally: “mackerel highway”).

A thousand years later, amid the weak yen and overtourism, Kyoto is once again looking to the Saba Kaido for enlightenment – ​​not in the form of mackerel, but in the hope that the sleepy coastal town can become an alternative destination for tourists seeking to avoid the crowds in the search for an ‘authentic Japan’ experience.

Takahama isn’t the only one doing this; countless small towns across the country are seizing the flood of tourism they can siphon from Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. Where Takahama may have an edge, however, is through the foreign resident it relies on to showcase its merits.

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