Travel like you live here!
It is our mission to provide life enhancing educational programs for our participants while immersing them in the cultural, historical, and natural wonders of Usuki. Through this process, we hope to create a shared connection between the local community and the wider world. Mindful of the steady decline in population throughout rural Japan, we aim to generate interest in Usuki in order to attract visitors and people interested in relocating. We believe this will not only help revitalize the town but also help transfer local knowledge, traditions, and history to the next generation.
KURAtabi USUKI believes in:
Supporting local communities through
-arranging farm stay experiences
-promoting local products and produce
-fostering lasting relationships with the international community
Providing experiential learning through
-creativity, action, and service
-collaborating with and contributing to local communities
-critically thinking about the present and future of rural life
Promoting sustainable practices through
-supporting local organic farmers
-highlighting and introducing local businesses
-helping to protect and manage the local environment
Who we are
KURAtabi USUKI is a small organization that was formed in 2019 with the support of the local municipality and the dream of rediscovering and reintroducing Usuki. We are a group of five individuals with unique stories and connections to Usuki. Some of us were born and raised here while others have relocated here from an urban center. The one thing we hold in common is that we all live here!
Where is Usuki?
Usuki is located in the island of Kyushu on the southern coast of Oita prefecture an hour south by train from the capital of Oita City. Famed for its castle town and organic agriculture, there are approximately 37,000 people living in Usuki.
Nohaku – ‘Farm Stay’
‘Farm Stay’ is a style of stay focused on farming and fishing communities. While enjoying traditional lifestyles and making connections with local residents, guests stay in the homes of local residents to experience a typical life in the Japanese countryside.
Our online programs
With the ongoing spread of covid-19, KURAtabi USUKI has made necessary adjustments to our programs. As an organization promoting local tourism, it is always our hope to be able to introduce our participants directly to what Usuki has to offer. However, until we can do that, we provide quality online programs for our participants in both Japanese and English. The programs vary and include Farm Stays, traditional incense making workshops, and a unique tour of Usuki.
-Online Farm Stay
In an online farm stay, participants are welcomed into a zoom session where a KURAtabi staff member will welcome you. The program begins with a detailed introduction of Usuki, the place you’ll be ‘visiting’ during the online program. After the initial introduction, the screen shows a slide of Oita Airport, the gateway to the farm stay program. This is followed by slides of other means of transportation (buses and trains) guests would use to get to Usuki, heightening a journey-like atmosphere. The experience takes a sudden turn when the screen switches to a live broadcast. Guests are now officially at the host family’s home. Often in a traditional Japanese home, the host introduces guests to the unique features of their accommodations.
-Online incense making
In this workshop style program, participants are exposed to the traditional art of incense making. Participants will receive an incense making kit in the mail allowing for the program to be truly engaging. Our workshop is led by the 5th generation master incense maker of a 148-year-old Buddhist alter shop. While learning about Buddhist ancestral alters and their cultural significance, we delve into the artistry of incense making.
Online tours are ways for our participants to gain a deeper knowledge of Usuki’s culture and history. First an itinerary of the ‘day’ is shared with all and then the ‘trip’ begins. The themes of the tours vary from learning about Usuki castle, local fermentation culture (soy sauce and miso), Usuki’s rich Buddhist tradition, the 16th century feudal lord Otomo Sorin and more.
Planning your online program
KURAtabi USUKI works flexibly and openly with our customers and partners. For our online programs (approximately 60-90 minutes), we have found that groups between 5-15 people work best. Nevertheless, our programs are customizable to meet the needs of groups that are smaller or larger. All of our online programs are conducted in either English or Japanese by the main facilitator. The facilitator acts as the narrator as well as the interpreter.
Upon receiving an inquiry, communication with KURAtabi USUKI and the program organizers is scheduled
Interests and educational objectives for the group are narrowed down
A draft scenario of the program is provided
After approval, dates and times for the online program are decided
Online Program (and meet your host for farm stays)
Follow up with a survey
Who are the programs suited for?
Our programs are suited for anybody interested in learning about Japan, rural life, agriculture, Buddhist cultural influence, and arts and crafts. We welcome members of Japanese clubs, Japan societies/study groups and anybody seeking prior knowledge about Japan before traveling.
Privacy and safeguarding
KURAtabi USUKI is committed to protecting the privacy of all who join the program. Our online programs are not recorded without prior consent from our participants. If recorded, the videos will be deleted in accordance with zoom’s archival functions (6 months). Therefore, in conjunction with our policy, we ask all participants to refrain from making audio and video recordings during the programs.
KURAtabi USUJKI has a robust recruitment policy to ensure that staff members are suitable for working with people of all different backgrounds.
KURAtabi USUKI staff members understand that:
-relationship with participants during the online programs must be completely professional
-they must treat all customers and guests equally
-they must use language appropriate to the audience
-they must refrain from intimidating participants verbally or physically
-they must refrain from taking actions that could be misinterpreted
Darlene Poulan of Singapore American School
I am thankful for the “Online Farm Tour and Exchange” opportunity, especially during this pandemic because it allowed students to dream about where they could go once we are able to travel freely again. Having to connect with the Japanese students was also great! As a sponsor of Japanese Culture Club, I am glad that we were able to actually connect with people who live in Japan and to hear about their experiences. I thought the “yes” and “no” body language over Zoom was brilliant! It allowed students to engage even if they don’t necessarily want to speak up. Wish we could do this activity again! Thank you for the opportunity and for the time!
If you have any questions or would like to learn more about our programs, please contact us!
- What impact will your program have on me?
-We hope that you learn about the history and culture of Usuki while gaining further interest in rural life in Japan.
- Are time differences an issue?
-As part of our programs are virtual (live broadcasts), we generally schedule our programs between 7am-8pm JST.
- Would the online programs be available post covid?
- Are the online programs exclusive or do you have other groups or individuals join?
-We are flexible! The programs are usually exclusive to the organizer, but we have conducted sessions that are more of an open exchange.
- What is the largest number that you can accommodate?
-From experience, a group of 5-15 people works best. Nevertheless, we are open to smaller/larger groups as well.
- What does KURAtabi mean?
-“Kura” derives from the Japanese word “Kurasu (to live)” and “Tabi” means to travel or take a journey. It is our hope that you travel as though you live here!
- Are there any age limits?
- Does one need to speak Japanese to join?
-No! Our staff members speak English. When there’s a host or a shopkeeper in the online program that does not speak English, we will provide interpretation.
- How far in advance do you need to make reservations?
-We accept reservations from 6 months prior to “arrival.’
- How much are the online programs?
-This depends on the program, and the number of participants. Please contact us for more details!