Rural Reboot: Kamiyama's Renaissance
Kamiyama, Tokushima Prefecture, is a mountain village with a population of 5,000. But despite its tranquil setting, it's home to satellite offices of firms headquartered in Tokyo or Osaka Prefecture. An inflow of people from big cities is bringing changes to Kamiyama. We meet a group of new residents who are working to turn Fusuma Karakuri, which uses background panels for Japanese traditional performing art, puppet theater, into a new form of entertainment. We also visit an outdoor museum with modern artworks. In this episode of Journeys in Japan, Martin Holman, an American who heads a puppet troupe in Tokushima, explores old and new aspects of Kamiyama and zooms in on its charms.

Satellite offices

A local non-profit organization began to invite satellite offices around 2010, taking advantage of a high-speed Internet network installed in Kamiyama as part of Tokushima Prefecture's policy. Currently, 14 companies have satellite offices in the town, enabling employees to work with convenience equal to that of big cities while enjoying rural life surrounded by nature.

Sozo-no-mori (Forest of Creation)

3 artists from Japan and abroad are invited to Kamiyama every year under an artist in residence program launched in 1999 jointly by the town of Kamiyama and a non-profit organization. Although this year's program has been canceled due to the coronavirus, the artists stay in Kamiyama for about 2 months in autumn and produce works to be displayed in an exhibition. Visitors can enjoy 15 artworks created by the artists at this outdoor museum.

Digital Fusuma Karakuri

Fusuma Karakuri is quick, sequential changes of Fusuma-e, sliding doors used as background panels for traditional puppetry. About 1,500 old Fusuma-e have been preserved in Kamiyama. Digital photos of these panels have been converted into computer graphics, so anyone can try their hand at this unique performing art. Unfortunately, though, there's no place where Digital Fusuma Karakuri is always available.

Access

From Tokyo's Haneda Airport, it takes an hour and 10 minutes by plane to Tokushima. From Tokushima Station, a one-hour bus ride takes you to Kamiyama.