¡Hola! Buenos días, and Nice to Meet You!
I’m Kuni, a tour guide based in Spain.
As of March 15, 2021, it will have been over a year since Spain went into lockdown. I thought the situation would end quickly. Not only would life return to normal, but I would also be able to return to work as usual.
A year later, we all know that the state of the world hasn’t changed. Instead, the situation has worsened.
Those working in the travel industry especially have fallen into a difficult situation in which the future is very uncertain. Similar to Spain, Japan has received global attention as a popular travel destination. Along with Japan’s culture and history, the reconstruction of the Tohoku region has garnered attention leading up to the 2020 Olympics.
The fact that there’s nothing but an unpredictable future ahead of us is heartbreaking.
Japan’s culture, food, history, and nature sites may be more popular now than ever. However, there are many people who don’t truly know Japan. Many locals in the countryside where I live in Spain don’t have any knowledge of the outside world. I’m asked questions like, “Do samurai warriors still exist?” “What about geishas?” or “Do you understand Chinese?” Vast amounts of information are shared via the internet, but it can be hard to find accurate sources.
This made me wonder, is there anything I can do?
A Walk ‘n Talk on Japan’s Culture and Charms!
This project is my answer.
2021 is an important year for a world-famous pilgrimage route in Spain. It is the Holy Year of the Santiago de Compostela, the final destination on this pilgrimage. I will be walking along this trail introducing both the local charms and Japan’s culture in comparison, showcasing what our cultures have in common.
I wish to connect the travel industries of Japan and Spain in the future. I hope that the pilgrimage route connects people as well.
This project is my campaign to revitalize Japan and Spain’s travel industries while sharing Japan’s culture and appeal with new people.
As for myself, I have flown all over the world, guiding visitors in Japan and helping them experience the joy of traveling for over 25 years. I encountered Spain during one of my journeys. This country resembled the old, peaceful days of Japan, and working in Spain soon became my dream. It was difficult for me to make that dream come true while caring for my grandparents and working. In fact, it was only a few years ago that I decided to live in Spain. Although my relocation occurred later in life, I would rather have moved and regretted it than to later regret not having tried. I assumed that my life would be working as a guide while capitalizing on my experience.
However, the reality was harsher. After starting from zero, I began working again in 2019.
I lived happily while losing myself in work, day-in and day-out. I strived to become a bridge between Japan and Spain.
Nevertheless, world travel has been hit hard since the pandemic in March 2020. It still hasn’t recovered during these turbulent times.
I believe this is the same in Japan and Spain alike.
I worked in the capital city of Madrid, but now live in the remote Spanish countryside. Unfortunately, the locals know very little about Japan. So, I spent my days talking about Japan’s food culture, sharing the cuisine, and helping them understand and grow to appreciate this country. I realized how important it was to have face-to-face conversations about my culture in contrast to relying on videos or information from social media.
I thought, “I want to boost the entire travel industry somehow! I can’t just keep still and do nothing!” I felt an urge to make use of my personality and personal experiences.
What can I do with my bright and adaptable personality that is only possible because I’m in Spain?
Camino de Santiago: A Pilgrimage Route in Spain
2021 is the Xacobeo Holy Year!
No matter how little, I wish to help people overseas appreciate Japan and share the joys of traveling with others. This year is special for Spain because the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, where Saint James the apostle lies, will welcome the Holy Year for the first time in 11 years.
This is the year of amnesty and atonement, when all can be pardoned for their sins. This is done by entering the cathedral from the Door of Forgiveness, which usually stays closed. For the entirety of the Holy Year, it remains open for visitors to pay respects to the apostle. Xacobeo 2021 was supposed to be a year when thousands of pilgrims and visitors would travel, bringing bustling crowds to the pilgrimage route.
Ultimately, it was decided that the Holy Year would be extended into 2022, as many people are unable to travel between countries this year.
This decision was made with the hope that perhaps more people will visit the following year.
To help people remember the thrill of traveling, I decided to walk and share my experiences in words, much like a storyteller would.
Camino de Santiago—one of the world’s three major Christian pilgrimages—is famous worldwide. I will share the charms of Japan while walking along this route. What do you think about a walking tourism evangelist for Japan trekking this world-renowned route?
Kumano Kodo’s Sister Trail: A Deep Connection to Japan!
The Camino pilgrimage route is a World Heritage site that is the sister trail to Japan’s Kumano Kodo. These famous routes even issue a Dual Pilgrim Credential! I want to walk and share about Japanese pilgrimages: the Shikoku pilgrimage, tours around popular shrines and temples to gather goshuin stamps, and a trip through ancient Japanese history at Koyasan and Ise Grand Shrine. These unique activities are exclusive to Japan!
A Walking Tourism Evangelist! Steps to Executing the Project
It is difficult for me to obtain funds for a 30 to 40-day pilgrimage since losing work last March. I planned this project to be feasible for my age and physical strength. I would appreciate your support through the Japan Tomorrow platform.
I am committed to executing this project if I can receive your support.
The collected funds will be used for:
- Funds for the pilgrimage.
- Equipment to stream the pilgrimage.
- Products that hold accessories and pilgrim credentials, made with repurposed kimono fabric, will be from my own collection and are not included in the budget. These products will be handmade, so there will rarely be two products with the same pattern.
- Other expenses include money to purchase Spanish Basque fabric, shipping fees, etc.
As far as the coronavirus pandemic is concerned, the current plan is to execute my project between June and August. However, I may have to postpone it until after autumn if it is difficult to book hotels and travel.
What is Santiago de Compostela?
It is the provincial capital of Galicia, located in northwestern Spain. Moreover, it is the final destination along the Santiago Pilgrimage, one of the world’s three major Christian pilgrimages. The journey to this holy land spanning 1,000 years of history is walked annually by over 100,000 people that cross over the Pyrenees Mountains from France. The route in Spain became a World Heritage site in 1993. It is also the sister trail to Japan’s Kumano Kodo.