Hokkaido Outdoor Forum
The Hokkaido Outdoor Forum is an annual gathering of Hokkaido guides, outdoor education professionals, retailers, media, government bodies, academia and more. It’s a time for Hokkaido outdoor stakeholders to network, share knowledge, and build together a robust, sustainable, inclusive Hokkaido outdoor industry.
Anyone involved in some way in the Hokkaido outdoor industry is welcome to take part. The forum usually takes place in November, with registration in October. The forum is conducted in Japanese, but we hope to organize an English session for the 2022 forum. Follow Forum updates on Facebook (in Japanese) or sign up for updates in English.
DAY 1 – Keynotes and Panel
Tuesday 30th November 2021
With the COVID-19 pandemic still causing headaches and disruptions, this year’s event was pared down – a maximum of 100 in-person participants, and a mix of online and in-person days.
Day 1 was a fully online day, with only organizers present at the National Hidaka Youth Outdoor Learning Center (location). During this online day, the forum invited three keynote speakers to share their thoughts on how to keep the Hokkaido outdoor industry sustainable for the long term – not only environmentally, but in terms of training, facilities, and development.
Speakers were Shigeru Takada (Director of Tsuruga Adventure Base SIRI in Akan), Suguru Oguri (Director of Bihoro Tourism Association and BASIS), and Tomomi Yanagawa (Ministry of Environment Hokkaido Office for National Parks).
Following the short keynotes, I facilitated a panel discussion to bring common themes together, and probe the speakers’ thoughts on a number of UN Sustainable Development Goals. In the first half of the session we touched on the “macro” themes of gender equality (SDG #5), climate change (SDG #13), partnership (SDG #17) and consumption (SDG #12).
We then moved on to “micro” themes of public attitudes towards the profession of pro guiding in Hokkaido, outdoor certification in Hokkaido, mountain tourism infrastructure, and issues surrounding welcoming foreign outdoor-oriented inbound tourism in Hokkaido.
DAY 2 – Workshops and Exhibits
Wednesday 1st December 2021
Participant-led workshops are always a highlight of the annual Hokkaido Outdoor Forum. They’re an opportunity for organizations, individuals, and companies to share knowledge and facilitate learning among the wider Hokkaido outdoor community. Workshops range from indoor brainstorming and sharing sessions to outdoor hands-on skills-based sessions, such as river safety, paddling skills, and outdoor education tips.
This year, I led a workshop titled “Communicating the Hidaka Mountains to English-speakers”. It wasn’t a topic I know particularly much about, since we’ve not really spent much time in the Hidaka Range. The idea, however, was to get people thinking about the imminent change of status of the Hidaka Range to a new national park (from April 2022).
With a change to national park status, the Hidaka Range is going to see an influx of interest from inbound tourists. What are some of the hazards, unique to the Hidaka mountains that need to be communicated? Are facilities up to standard? Are maps and online information portals sufficiently available in English?
After explaining what HokkaidoWilds.org does in communicating the Hokkaido outdoors (as well as some of the challenges that creates), I helped participants brainstorm issues around access, facilities, hazards, and communication in the Hidaka Range.
I also enjoyed taking part in the workshop by Sachi and Vincent from EzoBase – essential English for outdoor tour guides.
There were a number of exhibits this year as per usual. Daiichi Rubber from Otaru was there showcasing their made-in-Hokkaido winter boots and wellies. Canoa from Lake Shikotsu was there, showcasing the volunteer efforts they are involved in to keep Lake Shikotsu beautiful. The folk from the Mountain Toilet Association were exhibiting their activities from the last year. And, as a first for the Outdoor Forum, the Japan Coastguard (Otaru Office) was there with their mascot.
HokkaidoWilds.org exhibited their English-language topographical maps, with a particular focus on the introduction of UTM grids onto our maps.
DAY 3 – Networking
Thursday 2nd December 2021
Networking is always a large part of the Hokkaido Outdoor Forum, and it was fantastic to be able to mix and mingle after missing out on that the previous year (Hokkaido Outdoor Forum 2020 was 100% online – see the video here).