Cultural Bridge Creator Program

Yamagata Prefecture

The Cultural Bridge Creator Program (CBC Program) creates a network of regional cultural ambassadors to represent the sustainable development of regional food resources.

Rural Japan holds an incredible diversity of regional cultures that are largely unknown beyond the small communities that have founded and protected them for generations.

From biodiverse and sustainable food production, family-run businesses that have lasted centuries, and sustainable design that co-exists with nature; this traditional ecological knowledge is an incredible resource that can help bring prosperity to the rural regions of Japan.

The Genuine Education Network Program (GEN) is focused on helping Japan to present and utilize these resources. They have started up the Cultural Bridge Creator Program (CBC Program) to create a network of regional cultural ambassadors to represent and shepard the sustainable development of these regional resources.

The CBC Program is currently being developed in Tsuruoka City in Yamagata Prefecture.
This is the only place in Japan to be certified as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy and is a perfect model for how the Japanese countryside can benefit from tapping into its indigenous culture.

First and foremost, it must be pointed out that Yamagata Prefecture is divided into two distinct regions divided by a massive mountain range. These regions are the Murayama Region and Shonai Region.  

These regions each have entirely different routes from Tokyo which we will go into detail below. 

1. Geography

Firstly, with the mountains of the Dewa Sanzan, the expansive Shonai plains, and the nearby Sea of Japan, this city is blessed with geographical features that make it the prime location for many varieties of food all in a compact area.

2. Nature and Seasons

Next, the bountiful nature and four distinct seasons provide a large variety of diverse ingredients in each season of the year; mountain vegetables and mushrooms from the Dewa Sanzan and surrounding mountains, rice bamboo shoots and edamame beans from the plains, and fresh cherry salmon and codfish from the Sea of Japan.

3. Spiritual Culture

Thirdly, more than a millennium of Yamabushi foraging plants in the mountains of the Dewa Sanzan for survival have created a certain type of vegan Shojin Ryori (ascetic cuisine) that strictly uses only naturally-preserved mountain vegetables.

4. Unique Vegetation

Shonai RegionAnd lastly, the Shonai plains are famous for producing some of the best rice in the country for centuries, helped along the way by private rice breeders. In addition, generation upon generation of families have been passing down certain varieties of vegetables that lead to the many distinct varieties of heirloom vegetables only found in specific local areas.

Cultural Bridge Creators

The specialists of the CBC Program are known as Cultural Bridge Creators and have been taking part in extensive and comprehensive training programs with GEN since 2016.

So much more than simply translators, the Cultural Bridge Creators train to become experts on the food culture and communities of this region and are actively working to create programs and business opportunities that can help the small rural communities of this area develop into a major culinary destination.

Tsuruoka City and the CBC Program recently finished a successful program that saw culinary professionals from across the world visit and experience this city’s rich culinary culture.

The CBC members served as the hosts and guides for this international delegation and did a magnificent job organizing and carrying out a very complex and busy schedule that saw this group travel to dozens of towns and small communities.

Through their efforts, this diverse group of chefs, economists, and tourism experts were able to see all that this region had to offer in an authentic and enjoyable educational trip.

The CBC members planned a variety of presentations and hands-on experiences for this delegation and were there for the entirety of their stay to translate and co-present the dozens of intricate food cultures of the many small communities that make us this region.

From the fishermen of Yura, to the mountain monks of Mt. Haguro, the CBC ambassadors are striving to link together this region and become the experts who can make this food culture accessible to international guests like this.

Derek Yamashita

Derek Yamashita

The Hidden Japan Creative Director. Following his passion to connect with his roots as a Japanese American, Derek started a life in Japan after college living in the deep countryside of Yamagata Prefecture. Falling in love with the trails, cycling courses, fishing and all that the countryside had to offer, Derek co-founded a travel company called The Hidden Japan in 2018. The Hidden Japan focuses on promoting the deeper sides of Japan beyond the big cities by working closely with rural communities to offer order-made boutique tours letting travelers experience Japan alongside the local people.

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