Shanghai – Japan’s Rishiri Town on the northern side of Hokkaido, in partnership with Geometry Japan, created a web app “Kombu Hosu! Hosu! Virtual Kombu Kelp Drying”. The aim is to let people virtually experience kombu kelp drying and ultimately promote part time job of ‘actual’ kombu kelp drying.
Kombu kelp is one of the most important ingredients in Japanese cuisine. However, it is feared that kombu kelp might disappear from dining table in 20 years; not because of resource depletion but of labor shortage as drying kombu kelp requires physical labor, and it’s not the most fascinating job for young people.
Japan is one of the most aging countries in the world and Rishiri Town is aging much faster even by Japanese standards. As of March 2019, its people over 65 years old is over 41%. Despite the abundant kombu kelp off the coast of Rishiri Island, locals have not been able to collect and sell much as they do not have enough man power. Even worse, many part timers leave in the middle of the kombu kelp drying season because they didn’t know it would be that hard.
Kombu Hosu! Hosu! is designed to address this issue. It aims to increase the awareness of kombu kelp among young people but more importantly, it minimizes employment expectations’ mismatch through game-style web content allowing job applicants to experience the challenges and the beauty of the job. Users can dry 3 meter-long Kombu kelp by shaking the phone while keeping the phone close to them. 3 meters is the average length of the actual Kombu kelp. Once started drying kombu kelp, a bossy and over-reactive fisherman captain guides the user throughout the drying process, encouraging in both strict and sweet manner. After the mission of kombu kelp drying is completed, he tells the user to consider the seasonal job opening.
Mr. Toshiya Hiranuma, Supervisor of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Promotion Department of Rishiri Town Government office, said, “Since junior high school, I’ve dried kombu kelp myself but nowadays young people are not into it anymore, because it is a tough work. The whole industry has been struggling with labor shortage caused by aging and depopulation. We really need our younger generation to join in, but didn’t know how to. Geometry Japan’s idea fortunately came in at the right moment and we enjoyed working with them to make this idea happen. I think the success factor is an unusual combination of drying kombu kelp and mobile technology. Hopefully many people will experience drying kombu kelp and ultimately apply for the actual job, revitalizing Rishiri town.”
Fumitaka Takano, ECD of Geometry Japan who led planning, production and PR of this project, commented; “The challenge is not just the number of applicants. We’d like applicants to not leave in the middle of the season. I believe this campaign makes it easy for people to experience drying kombu kelp while bridging the gap between the fun and hard part of the job. Our young team members tried to introduce the ideas of gamification and entertainment and carefully crafted the story and the character with appropriate tone & manner that anyone can enjoy. We hope contribute to the recruitment and finally rejuvenate kombu kelp industry.”