In what seems a nod towards the famous campaign in Australia to recruit a tropical island ‘caretaker’ for what became know as ‘the world’s best job’, Iki City on the small island of Iki (壱岐島) in Nagasaki Prefecture, is currently offering the incredible salary of 1,000,000 yen per month to the right applicant who can help grow local business and spread the word about the island’s attractions and activities.
Iki Island, population somewhere around 30,000, is one of only four permanently populated islands in the Iki Archipelago off the coast of Nagasaki Prefecture in Kyushu. The main source of income for islanders lies in agriculture and fishing. However, as well as shops and stores selling lifestyle-related products, construction, lumber, and shipbuilding account for what is a relatively diverse range of business on the island.
An uncertain future
In what is a common problem facing much of rural Japan, Iki Island faces a struggle to keep hold of its future. With no university, some 90% of young islanders are leaving for the mainland after graduating from high school. Most head to urban areas like Fukuoka in search of work, rarely to return. Such movement of the island’s population has left local business facing an uncertain future.
Against this backdrop of depleting human resources, authorities on the island have established the Iki City Industry Support Center (壱岐市産業支援センター / Iki-Biz), in an attempt to break the island out of this cycle. The center follows models established by similar facilities such as the Fuji City Industry Support Center / F-Biz (Shizuoka) that specializes in support for small to medium businesses. The head of the latter, Koide Muneaki, and his specialist team set examples for the recovery of struggling businesses at little cost. This paved the way for a similar center to be set up in Okazaki City, Aichi (OKa-Biz), and since then more establishments of support for local business have been popping up all over the country.
For Iki City, struggling under a prolonged recession, the Iki-Biz center is an important project. With a pretty extraordinary budget of 12,000,000 yen a year, the island and the center are now looking to recruit the right person to help regenerate growth of business and put rural Iki Island and its activities on the map, so to speak.
‘The world’s best job’
Back in 2009 the Internet went mad over what became commonly known as ‘the best job in world’, a kind of 'caretaker' position on Hamilton Island, part of the Whitsunday Islands, in Queensland Australia.
With the only qualifications required for ‘the best job in world’ being that applicants could swim, snorkel, and sail, it still came as some surprise that the website handling applications crashed after getting over one million hits in three days. Well, perhaps it was only the Internet that was surprised; the prospect of getting paid thousands of dollars to spend 6 months enjoying a tropical island from the base of a rent-free villa (with pool), would seem to be a pretty easy sell to anyone bearing the miserable weight of a cold, grey, and wet Monday morning. That said, eventual ‘winner’, Britain’s Ben Southall, did have to bear the responsibility of putting the island on the world’s map (although the recruitment process pretty much did that, still, presumably he had to bear the weight of an army of smitten applicants and ‘tropical island’ dreamers secretly willing him to screw up).
Japan’s best job?
You can see the ‘Iki Island’ recruitment announcement (in Japanese) here.
If you can read Japanese, you’ll have noticed that nowhere in the text is included the phrase, ‘the best job in the world’, or, indeed, ‘Japan’. There is also no mention of a rent-free villa complete with swimming pool, and whilst formal qualifications and educational background are also absent, requirements look to be a little more stringent that just being willing and able to swim, snorkel, and sail.
As someone who will be charged with working with and supporting the growth of small to medium businesses, spreading the word about the area, and taking part of community events and activities, ‘business sense’ is high on the list or prerequisites. Communication ability, passion, and the ability to handle tasks related to IT also feature.
Interviews for the position will be held in January / February and work to start sometime around late July / early August. The contract is for one year.
Will this kind of recruitment/position catch on?
Since 2009, the theme of best job seems to have become something of a mainstay for leisure and tourism recruitment in Australia. Only recently did TOURISM AUSTRALIA announce the winners of their ‘Best Jobs in the World’ campaign. Positions include ‘Chief Funster’, ‘Outback Adventurer’, and ‘Taste Master’.
It seems hard to believe that, in something so formal and so reverentially omnipotent as the Japanese workplace, similar irreverence would ever be applied to job recruitment terminology in Japan. That said, we’ve already seen parts of rural Japan break the mould in their attempts to attract human resources and creative types. Key to this has been the offer of a life away from the oppressive and exhausting formalities of workplaces in the city. In an earlier post (Want To Live In Rural Japan? The Countryside Could Do With A Hand!) we looked at the example of ‘creative depopulation’ set by Kamiyama / 神山 in Shikoku. Authorities there are offering a new, more relaxed, base for startups and entrepreneurs.
In their recruitment information the people at Iki City say that if they don’t find the correct applicant at the first time of asking, they’ll begin the process again. It will be interesting to see if such action is required. The task at hand looks to be far more that just showing everyone how much fun you’re having on an island, and the nearest ‘big’ city (Fukuoka) a boat / bus ride and some 2 hours away. Still, 1,000,000 yen a month is a lot of money and even with everyone flocking to the city, such a figure will surely get plenty of people looking the other way. The problem for expats living in Japan, however, is that this particular dream job, unlike the one in Australia, looks to be for Japanese only (although, as far as this expat can read, that isn’t explicitly stated).
(Monkey Rock on Iki Island)
About Iki Island (壱岐島)
Approximately 17 km from north to south, 14 km east to west, and highest point, Takanotsuji 212 m, Iki Island has some fine looking beaches dotted along a spectacular and rugged coastline (which includes the cool sounding ‘Devil’s Footprint’). Yunomoto is the island's hot spring resort where the water looks a bit like that chocolate river in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In 深江田原平野 (Fukaetabaruheiya) Iki Island can boast of having the 2nd largest field in the Nagasaki Prefecture. Wheat-based shōchū (Japanese liquor) originates from these parts, and friendly competition between local brewers has helped to develop a traditional taste for tipple.
Despite officially being in Nagasaki Prefecture, Iki Island looks to be closer geographically to Fukuoka. Ferries from Bayside Place (20 min bus from Fukuoka) take 1 to 2 hrs.
It probably goes without saying that most of us expats living in Japan would be more than happy to get paid 1,000,000 yen per month. How far would you go for this kind of salary? What would be your dream job in Japan? Does life in rural Japan appeal to you? Let us know.
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