‘Community reactivator’ helping Akita Pref. farmers with branding, sales

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Takuya Omori

DAISEN, Akita — Takuya Omori, 48, has caused quite a stir in Daisen, Akita Prefecture, since arriving in April last year as a member of the Community-Reactivating Cooperator Squad.

For example, he connected the owner of a cafe there selling shaved ice to an activity to preserve the natural environments of fireflies.

Another time, he had local farmers grow and sell pumpkins for Halloween decorations.

“Every day has been so much fun for me,” he said. “It’s nice that I can feel such a sense of reward. I feel like my life is progressing well.”

Omori is from Utsunomiya. At 26, he quit at a major electric appliance maker and traveled to the United States using a working-holiday program.

He lived in San Francisco and New York for three months, respectively, and enjoyed listening to his friends talk about their home countries. His friends there were from various parts of the world, including Europe, Africa and Asia. In those years when it was still standard in Japan for people to be employed by single companies for life, he was surprised to hear that in his friends’ home countries, people changed jobs repeatedly to step up their careers.

After returning to Japan, he held various jobs, including part-time positions. Omori then got a job in an information-technology company that was a foreign-capitalized start-up, though he did not have work experience in the field. He said he made the decision because “my gut told me the job would be interesting.”

In the company, he was in charge of examining the effectiveness of advertisements on search sites. It was a world where keywords used in a search engine had a price tag. His job was to find the best keywords used by consumers so that his clients could lure such consumers to purchase their products.

The happier clients and consumers became, the higher sales rose. It was fun for Omori.

His career became stable as he developed a search engine advertisement system for mobile phones and then became an entrepreneur.

At the same time, Omori felt a growing sense of longing for rural areas and the agriculture and forestry and fisheries industries. He wanted to connect such industries with consumers in urban areas.

Though he talked about his dream and ideas with others, people in urban areas were usually more concerned with their own personal affairs. The distance between Omori and rural areas remained, and he felt that perhaps his dreams would never come true.

In autumn 2020, he learned the Daisen city government was seeking a community-reactivating cooperator. He took it as the sign he had been waiting for.

In his elementary school years, his homeroom teachers often wrote, “You need to act more calmly,” in his school report cards.

“If something looks interesting, I can’t help but rush to act on it right away,” he said.

Omori began helping rice farming households struggling with falling rice prices. Daisen is one of the largest rice production sites in the nation.

Working with four rice farming households, Omori plans to separate rice produced by the farmers without blending in those of other farmers. He then plans to sell the rice in small packages.

The key to success, he believes, is branding each rice using the farming household names. Similar to wine, rice produced by different farmers have different tastes. He aims to emphasize that point and plans to take charge of each process — from making packages to expanding sales channels.

“I don’t force them to follow my enthusiasm, and I want to realize the goal without imposing burdens on the farming households,” Omori said.

He aims to set a precedent in which 1 kilogram of rice harvested by the farmers will sell for ¥1,000. The amount is about six times higher than rice producers’ rough estimation for rice harvests in 2021.

“My goal is to establish successful precedents and spread the methods to as many farming households as possible,” he said.