Around the world the arrival of autumn has been accompanied by economic instability due to COVID-19.
Many countries, including Japan, have provided financial support to small businesses, eateries, hotels that continue to be among the hardest hit. However, as the months of extended economic constraints grow longer, they have compounded the earlier impacts on businesses already hit hard during the early lockdowns imposed by each country.
Moreover, with the pandemic very soon hitting the one-year mark, the situation appears set to continue for some time, creating a sense of urgency for many in the travel and hospitality sectors.
Picture a small restaurant with 4 employees that saw its clientele go down by 70 percent in a matter of days, now wondering whether business will ever return to a semblance of the former norms.
The trend is not just anecdotal. According to a report by Tokyo Shoko Research published on Japan’s national broadcasting company NHK, from January to August 2020, more than 30,000 businesses have gone bankrupt in Japan, an increase of 23.9 percent compared to the previous year.
In this bleak economy, it’s natural to think: is there anything that I can do to help?
It turns out, there is. MATCHA, a website aimed at sharing travel information about Japan in various languages, is trying to do something to help.
Finding Help through Crowdfunding
On October 1, MATCHA launched “Japan Tomorrow”, a crowdfunding website designed to support small tourism-related businesses all over Japan.
The idea is, that through crowdsourcing, businesses can pitch projects and ask for help, and individuals can contribute funds to help the companies during this trying time.
Those interested in contributing, even in a small way, can choose from three categories:
- life-changing cultural experiences
- disaster relief
- collaborations between Japan and other countries.
Once the businesses receive the funds, the supporters i will receive a reward from the businesses, which depending on the size of the donation could be something symbolic like a heartfelt note of thanks, a thank-you care package, or a future stay and dinner for two in an inn in a quaint village in, for example, Yamanashi Prefecture.
Supporters can also choose between projects that are “all or nothing,” meaning that the funds go to the businesses only if the target donations are reached. The other option is “keep it all,” which means the donor wants the business to get the designated funds even if the target crowdfunding donation level isn’t reached.
As said in the press release, the aim of MATCHA with this project is “to help connect those who want to travel and experience Japan to the people here who are excited to welcome them. It might be challenging to travel to Japan for a while. However, we believe that our thoughts and love can cross oceans.”
The page currently features three projects, including “Preserving Japan’s Ancient Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Network,” the stunning route in Wakayama where it’s possible to experience the heart of a Japanese religious tradition.
Alternatively, people can choose a more specific business or project. For example, the choice can be made to support SEKAI Hotel in Osaka, an enterprise started by a young man who, after traveling around the world, committed to creating a hotel in his native city of Osaka that also introduces guests to sustainable tourism and the local reality of eateries and traditional shops.
Do you know any businesses that are struggling to make it through the current economic problems? If so, those responsible for the business should make sure to go to this website, create a profile, and set up a project.
More information on how to set up a profile can be found here.
At a time when traveling for fun has been discouraged and become troublesome, this can be a way for all of us to support our favourite eateries, hotels, and experiences in Japan. That way, in the future we can enjoy them once more.
Author: Arielle Busetto