#11 Hidetoshi Nakata

Hidetoshi Nakata is a retired football player who represents Japan through his success at European leagues and as a representative of Japanese team. After his retirement in 2006, he has been travelling all over the world. He is currently focused on travelling Japan to explore Japanese culture and traditional Japanese crafts, which led him to launch a project named “REVALUE NIPPON PROJECT” to introduce what he experienced through his travel. We asked him about his trip all over Japan and reasons for having an interest in Japanese culture.

Interview with Hidetoshi Nakata

– Please tell us about why you are interested in introducing traditional Japanese culture through holding events and your original project called “REVALUE NIPPON PROJECT” and what kind of activity you are currently engaged?

Nakata:

I had played football in Europe, and when I retired at the age of 29 in 2006, I thought of what I would do next. I didn’t know anything except football since I spent most of my time to play football for the past 20 years. Therefore I wanted to see a world outside of football, and traveled all over the world for around 3 years. People that I met through my trip treated me as a former professional football player and we initially talked about football. But once the topic was shifted from football to Japan, I realized how much I did not know about my country because I could not answer questions from them, which I did not think was accepted. I noticed the necessity of having certain knowledge of my country as Japanese no matter what I would do in the future. Even if I speak Italian or English, I cannot compete with native speakers for knowledge and languages that they have. Therefore, I thought it was important to have substantial knowledge about my country, which would be my unique competence, before going abroad. It was 3 years ago when I was encouraged to go back to Japan to study about Japan.

Since I prefer to learn something without going to school, I decided to travel each 47 prefecture in Japan by myself. I am interested in experiencing languages, food, drink, crafts, and religions that are unique to each area, which even Japanese are not familiar with. For example, we do not know much about sake although sake is becoming popular outside of Japan as Japanese food grows in popularity around the world. I also chose the understanding of syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism as a topic of my trip. Non Japanese think Japan is unique because Shinto, the local religion, and foreign Buddhism, which was introduced through China in 6th century, coexist in the society. But we Japanese do not find it special to take in two different religions. Therefore we go to both shrines and temples, and enjoy festivals related to each religion. Moreover, I wanted to explore good places to stay and eat to introduce them to visitors from other countries.

I thought it would be interesting to visit each area to experience real life in this region and establish friendship with people living there because there is information that only local people know even in this information society, and I want to feel atmosphere that traditional Japanese crafts have by directly looking at them. It was also my curiosity to know the best places to stay and eat at each prefecture. Therefore I am travelling all over Japan by staying a different hotel every night.

–How are you collecting information about your trip?

Nakata:

I wasted my time at my first destination of Okinawa, the most southern prefecture in Japan, because it was hard for me to collect sufficient information through books and the internet. But continuing to meet and talk with local people helped me to get enough local information little by little. Although in the beginning of my trip, it only took 3 days per prefecture, it takes 7 to 10 days to go around one prefecture as I have more things that I want to do now.<