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Interview with Sohei Yasuda, Mayor of Amami



Hope for a “Future City” —Hope made with local love

Late last year, Amami City got a new leader. Mayor Sohei Yasuda, 43, is a rarity today. Ask anyone, and they will tell you they’ve never seen such a modest politician.

Yasuda was born and raised in Naze, Amami City. He graduated from high school in Kagoshima, enrolled in the Faculty of Law at the University of Tokyo, and after completion, took a job at a management consulting firm in Tokyo. Feeling like a cog in the big city machine, however, he began a journey of introspection. In the end, he realized that working for his home city was the way to live life with no regrets. This spurred him on to be a politician.

“My idea of a future city is a society that can use the latest digital technology while also preserving analog values, like the good old spirit and culture of Amami. I want the children to grow up and be able to explain what Amami is like to people outside. Community events are great for passing down the local culture, but they aren’t always accessible to kids who go to school in the city area. I hope to make more opportunities for learning about traditions like Oshima Tsumugi fabric and shima-uta folksongs at schools in all Amami communities.”

Yasuda was born into a family of Oshima Tsumugi weavers. The business closed down when Yasuda was little, but for him, the sound of home is the sound of weaving looms still ringing in his ears. Having moved to and lived in Tokyo also gave him a new sense of appreciation for the extraordinary beauty of the familiar sea and nature back home. In short, Yasuda is living proof that the future of Amami depends on local love nurtured through exposure to the island’s attractions in the context of everyday life.

“I also want to focus on career education to develop more professionals. My aim is to encourage those who leave the island once to come back in the future. I hope to carry out community management that can foster the next generation and create a virtuous circle.”

Sohei Yasuda
Sohei Yasuda was born in 1979 in Naze, Amami City. He graduated from the Faculty of Law at the University of Tokyo, and after taking a job at a private company, joined the Matsushita Institute of Government and Management, established by Panasonic Corporation founder Konosuke Matsushita. In 2008, he returned to Amami and worked to revitalize the island through nonprofit organizations dedicated to supporting youths, and to promoting environmental conservation and recycling. Yasuda served on the city council for three terms from 2011, and was elected Mayor of Amami City in December 2021.

An island getaway to take in the plethora of sights and sounds that Amami has to offer. Guests on this trip will be painter and picture book author Miroko Machiko and tie-dyeing artist Yukihito Kanai of Kanai Kogei.
text | Yukiko Soda photography | Yayoi Arimoto