Winning combination

Japan’s inbound travel market: that’s the focus for this architecture graduate, who now has a key role at a company attracting new visitors to unsung destinations. It’s a perfect match.

  • Location: Sawara, Chiba Prefecture
  • Hometown: Shanghai
  • Job: Manager, Value Management

After graduating with a degree in architecture, Fuai Zhang found her perfect match in Value Management. The Osaka-based company has a mission to promote and sustain Japanese culture, finding new ways to utilise historic buildings as wedding venues, restaurants and boutique hotels. This approach highlights the country’s architecture, while also supporting its preservation for future generations. Early in her career, Zhang began thinking about her potential role in sharing Japanese culture with the world.

“From the moment I joined the company in 2013 I said to everyone, from my colleagues to the CEO, that I wanted to be involved with the inbound travel market,” she says. “Through our buildings and services we can provide travellers with experiences that only exist in Japan.”

Zhang is now a member of Value Management’s global sales team and is passionate about connecting experience-focused travellers with lesser-known destinations in regional Japan. One example is Sawara, where the firm established Nipponia Sawara Merchant Town Hotel in 2018. Spread across more than a dozen traditional buildings, the hotel aims to revitalise the town by using its architecture to attract visitors for overnight stays, rather than day trips or fleeting visits. The restaurant’s take on Sawara cuisine highlights ingredients grown in the local region.

The hotel’s dispersed nature also encourages guests to move through the town. This facilitates engagement with businesses such as restaurants and shops, some of which provide special products and hands-on experiences to hotel guests. As Zhang explains, these partnerships provide travellers with a deeper understanding of the town – plus the local economy benefits. While Sawara may have been a lesser-known destination until now, Zhang’s promotion of the authentic experiences that the hotel provides, such as the chance to join the 300-year-old Sawara Grand Festival, have shown that the town’s culture has an appeal that is truly global.

The shrine in Katori Jingu in Chiba Prefecture. It is one of the place in destinations where Fuai Zhang promotes for visits.