Tottori struggles to keep population from shrinking further


"As of March 1, our population numbered 590,130," sighs Rie Otsubo, a supervisor at the Tottori prefectural government's statistics department. "A lot of people tend to move away every March, but it's a fact that we've dropped below 600,000."

That, frets Weekly Playboy (May 3), puts Tottori's population at less than Funabashi City, a town on the outskirts of Tokyo.

What makes this demographic decline most painful is that so many of those bound for other places are in the 20 to 24 age segment.

"Tottori's a good place to raise children," says Masahiro Taniguchi, another prefectural employee. "For example, there's no wait for admission to nursery schools. We've got Japan's highest ratio of obstetricians to overall population and are second highest in pediatricians. And we put a lot of effort into education, so it's a good place to be through high school."

After that, though, prospects are dim. The lack of universities (there are only three, and 80% of the students at Tottori University hail from outside the prefecture) and few available jobs for graduates are the main reasons so many of its young people are leaving.

"We've tried holding orientations in Tokyo to attract people to move here, but they told us we were lousy at public relations," grimaces Taniguchi. We heard stuff like 'Tottori's completely out of it.'"

Prefectural worker Hajime Yoneyama has the particularly difficult job of stimulating the economy of inland mountainous regions.

"Actually our rate of population decline is less than neighboring Shimane Prefecture," he says. "But measures are needed to address the problem, particularly the loneliness and isolation of elderly people in mountain hamlets."

Tottori has received a trickle of urban workers, laid off from jobs at temp-help agencies, who are accepted as trainees in two-year agricultural and forestry training programs. Along with room and board, the interns receive a monthly stipend of 110,000 yen.

Naohiro Ikeda, a local farmer, instructs his interns on "everything they need to know about growing tomatoes."

"We've also been accepting trainees from abroad for quite some time," says Ikeda. "They're from China, the Philippines and Mongolia. It doesn't matter if they stay with us afterwards or not, but we're happy to have them as long as they work hard and take responsibility.

"But as bad as it is to face a falling population, I think people living in big cities have it worse," Ikeda adds. "At least we can feed ourselves. But even though our rural population drops and more people give up tilling the land, isn't it the city people who get to eat the food?"

Still, even rustics need to shop. In the town of Nichinan, situated in a mountainous inland region that borders on Hiroshima, Okayama and Shimane prefectures, Kyoji Adachi, president of Local Supermarket Aikyo, operates a small fleet of trucks that carry fresh foods and daily goods for sale in isolated mountain hamlets.

"The elderly people out in the hills are all lonely," he says. "The want to meet people, and talk to someone. And they want to see and touch the merchandise before they buy it. After the bus lines stopped running, I figured if they couldn't come to us for shopping, the only way was to go to them."

Adachi started up his business by taking over a failed agricultural cooperative, whose name he changed from Seikyo to Aikyo. At first, he says, it was 'taihen' (awful), but now he's grown to five outlets and three stores on wheels, plus a Lawson franchise.

Adachi is particularly pleased about being able to provide job opportunities for young people.

"This year, I hired two graduates out of high school, one boy and one girl," he smiles. "I want to create a place where younger people can work. Making the shop on wheels business a success and keeping life going in the mountains is a real challenge for me."

Little by little, with the determined spirit of men like Ikeda and Adachi, Weekly Playboy believes Tottori will definitely succeed in bringing people back.

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What an excellent idea Adachi san! Ganbatte! I really hope you keep up the good fight, You make me feel for the elderly people with no buses or trains, I can't imagine a place in Japan with no bus or train how sad for them. I hope they get a bus service back even if its only one day a week!

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Little by little, with the determined spirit of men like Ikeda and Adachi, Weekly Playboy believes Tottori will definitely succeed in bringing people back.

Good luck with that. Other current news reports and studies show that Japan's overall population will drop to around 90 million by the year 2050.

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Hey Tottori's not that bad.

They've got the sand dunes.

And the Japan sea is nicer than the Seto Inland Sea.

And they're close to Korea...

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Tottori’s a good place to raise children

Not if there's no jobs to support those kids it's not. Why not give tax incentives for companies to relocate functions that don't need to be in big cities there to entice the people who'd like to live there.

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Tottori's a good place to raise children FOR NOW, but not in the future if things keep going down this slippery slope. Sadly, as much as I respect Mr. Adachi and applaud his efforts, I fear this is not a problem limited to Tottori, and as such any immediate solutions will not be applied immediately to Tottori either. In fact, Japan's in a wee bit of an unfolding disaster regarding depopulation, and the only key to relieving the burden somewhat is to let others in to fill the gaps. But the governments seem pretty adamant about opposing this obvious solution, so I suspect we'll see Tottori continue to decline.

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"Along with room and board, the interns receive a monthly stipend of 110,000 yen." Is this really training or just a way to get cheap labour from other countries? "We’re happy to have them as long as they work hard."

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One thing that would help Tottori would be for the national government in Tokyo to loosen its stranglehold on the management of prefectures and cities.

Tottori should be able to cut the consumption tax so that people can afford to buy more there. Cut corporate taxes so that businesses will relocate. The fact that the consumption tax is set nationally without regard for how much government is needed or desired in different areas is criminal.

It doesn't take much government to handle 600,000 people -- for a lot of places, that's city-hall level -- and I suspect that the kencho and other official buildings were meant to manage a much larget population. Trim them down!

Props to Mr. Adachi for getting food to people who would otherwise have a hard time getting to it themselves.

I notice that 80% of the students at Tottori University come from outside the prefecture. I'm curious; what is the university doing right so as to attract people? Can businesses emulate it?

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Build a theme park, a tofu museum, and some monuments.

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Wow, an entire prefecture with a population just a little higher than the daytime population of Shinjuku ward (daytime population = residents + daytime workers), and less than the number of people who use Shinjuku station everyday (3 million +). Is it crowded here?

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I think that, in the end, Japan will fail, like a body without vital organs: its population. Something that India, China, Brazil, Russia and US don't have to worry about - no wonder they are going to be the richest nations soon. On the other hand, in the poor-to-be Club, we see Japan and Western Europe walking into bad times.

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and here we have some japanese saying that they dont need immigrants; the facts speak for themselves. allow your poorer east asian neighbors to come there permanently and the problem will be solved.

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Totorri is alot nicer on average than most of Shimane. Sakaiminato is a cool little town and there are some nice beaches nearby. Yonago is another cool little city. The area of Shimane near Tottori is nice but most of Shimane is depressing. The Iwami Silver mine is not worth the trip, not that interesting and they dont haven anything near the infurastructure needed.

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Sell lifestyle, not farming, you muttonheads. Promote mountain biking, surfing, log-cabin houses, wifi networks, cool coffee shops, etc. Make the place fun and relaxing. Then you'll get plenty of young refugees from Osaka, Nagoya and other urban dumps.

Tottori's natural features and climate have a lot to offer young people who value their lifestyle. It seems the people in charge of running the place don't realize that.

Japan needs its version of the Pacific Northwest.

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If there is jobs, people flow to there. If not, is ghost town. People cant live without a job. PR dont change reality.

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If they've lost mass transit to the region, then they will have a difficult time luring corporations - even if they ABOLISHED the corporate tax. It does a company no good to set up shop where the delivery of their raw materials and transport of their finished goods has to contend with secondary roads.

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so, why aren't married couples having babies??? that would seem to be the number one problem.

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JeffLee is correct they should promote a hip lifestyle not stodgy farming. Four more things that will increase the population: a TV show located in Tottori staring an Arashi or SMAP member (cough) and a hot babe; said TV show could then be made into a movie; a Jpop group of either females or males from Tottori that Avex or Johnny's can move to the top of their hit lits; a golfer that wins international championships. The tourists will flock to the place - some might stay.

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