Akita Prefecture may be glimpse of Japan's graying future

By Kiyoshi Takenaka

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In my town in Kansai, more old people play croquet than students play baseball or soccer.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I would live there. I love nature and hate people ;)

There are no technical jobs though... and that is the reason why most jung people leave for the bigger cities. Even if the birth rate goes up, they would not stay there. Fundamental problem.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

Depressing news for Japan, but what impresses me and encourages me is the these guys play baseball in their 70s and 80s. I hope I am in as good a shape as they are in my 70s and 80s.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Japan decided a long time ago it was going to be a technological/industrial/information power. That rural farming districts are now suffering should be no surprise. Can't have your cake and eat it too.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Ghost towns and ghost hamlets are nothing new. There are many small hamlets in the Japanese countryside that were originally all self-sufficient. They didn't need services to them and the people living there did not need to earn enough to pay for cars or pensions or university educations. If you have a hamlet of five houses with retirees, it won't have to be very far off a main road for their entire taxes to not even cover the cost of snow ploughing the road in winter. That is to say nothing of the other things that need to be provided.

To their credit, Japanese in the countryside live in communities and do lots of community work as volunteers. However, with a falling rural population, this means a larger burden on the people who are left, which acts as a further stimulus for young people to leave. If you hate people, the place to live is the Japanese city where you can close your door and you are left alone with the Internet, the tv, and your hobbies. In the Japanese countryside, people open it without knocking and then tell you what you are doing next Saturday at 6am.

To finish on a bright note, if that baseball team has 33 players, at least that means no-one is being coerced to play to make up the numbers. Because that can happen as well.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

There is absolutely nothing to do in Akita other than getting married and start having kids. I've lived in both big cities and country side in Japan and by far Akita prefecture was the most boring place of all. I love nature as I'm an landscape and winter sports photographer and still, that place depresses me.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

"The population in Akita will need to be consolidated as much as possible to one or two places," he said. 

And that is probably the reality. At some point, the government (central, prefectural and local combined) will have to make tough choices. And will tell residents that they will have to make choices. Which are to either move or no longer have access to many services.

It is inevitable that many of these rural communities will ultimately be abandoned, as residents either die or move away.

Sad, but that is the reality.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Jobs. There are none and don't expect the national govt. to help with any initiatives. They just don't care about anything except for Tokyo.

Imagine casino resorts, pushing/subsidizing companies to have workers work online and from home, subsidies to companies that open up or relocate branches in the countryside, call centers, relocation of US military bases to these places out of Okinawa, relocating some of the govt bureaucracy out of Tokyo like they've talked about since the 80s and so on.

Unless the national govt. gets serious about rejuvenating the provinces, they'll eventually die out and disappear. I've seen this already up in the mountain towns I used to live in 30 years ago when 1/3 of the population reached 65 years old and over.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

The [Abe] administration introduced tax incentives for businesses that are moving their headquarters functions out of central Tokyo. As of the end of [2016], only 12 firms had been awarded the tax incentive for relocating. Meanwhile, the private research firm Teikoku Databank has reported that companies that moved their headquarters into the greater Tokyo area in 2015 outnumbered those moving out for the fifth year in a row — a trend that likely continued last year. The companies are believed to be drawn to where consumers, customers and prospective manpower are concentrated.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

If they gave me some land, tax-free, and thee are some single young women who would like to have a few kids, I'll go. Give me a job in the city hall arranging for baseball games and a nice new Daihatsu kei, and what could be finer? Oh, and my Tokyo salary too.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

(Tokyo) And by 2055, it will look a lot like Akita Prefecture does now: people 65 or older are expected to account for one third of its total population, up from 23 percent in 2015.

No, Tokyo won't look anything like Akita by 2055. Not even close.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

No surprises here you reap what you sow.

No jobs available, the ones that are would be for companies where the management is basically stuck on and still has pig headed and backwards attitudes to work and promotion. Still don't understand how the government keeps complaining on one hand about the declining birth rate and then introduces stupid bills that allow 100 hours of overtime a month and don't provide enough child care to keep up with demand.

You want people to have kids then provide them with a lifestyle conducive to it.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

The thing they are not taking into account is, the current generation of oldies are from the pre-McDonalds era. They did not grow up with fast foods and had a healthy countryside lifestyle giving them their longevity. The mortality rate in the cities of Japan is much higher than the countryside due to pressures of work related stress and poor sleeping and eating habits. The youth of today are all flocking to the cities. This means this graying of Japan scenario will stop in the next 40 odd years as the longevity of life decreases drastically. Furthermore, with the extremely low birth rate and decreasing longevity of life it is quite likely Japan's population could drop by up to a third in the next 50 years.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

The mortality rate in the cities of Japan is much higher than the countryside due to pressures of work related stress and poor sleeping and eating habits.

You have a link for that? Not saying I disagree but I've never heard that before.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

This town is future of Japan

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The message of this article is important. It's also basically accurate, and common sense for anyone who lives in Akita or who knows anything about regional Japan. However, it is very unfair, being too one-sided. For one thing, Akita is just one part of Tohoku, most of which suffers from similar problems. Yet, there are many good things about Akita and other parts of Tohoku. Life in Akita is better than life in Tokyo in many ways (although Garthgoyle appears to have not realized this - yes, there is much to do in Akita).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

That bearskin rug looks just like mine. But back to the story's main picture, I'll play ball with those guys - I'm only a few year younger than the youngest, but I still have my old ball glove, wrapped around a baseball with the Yankees' logo (and Roger Maris's signature) on it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Having a Shinkansen station can radically change things. Not always though. In Toyama Prefecture, Takaoka became a ghostown while Toyama is booming. Depends on town planning. Just like a big shopping center on a main road can wipe out all surrounding town businesses.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Cheap land, lower wages and costs, some resources. and an experienced willing workforce. Lots of business opportunites, but the Tokyo-centric mindset with a centralised bureaucracy does not help. The nuclear power industry took full advantage of it; why not some other industries and businesses?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

The Pareto principal. A select few cities and towns will attract a majority of the people and the talent, while the majority will slowly but surely fade into irrelevancy and die. It’s universal. If expediency is the norm ( If you’ve ever sat in ona Japanese meeting you’ll see it is ) you will become the latter. That simple, and all the geriatric head scratching won’t help either. If the next generation had been raised to take risks , be creative , had strong bonds with their elders and embrace entrepreneurship then places like Akita would stand a chance, but they seem to have dropped that ball too.

Maybe let some of the long term foreign residents throw a few ideas around? What’s there to lose? Sitting on a mountain of potential......sighing.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Many problems/issues at play in all this. One thing Japan got horribly wrong when it got real prosperous was that they never really tried to make the outlying prefectures viable economies, they just threw pork from the big cities each year wasting trillions of yen on work that didn't need doing.

All the while draining said prefectures youth into big cities. The problem has been known for many decades & has been ignored to present day & here we are.

At some point I can see the birthrate drop below 1.0 maybe lower. And the problems are now affecting the cities as well, lots of areas of the economy cant find employee's etc & will get worse over time

5 ( +5 / -0 )

In the Japanese countryside, people open it without knocking and then tell you what you are doing next Saturday at 6am.

This sentence just perfectly encapsulates why countryside living isn't anywhere near as attractive as it looks from the outside.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Makes me sad to think of rural cities going down. I sure don’t have an answer, except to observe that so many young women don’t want to marry. They’ve really had the “good” life of money, travel, shopping, etc., but I wonder how these young women will be when they get in their 60s - 80s? A real demographic change.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

No sex no love = no kid.

Women over-empowerement ?

The women I know in town have never expressed the desire to get kids, finding fallacious reasons not to. My nieces never ever talked about starting a family, and they are adults now...same goes for my nephew.

Life starts as a simple thought in the future.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

If there are customers for the 3 elderly care units closed by the company, hire in the staff to run them. There are a lot of capable Phillipino’s more than willing to do the job for a decent wage (by their standards).

0 ( +1 / -1 )

60 is the new 30s.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

If you're living in inaka and bored, my advice is to buy a road bike. If you don't mind climbing, Japan has millions of km of country roads in good condition with great climbs, great descents, great scenery, and hardly any cars once you get off the flat. In countries where cycling is popular like the UK, you have to share country roads with maniacs in cars and on motorbikes doing 100km/h plus. In Japan, its the odd kei truck every fifteen minutes tootling along at about 40.

For the hardcore, there is a road up Mount Fuji that is steeper for longer than the Zoncolan, the famous climb from the Giro d'Italia said to be Europe's steepest. Nagano has numerous Hors category climbs with no-one on them. There are convenience stores or at least drinks machines all over the place to keep you going. The cycling here is really really good.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Living around old people is depressing. Japan needs immigrants like the USA to keep its society vibrant and build a tax base to support the aged.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

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