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Small group learning key to survival of Japan's least populous city

25 Comments
By Keiichiro Hoshino

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How about building a US military base there? It would boost the economy and take the pressure off Okinawa.

-9 ( +6 / -15 )

Not sure it is a "key to survival"; more like a last, desperate attempt to revive the corpse of the town.

5 ( +10 / -5 )

These "joint" ES and JHS are becoming more and more common throughout Japan. They have been born out of necessity due to declining birthrates, economic opportunities and a host of other reasons.

People shouldnt be surprised when reading stories like this, they will become more an more commonplace here as people continue to gravitate to larger urban centers.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

How about building a US military base there? It would boost the economy and take the pressure off Okinawa.

Really be nice for people to actually think, before making knee jerk reactive posts that are in effect meaningless.

0 ( +8 / -8 )

Nature, interactive communications with different ages and financial incentives are great. PR may change these rural cities.

The biggest issue “Employment Opportunities” should be also resolved.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Any solution must be radical. Otherwise it more or less continues on its familiar trajectory. All over Japan can one find one single counterexample?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

It is a question that can be resolved only by clever people with political will and power. If the ideal size is at least 50,000 people, 2,700 are far from this number, and what is easier, to move those 2,700 to complete 50,000 of other cities or to recruit 27,300 from elsewhere to go there? Is there infrastructure for 50,000 people? If not, it is necessary to publicly discuss this within the province, and take action. Are there urban planners? Are there think tanks to work on issues, challenges like this? It is necessary that brained people be involved in sorting this out, nothing more depressing than cities that are dying.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

If a town of 2700 has only 70 children of Junior High School age or younger, then it is pretty much doomed I'm afraid. Touting the benefits of smaller class sizes, etc is a bit too obvious an attempt to put a positive spin on a depressing reality.

I really wish the people singing the praises of a declining population on here (with the simplistic "Less people = more resources for everybody so its great" slogans) would pay more attention to stories like this. This is the actual reality of societies with declining populations. Its not a pretty sight.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

The biggest issue “Employment Opportunities” should be also resolved.

Right, and from the area in question, there is nothing that screams out as a possible or even potential for viable employment. Towns like these are like the ghost towns in the US that popped up in the west during the gold and silver rushes. Once the claim played itself out, or the railroad went a different direction, the town died.

These will too, and it might not all be a bad thing either. People have to be willing to move, as the governments can not keep supporting them and draining needed funds that could be used elsewhere.

Go back to being a village, lower taxes, and less services. Hell close the city altogether and people move to a more central location that can support them. (Never gonna happen!)

This is a problem that is just going to get worse.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Nearby Sunagawa and Takikawa are just 15 km away, both cities together have totally a population of approx. 60.000 and if you look up a Google map you will find that Utashinai looks really deserted with plenty of empty houses along the street - 2700 people is just not enough, it's not a city, but a rural area...

There is no good solution for the future, there are no jobs for young people, but it is also not a comfortable place for the retired elderly, as you cannot live there without driving your own car and winter season will be freezing cold, no shops, very little public transport...

4 ( +6 / -2 )

I like the US base idea, it solves two problems and works as a deterrant against DPRK and Russia. I am sure the city would welcome it for the economic benefits and Okinawa people welcome the move.

-8 ( +2 / -10 )

 but it's hard to implement solutions with such a lack of resources and few hiring opportunities.

What solutions are there? The way you wrote this, sounds like there are solutions on the table but are lacking funds to implement them.

If someone has actual solutions, resources can be found, if those resources are prioritized towards the solution, and not continually being divided up between different projects.

No one wants nor is willing to give up their piece of the pie for the betterment of all.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Cheer up, Utashinai. The smallest city in the UK is smaller. St. David's has under 2,000 residents. Maybe twinning would be a plan?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

There isn't very much "pie" to have a piece of -- and that is precisely the problem. I too like the idea of building a military base in a northern, sparsely-inhabited area where aircraft noise does not create problems. Geographical positioning is so much closer to potential trouble spots, than is sub-tropical Okinawa...

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I like the US base idea, it solves two problems and works as a deterrant against DPRK and Russia. I am sure the city would welcome it for the economic benefits and Okinawa people welcome the move.

A few problems with the "US base idea" occur to me, just off the top of my head.

1) The price tag for constructing US military bases usually runs in the billions of dollars. There are probably cheaper ways of trying to fix the problems of a small Hokkaido town of 2700 than that.

2) The US generally doesn't locate bases in other countries based on that countries need to prop up local economies so I'm pretty sure they wouldn't be too keen on the idea.

3) There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of rural communities in Japan facing rapid depopulation, they can't all have a US military base constructed nearby as a means of reversing that.

4) Its pretty unsafe to assume that local residents would welcome the US base idea without, you know, asking them first.

5) Does this town even have the stuff that a US military base would need? Like huge tracts of land for runways and stuff like that?

6) Russia and North Korea are not going to be more deterred by the US military moving their bases around within Japan than they already are.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

BertieWoosterToday 07:17 am JST

How about building a US military base there? 

There is already a Japanese military base in nearby Takikawa, with tanks, trucks and also for helicopter port.

But this area is not suitable for US forces which require a sea port for their large ships and a runway for their airplanes.

JGSDF Camp Takikawa

陸上自衛隊 滝川駐屯地

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Japan's usual response..... Waste a huge pile of money on a dead town.

Just let it die or better still, help those living there to relocate. The reason the town is depopulating is because it is not a good place to live.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

 what is easier, to move those 2,700 to complete 50,000 of other cities or to recruit 27,300 from elsewhere to go there?

Not always the easier solution is the better one, in this case the easier thing to do is to let the community dry up and just let big cities absorb the people (which is what ends up happening in many cases). This would "solve" the problem, but would create more because of the undesirable concentration of people.

Just let it die or better still, help those living there to relocate. The reason the town is depopulating is because it is not a good place to live.

The problem shifts then to making the towns a good place to live, because letting small communities die brings its own problems once it happens too much.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

No children, no solution.

Make babies but old farts dtill think only money is a solution.

I was living in a town of about 3000 inhabitants when I was small (over 2500 is a town for us).

Never had any issue of activity because people where young and happy to have classes where at least two different grades are in common with classes between 20 to 25.

No kids no future.

And people go where there is some activity, not in a soon-to-be ghost town.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Seems like a neat place to grow up and learn while in nature.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Similar situation in a few villages and towns down here in Ryukyus,and also where I lived in the mountains of Gifu.

My son's school is just about right,average of 14 kids per class,but on the East China Sea coast,for example,one junior high only has six kids,an elementary ,three.

That's not mentally healthy,or viable.

Better to bus the kids 10 km to the next nearest school.

However,I heard that if a school is closed, it's extremely difficult to restart in the case of a sudden population increase.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

We have failed to develop a replacement industry," said the city's mayor.

No surprise that it remains such and the decline continues, when all the advantages of small classes and a possible much more intensive education aren't used at all, but almost all resources or efforts go instead first into free school meals, several club activities and nice excursions and other expensive trips.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@piskian--restarting means restaffing the school, not always simple. The former teachers/principal/secretary were sent elsewhere and may not be thrilled to get asked to return to a school that may close again in a year. I saw a TV documentary where a school on a small island reopened for 1-2 kids and the staff to student ratio was several to 1.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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