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Japan is depopulating at an alarming rate. Many villages are on the verge of extinction

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Japan is depopulating. The largest cities are teeming with life, but at the expense of the countryside. Those who run away from the hustle and bustle of the city and choose peace, in practice doom themselves to a life of isolation.

Just after sunrise in the Japanese countryside, the Yokobori family feeds their flock of chickens, which provide them with fresh eggs. They eat French toast for breakfast. The bread is baked in the oven. Their wood comes from the cedar forests surrounding their home. 10 years ago, Miho worked in an office in Tokyo. Today, she runs the house. Hirohito – once a graphic designer – is now a carpenter.

City life lost its luster to them in 2011. The great earthquake in Japan, the tsunami and the paralysis of Tokyo caused by the contamination in Fukushima. “Everybody was panicking, so it was like a war, although I’ve never experienced a war,” recalls Miho Yokobori, a resident of Kawakami village. They started a new life in the mountains of Nara Prefecture. The house is located one and a half kilometers from the nearest railway station. A car is essential there. Their village is hidden behind winding roads. The trees there are taller than most buildings. When the couple met the neighbors, they were shocked by the age of the villagers. The mayor argues that more than half of the village is over 65 years old. – 40 years ago, there were about 6,000 inhabitants here. Today it is 1,156, says Tadaaki Kuriyama, mayor of Kawakami village.

The population in rural areas is declining faster than elsewhere in Japan. Some say that depopulation will be complete there. People die and abandoned houses stand empty. Some were flooded after the construction of the dam and artificial lake 10 years ago. “I think people should live in such a nice place,” said the village mayor, Kawakami. Population figures are worrying – and not just in Kawakami village. Nearly every local government in Japan predicts a smaller population and a higher average age by 2045. Entire villages are on the verge of extinction. Japanese society is shrinking and aging. So fast that its survival is at stake. There are few places in Japan where the population is growing.

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Demographics and retirement age. The guest of TVN24 BiS was Oskar SobolewskiTVN24 BiS

A common problem

For decades, young Japanese have been fleeing their rural towns. They are attracted to big cities – such as Tokyo and Osaka. All of them are connected by high-speed rail lines. There is no quick solution to Japan’s population problems. Also in Tokyo, a city of tall skyscrapers, the birth rate is at a record low. Japan’s population has been declining for five years. If the trend continues, experts say the country will reach a point where the situation cannot be changed. Too few women will be of childbearing age. Why do so few women have children? Dr. Yuka Okada explains that this is due to financial reasons and due to lack of time.

It’s so bad that the Tokyo authorities are starting to subsidize egg freezing. They hope that today’s working women will soon become working mothers. Parents in Japan already get the so-called child bonus. Thousands of dollars go to cover costs. The state-sponsored dating site for singles is powered by artificial intelligence. So far, increasing fertility in Japan has been a losing battle. The Yokobori did not follow this path. Kentaro was the first child born in Kawakami in 25 years. Raising a child in the mountains means no peers to play with. There are only 6 children in the kindergarten group. The distance to the nearest school is over two hours. The Yokobori say it’s okay if their son decides to leave someday. Population data show that more young people are moving out of cities. They are attracted by the low cost of living, clean air and low stress levels. The key question is: is Japan doing enough to stop depopulation before it’s too late?

Facts about the world TVN24 BiS

Main photo source: CNN

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