Not all Japanese towns and villages are atrophying

Mar 22, 2018

Some towns are blossoming

THERE was nothing wrong with Chika and Takeshi Ota’s life in Osaka, Japan’s liveliest city, where she worked as a shop manager and he as a driver. But a visit to Tasmania, in Australia, convinced Chika of the superiority of rural life. In May last year, with two tiny children in tow, they moved to Shimanto, a sprawling town in Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s four main islands. Sitting in one of the sparse buildings that make up Kleingarten, a community of 22 basic houses with allotments they now call home, the couple, who are in their late 30s, describe how they hope to make a living through farming. “It is a risky choice, but we are happy,” says Chika.

Japan’s population is shrinking and ageing. Both trends are especially pronounced in the countryside, since young people tend to move to cities to find jobs, romance and good restaurants. The net inflow of Japanese to Tokyo rose from 96,500 in 2013 to 120,000 people last year, notes Ayumi...

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