Collapsing Rural Japan - A New Approach for Revival

Japan is experiencing rapid population decline, and it’s affecting rural regions dramatically. Villages of which over half the population are 65 years or older (called Genkai Shuraku, “Villages at the Edge”) amount to over 10,000 places nationwide. While population decline cannot be stopped, its more serious effects can be contained by bringing in a new industry: sustainable tourism. This has already happened in places like Tuscany, Provence, and the Lake Country – but not in Japan, where the emphasis was to preserve agriculture, forestry, and fishing in their old forms; or to invite in factories. Neither of these alternatives has worked for a long time, so the government has propped up small towns by pouring money into public works. But the “concreting of the countryside” turned out to be wasteful and destructive to local landscape. Meanwhile, old towns preserve a wealth of superb old wooden heritage houses, many of them derelict and abandoned. These can be restored and brought to life, serving as the base for tourism and a return to the countryside by city youth.