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Japanese Towns Luring Youth
Detail: More than 60,000 Japanese towns are at risk of extinction through depopulation as a result of declining birthrate and a surging life expectancy, currently 86.05 years for women and 79.29 for men. Japan has one of the world's biggest proportions of over-65s – 22.5% of its 127 million people – and one of the smallest of under-15s, at 13%. Demographers expect the current population of 127 million to fall to 100 million over the next 50 years.

About 200 communities have vanished in the past decade. The threat of extinction looms largest in Hokkaido, where almost 10% of towns are at risk, with half of those expected to disappear over the next decade. Kiyosato has seen its population plummet from a peak of 11,000 in the early 1960s to just 4,675 today. Almost a third of residents are over 65, 10% higher than the national average. Its five primary schools are attended by a total of 318 pupils; the smallest has just 48. Another Hokkaido town was forced to advertise several of its schools on Yahoo's auction site earlier this year owing to a dramatic fall in the number of children. Tellingly, one school was converted into a nursing home for the elderly.

Kiyosato is trying to lure back younger urbanites to rediscover their rustic roots by allowing prospective residents to live locally for up to a month at vastly reduced rents in spacious new homes. But of the several dozen people to take up the offer since last summer, none has made the move permanent.
Source: “Japan: Towns face extinction as young people desert roots and head for cities” by Justin McCurry, guardian.co.uk, Monday 20 July 2009
Date: July 24 2009