March 18, 2023 at 00:01
Tokyo CNN —When Kentaro Yokobori was born almost seven years ago, he was the first newborn in the Sogio district of Kawakami village in 25 years.
During that quarter century without a newborn, the village population shrank by more than half to just 1,150 – down from 6,000 as recently as 40 years ago – as younger residents left and older residents died.
More than 90% of Japanese now live in urban areas like Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto – all linked by Japan’s always-on-time Shinkansen bullet trains.
By 2022, the number of people working in agriculture and forestry had declined to 1.9 million from 2.25 million 10 years earlier.
Yet the demise of Kawakami is emblematic of a problem that goes far beyond the Japanese countryside.
So, it’s not embarrassing.”Okada is one of the rare working mothers in Japan who has a highly successful career after childbirth.
Tokyo is hoping to address some of these problems, so that working women today will become working mothers tomorrow.
But back in the countryside, Kawakami village offers a precautionary tale of what can happen if demographic declines are not reversed.
Along with its falling population, many of its traditional crafts and ways of life are at risk of dying out.
Among the villagers who took turns holding the young Kentaro was Kaoru Harumashi, a lifelong resident of Kawakami village in his 70s.
When the Yokoboris moved to Kawakami village about a decade ago, they had no idea most residents were well past retirement age.
The big question, for both Kawakami village and the rest of Japan: Is Kentaro’s birth a sign of better times to come – or a miracle birth in a dying way of life.