日本での一年間

April 12, 2011

When the Children Have Gone

My city currently has 20 elementary schools. Last year they had 21. Next year, it will be 19. If you go to Tokyo and see all the young people, it’s hard to remember that Japan suffers from a serious double whammy of low birth rate and aging population. But in rural towns like mine, the signs are everywhere. In the past 5 years, 5 elementary schools have been closed down in my town. Former schools now stand empty, monuments to more bountiful times. As I mentioned before, the law in Japan says that elementary schools need to be in walking distance from kids’ homes. But schools can still be several kilometers away, so some kids walk over an hour each way to get to school.  However, when the teachers and other school staff starts to outnumber the students, there comes a point where running so many small schools is just not practical. The students who went to schools that were shuttered take a bus to school (They use a city bus and put a sticker that says “school bus” on it). The students who walked in the first place, still walk. This creates a big exercise gap among the students who live in different areas of town. And one person who lives near a shuttered school said that the kids in her area are getting pudgy.

And rural areas, the aging population is a difficult problem. The city and the prefecture are working hard to convince people to make U-turns (people who left coming back) and I-turns (people who aren’t from here to move here), but it’s a tough sell. Even if people want to stay, if they want a more relaxed lifestyle in a quiet mountain town, there simply aren’t enough jobs. Almost all the major companies in Japan are based in Tokyo. The government, financial sector, and entertainment industry is all based in Tokyo. Young people often leave for university and find that it’s easier to stay a big city and find a job there, then it is to come back home and work around here. My town has been getting slowly and steadily smaller and smaller every year.

There's still a sign by the road telling you to watch out for children.

I was visiting the community across the street from this school and the people running the center said that they miss the childrens' laughter.

I tried to look inside a classroom from the window. It looks like they still have all the tables and chairs just stacked and stored there. Also, they had stacks of futons. I thought of the recent disaster in Northeastern Japan and realized that if necessary, people could come here and use the school as an evacuation center, even if it isn't a school anymore. That seems like good planning to me.

No kids out on the playgroud today.

What's with the palm tree? They get a ton of snow in this area. This palm tree's existence confuses me.....

The flowers still bloom, even with no one there to enjoy it. Well, I was there, so I benefited. 🙂

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1 Comment »

  1. Nothing lonelier than an empty school house and a kidless playground. But the flowers are certainly gorgeous. Thanks for sharing! Love, Adrienne

    Comment by Adrienne Lieberman — April 13, 2011 @ 1:07 am


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