Monday, May 01, 2006

Old and in the Way

I was saddened to see this article in the New York Times yesterday:

Village Writes its Own Epitaph

Many rural towns and villages in Japan are suffering a serious problem: young people leave to find work elsewhere and never come back. The older people left behind struggle to survive. This story tells of one village where the people decided that their only option was to shut their own village down, and sell their homes and lands to a waste management company.

The Times requires a subscription to read some of its articles. Here's a quotation for those of you who don't have one. If you want to read more, try logging in from your public library, or if you can, subscribe--it's well worth it.

    "I'm sure we're the first ones to have made such a proposal," said Kazuo Miyasaka, 64, the village leader. "It's because there's no future for us here, zero."

    On a hill overlooking a field of overgrown bushes, surrounded by the sounds of a running stream and a bush warbler, Mr. Miyasaka pointed below with his right index finger. "I never imagined it would come to this," he said. "I mean, those all used to be rice fields."

    Ogama's decision, though extreme, points to a larger problem besetting Japan, which has one of the world's fastest-graying societies and whose population began declining last year for the first time in its history. As rural Japan becomes increasingly depopulated, many villages and hamlets like Ogama, along with their traditions and histories, risk vanishing.

Thinking of you, YK.