|Welcoming the Governor of Oita Prefecture (left) as the Mayor of Kitsuki (centre) looks on.|
As related previously in this blog and in many reports on Japan, the nation is experiencing rapid decline and the ageing of its population. The situation is acute in most rural areas and as things stand the implications for maintaining a healthily functioning society in the countryside are poor. Walk Japan's Community Project is, in part, about showing, through example, the great opportunities available in Japan's countryside to establish businesses and lead satisfying lives, to be a meaningful part of a local community and help sustain it into the future.
|Watanabe san and myself presenting what we are|
doing together and our vision for our local school.
Watanabe san and his colleagues at the local farming co-operative and myself described how we go about our businesses, respectively agriculture and tourism, and how we combine our skills in bringing local experiences of Japan and the Japanese to overseas visitors. We also made the first public announcement of our joint vision for the redevelopment of the disused, local elementary school. Our proposal, which is still in its early stages, is to re-establish the school as a locus of business, housing, local cuisine, education and wider community interaction; a centre of sustainability both of society, economy and environment.
|The last students left the school in April 2014.|
A school anywhere is an important symbol of the health of any society. Ours closed in 2014 but is just one of the many thousands that have shut their doors for good in recent years throughout Japan. Established over 100 years ago, it was where many of our neighbours including Watanabe san began their education and the school's closure is a poignant symbol of how, leaving things as they are, the underpinnings of our community are disappearing. No longer hearing the sound of the children playing in the school yard directly equates to the reduced vitality and eventually ending of a community; No youngsters to sustain the neighbourhood into the decades ahead. Just perhaps, though, we have found a way to bring life back to the old school, nurture a future for our locality and be an example to others of what is possible.
A few days subsequent to the Governor and Mayor's visit, we met with more civil servants to describe in greater detail our proposals for the school. With the backing of local government, hopefully, we can soon start to realise our vision over the coming months. Please look out for developments in forthcoming posts.
P.S. We currently employ over ten members of staff in our local office in Kunisaki who have moved from other parts of Japan, principally the Kanto region around Tokyo. In addition, we have another four, non-Japanese members of staff hailing from the UK and USA while a fifth will join us soon from Hong Kong. Many of our staff have children.