The metropolitan Tokyo area (which includes Yokohama) is the most populous in the world. The whole time I spent in Japan, I lived in Tokyo and it was easy to see that Tokyo, socially and economically, was a voracious black hole. As I would travel through the countryside on various weekend excursions many of the towns I passed through were half empty, filled with boarded of shops and empty streets.
Tokyo can’t help itself. For so long it’s been the major port, literally and metaphorically, connecting Japan to the rest of the world. With two major airports and the location of the Diet and Imperial Palace, it would only make sense for any and every type of business to want to be located in Tokyo. This then drives people from the country into the city for work. With the increase in population, there would be an increase in amenities, thus making Tokyo an even more attractive place to work and live.
In these uncertain economic time though, many Tokyoites are rethinking their decision to leave their rural hometowns. Fewer companies are investing in workers long-term, offering only short term contracts and the anxiety this causes employees coupled with the sociological stresses of living in such a crowded city is too much for some to handle.
Now rural communities are looking to capitalize; giving Tokyoites a re-do by providing excursions through the countryside for people who are considering leaving the city for a slower paced life. People on these trips get lessons in acquiring and farming land, and are also given a chance to work the land for a day. Trips like this are taking place pretty much every week somewhere in rural Japan. With the average farmer in Japan being 65.8 years old, there are also opportunities for apprenticeships with elderly farmers looking for someone to pass their land onto.
It would be nice to see this become a trend. Rural Japan has as much to offer culturally as places like Tokyo and Osaka and the next time I travel through rural Japan I’ll look forward to visiting vibrant town after vibrant town on my trip.