As Japan's Population Shrinks, Bears and Boars Roam Where Schools and Shrines Once Thrived

Julie Makinen
July 10, 2016
Los Angeles Times

“The red-roofed temple at the top of the hill closed about a decade ago, and now Yoshihiro Shibata can’t even remember its name, though the 54-year-old dairy farmer has lived in this picturesque village all his life.

‘The income of the temple depends on the number of residents, and there weren’t enough to keep a monk here,’ he said, looking around the deserted grounds nestled amid the village’s lush landscape of tea plants and hydrangeas, bamboo and pine trees.

All across Japan, aging villages have been quietly hollowing out for years, even as urban areas have continued to grow modestly. But like a creaky wooden roller coaster that slows at the top of the climb before plunging into a terrifying, steep descent, Japan’s population crested around 2010 with 128 million people and has since lost about 900,000 residents, last year’s census confirmed.”

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Photo credit: Julie Makinen / Los Angeles Times

Julie Makinen is a 2016 US-Japan Journalism Fellow.