The authorities are focusing on keeping the centre alive
WILD BOARS ARE TAKING OVER JAPAN AS POPULATION AGES, DISAPPEARS
Japan’s government is considering a new way to get people to consider
life outside Tokyo: Pay them to leave.
As people slowly leave some Japanese towns and cities, wild boars are
coming in to replace them.
THE snow accumulating on the Japan Alps is a reminder of the unforgiving
winters in the city of Toyama. Kazuko Onagawa, at 87 years old,
is unfazed. Lithe and trim, she power-walks around a swimming pool in
the Kadokawa Preventative Care Centre. After she dries off she may drop
into the gym, rehabilitation room or massage parlour. A doctor is
permanently on site in case she or her friends overdo it. “I’m fit for
my age,” she smiles.“Winters don’t worry me.”
As the country’s aging population gradually dies, wild boars are filling
the void, lured by rice paddies without human supervision and the
hospitable landscape—where they find plenty of shelter and not enough
people to deter them from coming. What used to be a problem just in
southern Japan, with boar sightings and occasional attacks on humans,
has blossomed into an issue for the entire country, according to a
report in The Washington Post.
According to a report by national broadcaster NHK on Nov. 22, the
government is mulling giving as much as 3 million yen to people who
decide to relocate from the 23 wards of Tokyo and find jobs elsewhere,
starting in the next fiscal year.
About 30% of Toyama’s 418,000 residents are 65 or older, an even higher
proportion than in Japan as a whole, where itis 27% (see chart). By
2025, the proportion in Toyama is projected to be 32%.In addition to
greying, the population is also declining. The city had 421,000 people
in 2005; by 2025, it will have 390,000.
Japan’s population has grown older in recent years: Estimates from the
United Nations Population Division indicate that about 35 percent of the
country was least 65 years old in 2017. And the agency projects that the
problem will only get worse, and seniors will make up roughly half the
country by 2050.
unfazed: not confused, worried, or shocked by something that has
This goes against the worldwide pattern, in which people younger than 65
make up the large majority of the population, both now and in projected
numbers for 2050.
Tokyo and the greater metropolitan area surrounding the capital, with a
total population of some 38 million, have long bucked the trend in Japan
when it comes to demographics, even as Japan’s overall population
shrinks. That’s often been at the cost of other cities.
parlour: a store or businenss that sells a specified kind of food or
Japan has a wild boar problem, as depopulation from natural disasters
and aging leaves room for the wild animals. Above, three boars were
killed in an evacuated residential area near the Fukushima nuclear
Tokyo and the prefectures of Chiba, Kanagawa, and Saitama posted
significant population growth in 2017. According to NHK, the number of
people moving to Tokyo has exceeded the number moving out for 22 years
and counting. Nearly one out of every three people in Japan lives in the
Wild boars, also known as Eurasian wild pigs, have moved in to supplant
the shrinking population. In the Iwate Prefecture, authorities caught 94
boars last year, The Washington Post reported. That’s up from just two
caught in 2011.
As the population ages and shrinks, the services residents need have
changed. The Kadokawa Centre, for example, is built on the site of a
primary school that closed in 2004. But overhauling public services is
costly, and the declining number of people of working age means there is
ever less tax revenue to help pay for the shift. To remain solvent, the
city has decided to shrink not just in population, but in size,
concentrating residents and services in the centre.
On top of aging, Japan’s northern stretches have also faced depopulation
linked to the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown and the tsunami that
destroyed coastal areas—both events related to a devastating earthquake
in 2011, as The Washington Post points out.
The government added that as more people leave other major cities such
as Sendai and Sapporo in the north of Japan for Tokyo, it will encourage
people to relocate to those places, for example through tax benefits.
Most of Japan is in a similar quandary.About 400 schools shut every
year; some are being converted into retirement homes. In 2016 there were
300,000 more deaths than births. If Japan continues on its present
course, it will have shed nearly a third of its population (and four out
of every ten workers) by the time Mrs Onagawa’s grandchildren retire in
All of this, plus warmer temperatures and less snow, make the conditions
right for wild boars.
solvent: able to pay debts
“Because of depopulation, there are more and more abandoned fields and
rice paddies,” a Tokyo University wildlife management professor, Koichi
Kaji, told the publication. “They’re perfect places for wild boars to
hide and feed.”
One prefecture that saw a population increase last year is the
industrial hub of Aichi in central Japan, which experienced an influx of
foreign migrant labor. Every prefecture in Japan except for Nagasaki
posted a rise in the number of foreigners last year. Only the Okinawa
prefecture experienced a population increase due to the number of births
exceeding the number of deaths.
quandary: a situation in which you are confused about what to do
The authorities want farmers to get licenses for guns and traps to help
reduce the animal population, but many are too old to help in that