Regional revitalization.” If you live in Japan or follow Japan issues closely, you’ve probably heard this term. The narrative is well established. The Japanese countryside is in bad shape, both in terms of Japan’s abandoned house problem and a lack of local economic opportunities.

At Parthenon Japan, we specialize in helping clients navigate communications in Japan. That means we closely follow news and developments, as well as social and public policy issues facing the country, which often enough leads to discussions on what we think is going to happen next. But our policy is that if you’re going to talk about a problem, you should try to do something to fix it.

This is a prequel of sorts to a new initiative that we have been quietly building since 2020.

In commemoration of the 5th anniversary of Parthenon Japan’s establishment in 2018, we are going to start offering our own solutions and concrete ideas for making Japan a better place. Our team has deep love and respect for the country we call home. At the same time, Japan has plenty of issues that need to be addressed in order to ensure prosperity for future generations.

So, what does a communication consulting firm have to contribute to the topic of regional revitalization? Well, in 2020 we established an independent business unit, Akiya & Inaka, which provides full-stack consulting and advisory to people looking to move to the Japanese countryside. “Huh, isn’t that a bit different from your main business?” Yeah, we know. 

We did not establish Akiya & Inaka because we wanted to get into real estate, but rather because we discovered that it was nearly impossible for anyone, much less a non-Japanese person, to identify, due diligence, purchase, and then revitalize an old Japanese home in the rural reaches. With over 8 million vacant and abandoned homes –or akiya – across the country, and this number projected to rise as the rural population ages, this is not an ideal situation. 

In the years since, we apparently struck a nerve because the inquiries started trickling, and then pouring in. Coverage in global and Japanese media including CNN Travel, The Associated Press, Nippon TV News, and TV Asahi poured fuel on the fire, and now we have become pundits on Japan’s akiya problem.

But, akiya are just part of the equation. The topic of Japan’s rural revitalization is multi-faceted, complicated, and full of important, hard decisions with no easy answers.

How did the issue of rural depopulation, the raison d’etre for revitalization, come about? Does the Japanese countryside have a future or is it already a lost cause?

We will answer the first question in the following articles, which is a long read, so you have been warned. The second question will be addressed in an upcoming 6-part series on Japan’s Rural Revitalization, that does a deep dive into the ins and outs of rural revitalization from several different angles. But wait, there’s more!

The release of each installation in the series of articles will coincide with an accompanying podcast episode on Parthenon Japan’s new official podcast, Japan Unleashed.

The first article and episode both come out tomorrow, so get ready because we are about to fill your brain with copious amounts of knowledge.

So, without further ado,

What led to the rise and fall of the Japanese countryside?

Table of Contents:

  1. From Samurai to Steam Locomotives
  2. Taisho Democracy and the seeds of Capitalist Democracy
  3. The Early Showa Era: From Budding Democracy to War-hungry Axis Power
  4. A Self-proclaimed Fascist with a Story Stranger than Fiction
  5. The Post-WWII Showa Era: From American Occupation to Economic Juggernaut
  6. Japan as No.1: The Bubble Years That Fueled The Boom and Bust of the Japanese Countryside
  7. The Lost Decade and Migration to Cities
  8. March 11, 2011: With Disaster Came the Spotlight, but People Didn’t Stay
  9. The 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic and Beyond: Depopulation Accelerates