AGING & DECLINING POPULATION IN RURAL AREAS
Japan is rich with craft culture. A lot of the traditional artisan based outside of urban cities are facing lack of young apprentices showing interests in traditional crafts.
Aging population resulted in many rural towns’ decline, with town infrastructure deteriorating due to lack of investments and community activities.
Despite local government’s incentive to attract young urbanites to relocate to rural areas, some major concern remains:
suitable job opportunities
lack of social activities & social companions
“rundown”infrastructure (many school, nursery, hospitals have to close down due to low population)
Population in rural areas continue to age and decline, resulting in unclaimed and abandoned properties. Young family members who live and work in metropolitan areas do not want to inherit rural properties, where property tax is a financial burden. Many buildings are in poor and unsafe condition, creating a burden for local governments to monitor and/or demolish.
As a town declines, properties with historic value lacks resource to preserve, restore or re-purpose. We see many rural towns fighting their way to be endorsed as National Treasure or World’s Heritage hoping to receive sustaining funds in maintainance while drawing travelers’ attention to energise the town.
However, tourism may not be the sustainable solution for all. Some the towns do not have enough tourist attractions to sustain mass tourist industry, and unmanaged tourism is in fact disrupting local livelihood, causing more harm and tension than good.
NICHE MARKET, OUTDATED SYSTEM AND PRODUCTS
Craft tradition in Japan remains a practice of mastering tools and material, perfecting skills and techniques; though some of the products and objects no longer meet the needs and taste of modern lifestyle. Hand-made process also makes it difficult to meet the demands of large quantity commercial orders. The market is becoming niche.
The traditional apprenticeship system is failing. When Masters is unable to support live-in apprentice. (Tradtionally apprentice moves in to the Master’s studio with a stipend to commit in learning the craft while assisting work at least 4 years.
OVER-TOURISM in TOKYO, OSAKA, KYOTO
Uneven distribution of resources.
While we rejoice over how fast tourism rebounce after the pandemic, we are also facing immediate negative impact from overtourism in Tokyo and Kyoto.
It is disheartening to hear a Kyoto resident repeatedly missed getting off his destination bus-stop because the bus was often too crowded with tourists. It is enraging to see a scene of real-estate flipping in Kyoto for the "hotel & guesthouse rush". This led to jacking-up of land and property prices while drawing large crowds to quiet residential neighborhoods disrupting local residents' lives.
Overcrowded transportation and sidewalks, environmental impact, social-economical impact... something to think about as responsible travelers.