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Japan Travel Blog

Kanagawa - Kogoshima - Hokkaido (est. 5500km)

15~31 August 2018, Summer

by Tong, CEO WASABI Creation

2. Revitalising Rural Japan @ Minami Ashigara ~by Sosei Partners


- Minami Ashigara 16-19 Aug 2018


My Singaporean Friend, Dennis has been running a business to help revive rural areas of Japan which are facing aging population and depopulation. I have always been curious about what his project is about, so I joined one of his summer programs held at Minami Ashigara which is located at the south of Kanagawa prefecture. Fuji Xerox whose headquarter is locates at Minami Ashigara is a partner in this program.


2. Day 0 ~Orientation: Welcome to the countryside

After some self introduction, icebreaking, workshop on innovation, we took a bus to a nearby village called Yagurasawa (矢倉沢). There, we walked the ground to visit some community farmland and residential houses. We saw orange trees, tea plantation, various types of vegetables such as lady's finger, egg plan, peanut, yam, etc. It is totally refreshing in Japan's countryside. 


1. Day 0 ~Orientation: The Meeting Point

Although I had chosen a nearby hotel, it still takes about 1hr for me to arrive at the meeting point by train. It was the last station of Daiyuzan Line (大雄山線)which is also named Daiyuzan station.

There are 15 participants: students from Yokoyama University, 2 high school students, a Godzilla expert from Spain, a French girl who is interning with Dennis, Dennis himself, a Japanese girl from Hawaii, some staff from Fuji Xerox, and an architect from Italy who is 37. Luckily, I am not the oldest participant.

Group discussion on the various issues the local region is facing.

3. Day 0 ~Orientation: Aging Population/ Depopulation

We were told that the area is facing rapid aging population and depopulation such that these farmland which are now taken care by residence in their 70s and 80s, would disappear in just a few years. Most of the younger people are working in the city such as nearby Tokyo, some of them are not returning, and most of them are not going to take over the farms.


A small plot of farmland for tea plantation.

I am often amused by these beautiful lily flowers growing in the wild in Japan.


This is the train to Daiyuzan which is a small local train with only 2 cars. Sometimes it even has only a single rail for trains in both directions. 


There is a historical route running through the village called Ashigara Kodo. It is one of the major routes for people to travel to Tokyo (or Edo in the past). One of the rules was that one shall not bring in guns into Edo to prevent violent conflicts, as well as no woman shall go out of Edo, so as to prevent "hostages" from escaping, and prevent "women spies" who would leak sensitive information outside Edo.

4. Day 0 ~Orientation: From a peaceful countryside to a dead town?

We took a walk around the area where farmland, rice field, Japanese houses, and small paths are all we saw. We hardly came across any resident except that we saw an old lady on one of the paths. Perhaps it was a weekday, while hikers and visitors mostly come on weekends. 


It was Obon festival period where Japanese remember and making offering to their ancestors and the deads. These rice cakes and snacks are placed at the side of a bridge as offering. The cucumber and eggplant on sticks symbolise vehicles which the ancestors ride to arrive to the human world.


Japan Travel Blog 2018: click below to see other stories

To be continued......





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