"More Scarecrows Than People": A Tragic Preview Of Japan's Terminal Collapse

Tyler Durden's picture

A few weeks ago it was revealed that the mystery person behind the latest bout of monetary (if not so much fiscal) insanity in Japan is none other than Paul Krugman, a fact which has since assured the fate of Japan as a failed state: the demographically imploding country now has at best a few years (if not less) before it implodes into a hyperinflationary supernova. And for a very graphic, and tragic, preview of Japan's endgame - the direct result of following Keynesian and monetarist policies to a tee - we go to the AP, which looks at the village of Nagoro, located "deep in the rugged mountains of southern Japan once was home to hundreds of families" and finds that now, only 35 people remain, outnumbered three-to-one by scarecrows that Tsukimi Ayano crafted to help fill the days and replace neighbors who died or moved away. This and nothing more, is what all of Japan has to look forward to as it slowly (or very rapidly) fades away to nothing.

From AP:

At 65, Ayano is one of the younger residents of Nagoro. She moved back from Osaka to look after her 85-year-old father after decades away.

"They bring back memories," Ayano said of the life-sized dolls crowded into corners of her farmhouse home, perched on fences and trees, huddled side-by-side at a produce stall, the bus stop, anywhere a living person might stop to take a rest.

"That old lady used to come and chat and drink tea. That old man used to love to drink sake and tell stories. It reminds me of the old times, when they were still alive and well," she said.

Even more than its fading status as an export superpower, Japan's dwindling population may be its biggest challenge. More than 10,000 towns and villages in Japan are depopulated, the homes and infrastructure crumbling as the countryside empties thanks to the falling birthrate and rapid aging.

In Japan's northeast, the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck in March 2011, killing more than 18,000 people, merely hastened along the decline.

First the jobs go. Then the schools. Eventually, the electricity meters stop.

Neither Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party nor any of its rivals have figured out how to "revive localities," an urgent issue that has perplexed Japanese leaders for decades.

But some communities are trying various strategies for attracting younger residents, slowing if not reversing their decline. In Kamiyama, another farming community closer to the regional capital of Tokushima, community organizers have mapped out a strategy for attracting artists and high-tech companies.

Nagoro is more typical of the thousands of communities that are turning into ghost towns or at best, open-air museums, frozen in time — a trend evident even in downtown Tokyo and in nearly or completely empty villages in the city's suburbs.

The one-street town is mostly abandoned, its shops and homes permanently shuttered.

The closure of the local elementary school two years ago was the last straw. Ayano unlocks the door and guides visitors through spotless classrooms populated with scarecrow students and teachers.

When she returned to her hometown 13 years ago, Ayano tried farming. Thinking her radish seeds may have been eaten by crows, she decided to make some scarecrows. By now there are more 100 scattered around Nagoro and other towns in Shikoku.

Like handcarved Buddhist sculptures, each has its own whimsical expression. Some sleep, their eyelids permanently shut. Others cuddle toddler scarecrows, or man plows and hoes.

Ayano brings one along for company on her 90-minute drive to buy groceries in the nearest big town. But most remain behind, to be photographed and marveled at by tourists who detour through the winding mountain roads.

"If I hadn't made these scarecrows, people would just drive right by," said Ayano, who greets a steady stream of visitors who wander through the village.

The plight of Japan's countryside partly a consequence of the country's economic success. As the nation grew increasingly affluent after World War II, younger Japanese flooded into the cities to fill jobs in factories and service industries, leaving their elders to tend small farms.

Greater Tokyo, with more than 37 million people and Osaka-Kobe, with 11.5 million, account for nearly 40 percent of the country's 127 million people, with another 10 million scattered in a handful of provincial capitals.

"There's been this huge sucking sound as the countryside is emptied," said Joel Cohen, a professor at Columbia University's Laboratory of Populations.

Japan's population began to decline in 2010 from a peak of 128 million. Without a drastic increase in the birthrate or a loosening of the staunch Japanese resistance to immigration, it is forecast to fall to about 108 million by 2050 and to 87 million by 2060.

By then, four in 10 Japanese will be over 65 years old.

The government has a target of preventing the population from falling below 100 million, but efforts to convince Japanese women to have more babies have yielded meager results. Young Japanese continue to drift from the countryside into big cities such as Tokyo, where the birthrate is a mere 1.13 children, thanks to long working hours, high costs and killer commutes.

The population of Miyoshi, which is the town closest to Nagoro, fell from 45,340 in 1985 to about 27,000 last year. A quarter of its population is over 75 years old. To entice residents to have more children, the town began offering free nursery care for third children, free diapers and formula to age 2 and free health care through junior high school.

"The way to stop this is to get people to have more babies," said Kurokawa, whose own three children and seven grandchildren still live in the area. "Apart from that, we need for people to return here or move here. We need them all."

But it's not an easy sell, despite the fresh air and abundant space.

"You can't just grab people by the necks like kittens and drag them here," Kurokawa said. "They have to want to live here."

To match potential occupants with empty homes, towns like Miyoshi are setting up "empty house banks." Across Japan there are 8.2 million such "akiya," or empty homes, more than a tenth of all residential buildings.

But getting residents of half-empty towns to accept newcomers can also be a challenge. In Kamiyama, to the east, the town still struggles to convince owners who are often relatives living in distant cities to open up abandoned homes for rent or renovation, said Shinya Ominami, chairman of a civic group that has led efforts to revive the town.

Kamiyama, a town of about 6,000, set up an "Artists in Residence" program in 1999. The installation of fiber optic cable enabled the town to begin marketing itself as a location for IT satellite offices with rents as low as 20,000 yen ($200) a month. Eleven companies have come so far.

In a briefing for potential investors and visiting officials from other areas, Ominami shows a slide of the town's shopping street, dotted with houses that are empty, and then another with some of the buildings filled with new businesses — a bistro, a design studio, an IT incubation hub.

"In Kamiyama, 50,000 yen rent gets you a really luxurious property," Ominami said. "Extremely high class."

By drawing in younger new residents and encouraging businesses that cater to them, like an organic foods pizza parlor and a gelateria, the community can actually breathe new life into older, traditional industries like farming, he said.

"People think of decline as something pathetic. That's too vague. We need to think more clearly about this," Ominami said. "Once we accept this is the reality, we can figure out how to cope with it."

* * *

Some advice: don't invite Paul Krugman to tell you "how to cope with reality" - it will only accelerate the all too surreal end.

In this Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014 photo, a teenager look alike scarecrow sits on a log pile in Nagoro, Tokushima Prefecture, southern Japan. This village deep in the rugged mountains of southern Japan once was home to hundreds of families. Now, only 35 people remain, outnumbered three-to-one by scarecrows that Tsukimi Ayano crafted to help fill the days and replace neighbors who died or moved away. (AP Photo/Elaine Kurtenbach)

 

In this Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014 photo, Tsukimi Ayano speaks as she stitches a scarecrow girl by her outdoor hearth at her home in the mountainous village of Nagoro, Tokushima Prefecture, southern Japan. This village deep in the rugged mountains of southern Japan once was home to hundreds of families. Now, only 35 people remain, outnumbered three-to-one by scarecrows that Ayano crafted to help fill the days and replace neighbors who died or moved away. At 65, Ayano is one of the younger residents of Nagoro. She moved back from Osaka to look after her 85-year-old father after decades away. “They bring back memories,” Ayano said of the life-sized dolls crowded into corners of her farmhouse home. (AP Photo/Elaine Kurtenbach)

 

In this Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014 photo, scarecrow passengers wait for a bus at a bus stop for scarecrows in Nagoro, Tokushima Prefecture, southern Japan. This village deep in the rugged mountains of southern Japan once was home to hundreds of families. Now, only 35 people remain, outnumbered three-to-one by scarecrows that Tsukimi Ayano crafted to help fill the days and replace neighbors who died or moved away. (AP Photo/Elaine Kurtenbach)

 

In this Friday, Nov. 7, 2014 photo, a pair of slippers sits ready to be worn outside an abandoned home in Kawamata in Tokushima Prefecture, southern Japan, one of many thousands of empty houses in rural Japan. Japan’s dwindling population is perhaps the country’s biggest challenge, with thousands of communities depopulated, empty homes and infrastructure crumbling as the countryside empties thanks to a low birthrate and rapid aging. (AP Photo/Elaine Kurtenbach)

 

In this Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014 photo, Tsukimi Ayano stitches a scarecrow girl by her outdoor hearth at her home in Nagoro, Tokushima Prefecture, southern Japan. This village deep in the rugged mountains once was home to hundreds of families. Now, only 35 people remain, outnumbered three-to-one by scarecrows that Ayano crafted to help fill the days and replace neighbors who died or moved away. At 65, Ayano is one of the younger residents of Nagoro. She moved back from Osaka to look after her 85-year-old father after decades away. “They bring back memories,” Ayano said of the life-sized dolls crowded into corners of her farmhouse home. (AP Photo/Elaine Kurtenbach)

 

In this Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014 photo, white smoke rises from an outdoor hearth at Tsukimi Ayano's house sat by scarecrows she made in Nagoro, Tokushima Prefecture, southern Japan. This village deep in the rugged mountains of southern Japan once was home to hundreds of families. Now, only 35 people remain, outnumbered three-to-one by scarecrows that Ayano crafted to help fill the days and replace neighbors who died or moved away. At 65, Ayano is one of the younger residents of Nagoro. She moved back from Osaka to look after her 85-year-old father after decades away. “They bring back memories,” Ayano said of the life-sized dolls crowded into corners of her farmhouse home. (AP Photo/Elaine Kurtenbach)

 

In this Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014 photo, scarecrow teacher and students fill a classroom in the now deserted elementary school in Nagoro, Tokushima Prefecture, southern Japan. This village deep in the rugged mountains of southern Japan once was home to hundreds of families. Now, only 35 people remain, outnumbered three-to-one by scarecrows that Tsukimi Ayano crafted to help fill the days and replace neighbors who died or moved away. The closure of the local elementary school two years ago was the last straw. Ayano unlocks the door and guides visitors through spotless classrooms populated with scarecrow students and teachers. (AP Photo/Elaine Kurtenbach)

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Infinite QE's picture

Well, at least they don't have a problem with blacks and latinos turning their culture to shite like they are in AmeriKa.

Suisse's picture

I can't breathe because progressives are choking this country.

NoDebt's picture

Well, if they want to increase their population and they're determined to follow Krugman's insane hyper-Keynesianism, why not start paying women a bunch of women to have babies, like we do in the US?

SWRichmond's picture

Well, it seems the racist site-destroyers have completely taken over ZH.  Same thing is going on at gold sites, where the general discussion boards are now nothing more than racist rants.

Cui bono?

knukles's picture

Well, those in the control are doing everything under the sun to fan the flames of racial division, hate and violence.
It is after all, the PTB's Greatest Decision of the Century to Instigate a Race War

....for whatever reasons....

It is a bonfide, successful attempt to destroy the very gentle thin fabric of society

Our Current Leadrshit get the Ozymandias Award

SWRichmond's picture

All they know how to do is loot and destroy.  The only differences between them and the Ferguson looters are:

  • they wear suits
  • the take is much much higher
  • not only do they get away with it, they earn praise and win awards for doing so
  • they destroy the lives of hundreds of millions of people, and kill millions, not just a paltry few at a time

If the dot gov could figure out a way to turn all of us into scarecrows and still get us to pay taxes, they would do it in a heartbeat.

Government needs you to pay taxes's picture

Wringing your hands and saying 'rayciss' isnt productive.  You want to be productive?  Contribute by addressing the issues of the folks you disagree with.  You can start with me, and my issue with black crime, black welfare, and low black intelligence.

SWRichmond's picture

Blacks were poor but the black family was largely intact before the government "saved" them with welfare.  Personally I believe:

  • The absolute worse thing you can do to someone is give them free stuff
  • The second absolute worse thing you can do to someone is to expend effort in convincing them they are victims
  • The government turns everything it touches to shit
  • It is entirely predictable that the welfare state creates dependency
  • If the economy were to be allowed to flourish, there would be jobs for those who were able to do them.
  • The economy will not be allowed to flourish, as it is crippled by the regulatory state and the banksters' rentier society.

These IMO are the core issues.  Attempting to divide us along racial lines does not serve our interests, but rather serves the interests of the oligarchy / government.  This means you are little more than a useful idiot.

jbvtme's picture

they'd make great great altar boys for thr priests in the catholic church.  you know? who's going to complain?

Richard Chesler's picture

First the jobs go. Then the schools. Eventually, the electricity meters stop.

Sounds a lot like Obongo's thriving middle class.

 

armageddon addahere's picture

Don't forget to "Urban Renewal" their neighborhoods. A key part of destroying a community.

tvdog's picture

The solution is to bring back manufacturing and provide good jobs for black men. As it stands, black women are more readily able to get jobs, which means there is little economic advantage to marrying, which in turn leads to single motherhood and kids who grow up without a father figure.

Blacks originally moved from the south (where black crime wasn't much of a problem) to northern cities (where again black crime wasn't much of a problem, as long as there were jobs) - then manufacturing left, and black men were the first to be let go as the factories closed. Intact families means less crime.

ersatz007's picture

if the solution is to bring back manufacturing - and provide good jobs (not just for) black men but for ALL men & women, then the folks that are so outraged about the state of our country need to get off their asses and talk to all the corporate/bankster/gov't/financier whores who sold us out to the Chinese.  The number of fucking morons on this site that blame the symptom and NOT the disease is astounding.

Abitdodgie's picture

Americans will never go after the corporate/bankster/gov't/financier whores because if you had not noticed America has no balls , look what happens when a family member gets murdered by the polce the rest of the family says o well what can you do , not once has there been a retaliation killing  why, they have no balls

tvdog's picture

I don't differ with you on who's ultimately to blame, though the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been among the most vocal open proponents of offshoring.

armageddon addahere's picture

In addition to the government, management and financiers don't forget the unions. It took teamwork to build up industry, it took teamwork to destroy it, and it will take teamwork to build it back up again.

DFCtomm's picture

It doesn't matter now, but manufacturing will return, but not in the way you want. Manufacturing will be back, because energy prices must rise, and automation will make labor costs unimportant. The U.S. will make everything, except low and mid skill jobs.

claytonmoore50's picture

Crime is not the result of poverty.

Crime is the result of lack of moral foundation

SWRichmond's picture

Tell it to the signers of the Declaration of Independence, who were traitors to the Crown.  I am sure the argument you just made was used against them, in real time, during Revolution 1.0.

 

jerry_theking_lawler's picture

The important part of the equation is defining what a 'crime' actually is.....

reader2010's picture

“Anybody who thinks factory jobs were good jobs needs to go visit somebody on a line,” she said. 'Most people wouldn’t survive in a factory. Mitt Romney would die in a week.'

- George Packer, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, 2013

p00k1e's picture

Go back to Europe, eh.  The War has been over. 

Newsboy's picture

This lady is brilliant to make those "place keeper" life size dolls, just brilliant.

Japan keeps open the option of return to small system farming.

Don't underestimate the Japanese. They work very well together in difficult situations.

Government needs you to pay taxes's picture

Dont rule this out in America, either.  With a much smaller, less-labor-intensive manufacturing base, the US is a bunch of overpaid 'financial service' jobs, a soon-to-be offshored tech industry, and a bankrupt Hollywood, plus agriculture.  If we all wake up hungry in the future, our future will be rural farming.

Elliott Eldrich's picture

Right, and then the formerly minimum-wage earning people will happily go "back to the land," only to find that the Goldman boys have bought up every acre of land that could possibly grow anything resembling food, and they'll be happy to sell it to you for the low, low price of only $100,000 per acre, credit terms are available.

No, when we all wake up hungry in the future, what will happen next is going to be a lot less "Tom Joad" and a lot more "Marie Antionette."

donsluck's picture

I don't know about you, but I wake up hungry every day. The problem is when you go to bed hungry. You don't need a farm to grow your own food. In fact, a family of four can live on about 1,500 sq. ft. (that's FEET) of garden.

SWRichmond's picture

In fact, a family of four can live on about 1,500 sq. ft. (that's FEET) of garden.

The Irish did it, as I understand...

bbq on whitehouse lawn's picture

No the Irish died trying to do that.

Big Corked Boots's picture

Exactly. Athough they had some help from the English.

As a small farmer (part-time) I can tell you that subsistence farming is NOT a step forward for the American public.

americanreality's picture

How many potatoes does it take to kill an Irishman?

 

None.

emersonreturn's picture

newsboy, i agree they are brilliant.  obviously if the money funnelled into banks had been given as small loans to small business the country would be excelling now.  people, sheeple as we on ZH often think of them, are very inventive and with the smallest hand up will use it to good effect.  i agree with SWR that handouts are very demoralizing...but small loans, given with good faith, really do have a remarkable ripple.   if only...

pods's picture

Why the blacks of course.

Kidding aside, this is the natural progression of collapse.  When things start to get REALLY bad, where hope starts to fade, anger and tribalism start to become more prevalent.  Always need someone to blame for why things are not going the way they should. And helps with the cognitive dissonance of why things cannot go back to where they were.  Of course it is the debt issued currency, but that is too tough to deal with.  So another scapegoat is found.

Same as it ever was.

pods

Usurious's picture
Usurious (not verified) pods Dec 9, 2014 10:16 AM

brilliantly articulated........the one secret that they dont want out is the debt-money secret...........

Government needs you to pay taxes's picture

Agree with your basic premise, but point out our .gov troubles are exacerbated by a .gov that coddles unproductives, who in this nation at this time, are disproportionately minority, particularly black.  This fact is real, and must be addressed in new, more productive ways.  The feral chimp-pack burning and looting by night and collecting taxpayer dollars by day so they can loot again by night does not work.  Nor does sleeping and eating on the taxpayer dime by day so they can commit crime and reproduce like rabbits at night.  The generational cycle hasn't been broken, and hard working taxpayers end up bearing an increasingly heavy burden generationally in 3 ways:  (1) there are more members of the Free Shit Army today than 20 years ago; (2) .gov continues to grow the free shit benefits; and (3) .gov continues to nurture the myth of racial prejudice just to keep the episilons voting.  Finally, .gov has instituted a racist contracting system that penalizes a white man and his business.  These are NOT ways to create harmony.  This is the path to revolution and war.  Piss off the most productive for the benefit of the least productive.

Stuck on Zero's picture

Most of the free shit goes to Wall Street and to government workers.

Urtica ferox's picture

Why do most if not all comments about welfare spending on the FSA always ignore the 800lb gorilla in the room - i.e. spending on the MIC and their "adventures" ? Between $700 billion and $1 trillion A YEAR (not counting ongoing liabilities for the current crop of casualities). Looks like a lot of "coddling unproductives" could be eliminated right there. I believe Eisenhower had something to say on the topic? Just askin' is all ...

Calmyourself's picture

Pods., what we need is a catchphrase added to the end of all our postings; succinct and clear to remind ourselves and lurkers of whom the enemy truly is, perhaps our resident poets can help?

 

 

Temporalist's picture

How about "Print Moar!"

 

That is all

pods's picture

I am kind of fond of Chutercraft, but that is just cause I like the sound of it.  Ricola calls that the special blend of herbs in their drops.  

For us it is that special blend of uncommon information, dark humor, and a twist of anarchistic mistanthropy wrapped in the realization that there is something very wrong with the world.  

Chutercraft!

pods

 

TheGreatRecovery's picture

The banksters did their skanksters and high-fived each other's pranksters.

Government needs you to pay taxes's picture

Fuck you.  You are a country-destroyer.  Once again, fuck you.

SWRichmond's picture

Calling all Police-State apologists:

http://alternativemediasyndicate.com/2014/12/08/grand-jury-robert-ethan-...

"A grand just just announced on Friday that they will not indict a Maryland police officer who killed an unarmed man who had Down Syndrome."

Oh, and thank you for your well thought-out, carefully considered and enlightening reply.  It truly adds a lot to the dialogue here.

pods's picture

Check out Denninger about police and violence. Pretty good piece he has on it.

http://market-ticker.org/akcs-www?post=229646

pods

SWRichmond's picture

Read it, thanks.  It's not hard at all to see where this goes.  If they can beat and kill blacks, and we cheer, then they can beat and kill anyone, including us, and expect to be cheered.

We must learn to be less like sheep and more like water buffalo.

curbjob's picture

Indeed ... the irony is that monoculturalism is killing Japan, something that this article fails to mention.

Calmyourself's picture

Not true at all, prior to wwII their culture thrived.  Technology twisted and Western ideaology pushed on them has killed their basic Bushido creed.