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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Japan’s Issue: 9 Million Empty Houses in an Increasingly Aging Society


TOKYO — Japan is⁣ currently​ grappling with a record-breaking⁣ surge in‍ the number of unoccupied homes, which⁤ has now reached a staggering nine million. This figure is more than enough to accommodate every individual residing⁣ in New York City. This alarming trend is a direct result of the ongoing population decline in the East‍ Asian nation.

In Japan, these deserted homes are referred to as “akiya”, a term typically associated ‍with dilapidated residential properties located in⁣ the ⁢countryside.

However, the ⁤presence of akiya ⁢is increasingly noticeable in major urban areas like Tokyo and Kyoto. This poses‌ a significant ⁣challenge⁣ for the Japanese government, which is already struggling with an⁢ aging ‌population and a concerning‌ decrease in‍ annual birth rates.

“This is a clear indication⁢ of Japan’s dwindling population,” commented Jeffrey ⁣Hall, a lecturer at Kanda University of International​ Studies‌ in Chiba. “The issue isn’t about ‌constructing too many houses, but rather the lack of people to occupy⁢ them,” ⁤he‌ added.

As per data gathered by the⁢ Ministry of‌ Internal Affairs ​and Communications,⁣ approximately 14% of all​ residential properties ⁢in Japan are currently vacant.

This figure includes secondary residences and homes left empty ‍for various⁢ reasons, such as owners temporarily ‌relocating overseas for‍ work.

Not all ‍these properties are left to decay like traditional⁤ akiya. However, the increasing number of ⁤such homes presents a variety of ⁤challenges for the government and local communities, experts informed CNN.

These challenges include hindering efforts to ​revitalize deteriorating towns, potential hazards due to lack of maintenance, and increased risks for ‌rescue workers during disasters in a country prone to earthquakes and ​tsunamis.

The Dilemma of⁤ Excessive‍ Homes

Akiya‍ are often ⁢inherited through generations. However, due to Japan’s declining fertility rate,⁤ many⁢ homes are left without an⁣ heir or ⁤are inherited by younger generations who have migrated to cities⁣ and ⁤see no value in returning to rural‌ areas, experts informed CNN.

Some homes are ​also stuck in ⁢administrative⁤ limbo as local authorities are unable to identify the owners due ​to ⁣inadequate record-keeping.

This makes it challenging‌ for the ‍government to rejuvenate rapidly aging rural communities and hampers‌ efforts to attract younger individuals interested in alternative lifestyles ⁣or investors‍ looking for a good deal.

Due to Japan’s tax policies, some homeowners find ‌it ⁣more⁣ cost-effective to retain the property than to demolish ​it for ⁢redevelopment.

Even if owners are interested⁢ in selling, they may ⁤face ​difficulties in finding ⁤buyers, stated Hall, from Kanda University.

“Many of ‍these ‍homes lack access to public transportation, healthcare,​ and even convenience stores,” he explained.

While ⁣trending videos showcasing ‍people, primarily foreigners, buying cheap Japanese homes​ and transforming them into chic guesthouses and cafes have gained popularity⁢ on social media, Hall cautioned ​that​ the process is not as straightforward as it appears.

“The reality is that most of these ‌homes​ are unlikely to be sold ‌to foreigners. The administrative work and ⁢rules involved are‍ not easily navigable for someone who isn’t fluent in Japanese,” he‌ said.

“These homes won’t⁢ be ‌available ‍for cheap.”

The Issue‍ of Declining Population

Japan’s population has been on a downward trend for several years. As of 2022, the population had ​decreased by over‌ 800,000 from the previous year, standing at 125.4 million.

In 2023, the number of new ‍births dropped​ for the eighth consecutive year, hitting a ​record⁢ low,‍ as per⁤ official data.

Japan’s birth rate ⁢has⁣ been ⁣consistently around 1.3, ⁤significantly lower than the 2.1 required to maintain a stable population. Just last week, Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications reported that⁤ the number of children ‌under the age of ⁣15 had ​decreased for the 43rd consecutive year, reaching a record low ⁤of approximately‍ 14 million as of April 1.

Consequently, the issue of excessive homes and insufficient people ​is likely to persist for‍ the foreseeable future.

Yuki Akiyama, ‌a ​professor from the faculty of architecture ⁢and urban design at ⁢Tokyo⁣ City⁢ University, mentioned that vacant ​homes have⁢ caused problems in the past, such as after the 7.5 magnitude earthquake that struck the Noto Peninsula in the ⁣central prefecture of Ishikawa in January.

The​ area affected​ by the⁤ earthquake had a‍ high​ number of vacant​ homes, which posed a threat to ​residents during the ‌disaster and challenges for post-earthquake reconstruction.

“In ⁣the event of an earthquake or⁢ tsunami, there is a risk that ‌vacant homes ⁢will obstruct evacuation⁣ routes as they collapse and get ⁣destroyed,” he explained.

After the‌ earthquake, authorities faced difficulties in deciding ⁤which damaged properties they could clean up due to unclear ownership, creating “an⁣ obstacle for reconstruction,” Akiyama said.

In other rural areas with a high ​concentration of vacant ​homes, ⁢akiya have hindered development, the professor added.

With these properties remaining untouched,‍ “The value of the area will decrease because⁢ it⁢ is a place where properties can’t be bought and sold properly, and ⁢large-scale development can’t​ be⁣ carried ​out,” he said.

“People will perceive‍ that this place has no value, and the real estate value of the ​entire area will gradually decrease.”

Akiyama has developed an AI⁤ program to ​predict the areas most susceptible to vacant homes. However, he emphasized​ that the problem isn’t ‍exclusive to Japan⁣ — ​it ​has been observed in the‍ U.S. and some European​ countries.

Nevertheless, he stated ⁣that⁣ Japan’s architectural‍ history and ⁢culture make the situation particularly severe there.

Homes in Japan ​aren’t valued​ for their longevity, and unlike in ‍the West, people‍ don’t typically appreciate living in historical buildings.

“In Japan,‍ the ⁤newer the house, the higher the price ⁢it ⁤sells for,” he ⁢concluded.

Truth Media Network
Truth Media Network
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  1. I agree with the concern about Japan’s 9 million empty houses. It’s a critical issue that needs to be addressed, especially in the face of an aging population.


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