Old Friend in Onjuku

amigo-onjuku People

At 1:30pm yesterday.
My old friend Rieko from Onjuku Junior High School came to pick me up and hang out with me in the afternoon.
I met her once at the alumni association, but it was the first time in decades that we spent time together, so when we started talking, we couldn’t stop talking about random topics such as our classmates, living conditions and shops in Onjuku & neighboring towns, family….anyway, time flied so fast.

Ratio of our generation living in Onjuku

I remember being shocked to see the population pyramid when I started thinking about my hometown Onjuku about three and a half months ago.
Every time I returned to Onjuku, I felt that social issues such as the declining birthrate and aging population, the increase in vacant houses, and the aging infrastructure were gradually advancing.
However, when I visualize it like the bar chart below, I feel even more impatient.

Population pyramid of Onjuku, 1980 (actual value)(Statistics Dashboard, Statistics Bureau, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications)
Population pyramid of Onjuku, 2020 (estimated value) (Statistics Dashboard, Statistics Bureau, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications)

The bar chart above is the population pyramid of Onjuku-town when we were born.
And the chart below is 40 years later.
In the meantime, it changed its shape drastically, and became a beautifully inverted triangular pyramid.

Forty years ago, our group (0-4 years old) had about 520 people, but now that group (40-44 years old) has decreased to about 300 people. In other words, about half of them have moved to and settled in other areas such as Tokyo.
I asked Rieko how many classmates still live in Onjuku.
She said “I feel that half is not left and maybe about 1/3 of them live in Onjuku and the remaining 2/3 relocate to other areas.”

And what is even more shocking is the number of children now.
The fact that there are about 100 people aged 0 to 4 means that there are 20 people per grade in the whole of Onjuku.
Our generation at Iwawada Elementary School, which I attended and closed in 2007, was just 20 students per grade.

It is absolutely necessary to make efforts to increase the number of working-age population even a little.
There are trial accommodations for people who want to move to Onjuku, but what is more important than hardware is to provide more generous support in terms of software, such as where to go to get information about the town, where to go to connect with people locally, and communities that support a daily life of people who moved.

Neighboring Towns

Rieko and I went to a tapioca cafe called “Cafe BOBA” in the neighboring city of Isumi.

“Where to go to hang out with friends in Onjuku?”
When it comes to that, it certainly doesn’t come to my mind…
Even when I was talking to a new local friend in the morning, she said, “I often talk with my mom friends about how nice it would be to have a cafe with a view of the ocean.” which reminds me that Yuriko also said, “I wish I had a cafe where I could easily stop by.”

They are absolutely right!!
We all wish we had a cafe by the beach where we could easily stop by in Onjuku!

By the way, Isumi City was formed by the merger of the three towns of Ohara, Misaki, and Isumi.

Rieko was really familiar with the trends and information of the area, and filled in the empty space about my Onjuku and its surroundings at once.

I heard that the number of people relocated is increasing in Isumi City, and they are running unique small shops and events to make the area even more exciting. There is also a well-developed community of information and connections for the people who moved.

Below are just for reference. (Rieko recommended)

The Isumi Lifestyle Institute, a non-profit organization that supports people living in Isumi

Instagram where girls who live in Isumi City send out information about the charms of Isumi City.