Japanese town suffers population decline, turns its local elementary school into an aquarium

Yes, those really are sharks swimming around in the school pool.

For years, areas outside of Japan’s big cities have been dealing with the problem of population decline, with fewer births and few employment opportunities leading to abandoned housing and the closure of facilities, including schools.

In an effort to deal with the problem, regional groups are constantly coming up with clever solutions, including NPOs set up to assist new residents and the offer of free homes, but for one enterprising group of thinkers in Kochi Prefecture on the island of Shikoku, their solution has been to turn the defunct local elementary school into an aquarium.

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Called the Muroto Schoolhouse Aquarium, the new sightseeing spot is located in Muroto City on the Japanese island of Shikoku, and is housed in the old school buildings of Shiina Elementary School, which closed in 2006 due to a low number of young children in the area.

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After being left abandoned for over a decade, the old school is now teeming with life again, only this time it’s fish and marine animals that can be found around the school grounds.

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The three-storey school building reopened as an aquarium on 26 April, coinciding with Japan’s nine-day Golden Week holiday period, during which time they received over a million visitors. With more than 15,000 people people visiting the aquarium each day, locals say the new site has brought a new sense of vitality to the sleepy rural town.

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The first floor of the old school building now acts as a reception area for guests, while the second floor is home to a number of tanks, including a huge circular tank of mackerel in the middle of one of the old classrooms.

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An old washbasin once used for rinsing calligraphy brushes and brushing teeth (schoolchildren in Japan often brush their teeth after eating lunch) has now been converted into a seawater touch pool filled with starfish and sea cucumbers.

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The third floor is an “exhibition zone” containing skeletal specimens and books about marine life, while outside in the school swimming pool, sea turtles, sharks and fish can be found, making for an unusual sight.

Since the above video was posted online, it’s received 3 million views on Twitter, with viewers leaving comments like:

“Those are hammerhead sharks in there!”
“To combat the depopulation problem they’ve created a breeding farm!”
“Omg this is like a dream I had when I was at school.”
“When I was in elementary school, we kept crocodiles at the school, no joke.”
“At our school we kept koi fish in the pool when it wasn’t being used, but I’ve never seen sharks in a school pool before!”

▼ Those really are sharks inside the school pool.

Muroto hopes that the Schoolhouse Aquarium will increase visitors and revitalise the area, and their project seems to be doing just that. The aquarium shows that abandoned schoolhouses still have a lot of life left in them, even after the children have left, and if you’re looking to stay overnight in one of them, there’s a place where you can do that too!

Source: Net Lab
Featured image: Twitter/@INO_R18

Muroto Schoolhouse Aquarium / むろと廃校水族館
Address: Kōchi-ken, Muroto-shi, Murotomisakicho, 533-2
Hours: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily

Japan sees huge growth in jobs in the “cleaning up the homes of old people who die alone” field

Demand grows more than 10 times in size in just five years as Japanese family dynamics change.

As time passes, technology advances, and economies evolve, certain industries will shrink. For example, electronics manufacturing used to be a huge part of the Japanese economy, but it’s been in contraction for many years, with Casio’s exit from the digital camera game the most recent example.

But on the other hand, some industries can see huge growth due to socioeconomic trends. So if you’re hunting for a job in Japan, and you want to be part of a rapidly expanding field, you might want to consider a position in tokushu soji, or “special cleaning” industry.

What makes the cleaning special? Well, tokushu soji companies come in and clean the homes of senior citizens who have died alone. Back in the old days, this is something that was almost always handled by surviving relatives, often the deceased’s children, and in fact it used to be far more common than it is today for elderly parents to live with their offspring in multi-generational homes.

Things have changed, though. As families become smaller and more people move farther away from home to seek out academic or professional opportunities, the number of seniors in Japan who live alone has been steadily increasing, from roughly 4.1 million in 2010 to 6.55 million in 2016 (according to statistics from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare). In response, there are now over 5,000 companies offering special cleaning services in Japan, which is 15 times as many as there were just five years ago.

Aside from recycling or otherwise disposing of the deceased’s possessions, special cleaning companies have to clean and disinfect the home. Sometimes a significant amount of time will have passed before someone discovered that the resident had passed away, and in addition to using professional-grade cleaners and pesticides, special cleaning staff often wear protective clothing to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

While cleaning and waste disposal are the primary services offered, some special cleaning companies have expanded their role to coordinating funeral services. Many also believe that respectful treatment of surviving relatives is part of their duties, and the Special Cleaning Center, and industry group formed in 2013, offers training and certification programs to ensure high-quality service in both the technical and human aspects of the job.

With Japan’s birth rate steadily falling, demand for special cleaning services is likely to continue to grow, as families get smaller and the population gets older. It’s no doubt a difficult job, but it serves a valuable purpose for society, especially when someone passes away and leaves behind six tons of porno mags.

Source: Mainichi Shimbun via Jin
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Pakutaso

Japan suffers 37th consecutive year of low birthrate, Japanese people may become extinct someday

Turns out that Japanese citizens are aware of their fate, but there seems to be no solution to avert the impending disaster.

Japan has long struggled with a rapidly declining birthrate, and though it isn’t the worst in the world — Singapore being the lowest — it is far from solving a complex problem that has plagued the country for decades.

What makes Japan’s situation so dire is that it’s also home to the world’s highest population of elderly people, and Japanese people themselves have varied opinions on why they’ve arrived at this predicament. But there’s worse to come.

The latest probe at the problem by Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications revealed that as of 1 April 2018, the number of children under the age of 15 was estimated to be 15.53 million (7.95 million boys and 7.58 million girls).

▼ Which may seem like a lot,
but is actually the lowest ever in Japanese history.

2017 already saw a despairingly record low of 15.7 million children, but this year’s number brought that count even lower. That’s a steady decline for 37 years straight since 1987.

Additionally, the proportion of children to total population has continued dropping annually for the past 44 years to the current 12.3 percent, the lowest ever since 1954.

Breaking it down at the prefectural level, Tokyo was the only prefecture to experience a hike in children population, a pattern that’s been repeated for the past four consecutive years. Beach-filled Okinawa pulled its weight with the highest proportion of children at 17.1 percent, while Akita Prefecture came in the lowest at 10.1 percent.

▼ What will become of Japan 50 years from now?

Shocked by the news and faced with possible extinction, netizens aired their grievances:

“Our declining birthrate began more than two decades ago, right? The country simply isn’t motivated at all. The people truly bothered by it are the ones who are old themselves, so it won’t change.”

“They say that we continue to have less children, but raising children in Japan is really tough. I’m concerned about student loans, as I have to work to repay it. If I lose my job bearing a child, who’s going to repay it? It takes about 20 years to finish repayment, and after that it’ll be late childbearing. Having children isn’t realistic.”

“Of course. Almost every Japanese has to scrape by with income tax, municipal tax, pension, and health insurance payments. If you don’t work, the only option the country gives you is committing suicide. We don’t have the privilege of having children. More than 50 percent of ordinary people are desperate.”

Japan is currently experiencing the repercussions of decades of low birthrate, as evidenced by its aging workforce. Its citizens are suffering as a result of that, but what is astonishing is the lack of ample measures from the government to combat this silent killer of countries, with later generations experiencing harsher eras than the last.

Perhaps implementing that Breeding Visa program isn’t such a bad idea after all.

Source: NHK News via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2)

Tough national exam question for elderly care workers in Japan hits netizens right in the feels

Life will come to an end someday, and it takes a special individual with a big heart to support those nearing the last legs of a long journey.

Japan’s aging population and declining birthrate paints a gloomy future for the nation, resulting in increased demand for committed care workers dedicated to providing assistance to the elderly.

The road to becoming a full-fledged care worker is fraught with hurdles. Certification is compulsory in Japan, and as caregiver @laughelper shows below, taking the national examination is not exactly a walk in the park either.

▼ Here’s one difficult question from the exam
that stumped netizens (translation below).

Mrs A (97 years old, female) has been admitted into a long-term care home. She has progressively weakened to the point of becoming unable to drink water on her own, and she’s often heard muttering ‘Ah, it’s time for me to pass away.’

One night, a care worker approached Mrs A’s bed to check on her condition. Mrs A opened her eyes and calmly said, ‘Is it my time to go yet?’

As the care worker, please choose the most appropriate response to Mrs A’s statement:

1. Encourage her to quickly return to sleep.
2. Hold and gently pat Mrs A’s hand.
3. Tell her that she shouldn’t say such things.
4. Assure Mrs A that you’ll get her family to contact her.
5. Think nothing of it and silently leave the room.

▼ It’s a tough but relevant question, as caregivers are bound
to come across something like this in their career.

Presented with a hopeless situation like this and five options that do little to ease the plight of Mrs A, Japanese netizens were torn:

“I think it’s number two. Huh? What’s this wetness coming from my eyes?”
“There’s no right or wrong. Depending on the case, all of them are correct.”
“I’ve been a care worker for 17 years now, but I don’t know the answer.”
“No, this is just too sad.”

One experienced caregiver gave a very different answer:

“When I’m put into such a position, this is what I would tell them while smiling brightly: ‘There are more elderly people recently, and heaven’s currently congested at the moment. When it’s your turn, they’ll call you. Have they called yet?’

I don’t think it’s a good answer, but some have smiled and replied ‘I see.’”

What would you do? Becoming a passionate caregiver is one of the noblest acts one can do for humankind, and looking at how Japan is spiraling into a bleak future by 2040, the country needs these courageous individuals now more than ever.

Source: Twitter/@laughelper via My Game News Flash
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Pakutaso

Japanese convenience stores showing “hardening of society” with touch-screen age verification?

Seniors especially irked by the mechanical process, but most people agree it’s kind of pointless anyway.

Walking into most major convenience stores in Japan, and buying either cigarettes or alcohol will put you face-to-face with the ultimate in security to prevent minors from acquiring these forbidden fruits. It comes in the form of a touchscreen display on the register that prompts the customer to touch “OK” if they are indeed over the age of 20.

Failure to do so would end the transaction and touching “OK” would make the customer a “liar-liar” and their pants would thus become “on fire”…or so I’m told. Even if that doesn’t hold true, these buttons also have the magical ability to transfer legal liability away from the store in the event something is sold to a minor.

In other words, it’s pretty much okay for minors to buy tobacco and alcohol products as long as they go on record as lying to do so, and everyone is happy. Last year, we sent our greying 40-year-old reporter Mr. Sato undercover as one of those dang teenagers and discovered that it certainly was easy for “them” to buy tobacco.

▼ He listened to Twenty One Pilots for hours on end to get into character.

However, while this may be great news for juvenile delinquents and other naughty nellies alike, there is one segment of the population who are none to happy with the system: seniors.

Of course there’s the annoyance of constantly being asked confirm your age when you are clearly over 20. But more importantly, this automated age-verification system has become so commonplace that the purchase of a can of beer is usually accompanied by the clerk grunting and half-hardheartedly gesturing to the screen while hardly even glancing at the customer. It’s what columnist Masahiko Katsuya is calling a major lack of communication on the part of the store and a sign of the “hardening of society” on the whole.

After the topic was raised by media in Japan, comments from those old enough to never be mistaken for a teenager have ranged from mild amusement to irritation.

“I usually snap at the clerk, ‘Is it possible for someone underage to be bald and have wrinkles?!’”
“I tell them, ‘I look THAT young? Thank you!’”
“It’s really annoying but I just want to get my beer and get out of there so I play along.”

Meanwhile, younger netizens stood up for the touchscreen system or at the very least felt it was a non-issue.

“If they hate the touch screen so much, then they should just buy their alcohol and cigarettes at a supermarket.”
“It’s better this way so they don’t discriminate against anyone.”
“These annoyed old people are still going to be annoyed if they’re verbally asked their age.”
“It always looks like I’m about to enter an adult website when that screen pops up.”
“I’m so conditioned to it, I reach for it even when I’m just buying snacks.”

Sadly for the older generation, this dehumanization of convenience stores is only beginning. The major chains have all stated their intentions to operate without cashiers in the very near future to save costs.

▼ Sadly, this would give our writers one less person to harass.

The stage is already being set. Investments are being made in microchips cheap enough that they can be placed in stores’ items for automatic ringing up and payment. Also, as a young commenter pointed out, this age verification button seems to have the convenient side effect of further reducing human interaction and thereby conditioning us so that the friendly clerk will not be as missed when the time comes.

But while it appears inevitable, the fact that the elderly are now a huge chunk of the Japanese population means their purchasing power cannot be ignored. As the comments also mentioned, if they don’t like the way convenience stores are handling customer service, their money going elsewhere will speak louder than their words ever will. Luckily, with supermarkets and vending machines there are no shortages of places to buy liquor and smokes in Japan.

Source: News Post Seven, Itai News
Images: SoraNews24

Japanese tabloids teaching seniors how to find adult videos online

It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta get grandpa to his girls gone wild.

There are a lot of interesting curiosities that come with living in a rapidly aging society. Social trends like the number of crimes by seniors outnumbering those of youths as well as the elderly becoming a more and more lucrative target market for businesses of all types.

Japan’s shukanshi, or weekly tabloids, are no exception. In keeping with their salacious reputations, they occasionally run features known as Shinu Made Shinuhodo SEX (Sex to Death, Until Death). These are looks at the erotic side of our autumn years and date back to around 2013.

However, recently these segments are looking to guide some seniors into their most hazardous environment, the Internet. Here are some headlines from the most recent issues of weeklies Shukan Post and Shukan Gendai.

“AVgle: The miracle search website that allows you to watch videos from around the world for free!”
“A guide for safe and secure free erotic videos and not having family find out!”

These articles don’t explicitly mention elderly people, but the way they’re written clearly assumes the reader has almost no knowledge of using the Internet beyond searching Google. They’re also written with a certain soberness unbecoming the typical moistly descriptive language used by the adult industry. It’s like the cautious language one might use when speaking to their elders.

Here’s an excerpt from Shukan Gendai:

“In order to access AVgle correctly, first enter “AVgle” on the search website Google. If you just enter words like ‘giant tits video’ into Google it is important to note that different websites than desired might be displayed. Also, do not forget to check the computer’s volume before playing, once the desired video is reached.”

Articles like this give highly comprehensive instructions on how to delete your viewing history, steer clear of frauds and spam ads, and even how to prevent saucy words from popping up in your device’s predictive text functions.

But it’s not all technical training, these magazines also highlight adult films and theirs stars from the ’80s and ’90s and show readers where to revisit them on sites such as XVideos. All this might suggest that seniors in Japan are only now catching onto the concept of internet porn, but actually trends have just been changing a little.

IT journalist Toshiyuki Inoue told J-Cast News that many elderly people have been hip to adult content online since back in the mid-2000s. However, because they couldn’t find the privacy at home, men lined up at the many internet cafes to get their fix. In these establishments there was no fear of cookies or malware left behind.

However, with the advent of more portable computing devices, old guys can now access the vastness of nudity online from the comfort of their own toilet bowl. On the other hand, this also reintroduces the issues of a family member typing “big” into Google only to have it assume they want “-ass titty honkers” as the remainder.

And so as the aged in Japan continue to become more of a driving market force and evolve, so too will the services that strive to cater to them. SoraNews24, however, will not surrender to the trends and continue to speak to today’s youth. There’s already a lot of buzz among teens regarding my upcoming listicle on the “Grooviest Enka Singers in Japan.”

Source: J-Cast News
Images: SoraNews24

Japanese hip hop group Rishiri Boys boasts local pride, mad skills, and an average age of 82

What do you get when you put three older Japanese fishermen together? A hip hop group, of course.

Even in the midst of Japan’s aging population, age doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to music. We’ve introduced you to older generation pop groups like Osaka’s Obaaachan, Kochi’s JI-POP, and Tori’s dance trio. Today, we want to introduce you to a hip hop group with equally young spirits.

▼ Who are they!?

Feast your eyes on Rishiri Boys, a group based in northern Hokkaido’s Rishiri Island.

Rishiri Boys is a hip hop group comprised of three members: Ganze (78 years-old), Menko-E (77 years-old), and Konbuappekacha (91 years-old), making their average age 82. They’re not quite as along in their years as Okinawa’s KBG84, but we’ll let it slide. After all, these fishermen have looks, style, and local pride to boot.

▼ Can your grandpa make fishing look this cool?

In Rishiri Boys’ lyrics (written by songwriter Nishidera Gota), you’ll find references to Rishiri Island’s culture and accent. Their first song, “We are Rishiri Boys”, as seen in the video above, is available on YouTube and has garnered over 30 thousand views so far.

▼ You can catch a glimpse into these hip hop stars’ daily life in their music video,
and they’ve also got some pretty cute backup dancers too.

Rishiri Boys recently performed at popular fashion show Sapporo Collection 17, where their cool and cute personalities wowed the fashion-hungry crowd. They declared that their next goal is to appear on NHK’s Kohaku Uta Gassen, a famous TV program broadcast at New Year’s. Do you think they’ve got what it takes?

Images: YouTube/Rishiri Town Office
[ Read in Japanese ]