Home > Japan > So Much They’re Giving It Away

So Much They’re Giving It Away

Giving what away you might ask? Well according to The International Herald Tribune (global edition of The New York Times) and Norimitsu Onishi’s June 3rd article, how about land. Believe it. In Japan, one of the most densely populated countries in the world, with some most least habitable land in the world, land is in excess. The catch with this is you have to move to Hokkaido, where nature is a plenty, people sparse, and the winters brutal. Towns on Japan’s northern most island are searching for ways to increase population and inject some life into their shrinking economies and populations.

Now I’ve actually been to Hokkaido and can’t see why anyone with the cash would pass this up. You get the land (in some places up to 5200 square feet of land – monstrous for Japan), as long as you agree to build a house and officially move to whatever town (Shibetsu in the photo) within 3 years of land grant. That said, I love snowboarding, hiking, and wasting days away watching fisherman, hoping one day they will ask me to help them reel in a catch. I just don’t have the money to buy and build a house. If that isn’t your cup of tea you should definitely think twice. If you don’t like wondering whether or not Smokey the Curious Kuma will like your leftover yaki-soba then stay away from this area of town. Fresh air, unpolluted waters, friendly people, uninterrupted running space, and did I mention more nature than the eye could see. What more could you ask for.

All joking aside, these towns are between a rock and a hard place because they are dying, and the last thing they can offer is land. In that, they are getting mostly retirees who are ready to relax, and pass away their time playing good shot ground golf and taking photos of wild flowers (not that there’s anything wrong with that). This is not what they really need, although they won’t pass it up. They need the young catch to come up there and revitalize the area with kids, and money. They need people with the time and spirit to invest and build-up the area in which they live. It seems those opportunities are in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, etc. because those cities already have a diversity of industry and way of life that lends to youth building financially, and socially, viable lives. So what else can they offer? Who knows? For now, it is free land. Hopefully that will bring that someone with an idea that will catch fire and spark a new awakening for rural Hokkaido.

FYI – I live in Akita City, which is on the main island of Honshu tucked away in the northern part; it has similar problems. It just hasn’t gotten so bad that the city is giving away land…yet.


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  1. June 7, 2008 at 2:19 am

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