High School Student Thinking Big About Japan’s Future

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Takuma Hosomi

Speech Shows Youth’s Creativity in Facing Depopulation and the Environment

Tokyo – (PanOrient) High school student Takuma Hosomi has some ideas for what he calls Japan’s “un-development,” or how the country should handle depopulated areas. Takuma, who spoke at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club on June 9, believes Japan should offer abandoned land to agribusiness and give emptied homes to global refugees. His speech was part of the EF Challenge, an international speech contest put on by cross-cultural education company EF Education First. The assigned topic for this year’s contest was sustainable development.

Here is the full text of Takuma’s speech:

The U.N. and NGOs around the world are talking about sustainable development goals. But here in Japan, we need to start thinking about sustainable un-development. I know, you are saying to yourself, “What is this kid talking about?” But let me give some scary numbers to think about. My country’s population is shrinking by around 1 million people a year. Imagine New York City going from the metropolis it is today to a ghost town in less than a decade, then you can picture what is happening to my country. So while we were asked to talk about sustainable development for this year’s speech, I want to take a minute and talk to you about what I am calling un-development. It is going to cause big problems for Japan, and if demographers are right, for other countries around the world, too.

The city of Yubari, in northern Japan, is suffering from depopulation. It is losing 10 percent of its population every year. One of the consequences of this is a huge increase in abandoned buildings. For example, buildings like gas stations and dry cleaners are being abandoned and no one is redeveloping the land. These buildings leave behind dangerous chemical waste which no one is cleaning up and which is starting to leak into the water table. We need to find a way to make sure these buildings are not left to rot and pollute the local land and water for generations into the future.

Judges, university officials, and competing students with their families at the speech contest

A possible solution is to have agribusinesses come into Yubari city. The government should give agribusinesses the land and abandoned buildings for free. Then they will tear down the abandoned buildings and clean up any polluted land and turn it back into clean and productive farmland. This will save the government from having to do it and will help turn cities back into farmland. An additional benefit is that it will encourage people to come back to the area to work on the new farmland and help Japan in its quest for food security.

In Japan, we have the highest percentage of people over 65. When old people die, there are no young people to replace them and move into their houses. In Japan, there are over 8 million residences with no one living in them. These empty places are dangerous because they can catch fire and nobody will know until it is too late and they could be used for illegal activities like selling drugs.

In the world, there is a major refugee crisis. Refugees are coming to Europe from Africa and countries at war like Syria and Yemen. But in Europe there aren’t enough houses to take all the refugees. Even though Japan has a lot of houses to house refugees, the Japanese government doesn’t like having refugees. Last year, Japan only accepted 11 of the 5,000 refugees who snuck into Japan. The Japanese government sees refugees as a risk to Japans security and racial homogeny, but if Japan takes them in, it can solve the housing problem. We can put the refugees in the abandoned houses so that way houses will be used and be taken care of. When the refugees get jobs, they can pay city taxes for their property. This way, Japan can save the lives of refugees and not lose millions of houses to fire or decay.

Japan is facing a population and sustainability crisis, but it is the opposite of that faced in most other countries. But demographers have shown that Japan is just the first industrialized country to get here, other western countries like Italy and Denmark are going to face the same problems in the future. Japan has to develop goals and strategies for the un-development of cities to ensure that everyone in the country is safe and healthy. So, while the world focuses on the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, spare a thought for Japan and the need for the unique solutions our government and people must find, and must find quickly. Thank you for listening.


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