Growing urbanization is a global challenge
55% of the world’s population currently lives in cities. This trend of urbanization is continuing: the UN expects 68% of the world’s population to live in cities by 2050. China, India and Nigeria will account for 1/3 of this increase. In Japan, the situation is different: Japan is one of the most urbanized countries in the world. In 1950, 53% of the population lived in cities – in 2014 it was 93%. Rural villages are rapidly disappearing as young people move to the cities for work. Leaving the elderly behind to either leave themselves or pass away.
By 2030, 1/3 of all homes in Japan will be empty!
The problem of empty houses is serious. There are 62.4 million homes in Japan. In 2018, research showed that 8.49 million homes were vacant. Even in Tokyo, one in ten homes is abandoned. And this will only become more so. It is expected that 1/3 of all homes in Japan will be empty or abandoned by 2030. This is largely due to urbanization. But also because the Japanese have a preference for new homes over old ones.
Japanese companies offer residential subscription
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Japanese companies have been encouraging their employees to work from home. As a result, the number of home workers has doubled. Existing Japanese companies cleverly capitalized on this by offering home subscriptions. For a low, fixed price per month, home workers can live and work anywhere in the countryside. This idea energizes depopulated rural areas, according to the Nikkei Group’s Japanese newspaper “Nihon Keizai Shimbun”.
Two examples from practice
ADDress wants to cultivate a prosperous society while solving the problem of empty houses across the country. They do this by introducing a new lifestyle. Their business model is simple: they make use of vacant houses nationwide and offer them furnished, for a fixed price of around 308 euros per month. This amount includes the cost of electricity, gas, water and internet. Since its launch, the number of subscribers to this service has increased tenfold. “When you are in a natural area, it gives you more opportunities to relax. It’s also better for productivity,” says Akihisa Oikawa, one of the service’s users. With his partner, he regularly changes places. For example, from a mountain town in the north of Tokyo to a village near the Pacific Ocean.
In the same avenue, SANU offers its customers accommodation in the picturesque regions of Yamanashi and Nagano. For 55,000 yen (about 387 euros) per month, customers can rent a room in the countryside through SANU’s subscription service. SANU is a lifestyle brand founded in 2019. At its core, Sanu’s philosophy is very simple. Get more and more people to connect with nature and like it. Liking nature leads people to try to protect nature. As a result, people’s lifestyles change and society is created where people and nature coexist in harmony.
Hope for the regional economy
More than 2,000 people signed up with Sanu and are now on the waiting list. According to a survey conducted in 2020 by Internet service provider Biglobe, this craze reflects an underlying trend. About 60% of those surveyed said they favoured the idea of a workcation: a neologism created from the English words work and vacation.
At the same time, some Japanese companies, such as Yahoo, now let their employees work wherever they want. The increase in these people choosing a nomadic life is an even greater asset to the regional economy and stops the rural exodus. To maintain this positive development, local authorities should simultaneously work to improve internet accessibility, says Matsushita Keita, professor at Kansai University. Moreover, this model can also work very well for countries in Europe with the same problems, think, for example, Italy.
Telecommuting. In Japan, subscriptions for nomadic housing: https://www.courrierinternational.com/article/teletravail-au-japon-des-abonnements-pour-des-logements-nomades
Japan’s population shrinks as never before: million fewer residents in five years: https://www.hln.be/buitenland/japanse-bevolking-krimpt-als-nooit-tevoren-miljoen-minder-inwoners-in-vijf-jaar-tijd~ad4ac018/#:~:text=Japan%20is%20een%20van%20de,de%20steden%20trekken%20voor%20werk.
Want to Live in an Abandoned House in Japan? Here’s Why it’s Not Really ‘Free’: https://blog.gaijinpot.com/buy-abandoned-house-in-japan/