• Reuters

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When the coronavirus outbreak caused rice and instant noodles to disappear from supermarket shelves in Tokyo this year, Kaoru Okada, 36, decided to leave the capital because he was worried about food security.

Okada settled in the city of Saku, Nagano Prefecture, about 160 kilometers northwest of Tokyo, maintaining his online retail and export business while growing vegetables in shared farms and threshing rice.

“I moved out of Tokyo in June as soon as the domestic travel ban was lifted, thinking now is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Okada said. “Living close to a food-producing center and connections with farmers give me a sense of security.”

As the pandemic has pushed many companies to allow telecommuting, it has also caused population to flow out of Tokyo — the first time that has happened in years, the latest government data showed.

The shift could boost Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who made revitalizing Japan’s decaying rural regions a core plank of his socioeconomic platform.

In September, 30,644 people moved out of Tokyo, up 12.5% year-on-year, while the number moving in fell 11.7% to 27,006, the data showed.

It was the third straight month those moving out outnumbered those moving in, the longest run on record, led by people in their 20s and 30s.

Jobs are also leaving the city.

A major staffing firm, Pasona Group Inc., said in September it would move its headquarters and 1,200 employees to Awaji Island off Kobe, the home of 68-year-old chief executive Yasuyuki Nambu.

The lockdowns this spring were a decisive factor, Nambu said, adding that the trend would continue as companies and employees changed their mindsets about work-life balance.

Okada, the online business owner, has no intention of living in Saku forever — although that doesn’t mean he’ll move back to Tokyo.

“As long as I can work anywhere, I will keep hopping (about) to find a place best suited to my life at the time,” he said.

Article first published in The Japan Times on Nov. 4.

Warm up

One minute chat about the town you live in.

Game

Collect words related to the countryside, e.g., rural, nature, quiet, village.

New words

1) revitalize: imbue something with new life and vitality, e.g., “I felt revitalized after having an eight-hour sleep.”

2) plank: a fundamental point of a political or other program, e.g., “A major plank of the immigration policy is increased acceptance of refugees.”

3) outnumber: be more numerous than, e.g., “The enemy has us outnumbered, we should surrender.”

Guess the headline

As Japan moves to revive its c_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _, pandemic drives many out of c_ _ _ _s

Questions

1) How many people moved in and out of Tokyo in September?

2) What may be the cause of this population trend?

3) How might this trend affect Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga?

Let’s discuss the article

1) Rate the city you live in and give reasons for your rating.

2) Are you a city person or a country person?

3) Where would you live if you could live anywhere in the world?

Reference

コロナ禍はさまざまなことを変化させました。なかでもテレワークが広く浸透し、より良い住環境や条件のいい地方を居住地として検討する人が増えたことは、これまでの東京集中型の構造を大きく変えるきっかけとなったでしょう。どこからでも仕事ができる、という環境が今後更に整っていけば、これからの日本は変わっていくのかもしれません。未来の日本はどのような社会を作り、どこで皆さんは暮らし、働きたいと願うでしょうか。朝英語の会に参加し皆さんで話し合ってみましょう。

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