It’s nearly impossible to read stories about Japan today without seeing mention of the country’s population decline, a problem hitting rural areas the hardest. What’s less common is the recognition that some corners of the country have been lamenting the loss of their halcyon days for a while.

One such community is Mikuni Minato, a once-thriving port town in Fukui Prefecture left behind over 100 years ago by Japan’s turn-of-the-century shift toward modernity.

You wouldn’t know it by looking at Mikuni Minato now, but this sleepy community of around 20,000 residents used to be Japan’s third-largest port behind Osaka and Yokohama. Thanks to the kitamaebune — an Edo Period (1603-1868) shipping route linking the commercial centers of Kansai with ports along Japan’s eastern coast all the way up to Hokkaido — Mikuni Minato’s merchants got rich off this coastal trade, setting prices to their liking as befit their status as a crucial link in cross-country trade.