National / Social Issues

Fearing 'extinction,' Tokyo's Toshima Ward aims to attract more women

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Fast-forward decades into the future, and Toshima Ward in Tokyo may no longer exist.

Or so it was declared by a group of scholars last spring, much to the shock of ward officials, who are now scrambling to prove the prophecy wrong by setting forth a batch of proposals to make the area more livable for women.

In May, the Japan Policy Council said the ward in northwestern Tokyo, home to neighborhoods such as Ikebukuro and Sugamo, was “in danger of extinction” due to an expected plunge in the number of female residents aged 20 to 39 in the coming decades.

The group projected that female residents of the ward in their 20s and 30s, of whom there were 50,136 in 2010, will drop by more than half to 24,666 in 2040.

It characterized Toshima, which is home to one of the smallest populations of teenage girls among Tokyo’s 23 wards, as the only ward in the capital that faces the prospect of extinction.

In response, a council of 38 mostly female ward officials and residents was formed in August to discuss countermeasures. On Saturday the group came up with a series of ideas they hope will help prevent an exodus of mothers and housewives from the area.

The proposals include investing more in the ward’s notoriously small playgrounds. Each is so small that “complaints have abounded among residents that kids can’t even play ball,” said Hiromi Shimizu, a ward official in charge of promoting gender equality.

The council, whose female members include local university students and housewives, also suggested the ward make after-school facilities available to children for longer hours.

After further deliberation, the council is planning to submit the finalized version of the proposals to Toshima Ward Mayor Yukio Takano on Dec. 11.