Ryosuke Takashima, who rose to national prominence after becoming the youngest city mayor ever in Japan, has made education reform a key focus of his time in the role as he seeks to turn the tide on his city's population decline.

Takashima was elected mayor of Ashiya, Hyogo Prefecture, in a unified local poll conducted in April. The Harvard-educated 26-year-old from the city of Minoh in neighboring Osaka Prefecture is working to gather opinions — including from children — to revitalize public schools in his city.

"The future of Ashiya won't improve unless education (in the city) improves," he said in a recent interview.