A steep decline in gas stations across the nation has left large numbers of municipalities with few or no such facilities, creating a situation where local residents may find it exceedingly difficult to fill up their vehicles, farming machines or heating units. The depletion of such basic services could further erode the foundations of rural depopulated communities and, if left unattended, exacerbate the various woes already experienced by these areas. The government and municipalities should work together with local businesses as well as community residents to devise an organized response to the problem.

According to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the number of gas stations nationwide has been declining since hitting a peak of 60,421 in fiscal 1994. At the end of last March, the number had fallen to 31,467, or nearly half the peak of 22 years earlier. Behind the fall is the worsening business environment and tightening competition among gas station operators.

Demand for motor vehicles is declining as Japan's population rapidly ages and shrinks, and today's dwindling ranks of young people show less interest in driving than previous generations. On top of this, the rise of fuel-efficient cars and an increase in the use of electric vehicles have likewise reduced demand for gasoline, the sales of which has been falling since its peak in 2011, sinking to 53 million kiloliters in 2016, a decline of 7.5 percent over four years.