TOKYO (Reuters) – When an outbreak of coronavirus caused rice and instant noodles to disappear from supermarket shelves in Tokyo this year, 36-year-old Kaoru Okada decided to leave the capital because of concerns about food security.
Okada settled in the central Japan city of Saku prefecture, Nagano, about 160 km (100 miles) northwest of Tokyo, maintaining her online retail and export business while growing vegetables in the split farm. sparrow and thresh.
Okada told Reuters: “I left Tokyo in June as soon as the domestic travel ban was lifted, I think now is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “Living close to a center of food production and connecting with farmers gave me a sense of security.”
The latest government data shows that when the pandemic has prompted many companies to allow telecom disconnection, it also drives the population out of Tokyo – a first in years.
This change could motivate Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who has made the revival of Japan’s waning countryside a core plank of his socioeconomic foundation.
In September, 30,644 people moved out of Tokyo, up 12.5% year-on-year, while the number of in-migrants fell 11.7% to 27,006, data show.
This is the third consecutive month that migrants outnumber those who move in, the longest period on record, led by people in their 20s and 30s.
Mizuto Yamamoto, 31, is currently using the routing feature to bypass the crowded morning trains in Tokyo.
An employee at the Caster Co company’s payroll, he moved about 150 km (93 miles) west of Tokyo to Hokuto in mountain Yamanashi Prefecture last year with his wife and 2-year-old son.
“It’s good to move to quiet areas like Hokuto surrounded by rivers, the Southern Alps and Mt. Fuji, ”Yamamoto told Reuters. “There are no crowds, which reduces the risk of the virus.”
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Premier Suga, from the rural northern Akita prefecture, has made Japan’s rural revival one of his main goals.
Despite the lack of jobs and infrastructure to support them, local authorities and businesses have tried for years – largely in vain – to attract more people to rural areas.
Hidetoshi Yuzawa, an official in Iida, Nagano Prefecture, said Nagano is one of the most popular places to migrate because there is a lot of support, including mentors, it brings in newcomers.
With help from Iida, Mio Nanjo, a 41-year-old pastry chef, is renovating a traditional home into a cafe, plans to open in Matsukawa town next spring.
A single mother of three, Nanjo moved from a region southwest of Tokyo this summer after the pandemic closed the confectionery shop where she was working and her son lost his job at a car manufacturer. download.
“This move allowed me to start over,” Nanjo told Reuters. “There is no reason to cling to Tokyo, where there are crowds and many people commit suicide.”
Jobs are also leaving the city.
A major personnel supply company, Pasona Group Inc, said in September it will move its headquarters and 1,200 employees to Awaji Island off Kobe, western Japan, home to 68-year-old chief executive Yasuyuki. Nambu.
Locking doors this spring is a deciding factor, Nambu said, adding that the trend will continue as companies and employees change their mindset about work-life balance. living.
“Society in the region is stress-free and you can live a rich life with delicious food and activities like fishing and farming,” Nambu told Reuters.
Shota Nakagawa, 34, the company’s CEO in the southern Japanese city of Saito, said other companies, such as Caster, have been relying on their business model on telecom networks, helping easily hire workers by providing jobs for them anywhere.
“Workers can avoid commuting on rush hour trains and companies can save transportation costs and reduce office space, all of which will improve profits,” Nakagawa said. .
But in Saku, Okada, the online business owner, doesn’t intend to live there forever – although that doesn’t mean he’ll move back to Tokyo.
“As long as I could work anywhere, I would keep dancing to find a place that best suited my life at the time,” he said.