Thanks to my boss for forwarding me this New York Times article, incredibly focused on Noshiro and Akita!
In Japan, Rural Economies Wane as Cities Thrive
By MARTIN FACKLER
NOSHIRO, Japan ó The only outward sign of conflict here is the red flags of protest, but this small logging city on Japanís remote northern coast is seething.
A proliferation of national chain stores outside town has already forced the closing of about half of the cityís once teeming central shopping district. Now, many in this normally restrained rural community see the megamall being built nearby, by a company based near Tokyo, as the final nail in the coffin of their economy. read more
It doesn’t make Noshiro sound very nice, but the depiction of empty lots and shuttered stores is sadly true. We’ve learned to ignore these things and just accept that this is what a medium-size town looks like in Japan; all the similar-sized towns we have visited are in the same state. On the other hand, restaurants and nighttime hangouts seem immune to these problems, and Noshiro is blessed with many wonderful, warm and bustling eateries (and people!) that are probably the #1 thing we love about the town.
We have heard rumors of this new Supercenter that Aeon wants to build east of town. But generally, people don’t talk to us about these kinds of things, probably because of the language barrier. While it would be nice to have a huge mall nearby (we currently have to drive an hour to get certain groceries), I agree with the townspeople quoted in this article that it would probably be the last nail in the coffin for the downtown business district. There’s already a big department store right in the middle of town (JUSCO, you can see it in the picture above) which is probably responsible for shutting down most of the small stores on that street. Putting a bigger one outside of town might even kill that downtown JUSCO, which would be doubly terrible, leaving the main central shopping street almost completely useless.
Thanks again to John for forwarding that article to me. Amazing to see our very own “shopping street” (our name for it; the real name is ??, Yanagimachi, “willow town”) on the pages of the NYT.