Japans to offer residents in overcrowded Tokyo £20,000 to move out

The Japanese government is planning to offer up to three million yen (£20,698) to encourage residents of Tokyo to swap life in the congested capital for a home in the countryside.

With an average of more than 37,500 people living in every square mile of the Japanese capital – one of the highest urban densities in the world – the strain is beginning to tell on public transportation systems, utilities, hospitals and other infrastructure.

At the same time, countless villages and towns in the countryside are today made up of elderly residents, with schools closing and farmland left to go fallow because there are no young people left to work it.

In an effort to at least stem the increasing number of people living in Tokyo, the national government has announced plans for a system of grants for residents of the central 23 wards to encourage them to move out of the city.

The grants are designed to help cover the costs of buying a new home, national broadcaster NHK reported, moving house and finding a new job or setting up a company.

And despite Tokyo serving as the undisputed hub of government and business, the initiative has been welcomed by people who have had enough of what might just be the biggest rat race in the world and hanker after the Japanese equivalent of the good life.

“I’d take them up on that offer”, said Jun Okumura, an academic who is nearing retirement and admits that he has had enough of life in Tokyo and is eyeing a very different way of life on one of the islands south of the capital.

“If I was eligible, this would make that plan much easier”, he told The Telegraph. 

Plenty of other Japanese share Mr Okumura’s desire to escape the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, with 23 percent of the 20-something people responding to a study conducted in June by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport saying they would swap life in the city for a place in the countryside. 

Asked their reasons for wanting to leave the city behind, many said they miss a sense of community and interaction with their neighbours because people in Tokyo are too busy and never have time to get to know the people around them. 

A number of villages and towns in Japan are so desperate for new faces to join their communities that they are coming up with some appealing offers to woo potential new residents. 

The town of Tsuwano, in Shimane Prefecture, is renting out new family houses for 30,000 yen (£207) a month for anyone who promises to stay for at least 25 years. The town council on the island of Kuroshima, off southern Japan, is topping that offer with a house beside the sea for as little as 15,000 yen (£103) a month, helping with moving costs and throwing in a cow to sweeten the deal. 

Close to 9.3 million people live in the 23 wards that make up central Tokyo, an area of 239 square miles, while the 845 square miles of the greater Tokyo metropolitan district are home to more than 36 million people. 

And while the nation’s population is in gradual decline after peaking at 127.32 million in 2010, the number of people living in Tokyo continues to rise as young people leave the rural hinterland in search of better education and employment opportunities. 

The details of the proposal have yet to be ironed out, including any loopholes to stop recipients of the grants quickly moving back to Tokyo, but the government is aiming to introduce the system in the latter part of 2019. 

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