Japan’s schools are becoming empty, they have no students. That’s why they turned those buildings into aquariums, sake breweries or museums. The cause is the low birth rate suffered by the country. A crisis that has been going on for years and that is getting worse as time goes by. Just a few months ago, Japan reached the lowest birth rate in history.
Low birth rate in Japan
Although extreme measures were taken, the declining birth rate is unstoppable. One of its biggest problems is that the population is aging and shrinking drastically. The birth rate, according to the latest assessments of the Ministry of Health, fell below the historic low reached in 2005. According to the fertility rate, which is the number of children a woman has during her lifetime, it was 1.25. To maintain a stable population, it is necessary that this rate be maintained at 2.07 at least. The problem is serious, they marry less and have fewer children.
Due to this big problem, which for the moment they could not solve, in the Asian country are closed, on average, 450 schools per year. According to statistics from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, more than 8500 schools closed their doors between 2001 and 2022.
Japan’s schools being put to other uses.
Some of these schools maintain their school facilities. Others, about 5500, are used as hostels, community centers, art galleries, aquariums or breweries of sake, Japan’s most popular drink. The rest of the schools remain closed, and are slowly deteriorating. For Japanese culture, demolishing a school is tantamount to dealing a mortal blow to the community. For them, schools are the nucleus of a community’s formation.
During school breaks, the playground and gymnasium of an elementary school remain open for community activities. Many times, the same schools are converted into shelters when some natural disasters, such as typhoons or earthquakes, occur.
In the last fifty years, the number of students enrolled has been reduced by half. For this reason, these emblematic buildings are used for other purposes. Currently, there are about 9 million students enrolled in elementary schools.
One of the problems to be solved as soon as possible is that the younger generations do not wish to marry. First of all, because of the lack of well-paid jobs. On the other hand, work in large corporations is incompatible with a family. Finally, the high cost of living in the major cities, coupled with stagnant salaries, means that young people do not want to live there or start a new family.
For Japan, the worries are just beginning. The low birth rate leads to an aging workforce. This worries the sustainability of the pension system. To reverse the situation, the Japanese prime minister earmarked 25 billion euros to encourage child rearing. Meanwhile, the population is shrinking and aging slowly. Men have a life expectancy of about 81 years and women about 87 years.