Kushiro, Japan — A Dying City? D’:

When I lived in Japan, I lived in Kushiro, a city on the east edge of Hokkaido. Its primary industries, as I understand it, are fishing and paper production. (I actually got to go on a tour of one of the paper mills, and boy was that exciting! Very much like the tour of a crayon factory they show you in… was it Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood? I forget exactly. Anyway, it was the coolest field trip ever. The entry fee was the best 500 yen I ever spent.)

Anyway, some random fellow who will be working in Kushiro in the near future sent me an e-mail to ask for any advice I could give him about going there, working there, etc. He also sent me this video he found on YouTube. It was uploaded in March of 2008, and it’s the most heart-rending thing I’ve seen in a very long time.

This is the information blurb that’s attached to the video:

Kushiro is small a city in Hokkaidō, Japan. The population is largely of retirement age. Young adults leave for bigger cities where there is more opportunity and culture. There is very little English spoken here, so communication difficulties often cause inconvenience. In fact, there is very little of anything that is not exclusively Japanese in nature – food, imported products, recreation, etc. People have little understanding of or genuine appreciation for anything foreign.
Kushiro is economically depressed. There are hundreds of empty storefronts. Half of the businesses on the main street (Kita-Odori) have gone out of business. Kushiro is a city of corrugated steel doors, taped-up windows, and ‘space available’ signs. Kushiro is a dying city.

I recognize half of these store fronts for sure. Like, I remember where they were in relation to to my apartment and how to get there and what goods or services they provided. Others in it look familiar; I’m sure I’ve seen them before. If this is what the town looked like almost a year ago… I’m afraid to imagine what it’s like now. A lot of these stores are places I would never have thought would be likely to go out of business any time soon. One of the stores was a multistory (I think three stories, maybe two) electronics store selling everything from cameras to computers to batteries. I’m fairly certain one of the store fronts was a butcher, which would mean that not all of the stores closing down were luxuries.

If I didn’t have a migraine today I would get out some beer and start drinking. I’m gonna go play World of Warcraft instead. Hopefully I won’t die too often from failure to see the screen due to tears.

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