Recently, Japan has announced plans to reinvigorate rural areas by encouraging families with children to move to neighborhoods with aging populations in the countryside. The goal is to rouse 10,000 people from the crowded capital to more remote communities with aging populations by 2027.
If you are tired of the packed trains and busy streets of Tokyo, starting a family and looking for an escape, this might be just the push you need. But is it worth it?
Families who relocate will receive 1 million yen if they meet one of three conditions:
- Employment at a small or midsize company in the new area
- Continuing their job via remote work
- Starting a business in their new area of residence
You’ll need to visit the new local municipal or ward office within three months to a year after moving and express your intention to live there for at least five years. You must return the money if you back out in less than five years.
Why are they doing this?
The Kanto region has over 43 million people, a third of Japan’s population. This has raised concerns that too much of Japan’s corporate and political interests are based in Tokyo.
While initially, remote work offered some hope for those who didn’t want to stay in Tokyo, many traditional Japanese companies stubbornly refused to adopt work-from-home. Moreover, the constant stream of young workers with disposable income has led to severe inflation. As a result, the housing market is particularly bad in Tokyo, and it frequently makes the top five most expensive cities to live in for expats lists.
On top of this, the government is also worried that the lure of the cities is exacerbating Japan’s population crisis. Tokyo has the lowest fertility rate in Japan, which has been blamed on everything from child-rearing resources to working conditions to the lack of housing space.
What’re the rules?
First and foremost, as one of the goals is also to help underfunded rural areas, at least one of the parents must be working, paying taxes or intending to start a business.
As many of these workers may be tempted back to the city at some point, the government also has a five-year clause attached to receiving the money, which means that if you move back into the city in that time, you have to repay the amount in full.
People in Tokyo and those in the commuter zones around Tokyo are eligible. In addition, families with parents commuting to the wards from elsewhere in Tokyo—and the prefectures Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa—are also eligible.
Should I move?
With the recent inflation, the countryside and its much lower prices can seem especially appealing. Some areas in Japan have even offered free starter houses for people willing to take over abandoned properties.
This incentive may also appeal to people who want a more traditional Japanese experience, as the countryside and city differ culturally. Also, people who just want more space may well be attracted to relocate. The average house size in areas like Toyama, Fukui, Yamagata and Ishikawa is more than twice the size of those in Tokyo.
Unless you fancy the daily commute back to Tokyo or cannot work remotely, you’ll need to find a job (or start a business) in a rural area.
While comparing one to one is difficult (Tokyo has higher salaries but also higher living expenses, for example), it is safe to say that you will be earning less in most rural areas. Therefore, a person accepting the money will need to ensure that their living expenses align with the move.
What if I don’t want to move?
There are ways to take advantage of government initiatives. One of the more popular ones is furusato nouzei (hometown tax donation), which allows taxpayers to send their tax money to a rural prefecture so at least you can financially, if not physically, support your favorite area.
The advantage is that you can give some taxes to an underpopulated part of the country, and you will likely receive something (rice, vegetables, cutlery, and more) from that prefecture.
What do you think? What would make you like the big cities over the countryside? Let us know in the comments.