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每日跟讀#702: About Japan - Japan has so many vacant homes it’s giving them away


· 每日跟讀單元 Daily English

每日跟讀#702: About Japan - Japan has so many vacant homes it’s giving them away

Four years ago, Naoko and Takayuki Ida were given a house in the small town of Okutama, in Tokyo prefecture. For free.


A free house may sound like a scam. But Japan faces an unusual property problem: it has more homes than people to live in them.


In 2013, there were 61 million houses and 52 million households, according to the Japan Policy Forum. And the situation is poised to get worse.


Japan’s population is expected to decline from 127 million to about 88 million by 2065, according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security, meaning even fewer people will need houses. As young people leave rural areas for city jobs, Japan’s countryside has become haunted by deserted "ghost houses."


It’s predicted that by 2040, nearly 900 towns and villages across Japan will no longer exist - and Okutama is one of them. In that context, giving away property is a bid for survival.


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Struggling farming school in Hokkaido revived by its lamb products/苦撐辦學的北海道農校靠羊肉產品起死回生

An agricultural high school in Japan’s northern prefecture of Hokkaido - its survival once at stake due to a shortage of students - has bounced back by earning fame through the delicious lamb produced by its students.


The Embetsu agricultural high school, the sole high school in the town of Embetsu in northern Hokkaido, has about 60 students and owns around 25 hectares of land used. It keeps around 20 to 40 Suffolk sheep, a breed from Britain, with students mainly handling the breeding of animals and processing of meat.


At school events, it has sold meat processed into lamb slices, ground lamb and sausage. But it had been struggling due to the declining number of incoming students, leading authorities to consider whether they should close the school.


The turning point came about four years ago, when the town began sending the school’s lamb products as one of the return gifts to people who donated money to the municipality under the country’s so-called hometown tax donation scheme.


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