Marginal Lives is a series by Motonori SHIMIZU.
Marginal Villages are any villages that has experienced depopulation
and in danger of disappearing altogether, largely because more than half
of the people living in the village are over the age of 65.
“There are many aging villages and declining population in Japan.
They are sometimes called ‘Marginal Villages’. I have started traveling
to some of them. As I visit them, I get more fascinated by the people living
there. They accept everything around them, love their land, and live
Images and text © Motonori SHIMIZU
1st Story-Dayly life in ‘Marginal Village’
Sugaike Village, Hakui City, Ishikawa Pref.
There was a bus stop at the entrance of the village. Only two buses stop in a day. It’s not easy to meet people even if I walk in the daytime. A few persons did the field work. I chatted with 2 elderly women about 2 hours during the field work. It was coming a lunch break. I said, ‘Sorry to bother you’. One of them responded, ‘Never mind, we do not have any plans to do this afternoon, tomorrow and more’. After the chat time, she came back home to lunch. She lives alone here, such a big house.
3rd Story-Beyond the ‘Marginal’
Kowada Village, Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Pref.
This village only has one elderly couple now. Their house is located 15 minutes from the nearest station and nearby village is as far as 40 minutes by foot. There is not any road for a single car. Shop, hospital, and school; they don’t exist either. Their life was beyond the ‘Marginal’. Kowada Station, JR Iida Line. This station is famous for railway enthusiasts as ‘the secluded station that can only be reached by train’.
Only a few people use the station a day. Some of them go there just to see this station. And a mail person who only comes once a day. ’25 minutes to Takase Bridge’,’1 hour to Shiosawa Village’. Only two guides on the road greet me. It’s the ‘main street’ in front of the station. Some ruined buildings welcomed me. I felt insecure going on the path because there are a lot of trees and rocks. I arrived at Takase Bridge.
2nd Story-When the only shop shuts down
Mazaki Island, Shima City, Mie Pref.
This island flourished in cultured pearl once. But now, there are no school, no hospital… and just now it is the time when the only shop shuts down. The first ferry toward the island carried only me on board and departed.The gorgeous but old interior made me feel the prosperity in the past. I heard the voice from a distance. ‘I’m going to the dentist’s office’. So, boats are essential to life of residents. Many resistants went away from this island. So there are a lot of ruined things. ‘I’m gonna close this shop soon’. The shopkeeper told to one of her guests.
‘Don’t cross this bridge’. No one is going to challenge this, even if there is no warning. The bridge was ruined horribly. ‘I shop once a week and have to catch a train for 2 stations, I can’t buy and bring a lot since, you know, my age…”We used to get what we need from the other side of the river by the manually operated cable system, but my husband got sick and now does not have any strength to operate it’.’My husband says, “I don’t want to leave”, so we are still here. She calmly tells the moving story with a smile. This is the mail-person who visits this village by train every day except Sundays. ‘They do not get many letters, but I worry about them. So its my job to see their faces and say hi’.