Japan Village, Battling Demographic Crisis, Celebrates Birth Of Baby In Over 20 Years

The birth of a baby is a joyous occasion for a family. The new life is a precious gift to the world, filling hearts with boundless joy and hope. But in Japan, the moment is extra special since the country is struggling to reverse its perennial low birth rates. And it got a chance to celebrate the occasion when Kuranosuke Kato was born in a small village named Ichinono, north of Osaka. He is now a year old, but the villagers still write poems about the boy, according to a Financial Times report.

When Kuranosuke appears to his elderly local fans, he is the centre of attention in a village that has just 53 residents. He is the first child born in Ichinono in more than two decades. The residents here have installed life-size dolls in the playground to fill a psychological gap.

The boy’s parents – Toshiki and Rie – are now planning for a brother or sister to keep their son company. They left the city a few years ago and are living in the countryside.

“I like the countryside. We can find an identity in the countryside. In the city there are a lot of rules, but this is more loose,” Mr Kato, who works as a consultant to IT companies, told Financial Times.

Toshiki and Rie are among the very few who have tied the knot in the last decades. Citing government’s data, FT said that almost 32 per cent of Japanese men and 24 per cent of women have never been married. The report also said that that annual number of marriages is half what it was in the 1970s.

In 2022, less than 800,000 babies were born in Japan and the indigenous population shrank by over half a million. The overall drop was the steepest decline recorded since 1968, when the government survey began, the ministry said.

The country has the world’s second oldest population, after tiny Monaco. In January, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida warned Japan was “on the verge of whether we can continue to function as a society”.

Kuranosuke’s parents are now worried whether the boy will be able to find friends his own age.