Centre for Rural Economy


Planning for the Ageing Countryside in Britain and Japan

Both the UK and Japan are wealthy, densely-populated island nations facing a demographic transition.

Japan reached its ‘peak population’ in 2005, and the Japanese population then declined. Urban populations had continued to rise, matched by rural depopulation, but there were new counter trends amongst the ‘dankai’ generation (baby-boomers born in 1947-49), who soon would be retired. Some of that generation were a major group in buying new apartments in city centre areas, where the building of tower apartment blocks was booming. A rise of vacant houses in suburban areas was expected. Others were looking for a rural idyll. However landownership, community, family and social patterns made many absent owners unwilling to sell or let houses in rural villages. However the ‘dankai’ generation was relatively wealthy and still socially active, therefore was willing to be involved in various community activities, and ‘dankai’ members were often the drivers of rural community and neighbourhood initiatives.

In the UK, where agriculture and traditional rural industries had for a long time been less significant and rural communities fragmented by migration for work and a strong housing market, both continued counterurbanisation had lead to significant shifts in the demographic characteristics of rural areas, but not large-scale depopulation. Proportions of older people were growing in rural areas, as people with children and mid-life people had moved from the cities or suburbs and then stayed, or had bought second homes. As in Japan, a generation at retirement who were born in austerity but grew into affluence had emerged who were more vocal and mobile than previous ones. The key questions were where are they going, what are the impacts? This project's aim was to conduct a comparative investigation of the mobility of the retiring generation (those approaching retirement and those just retired) between urban and rural areas in Japan and the UK.

A Research Report was written and is available here