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Millennial Movers Breathe New Life Into Japanese Mountain Towns

  • Tokushima towns lure young residents, revitalize the elderly
  • ‘Creative depopulation’ seen as a model for other rural towns
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Photographer: Carl Court/Getty Images

High-speed broadband. An award-winning brew pub built with recycled materials as part of a "zero waste" mission. An artist-in-residence program. Organic pizza from a wood-fired oven.

There is new life in the mountains of Tokushima prefecture, in the neighboring towns of Kamiyama and Kamikatsu, even as depopulation afflicts most of rural Japan with rot. In Kamiyama, young people work remotely for tech companies or as artists in cooperative spaces. In Kamikatsu, the elderly test drones as part of their work harvesting leaves and flowers for use as garnishes in restaurants as far away as Europe.