If you’re planning a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun, you may want to do it before the country runs out of something that is essential for an authentic experience in Japan.
I know, I know: you haven’t seen any “breaking news” stories about this, not even on the 24-hour cable news networks:
- CNN: “Now here’s Wolf Blitzer with a holographic simulation of Japan’s sinking population.”
Fox News: “Japan’s population is declining–America wins!”
MSNBC: “If this keeps up, we still won’t have any viewers.”
E!: “Kim Kardashian is going blonde!”
One of the reasons for the lack of coverage by American news outlets is because only this reporter has noticed the Japanese shortage of Japanese. Discovering this alarming trend wasn’t as simple as getting a tip from the GPS lady in my Toyota. It was good, old-fashioned investigative journalism that allows me to break this exclusive story.
For instance, on the island of Okunoshima, there are far more rabbits than there are people. Officials will hasten to point out that they are tame rabbits, so visitors need not fear a rabbit attack, such as occurred in the classic motion picture The Night of the Lepus, which is an actual movie starring giant bunnies…and Janet Leigh.
The hares of Okunoshima are descendants of lab rabbits released when a poison gas plant was closed after World War II. That’s why the island is also home to the Poison Gas Museum, where you can see actors in quaint period dress reenacting how poison gas was made by hand in days of old.* Hopefully the museum has benches where you can relax and wipe the rabbit poop off your shoes.
Of course, if Okunoshima was the only evidence I had of population decline, it wouldn’t be much of a story. So we now continue our tour with Exhibit B: Nagoro.
Nagoro is a small town in southern Japan where the human population has been overrun by scarecrows, so we know that the natives are not only declining in number, but also really, really slow. I mean, how can you not outrun a scarecrow?
As one resident commented, “In this village, there are only 35 people, but there are 150 scarecrows, so it’s multiple times more.” In this way, the person demonstrated that, despite its plummeting population, Japan will always be superior to America in math.
It’s not clear why Nagoro has so many scarecrows; you kind of have to assume the town was first in danger of being overrun by crows. If so, no one knows where the crows have gone. But they probably did not flee to Tashirojima…
…or Cat Heaven Island, where there are more felines than humans. The island was originally home to lots of silkworms, but then mice started disrupting the silkworm farms, so they brought in cats to eat the mice and the cats took over, as cats are wont to do, and now there are only a few fishermen left in Tashirojima. The cats allow them to stay in order to provide fresh sushi.
Speaking of fish, Japanese aren’t only being outnumbered by land-based animals. The fishing port of Namerikawa is home to millions of Firefly Squid, not to mention the world’s only Firefly Squid Museum, which shows how specific Japanese museums can be. Firefly squid are so named because they have luminescent organs called photophores at the ends of their tentacles. These light up the whole bay at night so that natives and tourists alike can gape at the spectacle and say, “That is one shitload of squid.”
Now, all of these instances of stuff taking over towns might be deemed circumstantial evidence of a lessening population. But here’s something else: Japan is likely the world leader in abandoned amusement parks per habitable square mile, packing 10 of them into a space about the size of Montana. Someone I know who wishes to remain nameless posits that the closures may be due to a lack of people who meet the minimum height requirements for the rides, which would be a Japanese shortage of an altogether different kind.
Japan’s unused theme parks include Western Land (based on the American west), Gulliver’s Kingdom, Cactus Land and Ceramic Land, the last of which doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun, but hopefully had a teacup ride. The biggest closed park is Nara Dreamland (pictured at left), opened as a clone of Disneyland in 1961. Although closed for years, its rides and buildings are still standing as forlorn testaments to broken dreams, not to mention the opening of Japan’s actual Disneyland and, more importantly, Hello Kitty World.
Right now, you probably want to ask, “How long will it be before Japan’s long-closed Russian Village Theme Park is overrun by brown bears, or Vladimir Putin riding a brown bear?”
Well, that’s a stupid question, because it’s beside the point. Focus, people! I have proved my exclusive story about the Japanese people shortage, and I expect to at least be nominated for a Pulitzer Prize!
See you soon.
Update: It turns out that the population of Japan really has been falling for a decade and is projected to drop from 127 million to 87 million by 2060. It also turns out that simply looking at a census might have been an easier way to prove my theory.
*I made up the reenactment part, but the museum is real.