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Japan’s Shrinking Population and Local Innovation: Turning Empty Houses into Guesthouses

guest-houses-japan

In many cases, guesthouse operators actively promote interaction between guests and locals. It is hoped that the new guesthouses will aid the revitalization of regional communities, and attract people to relocate from urban areas.

Sachio Tanaka reports: Hachane in Tokamachi, Niigata Prefecture, is one of such guesthouses. The word “hachane” is a local expression meaning, “See you again.”

“It is enjoyable to see people who come to stay in my guesthouse spending time with locals, and observe the relationships between them growing.”

— Sakiko Morioka, 30, who moved back from Tokyo to her home city last year

Hachane’s building formerly accommodated an izakaya restaurant and residence. After the izakaya closed, the building reopened as Hachane in April this year after undergoing renovation.

Yoshiki Koizumi, 45, who operates Hachane, formerly worked for a real estate company in Tokyo for about 20 years.

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“According to Yukari Maeda, author of ‘Japan Hostel and Guesthouse Guide,’ published by Wani Books Co., which includes information on about 100 facilities, the number of guesthouses has rapidly increased in the past two years.”

After being attracted by the natural environment and climate of the town — which is also the hometown of the parents of his wife, Michiyo, 40 — Koizumi began the guesthouse business jointly with Yoshiko Iwai, a 36-year-old business consultant whom he has known since he was a company employee.

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“Guesthouses are used mainly by young people, who can bring new ideas and a sense of value to local communities. If it also solves the problem of empty houses, it can serve a dual purpose.”

The guesthouse is on the second floor of the building. Four guest rooms can accommodate up to seven people in total.

A 20-square-meter shared dining room is equipped with kitchen appliances, and guests often congregate there.

Guests also share a bathroom and shower room. The room charge is from about ¥3,000 per night.

[Read the full story here, at The Japan News]

The first floor of the building is now a pizzeria run by Chiho Takagi, 43, Michiyo’s elder sister, and the restaurant serves as a space for guests and locals to interact.

Koizumi also organizes agricultural events such as rice planting in cooperation with local farmers.

“I hope many people will come to appreciate Tokamachi’s homely atmosphere,” he said.
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Global Poverty Below 10% for First Time Ever

For the first time, extreme poverty has fallen below 10% of the global population.

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The new global poverty line uses updated price data to paint a more accurate picture of the costs of basic food, clothing and shelter needs around the world. In other words, the real value of $1.90 in today’s prices is the same as $1.25 was in 2005.

[Read the full story here, at Business Insider]

East Asian and Pacific regions have made the most progress. In 1990 just over 60% of the population lived in poverrty. Today that number is estimated at 4.1%. South Asia has also shown progress, moving from 51% to 13.5%, while sub-Saharan Africa remains the most challenged by poverty with 35.2% of the population living on less than $1.90 a day.

poverty

Investments in education, health and social safety, in addition to strong growth in developing countries,have been mainly responsible for the rapid decline in global poverty. “This new forecast of poverty falling into the single digits should give us new momentum and help us focus even more clearly on the most effective strategies to end extreme poverty,” said Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank, in a statement. Read the rest of this entry »


The West’s Individualism and the East’s Collectivism Traced to Neolithic Farming


How Hong Kong’s Maid Trade is Making Life Worse for Domestic Workers Throughout Asia

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Lily Kuo writes:  Every few years, the city of Hong Kong is rocked by news that another foreign domestic worker has been badly abused by her employer. Last month, 23-year-old Erwiana Sulistyaningsih told authorities that she had been beaten daily, hit with mops, rulers, and clothes hangers until she could no longer walk.

But Hong Kong’s treatment of the thousands of women who are known here as “helpers” has ramifications beyond a case of physical abuse. The city’s double standard for foreign domestic wages and its increasingly strict policies are making conditions worse for hundreds of thousands of women across the entire region, where almost half of the world’s domestic workers are employed.

Hong Kong's Domestic Help System Under Scrutiny Following Recent Cases Of Abuse

Globally there are 53 million domestic workers, mostly women, according to a conservative estimate by the International Labor Organization (ILO)—that’s an increase of almost 60% since the mid-1990s, and the ILO says the true figure may be closer to 100 million (pdf, p. 19). Some 41% of them are working in the Asia Pacific region, where keeping hired help has long been a tradition from the lower middle class to the wealthiest of families.

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Analysis: Post-America Conflict From Beijing to Jerusalem

Gunmen gather in a street as they chant slogans against Iraq's Shiite-led government and demanding that the Iraqi army not try to enter the city in Fallujah (AP Photo)

Gunmen gather in a street as they chant slogans against Iraq’s Shiite-led government and demanding that the Iraqi army not try to enter the city in Fallujah (AP Photo)

Robert D. Kaplan writes:  As the events of the past week demonstrate, the Middle East has still not found a solution to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Melting away before our eyes is the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, in which the British and French carved out spheres of influence in the Levant, leading to the creation of Syria and Iraq. A terrorist Sunnistan has now emerged between the Lebanese city of Tripoli and the Iraqi cities of Ramadi and Fallujah, while a messy child’s finger-painting of different tribalized sovereignties defines Sunni and Shia areas of control between the eastern edge of the Mediterranean and the Iranian plateau. This happens even as a sprawling and fractious Kurdistan sinks tenuous roots atop the corpses of Baathist regimes. But Middle Eastern chaos is but prologue to the drama sweeping much of the temperate zone of Afro-Asia all the way to China. Indeed, so much else is going on beyond the Levant that the media overlooks: not necessarily violent, but increasingly and intensely interrelated. Understanding it all requires not a knowledge of Washington policy alternatives, but of classical geography.

The ancient Greeks had a term for what they considered the “inhabited quarter” of the globe: the Oikoumene, the temperate zone of the Afro-Asian landmass stretching from North Africa to the confines of western China. Marshall Hodgson, the great historian of the Middle East at the University of Chicago who died in 1968, defined the Oikoumene as more-or-less “Nile-to-Oxus,” a term both grand and suggestive, linking as it did the river valley civilization of Egypt with that of Central Asia, and connoting the intricate tapestry of peoples, trade networks and conflicts from one end of Afro-Asia to another. Nile-to-Oxus perfectly sums up a vast zone of quasi-anarchy that we now can no longer deny. For the Cold War divisions of area studies—which both circumscribe and distort the work of academics, journalists and government analysts—are finally yielding to a more organic and fluid geography: not the geography of globalization in which people desert their cultures for the sake of cosmopolitan values and identities; but the geography of interacting, catalytic instability.

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