A Year in a Vanishing Japanese Town - OZY | A Modern Media Company

A Year in a Vanishing Japanese Town

By Sean Culligan


Because secreted away in spots you’ll never see are stories you wish someone would tell you.

View this OZY slideshow above, with photos by Sean Culligan.

On the west coast of the most northern island of Japan, there is a village of about 7,000 people. Next year, the town will be even smaller. And the year after than, even smaller. Contrary to popular belief, there are places in Japan aside from Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka — but they are dying.

In 2013, I spent a year living in the town of Haboro, whose name translates to “wing cloth.” Established in 1921, Haboro was a coal-mining town. Its primary source of income today is shrimping, plus a little tourism during the summer. For the past two decades, Haboro’s citizens, young and old, have been moving away, to Sapporo and Asahikawa. The two biggest cities on the island of Hokkaido, they offer a chance at better education and employment. It’s also just easier to live there. Come winter in Haboro, if you’re an octogenarian with a house, it sucks to, say, shovel snow off a roof (although some stubborn older folks do it).

It might not be next year, or even five years from now, but, like so many small towns and villages before it, Haboro will disappear. These photographs are a way of saying: Haboro is here. Haboro was here. 


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