Reviving Rural Communities

Reviving Rural Communities

Yoshitaka Sasakawa shares his thoughts on revitalising Japan's rural communities.


Japan is currently at a crossroads. With the population on the decline and the youth flowing out of rural areas into cities, the way Japanese society is structured is no longer sustainable. Recognizing this, many public and private actors have pushed for “Chiho Sosei (Regional Revitalization)” initiatives aimed at bringing back the harmony and stability of Japanese society.

One such leader is Yoshitaka Sasakawa. As the President of Nippon Sosei Kenkyujo (NSK), Sasakawa has established himself as the flagbearer for revitalizing the rural communities that are being drained of its youth. His efforts to bring goods, people, and capital together have facilitated many programs designed to bring back a fighting spirit to the Japanese countryside.

Yoshitaka Sasakawa is a third generation member of the Sasakawa family, which has played a key role in the development of postwar Japanese politics and economy. His extended family members include Takashi Sasakawa, former legislator and Cabinet Minister of the Liberal Democratic Party, and Yohei Sasakawa, the chairman of the Nippon Foundation, a philanthropic non-profit organization.

As a result of his upbringing in such an environment, Yoshitaka Sasakawa came to take on a responsible, visionary role in making Japanese society a better place. Specifically, he has focused on aiding small and mid-size businesses and preparing for the legalization of commercial gambling in Japan.

His most recent initiatives include the aforementioned Nippon Sosei Kenkyujo, an organization which aims to empower local businesses and initiatives in rural Japan. Sasakawa places emphasis on the people and businesses in the grassroots level because he believes that a top-down solution to the issue of youth drain cannot be sustainable. Especially when rural communities tend to carry on important traditions and cultural customs, it is imperative that a solution from by and for such communities be implemented to preserve such ways of life.

Sasakawa also works closely with Kuniko Fujiyama, from en art & design and a leading HR Development Consultant, producing seminars about domestic and global improvement and highlighting the need for social change and cultural preservation in Japan. In February of this year Sasakawa and Fujiyama were joined by Hiromi Nagakura (renowned photojournalist), Noriko Kondo (housing adviser) and Osamu Kunii (Head of Strategy Investment and Impact at Global Fund) at a seminar titled “Make a Better World” in Ebisu, Tokyo. Both Sasakwa and Fujiyama are central figures in a push to revitalize and preserve the culture and livelihood of Japan and its citizens.