Header photo: Banner by the village kids. Reads “Go for it, Otaki!”
Otaki is a magical corner of the world. Like the rest of rural Japan though, a combination of plummeting birth rates and urban flight has led to a crisis. The village population now hovers around 700. With the majority of the residents being seniors, it looks certain to fall further still.
The entire student body of the village’s elementary and junior high schools consists of just 37 students. They all learn and grow together in a single building like a big extended family. What the future holds for the village and its children is a subject of continual discussion. One of the positive outcomes of Otaki’s situation is that the children work together on the Envision Otaki Project. Every year, they cooperate on a variety of activities to help spread the word about Otaki. In the process, they also learn about Mt. Ontake, their environment, the village, and the area.
There’s a general understanding among the villagers of Otaki’s merits, but various political, economic, and cultural factors have in recent times affected its prosperity. At the same time, it’s beginning the process of re-inventing itself. While remembering that it has always been part of a sacred land, the awareness of its enormous potential as a spiritual and ecologically sustainable enclave whose influence far exceeds its size is just beginning to catch on.
Come experience Otaki, and join the story of this tiny village that’s working to renew itself for generations to come.