January 24, 2014


Japanese Ministry Looks to Utilize Closed School Facilities to Revitalize Local Economies

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Reusing Closed Schools for the CommunityCopyright 文部科学省
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Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology launched a project, called "Connecting to the Future: Reusing Closed Schools for the Community," in order to promote the effective use of school facilities that have been shut down permanently. Local governments of former school districts had been seeking new owners or tenants of these facilities individually, but under this project the ministry compiled a nationwide list to publicize them more effectively. The list, updated on August 23, 2013, has a total of 163 facilities that are accepting proposals for new uses from interested entities throughout the country.

Approximately 500 schools are permanently closed down every year due to Japan's declining birth rate and school-age population. Among the schools closed between 2002 and 2011, 4,222 facilities still have usable buildings, and about 70 percent of them, a total of 2,963 schools, are currently being used for re-purposed activities.

For example, the former Mumo Elementary School in Tochigi Prefecture found new life as an aquaculture facility using hot spring water to raise tiger blow fish. The fish raised in this facility are helping with the area's economic recovery as its local specialty. The former Tatsuike Elementary School in Kyoto Prefecture was remodeled into the Kyoto International Manga Museum, which has been collecting great attention both nationally and internationally. Other examples include a wide variety of new uses, such as business offices and factories; welfare, lodging, cultural, and educational facilities; and retail stores and processing facilities of local specialty items.

By using closed school facilities, the new owners and tenants can contribute to revitalizing the local economy while saving on their own initial investment costs to start new businesses. In addition, several government agencies provide subsidies for the new owners and tenants, so the demand for re-purposing closed school facilities is expected to expand in coming years.