David Blecken
Feb 2, 2017

Dying Japanese town invites young people to open up

A film created by high school students aims to remind other young people that their hometowns are friendly places.

Attracting young residents, and even visitors, is an ongoing challenge for rural Japanese towns. Kobayashi City hopes that employing the creative talent of its own young people will result in a more compelling message than something hashed together by local bureaucrats.

The latest effort is a video overseen by Dentsu but developed by a group of 29 local high school students, some of whom also star in it. It takes an indirect approach to highlight the friendliness of Kobayashi’s residents. Based on the observation that young people are often reluctant to engage with others, the film shows school children going to extreme lengths to avoid being seen by adults. Thinking she has made it home, the central character is suddenly accosted by a neighbour. Initially startled by the woman’s foreboding appearance, a smile breaks the ice and the pair proceed to talk until it gets dark. The film ends by noting people “never let you go” in this “super friendly town”.

A spokesperson from Dentsu, Kazuyoshi Ochi, said Kobayashi is “on the verge of disappearing”, with the elderly expected to make up more than half its population by 2030. “We think it is important that young people in Kobayashi collectively take action to make young people move [there],” he said. Dentsu ran a series of workshops over a five-month period to educate local students on the process of developing ideas and creating TV commercials. The film launched online and on local TV late last year, but has since generated wider coverage across mainstream Japanese media.

Campaign’s view: At first, we feared it was going to be just another video with the obligatory schoolgirl (schoolgirls are said to evoke feelings of nostalgia among Japanese adults). But there is more to it than that. The observation the film is based on rings true, and the ending is a reminder that to get the most out of anywhere, it’s important to be an active part of it. The bigger question towns like Kobayashi need to consider is how they can become a viable base for young people looking to develop their talents and careers in the longer term. A test will be whether the students who made this film ultimately choose to remain, or relocate to Tokyo to work for a company like Dentsu.

Campaign Japan

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