When Kentaro Yokobori was born almost seven years ago, he was the first newborn in the Sogio district of Kawakami village in 25 years. His birth was like a miracle for many villagers.
Well-wishers visited his parents Miho and Hirohito for more than a week – nearly all of them senior citizens, including some who could barely walk.
“The elderly people were very happy to see [Kentaro], and an elderly lady who had difficulty climbing the stairs, with her cane, came to me to hold my baby in her arms. All the elderly people took turns holding my baby,” Miho recalled.
During that quarter century without a newborn, the village population shrank by more than half to just 1,150 – down from 6,000 as recently as 40 years ago – as younger residents left and older residents died. Many homes were abandoned, some overrun by wildlife.
Kawakami is just one of…