Series ”Visiting the village” in search of the key to regional revitalization 3|電経新聞

Series ”Visiting the village” in search of the key to regional revitalization 3

下赤阪の棚田(千早赤阪村)rice terraces in Shimoakasaka (Chihayaakasaka Village)

南本村長(Mayor Minamimoto)

Chihaya Akasaka Village is the only village in Osaka Prefecture. The population is approximately 4,800. The rice terraces of Shimoakasaka, which has been selected as one of Japan’s top 100 rice terraces, are spreading out, and Mt. Kongo, the highest mountain in Osaka prefecture, towers over it. The scenery of this village, rich in nature, is simple and lyrical. On the other hand, it is also a village with excellent access to the big city, with Osaka city being within an hour’s drive. I got off at Kawanishi Station on the Kintetsu Nagano Line and drove to Chihayaakasaka Village Office. It was a 15-minute drive, but along the way we saw a supermarket, McDonald’s, and Starbucks. Although it was not within the village, there were convenient commercial facilities around the village.
Chihaya Akasaka Village was born in 1956 through the merger of Chihaya Village and Akasaka Village. Since then, it has developed into agriculture and forestry. On the other hand, the population has gradually declined since peaking at 7,697 people in 1985. The number continues to decrease at a rate of 100 people per year. The aging rate for people aged 65 and over is the highest in the prefecture at 47%.
In light of this situation, we are currently developing a strategy for creating a smart village, “DX strategy with energetic greetings.”
Village Mayor Minamimotosai said, “We have been implementing various initiatives such as childcare measures, but there are limits to how far we can expand these measures as the population declines.Therefore, we are currently introducing digital technology and streamlining operations. We are focusing on work style reform”.
However, unlike local governments with hundreds of thousands of people, the cost-effectiveness of village finances and the number of people targeted will inevitably be low. Therefore, the plan is to proceed with digitalization with support from private companies.
“The villagers’ way of thinking is also changing.As the village was originally built on agriculture and forestry, there were few opportunities to interact with people outside the village, but now there is an opportunity to get with the trends of the times with help from outside” (Mayor Minamimoto).
The symbol of this is the new digital government building, which will be completed in December. The new government building aims to be a government office that is easy to use and understand for villagers. Specifically, smartphones will be treated as a second government building, allowing various administrative procedures to be completed using a single smartphone.
“The new digital government building has the motto of “don’t go,” “don’t wait,” and “don’t write”. This will reduce the movement of villagers and lead to decarbonization.We want to create an environment where villagers are not left behind” Mayor Minamimoto says.
As mentioned earlier, the village’s aging rate is high at 47%. According to a survey by the government office, over 25% of people in their 60s and 57% of people in their 70s do not own a smartphone. If things continue like this, more than 1,000 of the village’s 4,800 residents will fall into the digital divide.
For this reason, they are focusing on efforts to improve  IT literacy of villagers. They are holding “Osu! Smartphone Dojo”, “Osu! Smartphone Yorozu Consultation Center”, and “Business Trip! Smartphone Dojo” to create mechanisms that allow people to enjoy using their smartphones on a daily basis.
With the motto “It starts with the smartphone and ends with the smartphone,” they are focusing on using smartphones to optimize life in the village.
The dojo series has been well received by the elderly, and many villagers are participating.
“The villagers are becoming more aware that the older they get, the more they need to know about IT, and they are actively taking the courses,” said Village Mayor Minamimoto.
In order to revitalize the region, it is also important to increase the number of people interacting with and related to the area. One of the main points is sightseeing, and as mentioned earlier, Chihayaakasaka Village is famous for the rice terraces of Shimoakasaka and Mt. Kongo. It is also the birthplace of Masashige Kusunoki, and is affectionately known in the village as “Nanko-san”. Led by Masashige Kusunoki, the school is also focusing on education that fosters love for the local area. It also has the smallest roadside station in Japan.
The question is how to utilize these tourism resources to promote the charm of the village. This is because the village is close to Osaka and other urban areas, so tourists come and go straight back, so their stay in the village is short. One of the challenges is how to extend the length of time tourists stay.
Mayor Minamimoto said, “We would like to use the regional revitalization entrepreneur system to work with the private sector to resolve these issues.For example, we are currently working with Gurunavi to offer a tour of Chihayaakasaka Village as a return gift for hometown tax payments. “We are also thinking of developing a pavilion for the 2025 Osaka/Kansai Expo, and we would like to turn the entire Chihayaakasaka village into a pavilion to attract many people, including people from overseas, to the village”.