With a declining birth rate and depopulation in many rural areas, Japan is seeing an increase in the number of schools that are being forced to close. While this is undoubtedly all rather saddening, we’re getting reports that some of the elementary and junior high schools that have met their demise so far are being turned into a variety of new facilities. Find out how after the break.

Of the 400-500 schools that close down each year, around 70 percent see a complete reformation into something new. Uses include anything from welfare institutions and leisure facilities, all the way across to art museums. The uses are truly vast.

Toru Hatayama, who manages the public relations department that supports the renovation of closed schools, comments:

“Of the schools that get transformed, hands-on facilities where you can learn something new are really abundant. These are places that adults can enjoy too.”

When asked what his favorite facility was, Hatayama replied:

“It’s got to be the lodging facilities. If you feel like taking a trip somewhere, the reformed lodgings in Tochigi Prefecture named “Kumanoki” are really beautiful. The place is also easily accessible from Tokyo by car. What’s fascinating about Kumanoki is that you have a spectacular view of the stars in the night sky. In the school yard there’s even a fully fledged astronomical observatory. It’s somewhere that really shouldn’t be overlooked.”

Hatayama admitted that another place worth checking out is “Hadoru” in Kyoto. Hodoru is almost like a big multipurpose building, home to a number of different shops and exhibits. For example, there’s a gallery, carpenter’s shop and even a cafe. On the outside, it looks like something that wouldn’t be out of place in a remote mountainous region of Japan. But taking a peek inside, you are struck by how just well the wooden building has been modernized with a stylish interior. Here you can also learn how to make Japanese soba noodles or bread. “It’s a place where you’re guaranteed to have a lot of fun,” comments Hatayama.

Many visitors to the site find a wooden school building in present day Japan to be a little unusual and they’re drawn in by the nostalgia aspect of it all. Across the country, there are about 300 reformed schools hosting these types of facilities. Whether it be a place to host an event or somewhere just that little bit different to a typical hotel room, the practical uses of disused schools are quite striking.

Disused schools are being converted at a startling rate. Right now across Japan you’ll find buildings converted into:

  • Exercise facilities (802)
  • Community centers/museums (754)
  • Welfare/medical centers (337)
  • “Hands-on” experience center (300)
  • Ministry and government offices (291)

It’s sad to hear that so many schools are being closed, but at least the buildings aren’t going to waste. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll see thousands of Japanese returning to the countryside and these buildings will be schools once again? For the time being, though, we’re sure they’re in safe hands.

Source: Web R25