Japan’s “shōtengai,” or shopping arcades, typically a covered approach to a station lined by small shops, as well as its high streets, have increasingly come to resemble deserted avenues lined by shutters, especially in the nation’s increasingly depopulated and geriatric regional cities.
Dubbed “shutter-dōri,” or “shutter streets,” these streets have become a potent symbol of urban decay and the demographic and economic collapse Japan faces.
Of course, the real situation is not quite so simple. Japan’s regions have long been emptying, but far from disappearing much of the population, especially the younger generations, have been moving into the vast conurbations of Kanto and Kinki, where populations continue to increase.
Even so, in the streets of the capital rusty shutters and large, deserted roads are not an uncommon sight in the less central areas.
The small stores of the arcades are not just the victims of regional enervation – Japanese now find themselves increasingly preferring convenience stores and large scale high street chains to the uncompetitive vendors who once lined every station thoroughfare.
That Japan’s regions are fast becoming ghost towns is undeniable, however.
Poignant depictions of the decline of once vibrant shopping arcades are not hard to come by: