Trains here make only a few stops—when a lone high-school student leaves for school, and when class is over.

For years, there’s been just one passenger who regularly waits at the Kyu-Shirataki* train station, on the island of Hokkaido, Japan: A high-school girl, on her way to class. Trains stop there only a few times a day—once to pick up the girl for school and a few times after the school day is over.

It sounds like a Hayao Miyazaki film. But, according to CCTV News, Japan Railways—the group that operates the country’s railway network—has kept the underused station open for years for a good reason.

Ridership at the Kyu-Shirataki station and a few neighboring ones had dramatically fallen because of the remote location, and freight service had ended there as well. But students depend on the train for transit, and parents asked that the company keep the station open for their children. Japan Railways will keep operating the station until March, when the fiscal year ends—and when this teen is expected to graduate, according to the Asahi Shimbun.*

A photo posted by supersoya (@supersoya) on

People are tipping their hats to the Japanese government for making education a top priority. “Why should I not want to die for a country like this when the government is ready to go an extra mile just for me,” one commenter wrote on CCTV’s Facebook page. “This is the meaning of good governance penetrating right to the grassroot level. Every citizen matters. No Child left behind!”

Others, like the creator behind this YouTube video, grieve the struggling railways of rural Japan. With the country’s record-low birthrate, aging population, and the threat of losing a third of its population by 2060, Japan faces a number of crises including a surplus of vacant housing and a shrinking workforce. The nation’s railroad system is being hit by these shifts.

Japan’s impressively efficient high-speed rails have continued to expand to the outskirts of the country, rendering many of Japan’s older, low-tech railways obsolete. Kyu-Shirataki station, for example, sits in the town of Engaru in a rural part of Hokkaido, which lost at least 20 rail lines in the past few decades, according to Fortune.

But if this story of a young girl and her special connection to the Kyu-Shirataki station is any indicator, Japan’s disappearing rural railroads will be remembered for their service to even the most remote parts of the country.

A photo posted by supersoya (@supersoya) on

*CORRECTION: This post has been updated to reflect that Japan Railways decided three years ago to keep the station open until the girl graduates, and that the closure will coincide with the end of the company’s fiscal year. The post also previously misidentified the Kyu-Shirataki as Kami-Shirataki station.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A diamond-like glass-walled church building, lit up from the inside.
    Design

    How a Drive-In Megachurch Became a Catholic Cathedral

    Designed by an acclaimed architect for a famous televangelist, a unique church in Southern California has been transformed.

  2. Life

    Why Are America’s Three Biggest Metros Shrinking?

    After a post-recession boomlet, the New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago areas are all seeing their population decline.

  3. a map comparing the sizes of several cities
    Maps

    The Commuting Principle That Shaped Urban History

    From ancient Rome to modern Atlanta, the shape of cities has been defined by the technologies that allow commuters to get to work in about 30 minutes.

  4. black children walking by a falling-down building
    Equity

    White Americans’ Hold on Wealth Is Old, Deep, and Nearly Unshakeable

    White families quickly recuperated financial losses after the Civil War, and then created a Jim Crow credit system to bring more white families into money.

  5. People walk along a new elevated park that winds through a historic urban area.
    Equity

    How to Build a New Park So Its Neighbors Benefit

    A new report from UCLA and the University of Utah surveys strategies for “greening without gentrification.”

×