In order to stem the flow of his city’s population decrease, Ryosuke Takashima, who shot to national attention after becoming Japan’s youngest city mayor ever, has made education reform a main emphasis of his time in office.
A unified local election held in April resulted in Takashima being chosen as the youngest city mayor of Ashiya, Hyogo Prefecture. The 26-year-old Minoh resident with a Harvard education is trying to revive the public schools in his community by soliciting feedback, especially that of young people.
In a recent interview, he said, “The future of Ashiya won’t improve unless education (in the city) improves.
Ashiya, recognized for its upscale residential sector and situated close to Mount Rokko, a local icon, has been struggling with population loss as a result of young people moving away from the city after finishing high school or university. In order to convince young people who have left the city to come back, Takashima noted that “whether we can get people to feel attachment to their hometown by the time they turn 18 is a decisive factor.”
It is “very important for people to experience success in creating change by speaking up about something and taking action,” he said, in order to foster such hometown pride. Takashima cited the case of a junior high school student from a nearby public school who toured around Ashiya and made a map of the trash lying throughout the city.
Instead of discouraging such people, he stated, “we need to support them.”
The youngest city mayor has made an effort to interact with and hear from young people. Soon after taking office in May, he talked with high school kids. In June, he went to the city’s elementary schools. He is scheduled to visit area junior high schools in July.
He stressed the importance of speaking with young people, saying, “Creating an environment in which elementary, junior high, and high school students can achieve what they want to do may not seem to be the fastest route, but it’s the most important thing” to encourage young people to stay in or return to Ashiya.
Takashima stressed the need for individualized instruction for each student, saying, “It’s important to create a learning environment that fits each student’s individuality.”
He pointed out that the city will need to, among other things, lessen the workload of teachers by taking actions like having schools hire outside workers to do administrative work in order to facilitate such personalized teaching. Many people in Ashiya have objectives they wish to accomplish, but according to Takashima, the city administration has not been able to work with them or enable them to realize their full potential.
People need to believe they are shaping their city on their own, he said.
The youngest city mayor intends to keep having dialogue sessions with locals on all levels because he believes that working with them is essential to city administration.