Education of Children
There is a small population of children in Koshikijima. According to the city’s website, the number of children is decreasing. For example, Sato town had 1,531 children under 15 years old in 1955, but in 2020 there are only 119 children. Currently, there are only 5 students in the Aose area: 1 kindergarten student, 3 elementary students, and 1 junior high school student.
Many schools have closed in the last few years. The right picture is the map of schools in 2020. In the 2000s, 9 schools were closed, so children have a long way to go to school. One mother told us it is the most serious problem because there are no friends for her daughters to play with in the neighborhood.
Schools have few students and teachers, so there are also few school clubs. Most schools have only volleyball and kendo club. If they want to play other sports, there are only a few opportunities. For example, there is an event called “The remote islands koushien”. It is held in Nigata every year. It is a game of baseball, and all of the participants live in remote islands. They couldn’t play baseball until participating in this game because there are not enough children who want to play baseball.
There are no high schools in Koshikijima, so all of children have to leave the island and live away from their parents while going to high school. This event is called “Shimadachi”. The children who leave island are sent off grandly by the island’s people.
There are also few activities outside of school. One mother told us popular activities are eurhythmics and calligraphy. They can learn to dance and to play the piano through eurhythmics. She also told us the English class near house were closed because there are no teachers.
Satsuma Sendai City tries to bring in teachers from out of island and hold many public lectures several times in year for children.
There are a lot of traditional cultures in Koshikijima. For example, each area in Koshikiijma has its own traditional dances, but there are not enough children to pass it on. People of the preservation society regularly gather the children and teach them how to dance. Sometimes teachers from the school help them to save it for the future.
It could also be hard to save Toshidon. This is an end of year event where a person with a scary mask scolds and praises children.
Umineko Ryugaku Program
This program was started in Kashima town (in Koshikijima) because the number of children in Koshiki is decreasing. In this program, some children leave their hometowns and come to Koshiki to do a homestay. They live with the Koshiki residents together and can have a lot of experiences as they can’t do in the cities. For example, they can enjoy the great nature, excavate the dinosaur fossils, and experience fishing. Now, half of the children in the Koshiki elementary school are students from this program. Thanks to this program, the school avoids closing and the people in Kashima can enjoy their events more.
Compared to Kagoshima, we can find some interesting characteristics about the fossils on this island and many experts come to this island and research it. So, the children have a lot of opportunities to learn about the fossils. For example, there is the dinosaur museum on this island and the staff in this museum hold fossil excavating events once a month. The children can enjoy finding the fossils and get academic information about fossils from the experts. They can learn about fossils as much as they want.
The main industry of Koshikijima is fisheries. The fishers ride on the boat and catch fish every day. In the Umineko Ryugaku program, the children can have fishing experiences with the fishers. For instance, pulling the fishing net in, fishing, and of course, eating the fish. According to the staff of this program, some of the children are getting interested in fish and sometimes come back to this island to go fishing even after finishing this program. The children can also enjoy the beach and feed black-tailed gulls (Umineko).
Until 2022, the population of Koshiki island is about 3983, with 1862 in Kamikoshiki, 186 in Nakakoshiki and 1935 in Shimokoshiki. There are four towns, Sato town, Kamikoshiki town, Kashima town and Shimokoshiki town. In each area, people live in some settlements between the towns.
For the people in Koshikijima, the two most common things they usually do in their free time are fishing and enjoying the beautiful beaches. Of course the beaches in Koshikijima are beautiful, but the other reason is there is not much other entertainment on the island.
So how do they keep connection to other people?
For most areas in Koshiki island, there are not many chance to get together with other people. But they know each other, and in some villages, they are all close or distant relatives. So as they pass by, they will greet each other or do small talk for a few minutes. In some areas, the community center tries to tighten the relationship between them and provide more entertainment though events.
Events held by the community center of each village provides opportunities for them get together. There are some traditional events, like “Toshidon”, an event that is held for children’s development on the day before New Year’s Day, and has a long history. In additions to this, they also have some new events, for example Bocci tournaments from 2012, and the Koshiki marathon from 2020.
In addition to this, they also hold friendship parties once a week and volunteer for beach cleaning. Most people in Aose take part in these activities enthusiastically. The community leader said when they stopped the friendship party because of COVID 19 for one month, many people requested for the party to be held again.
At the party, they play games, dance, or do karaoke. There is also a karaoke equipment on the stage.
But it is unfortunate that for most villages in Koshiki island, they have not as many as activities, especially in these past two years. ‘There have not been any events in these past two years, except for work time’ said a fisherman in Nagahama port.