Society Magazine

Suzuki - When Did You Visit Your Native Village Last ?

Posted on the 08 December 2023 by Sampathkumar Sampath

Where is your native village ! – and when was the last time you visited it.A  town in Japan is offering millions of yen to relocate there as it tries to arrest the fall in its populationInterested !  -  you may not be eligible though !!Kainan  is a city located in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan. As of  2021, the city had an estimated population of 48,811 in 22129 households and a population density of 110 persons per km 

Suzuki - when did you visit your native village last ?

A few decades ago, there were not so many automobiles on road – two wheelers were few.  There were scooters like Vijay, Bajaj, Vespa and Lambretta.  In fact in early 1970s there were no mopeds. Owning a motor cycle was majestic – the brands that were on road were the Jawa, Rajdoot and Enfield Bullet.  Jawa with silencers on both sides was a hit – it was of Chechoslovakian origin, named after its founder, Frantisek Janecek.  Then 100cc bikes clamoured in and our first love was Ind-Suzuki 100cc, sleek and elegant in metallic colours  - in a Country where people think of ‘fuel economy’ – ‘kithna dethe’ – there is no place of powerful cousins !!

Suzuki - when did you visit your native village last ?
Ind Suzuki vehicle from Wikipedia
CC BY-SA 4.0,

In 1909, Michio Suzuki   the Suzuki Loom Works in the small seacoast village of Hamamatsu, Japan. Business boomed as Suzuki built weaving looms for Japan's giant silk industry.  The company's first 30 years focused on the development and production of these machines. Then came Suzuki vehicles.  Suzuki Motor Corporation  is a Japanese multinational mobility manufacturer headquartered in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka. It manufactures automobiles, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), outboard marine engines, wheelchairs and a variety of other small internal combustion engines.  

Suzuki ("bell wood", "bell tree" or "bud tree") is a Japanese surname. As of 2008, it  was the second most common surname in Japan, after Satō, with 1.9 million people registered.  It is said to have been named by the Hozumi clan   after suzuki, which means "the ears of rice piled up" in the dialect of southern Wakayama and Mie prefectures.

Traditionally, Kainan was noted for crafts, such as Kishū lacquerware and umbrellas, and the production of sea salt. A seaside industrial park was constructed in the 1960s, which attracted heavy industry, including a steel pipe mill by Sumitomo Heavy Industries, an oil refinery by Koa Konan, and a thermal power plant by Kansai Electric. The eastern part of the city remains an agricultural area where fruits such as strawberries, peaches and citrus fruits are cultivated. The city is also known for its production of household sundry products, including items such as brushes, brooms, sponges and laundry hangers. The Mosquito coil was invented in Kainan, and many mosquito coil manufacturers have their headquarters and factories in the Shimotsu neighborhood of the city.

It is the town of Kainan that is  offering millions of yen to relocate there as it tries to arrest the fall in its population. The catch? New residents must live in Kainan, in Wakayama prefecture on the west coast, for five years to keep the cash. And their surname must be Suzuki.  As the “birthplace” of Suzuki, the town decided to tap into its association with Japan’s second most common surname when it launched the campaign in 2021, by targeting the estimated 750,000 Suzukis who live in Tokyo or the neighbouring prefectures of Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa.

Each household that can prove the family surname is, indeed, Suzuki, will receive ¥1m (£5,385), plus the same amount for each child under the age of 18. That means a family of four with two young children would receive ¥3m, with single people getting ¥600,000 each.

But two years after the re-population drive, the town has failed to attract a single Suzuki – a predicament local officials take in good humour, but which underlines the difficulties Japan’s regional towns face in the battle against ageing and declining populations.  Monetary inducements aside, officials say that in moving to Kainan, people named Suzuki will be reconnecting with their ancestors. The name is said to have originated among priests at a shrine in the nearby town of Kumano. The Suzuki clan moved to present-day Kainan during the Heian period (794-1185), where they continued to spread their version of Shinto, Japan’s indigenous religion, taking their name with them during pilgrimages.  

Kainan is not alone in experiencing a steady decline in residents. The population of Japanese nationals fell by a record 800,000 to 125.4 million in 2022, although the number of foreigners rose to a record high of almost 3 million. The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research forecasts that the country will be home to just 87 million people in 2070.

Of Kainan’s 47,000 residents, more than 36% are aged 65 or over, according to Fujita. “Population decline is serious here,” he said. “We thought we could make our campaign stand out by appealing to people with the surname Suzuki, but the hurdles in the way of actually getting people to live here are high.”  Officials in the town – famous for its lacquerware, kuradashi mikan tangerines and beautiful coastal sunsets – hope the completion next year of a hotel will tempt more Suzukis to visit and get a proper feel for their spiritual home.

Suzuki - when did you visit your native village last ?

The tale of Kainan may not impact you, but, relate it to your own native village – when did you visit it last, and do you have any of your relative living there ? – answer could be big NO and in a couple of generations, your family could lose all track with the native village though some may still have it in name !!   My native village is ‘Dusi Mamandur’ the Venbakkam Taluk, Thiruvannamalai District, situate much closer to the temple town of Kanchipuram – in Vandavasi route, after crossing Palaru.

With regards – S Sampathkumar

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