Nagaoka, Japan

Japanese village leverages NFTs to tackle woes tied to aging population

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The Japanese village of Yamakoshi is utilizing non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to address the challenge of an aging population by raising awareness of the issue and generating nearly half a million dollars along the way.

The village is offering digital citizenship to holders of its digital collectibles, the Nishikigoi NFT collection, named after a koi carp breed indigenous to the region. Since the collection’s launch in 2021, at the height of the NFT craze, Yamakoshi has attracted just over 1,700 digital citizens to bolster its dwindling population figures.

To date, the collection has netted the little village around $423,000 with the funds deployed toward catering for older citizens and a raft of community initiatives. The report highlighted the channeling of funds to support a sports day for school pupils in the village amid plans to increase the reach of the initiative to public utilities.

For Yamakoshi’s 740 permanent residents, access to the Nishikigoi tokens is free, but individuals seeking digital citizenship will pay the floor price of 0.0318 ETH. Details from the project’s whitepaper indicate plans to increase the villages’ population from sub-800 to over 10,000 by leveraging digital collectibles.

Using NFTs to raise funds for an aging population is a new strategy but indicates a measure of promise. Yuri Group says in a report that digital collectibles may generate up to $500 million for the cause if the Yamakoshi experiment achieves its objectives and expands to other municipalities.

“If their strategy works and expands to other villages, we estimate that rural Japan could look to fund-raise sums in the region of half a billion dollars while also test-driving a new wave of social tech with global appeal,” read a report from Yuri Group. 

Japan has a long-running problem with an aging population, exacerbated by falling birth rates and high life expectancy levels. One report noted that over 800 municipalities in Japan are in grave danger of disappearing due to a population imbalance, but emerging technologies may offer a way out for the region.

There are several challenges associated with leaning on NFTs, including language barriers from foreign digital citizens and voter apathy associated with running a decentralized autonomous organization. The falling value of digital collectibles is also a major challenge plaguing the project, but a thriving entertainment culture in Japan could continue to fuel their adoption in the country.

Japan explores NFTs

Japan has been exploring NFT use cases before the offering went mainstream in 2021, with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida including it in its digital transformation strategy. At the time, Kishida confirmed plans to turn to digital collectibles to reward best-performing mayors in the country.

The ruling government has since provided funding to “promote efforts to expand the use of Web 3.0 services that utilize the metaverse and NFTs,” spurring private companies to join the fray. Local firms like Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (NASDAQ: MUFG) and SBI (NASDAQ: SBHGF) have seen their subsidiaries dabble in NFTs, mirroring the national government’s efforts.

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