man in white t shirt and black pants riding skateboard on sidewalk
Photo by Michael Dupuis on

Fading photos of smiling children still adorn the staircase walls at the Ashigakubo primary school, one of thousands that have shut in ageing Japan over the past 20 years.

The school, which was more than a century old, was forced to close in 2009 when the last few dozen children left to join a bigger one "because they couldn't make any friends," said mayor Yoshinari Tomita.

The playground was removed after becoming dangerous due to a lack of maintenance, and the swimming pool is now used by ducks and dragonflies.

But the oldest part of the school, built in 1903, has been preserved, with local authorities working to bring the wooden rooms full of nostalgia back to life.

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