AONE, Japan — In the historic wooden schoolhouse here, decked out in the kind of bright artwork done by kids the world over, there are two classrooms, each containing three desks that sit marooned in the middle of a space made for many more. At break time, a boy kicks a soccer ball around the yard by himself.
“It’s a little bit lonely,” said Taiki Kato, 11, who said he was looking forward to going to middle school next year. “It’s a bit bigger, and there might be kids from other elementary schools.”
The middle school has eight students. The elementary school, where Kato started sixth grade this month, has six. And two of them, the only girls, are from the same family.
That meant Yukari Sudo could easily master everyone’s names in her first week as principal of the elementary school in this small village, nestled in mountains 50 miles but a world away from the tightly packed metropolis of Tokyo.
“When I was greeting 900 kids in the morning, I could recognize them, but I might not be able to remember their name,” said Sudo, who recently moved to Aone after being vice principal at a much bigger school.