How This Remote Village of Japanese Fishers Got Rich

Not all of Japan’s wealthy residents live in cities. Learn how a small Hokkaido village of 2,700 found itself swell with cash.

Unseen Japan


By Himari Semans

The rich in Sarafutsu

Locations like Tokyo’s Minato Ward are famous for playing host to some of the top income earners in Japan. But one pocket of the well-to-do is in one of the places you’d least expect it: a remote northern village famous for fishing.

Where in the heck is Sarufutsu?!

There’s only one direct flight a day from Haneda to Wakkanai, Japan’s northernmost airport. It’s so far north and close to the Russian island of Sakhalin that a defector might swim across the Sea of Okhotsk. (One man did in 2021 from another island, the disputed territory Kunashiri.)

Get a car and drive for an hour. Fifty kilometers out of the city, a fisher’s village with no trains, malls, or restaurants. You think, what do people do here?

Population 2,700. There are four middle schools. Decent. One middle school. Wince. No high school. Forget about it.

This is Sarufutsu Village, Japan’s richest village.

This place?

Big paycheck, small beginnings

Sarufutsu service station, Sarufutsu Park
The Sarufutsu service station near Sarufutsu Park. (Picture: よしだやすお / PIXTA(ピクスタ))

The coastal village of Sarufutsu has the 6th highest income among Japan’s 1,741 municipalities. Villagers, many of them fishers, have an average ¥7,317,405 ($49,108 USD) annual income.

The other top-class/first-rate income municipalities in Japan in 2022 were:

  1. Minato Ward, Tokyo Prefecture: ¥14,713,763
  2. Suooshima Town, Yamaguchi Prefecture: ¥11,769,535
  3. Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo Prefecture: ¥10,767,674
  4. Shibuya Ward, Tokyo Prefecture: ¥10,000,844
  5. Chūo Ward, Tokyo Prefecture: ¥7,608,681
  6. Sarufutsu Village, Hokkaido Prefecture: ¥7,317,405
  7. Ashiya City, Hyogo Prefecture: ¥6,979,979