Population of Japan
For many Americans, Japan is the country of ninjas and samurais, anime, robots, and all kinds of high tech stuff. It’s not exactly what one would consider a large country; it has an area of 145,882 square miles, ranking it #62 on the list of the largest countries in the world. But Japan has a population of 127.1 million, which means there are more than 873 people per square mile. It is actually ranked #10 among the most populaous countries in the world.
Why Are There So Many People in Japan?
There are two main factors for the great number of people living in a fairly small island group.
One factor is that the people have a longer life expectancy than just about any other country in the world. People live up to an average of 86.2 years, and that puts Japan at #1 in the life expectancy ranking. In comparison, people living in the US only live up to an average of 79.8 years, putting the Land of Milk and Honey at the 36th spot.
The other factor for the high population of Japan is that the infant mortality rate is so low as well. That wasn’t always true, because in 1960 the infant mortality rate was at 30 deaths before the age of 1 year per one thousand live births. But by 1990 this was reduced to just 4 deaths, which made it the lowest infant mortality rate in the world. Today, it is estimated that there are only 2.13 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in Japan.
Essentially, people are surviving more and living longer. That’s a testament to the power of the universal health care in place in the country since 1961. Some people believe that the Japanese diet is also a contributing factor to the high life expectancy rate. Others also point to having a different lifestyle and the stronger social cohesion that is prevalent in the country.
Things to Do in Japan
There are many good reasons why people enjoy living in Japan. Not only do you live longer, but you’re also about 44% less likely to be unemployed. You also spend about 47% less on health care.
With so many people in the country, it only means there is a wide variety of entertainment options. The number one sport here is undoubtedly baseball, which is why today they still check up on Ichiro’s activities in the twilight years of his MLB career. Soccer is also popular, as well as basketball.
Of course, there are some sports which are popular in Japan but are not even all that known in other developed countries. Judo and sumo wrestling, for example, are quite popular.
Among the younger generation, video gaming is also a legitimate sport. Some game designers are considered celebrities in this country, in the same way music artists and actors are considered stars.
If you’re ever in Japan, here are some activities you ought to try:
- Learn their language. They appreciate it if at least you try, even if you make mistakes.
- Visit the small towns. While the huge cities such as Tokyo have many surprising things to offer, the small villages have their own unique charm.
- Sample local food. There’s a big difference between how sushi is prepared in the US and how it is prepared in Japan. And there’s more to Japanese food than sushi!
Population Problems Ahead
There’s a growing problem in the population of Japan, however. Now you may be thinking—how can that be when they have a high life expectancy rate and a low infant mortality rate? The answer is simple: there are fewer births than there are deaths in the country.
This has been happening for several years now. In 2014 there were just 1.001 million births, compared to 1.269 million deaths. So that’s a net loss of 268,000 people.
Several reasons may account for this trend:
- Younger professionals are insecure about their future, so starting a family has become riskier for them.
- The traditional family concept of allowing the husband to be the sole breadwinner is not as attractive to many modern women.
- Marriage is still the only socially acceptable way of having children, but men and women are marrying later in life.
And what’s more, the age of the population of Japan is growing older. That means there’s a smaller workforce that’s supporting a growing percentage of elderly citizens. It’s estimated that by 2060, about 40% of the population will be at least 65 years old.
The economic implications of this trend can be serious. Medical costs can inflate because of the aging population. Small towns are disappearing, with only the elderly remaining. Consumption of many consumer goods can decline as well, and that will also burden the economy.
This is where the US is ahead of Japan, even though the US is also experiencing high life expectancy rates, low infant mortality rates, and a smaller number of live births. The United States welcome approximately a million immigrants every year.
That’s not exactly true for Japan, which as a country, prides itself in its homogenous nature. About 98.5% of the population consider themselves of pure Japanese ancestry while very few are of Korean and Chinese ancestry.
Possible Solutions for the Aging Population
The most obvious solution to this problem are to increase immigration and making it more attractive and easier for young men and women to have babies. But that is easier said than done, obviously. Japanese culture, despite what the rest of us may have seen in the media, is inherently conservative and it doesn’t like to change things. This is especially true of the Japanese government.
So if the government wants to encourage more births, it would have to address issues such as single motherhood, cohabitation without marriage, and children born out of wedlock. Sadly, the government pays only lip service to female empowerment.
Allowing immigration to increase is also a practical solution. It solves the low fertility rate, increases the workforce, and boosts the number of health care professionals looking after the elderly. But being pro-immigration in Japan is the fastest way to lose an election, so of course the politicians won’t go for it.