When walking round Tokyo’s entertainment districts, or struggling once again to get on a horribly packed train, it’s hard to imagine that the country’s population is getting smaller. Yet shrinking it most certainly is, with fewer kids and more old people tipping the country towards a worrying imbalance.
A demographic shift that could well result in more scenes like this — one that offers us a look back into the past, as well as forward into an uncertain future.
jsh panda says
It is a very significant observation, and Japan possibly is going through a strange demographic shift. On the face of it, with 127 million population, Japan is the 10th most populated country in the world. Not so small as even the US touched 300 million only recently. However every society must recruit sufficient numbers to survive over time. Many tribal societies have failed and died out. Malthus looked at population explosion and went to one extreme. It would be welcome to see more Japanese getting married and having children. Children in a society create consumption and boost industry, as the toy car in your picture would suggest.
Yes, this shift will certainly hit Japan economically, especially so with the growing burden of the elderly. And if the powers that be finally succumb and bring in more foreign workers, the country will be changed culturally too. Can’t see that happening in the short term, but further down the line it could well be essential.
Japan has been, like all mature economies (and quasi-democracies), going through a demographic shift for more than 20 years. They were bemoaning this back in 1987 when I first lived there. That being said, Tokyo, particularly inside or within a stop or two outside the Yamanote-sen, has always been pretty childless since WWII. Families, unless exceptionally wealthy, can’t afford to live in “central” Tokyo. However, the real decline in overall population for Japan has been in the hinterlands, small towns and ‘burbs, such as they are.
Yes, very true. A lot of the haikyo I visit are in small towns and villages, and it’s alarming to see the decline in those places. Went to a place the other day that lost its town status a few years ago, and is now practically deserted. Just a few old people pottering about. That was it. Very sad.
I like to think that they will almost instinctually begin having a few more children before it gets to the point of going from “overcrowded” to “completely desolate”. Hopefully, also, it would be to the point of balance and not overcrowded again. The town I live in has the opposite problem with Ft. Hood bringing in more and more troops (who inevitably have more and more kids) and the retired folks not wanting to leave, so people having fewer kids feels like it would be a blessing. Also, it seems like the Japanese culture has been through a lot, and a lot of changes, but many of the traditions still manage to hang in there. This makes me (possibly rediculously) optimistic. I adore Japan and would hate to see it irreversably damaged in any way…..
How it will pan out remains to be seen, but you are right, many traditions have remained strong through other difficulties, so one has to be optimistic that it will remain that way. Japan is also very good at adopting new customs/practices but giving them a unique local twist, so while there may be changes, they probably won’t be huge ones.
Looked like secluded lane.
Singapore is also meeting the same problem. It struggling to raise population numbers for many years.
In order to raise the population, more immigrants coming to Singapore. Same as Japan now.
It is sad to see Japan deteriorate gradually.
I was in an old village yesterday that lost its town statu a few years. There simply aren’t enough people there anymore. And in the not too distant future it’s hard to imagine it existing at all. There didn’t appear to be any kids, just a few old farmers. And this is happening all over the country.
But there again, the cities are getting ever bigger.
What will happen is anybody’s guess, but there will be some pretty big changes, that’s for sure.
A haunting, dystopian feel to this shot. Good catch.
Thanks a lot. As sad as it is, I was really pleased with the way it came out.
Marti B says
This type of childrens ride used to a common sight outside high street shops in the UK, though I’ve seen them less and less over the last twenty years, I suppose shop owners see them a extra work for little return as well as a target for vandals.
Seeing childrens toys forgotten and unloved always makes me feel a bit sad, but at least this one will always be remembered.
Yes, I remember them as a kid. They always made the boredom of being dragged to the shops bearable. Sad that they aren’t so common anymore, but I guess they just aren’t as popular.
Same in Japan too, although like you say, this one at least will be remembered.
I really like the composition on this one, the car seems so solidly still and yet the street vanishes with a sense of speed from the stripe and blur.
Thanks Don. Luckily there was no one on the street too which added to the effect.
This is the first thing that popped into my head.
Now I’ll hear that too whenever I pass it!
Dang, that’s looks depressing.
Yeah, it is. No getting away from it…
One contributor to this is undoubtedly the Japanese attitude and tolerance for children. Put aside the fact that there are many child-friendly services and support offered by the government and business, society at large does not seem to welcome children much. Based on personal experience and anecdotal evidence, Japanese people are often openly hostile to children coming too close, being too loud, or essentially behaving the way children normally do. Considering that this kind of social pressure is such a profoundly fundamental element of Japanese society, one may understand the lack of desire in young people to shoulder the social (and financial) burdens of raising children.