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Guest Post: How Demography Is Changing Japan

Tyler Durden's picture


Submitted by John W. Traphagan of The,

Over the past few months, I have published two articles in The Diplomat that explore some of the issues related to the population decline Japan has started to experience over the past couple of years.  Whether or not this is a problem that needs a solution is open to debate.  Population decline has many benefits, but the fact is that population decline in Japan will also present problems - and very significant ones - as both the Japanese government and its people respond to a very different demographic environment. 

It is interesting to take a look at some of the consequences of population decline that may lie ahead for Japan, particularly since, while Japan may be at the forefront of this trend, it is only one of many countries that will experience population decline over the coming decades.  In East Asia, Korea has a total fertility rate (TFR) - estimated at 1.23 for 2012 - that is roughly similar to Japan’s and China’s TFRs, which are estimated at 1.39 and 1.55 for 2012 respectively.  All of these are well below the replacement rate of 2.1 that is needed to simply maintain the current population size.  This problem is not limited to East Asia; many European countries have very low TFRs and even parts of the developing world are experiencing declining TFRs.

Because Japan is at the forefront of this international trend, it is useful to explore how population decline is already affecting the country, and a particularly good place to look is rural areas, which already are experiencing depopulation often at a striking rate.  The reason rural areas are of particular importance is that in addition to low birth rates, they also tend to experience significant outflows of young people who move to urban areas or abroad.  As John Knight, an anthropologist at Queen’s University in Belfast has noted, rural depopulation in Japan is partly driven by young people being drawn to the life, education, and employment opportunities of urban areas even as they are eager to escape rural areas, which they perceive as offering little in terms of social activities and employment (this is not necessarily the case, as there are many rural areas in which there are large factories that provide jobs, but it is a common perception among the youth).

In his research, Knight has explored the environmental consequences of rural depopulation.  One of these is that as rural areas experience population decline, wildlife (both animal and plant) begins to move back into areas from where it had previously been displaced by human occupation. In many rural areas, particularly in mountain villages, animals such as bears have moved into populated areas where they may pose a risk to residents.  Bears also present problems in farming areas and it is not uncommon to find farmers erecting electrified fences to keep them out of their fields, thus generating expenses related to protecting crops that until recently were not necessary. Knight argues that encroachment by wild animals may further deter people from remaining in the rural parts of Japan.

A drive around farm villages in Japan often brings one face-to-face with one of the more significant consequences of depopulation - abandoned property. An increasing number of houses, and their associated land, are left unoccupied when the elder resident dies.  Younger family members have moved to the cities and are unable or unwilling to return. As a result, buildings are left empty and become very difficult to maintain, with weeds and other brush rapidly growing up around the property. 

Indeed, the growth of the elder population represents one of the more serious challenges associated with a low TFR and depopulation in Japan (or anywhere).  The increasingly inverted structure of Japan’s population pyramid, with fewer young people than old people, means that it will be very difficult to generate the tax revenues necessary to pay for the healthcare needs of the elderly.  Japan’s elder population—those over 65—is currently around 25% of the total.  In rural areas, it is not uncommon to find towns in which 35% or more of the population is over 65.  As the elderly population grows to its anticipated size of more than 1/3 of the total national population, the financial burden of healthcare in Japan will become erroneous, and there could very well be a shortage of labor in the healthcare industry.

Some of the more esoteric effects of population decline in rural areas are the problems it creates for local Buddhist temples.  In Japan, temples are supported by a parish of local residents who pay for the upkeep of the temple and provide for the priest and his family (although many priests also have to supplement their income with other types of work).  Depopulation has meant many temples have seen significant decreases in the size of their parish and, consequently, their level of income. 

In some cases, income becomes insufficient to maintain a temple, forcing temples to merge. These mergers take place even as the workload of priests has increased because the primary work of Buddhist priests in Japan is to conduct rituals for the dead.  A larger elderly population means more funerals and a lack of young people means fewer family members to take care of family grave sites, leaving them to the local priest to upkeep.

Satsuki Kawano, an anthropologist at the University of Guelph, has written an important book called Nature’s Embrace: Japan’s Aging Urbanites and New Death Rites that looks at how some urban (note that these issues are not limited to rural areas) Japanese are developing new approaches to caring for the dead that require little or no human involvement to perform rituals for deceased ancestors.  As Kawano notes, some of those who have chosen to follow these new paths to dealing with death have done so in order to avoid asking their descendants to provide perpetual care of their ancestral spirit, which is the normal pattern among Japanese. 

Kawano’s work illustrates that Japanese are innovative and will find new ways to manage life with fewer people and will create new cultural patterns to address the changes that will emerge as the population continues to decline. 

Many have argued that a smaller population in Japan is a good thing, because the country is currently very crowded - indeed, many Japanese feel this way.  Whether or not this is true, it is certain that Japan will face major challenges in responding to the pragmatic issues of managing and maintaining an infrastructure built by and for a much larger population, as well as issues such as shifting economic patterns and workforce composition as a result of a changing age structure of the society.  The Japanese people will also be forced to create new cultural patterns that respond to the demographic and economic changes that are occurring. 

Additionally, declining populations in the countries of East Asia will be of immense importance in shaping the political and economic dynamics of the region. It is worth noting that up through the end of World War II, women in Japan were awarded by the government for having many children.  The reason for this was to provide sufficient numbers of soldiers to fight for the Japanese Empire. 

Today, the Japanese have no desire for empire and expansion, but the fact remains that population is a variable that remains central to how Japan, and its neighbors, will interact and respond to tensions, such as the current problems surrounding disputed territory in East Asia.  And how people and governments will respond to significant loss of population - emotionally, culturally, and in terms of policy - remains very unpredictable.


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Wed, 02/27/2013 - 23:34 | 3284386 The They
The They's picture

The new solution: replace horse with the elderly!

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 00:34 | 3284583 Half_A_Billion_...
Half_A_Billion_Hollow_Points's picture

Fukushima will finally bring 3-ttities women to the world, and we will all fuck like rabbits to accelerate the process of idiocracy

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 01:30 | 3284703 zaphod
zaphod's picture

Yes Japan's economy and demographics are blowing up, but who cares.

Even if their economy tanks, Japan will still be Japan and Japanese culture will still exist as Japanese culture because they have worked to maintain that.

However, even if the US's economy does well, the US is no longer the US and American culture is no longer American culture because we have let that fall and disappear.

So tell me, who is really screwed?

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 10:27 | 3285490 VyseLegendaire
VyseLegendaire's picture

In Japan, Fukushima will be releasing radiation for eternity and the amount already released will cause millions of cancers in the most concentrated population centers in the world. 

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 14:30 | 3286643 DosZap
DosZap's picture

The increasingly inverted structure of Japan’s population pyramid, with fewer young people than old people, means that it will be very difficult to generate the tax revenues necessary to pay for the healthcare needs of the elderly


Exactly why I posted here a week or so ago that the Japanese Gov't needs to give tax breaks, and /or financial incentives to ALL married couples to start having 3-4 children per family.

Austrailia pays couples do have more kids.

If we had not murdered 50 Million Ameicans due to abortion, we would have had a hell of a lot stronger economy, and we would not NEED to import immigrants,nor would there be much neeed for illegals of alll stripes.

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 22:39 | 3284228 philipat
philipat's picture

A simple solution would be to allow immigration to balance off the demographic distortions. But of course, their prescious Racial Purity (aka racism) is more important. So be it........

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 22:48 | 3284256 akak
akak's picture

Oh yeah, so Japan can then experience the same socioeconomic benefits of massive numbers of nonintegrated immigrants as are currently being enjoyed in France, Spain, Germany, California and other such places.

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 22:52 | 3284266 philipat
philipat's picture

No, not at all. I was thinking more of a sensible and controlled immigration policy like, for instance, in Australia.

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 22:55 | 3284273 TheFourthStooge-ing
TheFourthStooge-ing's picture


As the elderly population grows to its anticipated size of more than 1/3 of the total national population, the financial burden of healthcare in Japan will become erroneous

I think that's already happened to the financial burden of healthcare in the US.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 06:53 | 3285035 jeff montanye
jeff montanye's picture

much of the healthcare spending in the u.s. is erroneous (mistaken, wrong) but japan is the leading edge of this old folks surplus curve.  if the species survives, there is an "interesting" future out there at a lower population and population growth rate.  the plants and other animals may well appreciate it (if the radioactivity, etc. doesn't get them).

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 23:16 | 3284320 Mike in Tokyo Rogers
Mike in Tokyo Rogers's picture

Nonsense! Japan already has an extremely sensible immigration policy. "Historically, from 1953 until 2012, Japan Unemployment Rate averaged 2.68" Currently it is 4.2%... Er, what were you saying about a "sensible policy"?

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 23:20 | 3284329 suteibu
suteibu's picture

That unemployment figure is pure bullshit just like their CPI.  That said, looser immigration is a short-term economic fix that will cause long-term social and economic problems.

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 23:32 | 3284379 GMadScientist
GMadScientist's picture

It worked wonders for Ronald Reagan in the 80s.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 06:54 | 3285037 jeff montanye
jeff montanye's picture

looser immigration or bullshit statistics?

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 08:19 | 3285142 suteibu
suteibu's picture

First one and then the other.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 08:31 | 3285166 GMadScientist
GMadScientist's picture

Long-term social and economic problems. ;)

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 02:30 | 3284786 philipat
philipat's picture

So it seems that there are so many anti-immigration, presumably supremacist, types here. I'm surprised, I thought that ZH was a fairly open-minded site??

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 03:06 | 3284822 suteibu
suteibu's picture

Fuck you on that racist bullshit.  A nation is not its economy but the people who make up the culture.  It is up to them to choose whether or not their culture should be diluted, changed, or otherwise destroyed, not some race-card carrying busy-body or politicians and economists who only see culture as a commodity.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 03:39 | 3284859 philipat
philipat's picture

FU2 and stay pure asshole. Which was eaxctly the original point I was making. I lived in japan for 4 miserable years and was treated like shit, even as Japan CEO of a major Global Corporation. There is no future for Japan, and that makes me feel great. Join the Global community will you. Otherwise perhaps China will help?

Bottom line , the Japanese are the most racist bastards in the world and will never accept foreigners. YOU are the racist.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 03:46 | 3284876 Vlad Tepid
Vlad Tepid's picture

So are the open minded supposed to lie supine while you trample their opinion that mass immigration is a bad thing?  Just because we're open-minded doesn't mean you get to stride through our opinions with your own (presumably morally superior one) like a giant in tulip field. (No idea where that image just came from)

Also, as we already suspected, (hence the down arrows) you didn't like being in Japan ("Mommy, they hurt my feelings!") and so now you vent your bile in the midst of an honest discussion other people who you've never met were having.

Just because someone doesn't like YOU doesn't mean they are "racist bastards."  I mean, the dictionary definition of "dipshit" is calling an ENTIRE RACE racist...but that irony has failed to puncture your fortess of solitude.

For the record, I live most of the year in Japan, speak Japanese fluently, and have found less overt racsim in Japan than in CA where my parents forced me to be born.  Of course, not being an obnoxious asshole (in any language) probably unfairly biases people into treating me well.

You and AnAnonymous ( a pretty good example of offical PRC folk) go cuddle up somewhere.  Japan willabide.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 04:57 | 3284939 Vlad Tepid
Vlad Tepid's picture

Thanks for the down arrow and the non-reply, philip.  You're real CEO material - I can see why your Japanese employees were so endeared to you and why your "Major global corporation" decided to off-shore you.


Thu, 02/28/2013 - 08:12 | 3285135 suteibu
suteibu's picture

Maybe you were treated like shit because you were just as big a prick there as you are here.  You are not Japan's judge.  Keep your racism to yourself.  Fuck you and your global community.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 17:00 | 3287534 Kobe Beef
Kobe Beef's picture

Well, Alberto Del Rio (WWE Heavyweight champ) said "America is for everybody", so you must be right. I saw it on RAW, so it must be true.


In reality, why are you surprised thinking people reject Multi-kulti Marxist Klaptrap, and one of the obvious pincers of the Cloward-Piven Destruction Strategy?

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 22:53 | 3284268 Monedas
Monedas's picture

This is Socialist "Tax Genocide" .... compounded by strict immigration controls !    ("Tax Genocide" is when decent, hole licking producers limit their family size and work themselves to the bone to please their Socialist masters !)

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 22:56 | 3284278 suteibu
suteibu's picture

Because that has worked out so well for the US and Europe?  Mind your own business.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 01:53 | 3284745 meizu
meizu's picture

That's a retarded idea.  The solution is emigration, Japan should encourage all the old japanese to retire in other countries, say southeast asia.

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 22:46 | 3284245 akak
akak's picture

Well, wouldn't you be too, with the Nikkei down almost 90% in real terms in the last 25 years?

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 22:43 | 3284235 kridkrid
kridkrid's picture

Here's my demographic question (China related, not Japan)... what's china going to do with the 20,000,000 extra 18-28 year old men?  They aren't going to be happy without a wife.  What will keep them busy?  I'm thinking puzzles... not 1,000 piece ones, but like 10,000 piece ones... with tiny pictures of similar looking dogs.

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 22:54 | 3284269 reader2010
reader2010's picture

China is increasingly relying on modern technology to solve some depressing social needs, that is working on simulation on simulation of reality, I mean sexuality. In not too distant future,  China's Central Government promises that more civilised humans will feel more elated by fucking with machinery than by copulating with humans. Plus, it's good for the GDP numbers too.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 06:22 | 3285007 StychoKiller
StychoKiller's picture

There are always "simulants..."


Wed, 02/27/2013 - 22:59 | 3284286 suteibu
suteibu's picture

Foot soldiers in the global game of Risk.  On the other side, the US will reinstitute the draft.  The Japanese will have a front row seat.

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 22:59 | 3284288 Miffed Microbio...
Miffed Microbiologist's picture

They'll all be taken care by Elder Care Robots who will also be programmed to do, how do I say.....other duties?


Wed, 02/27/2013 - 23:35 | 3284391 GMadScientist
GMadScientist's picture

Hold on, I'm looking up the Hanzi characters for "Mountain" "Back" and "Broken".

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 22:45 | 3284243 akak
akak's picture

Hey, Japan is still a very long way from being Detroit.

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 22:49 | 3284258 magpie
magpie's picture

I heard the TPP will allow for unlimited immigration from Mexico so all is good /sarc

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 22:57 | 3284281 TheFourthStooge-ing
TheFourthStooge-ing's picture

Will it allow for unlimited emigration to Mexico?

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 17:06 | 3287555 Kobe Beef
Kobe Beef's picture

The UN High Kommisar on Refugees has big plans for millions of Bangladeshi "Climate Refugees". Don't count out the NWO yet. They've got plans upon plans for Japan. The question is, do they have all their Phillip Drus in place to effect the changes needed in the Japanese Bureaucracy yet. Time will tell.

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 22:52 | 3284267 RideTheWalrus
RideTheWalrus's picture

Soylent Sushi is old people!!

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 22:55 | 3284274 suteibu
suteibu's picture

"a particularly good place to look is rural areas, which already are experiencing depopulation often at a striking rate.  The reason rural areas are of particular importance is that in addition to low birth rates, they also tend to experience significant outflows of young people who move to urban areas or abroad."

Young people leaving for urban areas is THE reason for the depopulation of the rural areas, including the lower birthrate.  Duh!

Government policy is central to the hollowing out of the rural areas and destroying the traditional family.  Generations of using schools to train factory workers while offering no incentives for factories to locate in rural areas will have that effect.  So will the creation of a massive welfare state that replaces the family with an all-caring (though currently bankrupt) government. 

What Japan is going through is the expected results of large scale socialism.  The problem isn't depopulation, it's the central planning government.

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 23:03 | 3284284 Monedas
Monedas's picture

We have "Tax Genocide" of the Randian filth (goverment hole lickers who enable Socialism by giving their all without question nor complaint) .... (Tim McVeigh and Anders Braevik were not government hole lickers) .... compounded by aggressive immigration and fecundity of the welfare ward client voters !

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 23:09 | 3284304 magpie
magpie's picture

Are you channeling the Powerpuff Girls...they don't like loose lips, i think.

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 23:36 | 3284397 GMadScientist
GMadScientist's picture

Take a drive through Arizona, Monedas.

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 23:03 | 3284292 besnook
besnook's picture

post post industrial modernism. the japanese are the real genius' of cultural, societal adaptation. hence the focus on technology to solve pending elderly care issues as one solution to depopulation with an aging population. these are technologies that will be exported to the world, another part of the plan to maintain the wealth of the nation. better productivity with a smaller population means higher per capita income which means maintenance of wealth and the standard of living. the fact that some of the elderly are foregoing some of the ancestral death rituals actually points to a "duty" to die without burden upon the country, community and family in that order. my grandmother was an example of that "responsibility" dying without extraordinary measures to treat terminal cancer at 89 years old more than ten years ago. what was considered a politcian's gaff for saying old people must hurry up and die is actually a common sentiment in japan but abhorrent to western perspective. kevorkian may successfully reincarnate in japan as another adaptation. all in all, the success of industrialization in limiting population growth around the world may save the world from the easter island model the world has been bent upon following but it will take a long time to convince economists, bankers and businessmen that avoiding the easter island fate is the best allocation of resources especially if it can be done while preserving a few luxuries.

the real problem is the world financial condition which is not exclusive to japan.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 03:49 | 3284879 Vlad Tepid
Vlad Tepid's picture

Please copy and paste this into every ZH thread breathlessly predicting the end of Japan via population bomb.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 07:13 | 3285058 BigDuke6
BigDuke6's picture

Comments of true thought have sadly become rare on zh.
Thanks and well done

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 10:26 | 3285476 VyseLegendaire
VyseLegendaire's picture

"all in all, the success of industrialization in limiting population growth around the world may save the world from the easter island model the world has been bent upon following but it will take a long time to convince economists, bankers and businessmen that avoiding the easter island fate is the best allocation of resources especially if it can be done while preserving a few luxuries."

That's a pretty big 'what-if' scenario.  What evidence is there that the earth as a whole is going to see the light and willfully slow down growth in favor of 'robots to care for the elderly' moderl? 

In Japan the elderly wishing to die fast for the 'sake of the nation' is a psychotic and suicidal notion.  

Second, I don't understand why the rest of the world would move to this model if that's what you're suggesting. The average age of planet earth is not as old as in Japan and other nations are still growing young populations.  

 Third, isn't it true that Japan has fallen behind the curve in scientific and industrial innovations and the idea of a high-tech Japan is one of wistful 20th century fantasies of world economic domination, belied by a very 3rd world and analogue reality, the death of opportunity for the young since the explosion of the Ponzi in 1989, and accentuated by a stagnant and rigormortified culture?

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 23:15 | 3284317 Bicycle Repairman
Bicycle Repairman's picture

Japanese demographic problems?  No mention of Fukushima?

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 05:13 | 3284928 Reptil
Reptil's picture

A blind spot for many analysts.

Japan is not just changing, it's mutating:

And it's not just Japan, it's the USA as well. At 9 minutes 48 seconds in:

(and Europe, and Russia, Australia, China, everywhere the nuclear/militairy industry took hold in the past 60 years)

It's been known to the death cult of nuclear that there are huge problems with nuclear contamination. It's slow, it's invisible at first, but it is irreversible.
This is an "extinction event" sized problem. Because of the problem of bio accumulation it will concentrate throughout the food chain.

There's enough evidence that "low level" contamination has disastrous consequences:

Even strategic analysts like DARPA are aware of the magnitude:

And none of the suits is taking real steps to counter it. Instead they're still counting the imaginairy money. Time to make some hard descisions about our faltering leadership.

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 23:23 | 3284345 Stuck on Zero
Stuck on Zero's picture

We have worse demographic problems in the U.S.  We will have 75 million retirees and a 30% unemployment rate among young people.  We also have millions in jail, on welfare, disability, or working for government.  Japan's problems look simple compared to ours.


Wed, 02/27/2013 - 23:35 | 3284394 Freddie
Freddie's picture

Japan can have demographics problems, Fukashima, a war with China, a debt bomb, and Godzilla destroying Tokyo and they would sill be better off than America.  Because America has Obama.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 03:50 | 3284881 Vlad Tepid
Vlad Tepid's picture

They have Obama in Japan as well.

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 23:36 | 3284400 GMadScientist
GMadScientist's picture

Imagine how much uglier unemployment would be with all those cons on the street!

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 03:59 | 3284888 Totentänzerlied
Totentänzerlied's picture

Point taken but under what circumstances would it ever make sense to include felons in the same pool of "employable" people as non-felons?

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 08:32 | 3285168 GMadScientist
GMadScientist's picture

When you actually want them to become productive citizens again instead of just lapsing into recitivism.

You don't think cons can hang drywall?!

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 23:40 | 3284401 williambanzai7
williambanzai7's picture

The simple reality that the MSM refuse to acknowledge is the Japanese population is downsizing. And increasingly, they will no longer accept the bullshit that is spoon fed to them.

They always had the frugality in their genes.

Moreover, the younger generations no longer blindly accept the traditional salary man way of life. What was not cool to them is now considered a form of insanity.

Similarly, young women are rejecting the traditional role of female subservience to a male bread winner.

This is the upheavel the  bureaucratic statists are in denial about.

The real way out of their funk is liberalizing barriers to trade entry, which for too many still, is a bigger quake than Fukushima.

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 23:46 | 3284432 suteibu
suteibu's picture

Liberalizing trade is always a good thing, but the TPP ain't the vehicle for it.  Japan needs to mend ties in Asia and free up that trade.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 00:39 | 3284594 williambanzai7
williambanzai7's picture

Yes, mending ties is another sensible thing that has been in a perpetual state of Japanese constipation.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 00:57 | 3284637 Midas
Midas's picture

I've rejected the traditional male role of subservience to a bread-loser.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 10:25 | 3285472 Imminent Crucible
Imminent Crucible's picture

You musta picked the wrong kind. I'm embracing the traditional male role of subservience to a bread baker--who's also extremely skilled with her hands and whatnot.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 03:54 | 3284885 Vlad Tepid
Vlad Tepid's picture

If you think Japanese women are subservient in the home, you've been watching too much Japanese porn.  They OWN the bread-winner.  You have not seen pussy-whipping until you've seen ANY Japanese male in his own home.  It is a standard cultural phenomenon that the man hands over his ENTIRE paycheck to his wife and then she gives him an "allowance" immediately in return.  That's just the beginning.

To the extent that Japanese women are giving up Japanese men it is preceisely that they are so supine and "herbivorous." 

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 04:02 | 3284890 Totentänzerlied
Totentänzerlied's picture

If you were raised in Japan in the late 20th or thus-far 21st century would you be any different? Economic changes do not remain confined to the economy.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 04:54 | 3284935 Vlad Tepid
Vlad Tepid's picture

I'm not making a value judgement, just a corrective observation.

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 23:39 | 3284404 steve from virginia
steve from virginia's picture



Japan ... a country that is massively over-populated ... the establishment constantly whines about 'depopulation' as if the Black Death has just erupted in the country.


If Japanese young people are like Americans there are many who want to farm but cannot surmount hgh barriers to entry.


There is a lot of vacant farmland in the US, held by specs waiting for the next property bubble. Undoubtedly the same situation in Japan.



Thu, 02/28/2013 - 03:59 | 3284889 Vlad Tepid
Vlad Tepid's picture

The vacant farmland is held by banks who hold it in foreclosure when family memebers fail to claim it after the death of rural loved ones.  They can hardly give the stuff away so it sits fallow as the article states.  Japan is not massively overpopulated.  That is an outright fallacy.  It has severe imbalances in it's population distribution.  Those are two VERY different things.

You are correct that there are many young people who want to go back to farming.  The reasons they can't have to do with structural problems like zoning, subsidies, and a lack of training programs/agricultural colleges.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 04:09 | 3284901 Totentänzerlied
Totentänzerlied's picture

Would you admit it's overpopulated if its energy costs doubled?

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 05:01 | 3284942 Vlad Tepid
Vlad Tepid's picture

Anyone's standard of living would drop if energy costs doubled, regardless of population fact, tight density will probably somewhat mitigate rising energy costs.  Japan, as the article seems to try to point out, is largely DE-populated.  Vast swaths of the country have no one or a few elderly living in them.  You can't travel the country as I have and call it overpopulated.  There is NO ONE living in 80% of the places people used to live.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 10:27 | 3285482 Imminent Crucible
Imminent Crucible's picture

Why don't the Japanese just move back to the countryside and eat the bears? Why does everything have to be made so difficult? Simple solutions abound, such as Shoot all the bankers, hang all the lawyers.

Wed, 02/27/2013 - 23:39 | 3284411's picture

Now that the reactors at Fukashima have breached containment the population will be exposed to increasing levels of radiation which will also impact lifespan and quality of life.  General Electric and TEPCO combined to strike a blow for zero population in Japan; heck of an experiment.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 05:30 | 3284976 Random
Random's picture

Shiiit, i know the shit's bad with all that radiation and starving bullshit but we have this guy Not sure...

On a more serious note, thus far (shortly it will be 2 years since the "nuclear accident") and nobody died. In my book this INES level 7 accident is looking like an oxymoron.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 00:30 | 3284575 Northern Lights
Northern Lights's picture

Japan can talk and do whatever it wants to try and improve itself as a country, but that seaside spector in the background spewing radiation is the ultimate death of that country.  The people on that island and Okinawa fed and survived off the ocean surrounding them. The radiation is spewing into the ocean and eventually, you won't be able to eat anything caught within a 500km radius off either coast.

If humanity is indeed declining, the first place on earth to be officially deemed unlivable will be Japan.

Sad really. I'd thought many times in the past that I'd like to take a 2 week vacation and go to Japan to see the sights and sample the women.  That door is closing if it hasn't closed already as I would now have to limit my stay to no more than 7 days.

Saw a few youtube videos of tourists in Tokyo with a radiation gigger-counter. The guy turned it on an pointed it into the air.  Radiation levels were considered "mild". However, as soon as he put that gigger-counter on the ground, the needle started jumping around.


Thu, 02/28/2013 - 04:04 | 3284893 Vlad Tepid
Vlad Tepid's picture

Well thank God we won't be seeing you around Japan any time soon.  I have already declared Detroit and Stockton unliveable, so you were beaten to the punch.  Have fun with your "gigger-counter" and good luck getting laid by telling the girls their home is a toxic nuclear wasteland.  As a matter of record, more people in the US died of chemotherapy TREATMENT than have died from Fukushima radiation (grand total of zero so far.  I could be off by one) but I'm sure you'll update us on the death toll as the decades roll on.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 08:04 | 3285123 Bicycle Repairman
Bicycle Repairman's picture

"As a matter of record, more people in the US died of chemotherapy TREATMENT than have died from Fukushima radiation (grand total of zero so far.  I could be off by one)"

Don't start in with the Fukushima didn't kill anyone shit.  Makes you look like an ignorant shill.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 02:09 | 3284779 savagegoose
savagegoose's picture

so if america goes to civil war, wh gets the drones?  anonymous?

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 06:24 | 3285008 Agent 440
Agent 440's picture

Just hold still. : )

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 02:14 | 3284782 Super Broccoli
Super Broccoli's picture

and decrease in population is very deflationary ;-) PRINT ABE, PRINT ALL YOU CAN BITCH !

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 03:19 | 3284852 shinobi-7
shinobi-7's picture

All this overlooks the wealth effect of a declining population. It is no coincidence that the renaissance came just after the black death. Likewise the population decline in Japan can be compensated by increased robotization. Too bad the government believes that this is also the opportunity for one of the largest debt bubble in history. Uncharted waters is probably a good description of what's ahead for Japan.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 03:37 | 3284868 Vlad Tepid
Vlad Tepid's picture

+1 for mentioning the wealth effect.  That is almost never talked about.  A fraction of the population will inherit the capital of a much large population of today.  

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 03:35 | 3284867 Vlad Tepid
Vlad Tepid's picture

Good thing the Japanese are the best in the world at cultural adaptation (imperialism, science, baseball, electronics, etc).  Their transition will go smoothly.  Most other places will go feral.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 06:11 | 3284999 Agent 440
Agent 440's picture

For crying out loud. Am I the only one who's not going to lose sleep over this? Who fraking cares? Send them two Hmong refugees and they'll be back to par in less than a decade. They make tribbles blush.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 08:22 | 3285147 Punch Bag
Punch Bag's picture

Just a wild guess, but you wouldn't be American by any chance?

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 10:32 | 3285509 Imminent Crucible
Imminent Crucible's picture

Only really, really old people know about tribbles. Bill Shatner will die soon, and the entire ST lexicon will soon be lost. Unless they name that new moon Vulcan.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 06:18 | 3285003 leekyuranus
leekyuranus's picture

Yes, the Japanese are 'racist' i.e. they do not accept outsiders. Why not? Because outsiders do not want to join group culture. The average Western Joe in Japan behaves like a wanker in Japanese eyes. Why make him welcome with his stupid ideas of individuality, gender equality, and 9-5 mentality?

Another effect of declining TFR is old people moving out of the countryside to urban areas where social services are better, thereby accelerating rural decline, putting pressure on city councils to provide the services, and property owners in the form of higher land taxes to pay for these services.

Marriage rates are still falling, more women prefer to have a toy dog as a pet rather than struggle with children, and the average Taro (male Japanese) knows he can get it at the local brothel for as little as 3,000 yen (the economy is poor. I hear :o)   )

There are about 1.5 million Chinese in Japan on "work experience", working in supermarkets, convenience stores, and many other less legal pastimes. There's the answer to the falling population; a public denial of immigration, and a compromise workaround in a practical manner. Japanese style.

Still a great place to live - if you are not Japanese, and don't try to change them.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 10:04 | 3285404 MajorWoody
MajorWoody's picture

good post , but 1.5 Mil chinese?, really is it that high?

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 07:16 | 3285061 BigInJapan
BigInJapan's picture

OK! So we need more babies in Japan. More babies come from more fukkin'. Sign up sheets are at the front.

Fuck Japan. . . back into shape.

Who's with me?

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 07:51 | 3285100 BobRocket
BobRocket's picture

The only way to stem the ageing demographic and increase the TFR is to increase child mortality. (plague or war bitchez)


It is possible to defer the inevitable population decline by importing high fecundity individuals from third world countries but the problem is that the children of these imports will be first worlders and will adopt the local low TFR.

Worse still is the fact that the new imports will send money and knowledge back to their original country which in time reduces their child mortality rate and they start to adopt first world TFR.

At some point, a first world country will open its doors to immigrate new breeders and no one will step forward.


TFR in the UK started to fall at the end of the nineteenth century, the first and second world wars gave it a baby boom but by the late fifties it was back to 1.6 and falling. They imported West Indians (the windrush) which worked for a while and they got lucky with Idi Amin expelling the Ugandan Asians in the seventies. Since then they have been importing people from Africa (mainly Nigeria/Somalia) and Pakistan.


The sequence is

Child mortality reduced, population grows, fertility rate falls, population ages, population drops off cliff.


In the UK there are currently 4 people of working age for every person of pensionable age, by 2030 it will be 2.

(and that is despite importing people on an industrial scale since the 1950's)


Unless we start killing children then the future is one of deflation and devaluation of asset value (less buyers in the market for more available goods)



Thu, 02/28/2013 - 07:53 | 3285106 Kiwi Pete
Kiwi Pete's picture

They're still arrogant as all fuck. Look how they continue with their whale hunting even though they can't sell what they've already caught. Apparantly most Japanese people don't like it's taste. Then their ships try to ram the protester's boats and illegally throw stun grenades at them. (Your piss poor Govt doesn't stand up for the American citizen on board and even goes so far as to declare him a pirate - but that's another story)

And look how they piss off all their neighbours. The Chinese hate them and so do the Koreans. They are truely the Jews of the Pacific Rim. Nobody will miss them when they're gone.


Thu, 02/28/2013 - 08:19 | 3285144 Punch Bag
Punch Bag's picture

Arrogant...unlike kiwis I guess.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 08:24 | 3285153 Getting Old Sucks
Getting Old Sucks's picture

"They're still arrogant as all fuck."

You can say that again.  I visit Hawaii (Honolulu) every year.  They walk around like they own the Islands.  Walking down a crowded street, they'll walk four across and either you move aside for them or they'll bump into you with no acknowledgement.  The native Hawaiians hate them but mainlanders kiss their asses because of the money they bring over.  

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 08:34 | 3285170 GMadScientist
GMadScientist's picture

They are welcome to bounce their heads off my sternum as they bump into me.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 16:52 | 3287490 Kobe Beef
Kobe Beef's picture

'round here we call it "bowling for salarymen."

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 08:03 | 3285122 Peterus
Peterus's picture

"The increasingly inverted structure of Japan’s population pyramid, with fewer young people than old people, means that it will be very difficult to generate the tax revenues necessary to pay for the healthcare needs of the elderly."


Social Security Ponzi has significantly shortened lifespan with declining population. And obviously Social Security Ponzi is the only way to provide necessary services for the elderly. Even simpler - without Social Security Ponzi all the old people that were already robbed of their wealth in paying into it will now be left to die gruesome horrible deaths... anyone opposing Social Security Ponzi is an enemy to tax revenues and old people murderer.

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 14:47 | 3286716 CTG_Sweden
CTG_Sweden's picture

Low birth rates would not have been a great problem if the Japanese had made more productive investments in emerging economies abroad rather than bought government bonds. I also suspect that they should have invested in emerging economies abroad rather than built bridges to nowhere in order to reduce the unemployment figures.

So far, Japan has not needed a more labour. I doubt they will need it in the future. If they increase the supply of labour the result will probably be additional costs due to more unemployed people rather than more tax revenues. Robots and computers can do more and more work which previously required humans. The number of teachers can probably be cut by 80 % if they use pre-recorded lessons broadcasted over the Internet. That´s one example of how you can reduce the need for labour drastically and benefit from technological advancements.

Japan does probably not have a big, future labour shortage problem. Perhaps they should try to increase the birth rate somewhat. And I don´t think that should be a problem. But I doubt they need a 2 children per woman birth rate.




Thu, 02/28/2013 - 17:15 | 3287612 Blistering Barnacles
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One of the best threads i have read in a long time

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