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The demographic features of the population of Japanmarker include population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population.

Birth and death rates of Japan since 1950.
Notice year 1966 drop birth rates because of "Fire Horse" in Chinese horoscope that year.
As of March 2009, Japanmarker's population is 127,076,183, making it the world's tenth most populated country. Its size can be attributed to fast growth rates experienced during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

After having experienced net population loss over a number of years, due to falling birth rates and almost no net immigration, despite having one of the highest life expectancies in the world, at 81.25 years of age as of 2006,, Japan's population rose for a second year in a row in 2009, mainly due to the fact that more Japanese returned to Japan than left.

Japan is also noted for its ethnically and linguistically homogeneous population and strict laws regarding immigration.

The population of Japan in 2000, in the exact beginning of the year 2000, was 127 million. Its population ranked 9th in the world. Its population density was 336 people per square kilometre.

The population ranking of Japan dropped from 7th to 8th in 1990 and from 8th to 9th in 1998.

Urban distribution

Japan is an urban society with only about 5% of the labor force engaged in agriculture. Many farmers supplement their income with part-time jobs in nearby towns and cities. About 80 million of the urban population is heavily concentrated on the Pacific shore of Honshūmarker. Metropolitan Tokyomarker-Yokohama, with 35,000,000 people, is the world's most populous city. Japan faces the same problems that confront urban industrialized societies throughout the world: over-crowded cities and congested highways.


Japanese society of Yamato people is linguistically homogeneous with small populations of Koreans (0.6 million), Chinese/Taiwanese (0.5 million), Braziliansmarker (300,000, many of whom are ethnically Japanese), and Filipino (245,518 some being Japanese Filipino; children of Japanese and Filipino parentage). Japan has indigenous minority groups such as the Ainu and Ryukyuans and social minority groups like the burakumin.

Japanese citizenship is conferred jus sanguinis, and monolingual Japanese-speaking minorities often reside in Japan for generations under permanent residency status without acquiring citizenship in their country of birth, although legally they are allowed to do so. Some 10,000 Zainichi Koreans naturalize every year. Approximately 98.6% of the population is pure Japanese (though technically this figure includes all naturalized people regardless of race) and 99% of the population speak Japanese as their first language. Non-ethnic Japanese in the past, and to an extent in the present, also live in small numbers in the Japanese archipelago.

Birth rate

In February 2007, demographers and the Japanese government announced the first significant rise in the national birth rate in 40 years took place in 2006. The nation had 1.2 million births in 2000.

Population density

Japan's population density is 339 persons per square kilometer according to the United Nations World Populations Prospects Report as of July 2005. It ranks 32nd in a list of countries by population density, ranking directly above Indiamarker (336 per km²) and directly below Belgiummarker (341 per km²).

Between 1955 and 1989, land prices in the six largest cities increased 15,000% (+12% a year). Urban land prices generally increased 40% from 1980 to 1987; in the six largest cities, the price of land doubled over that period. For many families, this trend put housing in central cities out of reach. The result was lengthy commutes for many workers; daily commutes of two hours each way are not uncommon in the Tokyo area. Since about the year 2000, after a decade of declining land prices, residents have been moving back into central city areas (especially Tokyo's 23 wards), as evidenced by 2005 census figures. Despite the large amount of forested land in Japan, park in cities are smaller and scarcer than in major West European or North American cities, which average 10 times the amount of parkland per inhabitant.

National and regional governments devote resources to making regional cities and rural areas more attractive by developing transportation networks, social services, industry, and educational institutions in attempts to decentralize settlement and improve the quality of life. Nevertheless, major cities, especially Tokyo, Yokohama and Chiba and, to a lesser extent, Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe, remain attractive to young people seeking education and jobs.

Like other postindustrial countries, Japanmarker faces the benefits as well as potential drawbacks associated with an aging population. While young populations such as those in sub-Saharan Africa inevitably face problems of crime, poverty, and underdevelopment, older populations enjoy a much higher quality of life. In 1989, only 11.6% of the population was 65 years or older, but projections were that 25.6% would be in that age category by 2030. However, those estimates now seem low given that 21.2% (as of April 2007) are already 65 and over, now the world's highest. The change will have taken place in a shorter span of time than in any other country.

This aging of the population was brought about by a combination of low fertility and high life expectancies (i.e. low mortality). In 1993 the birth rate was estimated at 10.3 per 1,000 population, and the average number of children born to a woman over her lifetime has been fewer than two since the late 1970s (the average number was estimated at 1.5 in 1993). Family planning was nearly universal, with condoms and legal abortions the main forms of birth control. A number of factors contributed to the trend toward small families: high education, devotion to raising healthy children, late marriage, increased participation of women in the labor force, small living spaces, education about the problems of overpopulation, and the high costs of child education. Life expectancies at birth, 76.4 years for males and 82.2 years for women in 1993, were the highest in the world. (The expected life span at the end of World War II, for both males and females, was 50 years.) The mortality rate in 1993 was estimated at 7.2 per 1,000 population. The leading causes of death are cancer, heart disease, and cerebrovascular disease, a pattern common to postindustrial societies.

Public policy, the media, and discussions with private citizens revealed a high level of concern for the implications of one in four persons in Japan being 65 or older. By 2025 the dependency ratio (the ratio of people under age 15 plus those 65 and older to those age 15–65, indicating in a general way the ratio of the dependent population to the working population) was expected to be two dependents for every three workers. This is actually a quite low dependency ratio, for example, Uganda has 1.3 dependents for every one worker. The aging of the population was already becoming evident in the aging of the labor force and the shortage of young workers in the late-1980s, with potential impacts on employment practices, wages and benefits, and the roles of women in the labor force. The increasing proportion of elderly people also had a major impact on government spending. Millions of dollars are saved every year on education and on health care and welfare for children. As recently as the early-1970s, social expenditures amounted to only about 6% of Japan's national income. In 1992 that portion of the national budget was 18%, and it was expected that by 2025, 27% of national income would be spent on social welfare.

In addition, the median age of the elderly population was rising in the late 1980s. The proportion of people age 65–85 was expected to increase from 6% in 1985 to 15% in 2025. Because the incidence of chronic disease increases with age, the health care and pension systems are expected to come under severe strain. In the mid-1980s the government began to reevaluate the relative burdens of government and the private sector in health care and pensions, and it established policies to control government costs in these programs. Recognizing the lower probability that an elderly person will be residing with an adult child and the higher probability of any daughter or daughter-in-law's participation in the paid labor force, the government encouraged establishment of nursing homes, day-care facilities for the elderly, and home health programs. Longer life spans are altering relations between spouses and across generations, creating new government responsibilities, and changing virtually all aspects of social life.


Internal migration

Between 6 million and 7 million people moved their residences each year during the 1980s. About 50% of these moves were within the same prefecture; the others were relocations from one prefecture to another. During Japan's economic development in the twentieth century, and especially during the 1950s and 1960s, migration was characterized by urbanization as people from rural areas in increasing numbers moved to the larger metropolitan areas in search of better jobs and education. Out-migration from rural prefectures continued in the late 1980s, but more slowly than in previous decades.

In the 1980s, government policy provided support for new urban development away from the large cities, particularly Tokyo, and assisted regional cities to attract young people to live and work there. Regional cities offered familiarity to those from nearby areas, lower costs of living, shorter commutes, and, in general, a more relaxed lifestyle than could be had in larger cities. Young people continued to move to large cities, however, to attend universities and find work, but some returned to regional cities (a pattern known as U-turn) or to their prefecture of origin (a pattern referred to as J-turn).

Government statistics show that in the 1980s significant numbers of people left the largest central cities (Tokyo and Osaka) to move to suburbs within their metropolitan areas. In 1988 more than 500,000 people left Tokyo, which experienced a net loss through migration of nearly 73,000 for the year. Osaka had a net loss of nearly 36,000 in the same year. However, the prefectures showing the highest net growth are located near the major urban centers, such as Saitamamarker, Chibamarker, Ibarakimarker, and Kanagawamarker around Tokyo, and Hyogomarker, Naramarker, and Shigamarker near Osaka and Kyoto. This pattern suggests a process of suburbanization, people moving away from the cities for affordable housing but still commuting there for work and recreation, rather than a true decentralization.


About 663,100 Japanese were living abroad, approximately 75,000 of whom had permanent foreign residency, more than six times the number who had that status in 1975. More than 200,000 Japanese went abroad in 1990 for extended periods of study, research, or business assignments. As the government and private corporations have stressed internationalization, greater numbers of individuals have been directly affected, decreasing Japan's historical insularity. Despite the benefits of experiencing life abroad, individuals who have lived outside of Japan for extended periods often faced problems of discrimination upon their return because others might no longer consider them fully Japanese. By the late 1980s, these problems, particularly the bullying of returnee children in the schools, had become a major public issue both in Japan and in Japanese communities abroad.


Japan has a steady flow of about 15,000 immigrants per year.Japan, though not known for its immigrant population, has a range of foreigners and emigrants living within its borders. Japan has a total of 200,000 — some residents of European (including the arrival of Eastern Europeans and Russians in the late 1980s and 1990s) and North American nationalities (esp. Americansmarker and Canadiansmarker), but most are temporary residents and a small percentage are naturalized citizens.

Japan has relatively small populations of foreign-born Asians: Chinese, Filipinos, Indonesians, Thais and Vietnamese, the majority arrived since the 1970s, but peaked in the 1980s and 1990s. Asian immigration rates, although smaller when compared to immigration into the U.S. or Europe, remain steady.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, Japanese diplomats signed agreements with South Asian officials to obtain an estimated 50,000 temporary "guest workers" to work in Japan (e.g., Bangladeshmarker, Iranmarker, Afghanistanmarker, Pakistanmarker and Indiamarker). Similar guest-worker agreements with Latin American countries, such as Brazilmarker, Uruguaymarker, Chilemarker, Mexicomarker and Perumarker have brought another 20,000 foreigners to Japan, including Latin Americans of Japanese descent who might culturally assimilate into the Japanese population.



Japanese enjoy a high standard of living, and nearly 90% of the population consider themselves part of the middle class. Many studies on happiness and satisfaction with life tend to find that Japanese people average relatively low levels of life satisfaction and happiness when compared to most of the highly developed world. The levels have remained consistent if not declining slightly over the last half century. Japanese have been surveyed to be relatively lacking in financial satisfaction. The suicide rates per 100,000 in Japan in 2004 were 36.5 for men and 12.8 for women, the second-highest in the OECD.


Hisabetsu Buraku

Three native Japanese minority groups can be identified. The largest are the hisabetsu buraku or "discriminated communities," also known as the burakumin. These descendants of premodern outcast hereditary occupational groups, such as butchers, leatherworkers, funeral directors, and certain entertainers, may be considered a Japanese analog of Indiamarker's Dalits. Discrimination against these occupational groups arose historically because of Buddhist prohibitions against killing and Shinto notions of pollution, as well as governmental attempts at social control.

During the Tokugawa period, such people were required to live in special buraku and, like the rest of the population, were bound by sumptuary laws based on the inheritance of social class. The Meiji government abolished most derogatory names applied to these discriminated communities in 1871, but the new laws had little effect on the social discrimination faced by the former outcasts and their descendants. The laws, however, did eliminate the economic monopoly they had over certain occupations. The buraku continue to be treated as social outcasts and some casual interactions with the majority caste was perceived taboo until the era after World War II.

Although members of these discriminated communities are physically indistinguishable from other Japanese, they often live in urban ghettoes or in the traditional special hamlets in rural areas. Some attempt to pass as ordinary Japanese, but the checks on family background that are often part of marriage arrangements and employment applications make this difficult. Estimates of their number range from 2 million to 4 million, or about 2% to 3% of the national population.

Non-Burakumin Japanese claimed that membership in these discriminated communities can be surmised from the location of the family home, occupation, dialect, or mannerisms and, despite legal equality, continued to discriminate against people they surmised to be members of this group. Past and current discrimination has resulted in lower educational attainment and socioeconomic status among hisabetsu buraku than among the majority of Japanese. Movements with objectives ranging from "liberation" to encouraging integration have tried to change this situation.


The second largest minority group among Japanese citizens is the Ryukyuan people. They are primarily distinguished from their use of several distinct Ryukyuan languages though use of Ryukyuan is dying out. The Ryukyuan people and language originated in the Ryukyu Islandsmarker, which are in Okinawa prefecture. Though similar to Japanese culture in many ways, the Ryukyuan culture has had a much larger influence from China than other parts of Japan, due to its geographical position in relation to the east coast of China and the island of Taiwan.


The third largest minority group among Japanese citizens is the Ainu whose language is an isolate. Historically, the Ainu were an indigenous hunting and gathering population who occupied most of northern Honshū as late as the Nara period (A.D. 710-94). As Japanese settlement expanded, the Ainu were pushed northward, until by the Meiji period they were confined by the government to a small area in Hokkaidō, in a manner similar to the placing of Native Americans on reservations. Characterized as remnants of a primitive circumpolar culture, the fewer than 20,000 Ainu in 1990 were considered racially distinct and thus not fully Japanese. Disease and a low birth rate had severely diminished their numbers over the past two centuries, and intermarriage had brought about an almost completely mixed population.

Although no longer in daily use, the Ainu language is preserved in epics, songs, and stories transmitted orally over succeeding generations. Distinctive rhythmic music and dances and some Ainu festivals and crafts are preserved, but mainly in order to take advantage of tourism.

Foreign residents

Transition of Numbers of Registered Foreigners in Japan from 5 Major Countries

In 2005 there were 1,555,505 foreign residents permanently residing in Japan, representing 1.22% of the Japanese population.

A significant portion of these foreign residents are in fact the descendants of Korean and Chinese labourers, who, in many cases, despite being born in Japan and only speaking Japanese, are not necessarily classed as Japanese citizens. Most Koreans in Japan have never been to the Korean Peninsula and do not speak Korean.

Foreigners in Japan in 2000 by citizenship.

Source:Japan Statistics Bureau

All non-Japanese without special residential status (people whose residential root go back to pre WWII) are required by law to register with the government and carry alien registration cards. From the early 1980s, a civil disobedience movement encouraged refusal of the fingerprinting that accompanied registration every five years. Those people who opposed fingerprinting argued that it was discriminatory because the only Japanese who were fingerprinted were criminals. The courts upheld fingerprinting, but the law was changed so that fingerprinting was done once rather than with each renewal of the registration.


Japanese citizens are recorded in koseki (family registry) and jūminhyō (resident registry) systems, while foreign residents are only recorded in a separate alien registration system. In some areas, a non-Japanese person cannot be directly added to a koseki, which is the main record of familial relations. As a result, based on official records, the Japanese spouse of a foreigner may appear to be a single head of household, and children may appear as illegitimate. Some municipalities may compromise by allowing foreign spouses to be recorded in the "Notes" section of the koseki and jūminhyō.

Alien registration card

Foreign residents in Japan (those staying for more than 90 days) are issued an alien registration card. By law, foreign residents must carry their passport or alien registration card at all times and present it to police upon demand. Japanese citizens are not required to carry identification.

Foreigner-reporting website and hotline

The Japanese Ministry of Justice maintains a websiteand hotline (English reference) for "receiving report on illegal stay foreigner." Critics assert this is nothing but a snitching service, as the criteria for reporting include "feeling anxious about a foreigner," and anonymous submissions are permitted when reporting any non-Japanese. Japanese immigration authorities work in union with police to investigate those reported, and human rights groups such as Amnesty International have argued that those reported do not receive proper legal protection. The Daiyo Kangoku system allows police to detain suspects without charges, access to legal counsel or telephone calls for up to 23 days. In October 2006, the foreigner reporting hotline's operating hours were extended to include Saturday, Sunday and national holidays.

Fingerprinting foreigners when entering Japan

As of November 20, 2007, all foreigners entering Japan must be biometrically registered (photograph and fingerprints) on arrival; this includes people living in Japan with visas as well as permanent residents, but excludes the Zainichi and Chinese with special permanent resident permission and diplomats and those under 16.

CIA World Factbook demographic statistics

The following demographic statistics are from the CIA World Factbook, unless otherwise indicated.


Population in 47,062, 743 households, 78.7% in urban areas (July 2000). High population density; 329.5 persons per square kilometer for total area; 1,523 persons per square kilometer for habitable land. More than 50% of population lives on 2% of land. (July 1993)

Changes in the Population of Japan

Year Population (July est.) Growth rate (est.)
2009 127,078,679 −0.191%
2008 127,288,416 −0.139%
2007 127,433,494 −0.09%
2006 127,463,611 +0.01%
2005 127,417,244 +0.04%
2004 127,333,002 +0.07%
2003 127,214,499 +0.12%
2002 126,974,628 +0.16%
2001 +0.17
2000 +0.18%
Source: CIA Factbooks 2000-2008.

Year Birth rate (est.): births/1000 pop. Death rate (est.): deaths/1000 pop. Net migration rate (est.): migrants/1000 pop.
2008 7.87 9.26 not available
2007 8.10 8.98 0
2006 8.37 8.92
2005 9.47 8.95
2004 9.56 8.75
2003 9.61 8.55
2000 9.96 8.15

first half
Source: CIA Factbooks 2000-2008.

Age structure

(2009 est.)
0-14 years: 13.5% (male 8, 804, 465/female 8, 344, 800)
15-64 years: 64.3% (male 41, 187, 425/female 40, 533, 876)
65 years and over: 22.2% (male 11, 964, 694/female 16, 243, 419)
(2007 est.)
0-14 years: 13.8% (male 9, 024, 344/female 8, 553, 700)
15-64 years: 65.2% (male 41, 841, 760/female 41, 253, 968)
65 years and over: 21% (male 11, 312, 492/female 15, 447, 230)

(2006 est.)
0-14 years: 14.2% (male 9, 309, 524/female 8, 849, 476)
15-64 years: 65.7% (male 42, 158, 122/female 41, 611, 754)
65 years and over: 20% (male 10, 762, 585/female 14, 772, 150)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.73 male(s)/female
total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 3.24 deaths/1, 000 live births
male: 3.5 deaths/1, 000 live births
female: 2.97 deaths/1, 000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 81.25 years
male: 77.96 years
female: 84.7 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate

1.23 children born/woman (2007 est.)
1.4 children born/woman (2006 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate

less than 0.1% (2004 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

12, 000 (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

500 (2003 est.)


noun: Japanese (singular and plural)
adjective: Japanese

Ethnic groups

99.4% Japanese and 0.6% other, mostly Korean (40.4% of non-Japanese), some Chinese and Filipinos. Ainu, Ryukyuans and hisabetsu buraku constitute native Japanese minority groups.

Foreign citizens

More than 2.5 million (possibly higher because of the illegal immigrants), 14.9% up in five years. North and South Koreans 1 million, Chinese 0.5 million, Filipinos 0.5 million, Brazilians 250,000 and Peruvians 200,000. Other nationalities (examples): Americans, Canadians, Australians, British, Indonesians, Thais, Africans, Iranians, Russians, Turks, Indians and others.

Marital status

Over 15: Married Male 61.8%, Female 58.2%. Never married Male 31.8%, Female 23.7%.
25 - 29: Never married Male 69.3%, Female 54.0%.
30 - 34: Never married Male 42.9%, Female 26.6% (July 2000).


Shinto and Buddhism are Japan's two major religions. They have been co-existing for several centuries and have even complemented each other to a certain degree. Most Japanese consider themselves Buddhist, Shintoist or both.

Net migration rate

0 migrant(s)/1, 000 population (2006 est.)


Japanese. Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Portuguese and English.


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99% (2002 est.)
male: 99% (2002 est.)
female: 99% (2002 est.)
These figures are problematic, as school attendance rates, not tests, are used to determine literacy rates.

See also


External links

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