Though demographers have long anticipated the transformation Japan is now facing, the country only now seems to be sobering up to the epic metamorphosis at hand.
Police and firefighters are grappling with the safety hazards of a growing number of vacant buildings. Transportation authorities are discussing which roads and bus lines are worth maintaining and cutting those they can no longer justify. Aging small-business owners and farmers are having trouble finding successors to take over their enterprises. Each year, the nation is shuttering 500 schools.
“Now, in every area — land planning, urban planning, economic planning — every branch of government is trying to do what they can,” said Reiko Hayashi, a researcher at the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.
And how bad is it likely to be?
Now, the country has begun a white-knuckle ride in which it will shed about one-third of its population — 40 million people — by 2060, experts predict. In 30 years, 39% of Japan’s population will be 65 or older.
If the United States experienced a similar population contraction, it would be like losing every single inhabitant of California, New York, Texas and Florida — more than 100 million people.
The country may become more like a Miyazaki movie:
A bigger issue now is wildlife: The village’s population has become so sparse that wild bears, boars and deer are roaming the streets with increasing frequency.
Here is the Julie Makinen story, via Jake Seliger. Alternatively, here is a Shanu Athiparambath article on the crowdedness of Mumbai.