Among the many interesting figures highlighted in the April 15 population statistics release of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) is a landmark in the Tokyo Metropolitan District's march to national dominance.
As of October 1 last year the TMD's population had risen to 10% (with a little rounding help) of Japan's total population.
The concentration has historical antecedents. According to the linked pdf document, Tokyo's proportion of the total population rose to 11.1% in the period 1965 to 1969, then began to decline. It fell below a statistical 10.0% twenty-eight years ago, as the great mai homu and manshon boom of the Seventies and Eighties and then the skyrocketing of urban land prices under the late 1980's property bubble drove population out of Tokyo into the surrounding Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba Prefectures. The failure of the financial system to cleanse itself and the grinding down of property values perpetuated the fall in the TMD's relative standing. Little new housing was built as land owners awaited the real estate rebound that never came. Fewer came to try their fortune in Tokyo. Births dropped as couples chose to have fewer children.
The TMD's proportion of the total bottomed out at 9.4% in 1998--the year of the Takushoku Bank and Yamaichi Securities failures and the "Japan Premium" in the debt markets, when the national mood was at its nadir.
During the past decade of economic recovery population has been swirling back population into the TMD. In addition, within the 23 central wards of the TMD natural population growth--i.e., births outnumbering deaths--continues to significantly contribute to population growth as well (these figures not in yesterday's MIC report but in the TMD government's own population report, introduced here). On the aggregate within the TMD, the natural rate of population growth is only just a shade above zero at 0.07% (Easy-going Okinawa remains the land of the breeders, with a 0.54% natural growth rate).
The concentration of the population into a very small number of megacities continues apace. According to the MIC figures, the total population of the Tokyo metro area ( 東京圏 -- i.e., the TMD and the three prefectures surrounding) was 34,827,000--a thumping 27.3% of Japan's total population. The proportion of Japanese living in the top five prefectures by population--the TMD, Kanagawa, Osaka, Aichi and Saitama--is 35.1%, while the proportion of those living in the top 3 urban concentrations--the Tokyo, Aichi and Osaka greater metro areas--is a wild 50.6% of the total national population.
So where are you going to site your retail business? Or invest, if you need workers? Or live, if you want to assure yourself of services as you grow old and as the total national population declines? *
And despite the ingestion of 99,000 new residents from October 2006 to October 2007, in addition to the 12,659,000 that were already there, you still can, if you need to, get away from them all--without ever leaving the TMD.
* Janne Morén will be pleased, I'm sure, by this string of rhetorical questions.