demographics Japan

The Demographics

of Japan, II



scary line (3) Halloween
binder predict outnumber
quaint postcard find/found/found
empty hillside give/gave/given
list bureau give away
get (2) potential abandoned
settle for free rec center
deploy long ago population
census darn (2) lose/lost/lost
status move (2) store-front
local grade (3) desperate
dozen race (2) couple (2)
resort resident the race is on
cupid fix up (2) play cupid
gift face (2) extinction
senior peak (2) run out (2)
dire forecast demographic
go off issue (3) time bomb (2)
decline preview immigration
yell decrease take away (2)
scream shortage lead/led/led
recent countless drive/drove/driven
toll (2) decision take a toll on
fund oppose shrink/shrank/shrunk
rapid wealthy demography
shift average think/thought/thought
planet reinvent love affair (2)
cater massive departed (2)
re-toll generous mausoleum
pay off deal (2) loved-ones
lack funeral all sorts of
tour take on long-lasting
host perform make up (3)
monk relocate replacement
town hall






It’s not exactly Halloween-style scary, but the US Census Bureau predicted this past week that Americans over sixty-five (65) will outnumber children, just fifteen years from now.

So what might an aging America look like?

Maybe something like what Ben Tracy finds in this postcard from Japan.


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In the hillsides outside of Tokyo is the quaint village of Okutama, Japan.

Ben Tracy, Reporter: “So this house is empty?”
Masuriho Yamada: “Yes.”

And Masuhiro Yamada has probably the most important job in town.

Ben Tracy, Reporter: “All of these homes, the town is giving away?”
Masuriho Yamada: “Yes.”

His binder lists all of the empty and abandoned homes in Okutama, which he then gets to give away.

Ben Tracy, Reporter: “If somebody wants to live here, they could potentially get this house for free?”

He says “yes”. If you live in the house for fifteen years, we will give it to you for free.

Ben Tracy, Reporter: “That’s a really good deal.”

“Yes,” he says. “We want people to settle here.”

Okutama isn’t generous — it’s desperate.

In recent decades, it’s lost half of its population. The main street is lined with closed store-fronts. Most of the people who still live here have what you might call “senior status”.

And at the local school, the entire third grade has just six kids; not so long ago, there were dozens.

So at town hall, the race is on to find new residents. Yamada has even resorted to playing Cupid.

Ben Tracy, Reporter: “So you fixed up this couple, and you gave them this house as a gift, to get them to move here?”
“Yes,” he says. “We also have them the house.”
Ben Tracy, Reporter: “Anything to get people to move here.”
Masuriho Yamada: “We do it all.”

Nearly one-thousand other Japanese towns and villages face extinction, because the country is simply running out of people.

Japan’s population peaked several years ago, at one-hundred-twenty-eight (128) million.

And if the dire forecast comes true, Japan will have as few as fifty-nine million people by 2100. That means for every two Japanese residents today, there would be less than one by the end of the century.

Ben Tracy, Reporter: “So if this is really a demographic time-bomb, has the bomb gone off?”
John Mock: “The bomb is going off.”

John Mock is an expert on population issues at Temple University in Japan. He says what’s happening in Japan is a preview of what many Western countries, including the United States, will soon face.

John Mock, Demographer, Temple University: “Take away immigration from the United States, you’re going to have a decreasing or close to it. There’s lots of yelling and screaming about immigration.

But there’s very little discussion in the United States about birth rates, and what population do you want the United States to be.”

In Japan, which has historically opposed immigration, immigrants now make up two percent of the population. That’s led to an extreme labor shortage.

And that’s why you see countless Japanese men driving taxis in Tokyo, rather than young, new arrivals.

The real issue here in Japan is simple mathematics: too few women are having too few babies. And the reasons may sound familiar: they’re getting married later in life; and housing and educating kids is really darn expensive.
Those decisions will take a toll on Japan’s economy. The International Monetary Fund predicts Japan’s GDP will shrink by twenty-five percent (25%) over the next forty years because of it’s rapidly aging and declining population.

Reporter: “What does this country look like fifty (50) years from now?”
John Mock, Demographer, Temple University: “I don’t Japan will be as wealthy as it is now, because along with the population shift, the average age of Japan is going up.”

So Japan is being forced to be creative, reinventing nearly everything for what is now the oldest populations on the planet. Shopping center are being re-tooled as massive rec centers for seniors, with stores catering to their needs.

This high-tech mausoleum makes it easier for the elderly to visit their departed loved-ones.

And then there are the robots: Japan’s long-lasting love affair with them is finally paying off. They will be used to make up for a lack of human workers, and take on all sorts of jobs, everything from tour guides to talk show hosts.

The bots are also deployed to work in nursing homes, even perform funerals due to a shortage of monks.

There is no robot replacement for Masuhiro Yamada in Okutama, which is okay, because his house give-away is getting results: about five-hundred (500) people have relocated here, including this couple who received a two-story home, and also opened a coffee shop.

Reporter: “Will you stay for fifteen years so that you get the house for free?” She says, “yes, of course.”

But what also seems certain is that during those fifteen years, is that their small town will get even smaller.


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1. Will the demographics of the United States and Japan resemble a pyramid, diamond, cylinder or upside-down pyramid?

2. Housing is very expensive in the village of Okutama, Japan. True or false?

3. Does the village have a radical solution to its problem?

4. Has the town changed over the years? What was it like before? What is it like now?

5. Is the town of Okutama unique in Japan? What is its demographic trend?

6. Will Japan’s economy grow, shrink or remain the same? Are they very open to immigration. What is their solution to labor shortages?

7. There has been a migration reversal. Is this correct or incorrect?


A. Is your village, town or city increasing in size, decreasing, or remaining the same?

B. What can you say about rural versus urban population sizes?

C. The population of our country is increasing. Yes or no? Is there any immigration?

D. What might happen in the future?

E. Are there any solutions to migration and demographic issues?

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