Japan’s population as of Jan. 1 was down 0.19 percent from a year before at 126.4 million, falling for the fifth straight year, the internal affairs ministry said Wednesday in a report.
The figure uses data from Japan’s resident registry system and does not include foreign residents.
While the number of births in 2013 edged up 955 from the previous year to 1.03 million, the number of deaths reached a record high, at 1.26 million.
As a result, the natural population decline, or the number of deaths over births, stood at 237,450, the highest on record. The population marked a natural decline for the seventh consecutive year.
The number of foreign residents in Japan stood at just over 2 million as of Jan. 1, down 0.12 percent from a year earlier. Since July 2012, the resident registry network system has also handled foreign resident registration.
Of the total Japanese population, 13.04 percent comprised children under 15 years old, down 0.09 percentage points, while people aged 15-64 fell by 0.49 point to 61.98.
The proportion of people aged 65 or over rose 0.58 percent to 24.98 percent, reflecting the aging of the society.
The Japanese population in the three major metropolitan areas of Tokyo, Nagoya and Kansai increased 44,276 to a record high of 64.39 million, indicating the tendency of people to migrate to big cities, especially Tokyo.
The report underlines the urgent need for the government to devise ways to revitalize local economies and communities, experts said.
Of the country’s 47 prefectures, 39 saw population declines. The drop was steepest in Akita, at 1.23 percent, Aomori, at 1.02 percent, and Yamagata, at 0.96 percent.
Fukushima Prefecture, home to Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, saw its population fall at a slower pace of 0.72 percent. An official from the internal affairs ministry said the slowdown suggests that the impact of the nuclear accident has softened.
Eight prefectures experienced population growth, including Tokyo, at 0.53 percent, Okinawa, at 0.42 percent, and Aichi, at 0.16 percent.
Miyagi Prefecture saw a 0.06 percent increase. This was apparently due increasing numbers of people moving there to take part in reconstruction work related to the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The average number of people in a household hit a record low, of 2.30. The average was the lowest in Tokyo, at 1.97.