• Jiji

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Japan’s population, including foreign nationals, fell by 868,177 over the past five years, results of the national census survey conducted last year showed.

The population as of Oct. 1 stood at 126,226,568, the internal affairs ministry said in a preliminary report Friday.

The figure has continued to slide since the 2015 survey, which showed the country’s first population decrease since the census began in 1920.

But the rate of decline was smaller, at 0.7%, than the drop of 0.8% five years ago, reflecting an increase in the number of foreign nationals and the temporary return of many Japanese citizens from abroad due to the pandemic.

The population sank in 38 prefectures and rose in nine prefectures.

Tokyo and the neighboring prefectures of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa accounted for about 30% of the country’s population, highlighting the increasing concentration of people in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The area’s combined population increased by some 800,000 people to about 36.93 million.

The number of men stood at 61,360,014, while the number of women came to 64,866,554.

According to United Nations statistics, Japan became the 11th most populous country in the world, ceding last year’s 10th place to Mexico. This is the first time Japan has fallen from the top 10 list since comparable data became available in 1950. The country was once as high as fifth in the world.

Tokyo had the highest population among the 47 prefectures, at 14,064,696, followed by Kanagawa, at 9,240,411, and Osaka, at 8,842,523.

The eight most populous prefectures accounted for over half of the country’s population.

Tottori Prefecture was the least populous prefecture, with 553,847.

Tokyo had the highest rate of population increase, at 4.1%, beating the rate logged in 2015, followed by Okinawa, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Aichi, Fukuoka, Shiga and Osaka.

A total of 33 prefectures posted steeper rates of population decline than five years earlier, with Akita Prefecture marking the sharpest drop at 6.2%.

A total of 1,416 municipalities, or 82.4% of the total in Japan, logged drops in their populations, with the rate of decline reaching 5% or more in 50.9% of municipalities, compared with 48.5% in 2015.

The number of households jumped 4.2% to 55,719,562, reflecting an increase in single-member households. The average number of people per household hit a record low of 2.27.

“While the coronavirus is a unique factor for 2020, the survey results reflected the concentration of people (in Tokyo) through 2019,” an official of the internal affairs ministry said, referring to an outflow of people from Tokyo amid the pandemic.

The release of the preliminary 2020 census report was delayed from February after the survey period was extended due to the coronavirus crisis. A revised report will come out in November.

The ministry also said that 37.9% of census respondents in 2020 gave answers online, up 1.0 percentage point from 2015, failing to reach its goal of raising the figure to 50%.

Mailed responses accounted for 42.3%, up 8.2 points, while the remaining 19.8% of respondents handed their responses directly to census staff.

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