The regional revitalization initiative launched by the Abe administration five years ago has sought to reverse the concentration of the nation’s population in the greater Tokyo area and reinvigorate the economies in rural parts of the country facing long-term depopulation. The ruling as well as most of the opposition parties have included measures to boost regional economies in their campaign promises for the July 21 Upper House election — which testifies to the continuing plight of many parts of the country that suffer from population drain and the decline of key local industries.

The latest demographic data from the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry indicate that as far as the figures show, the government’s regional revitalization programs have not borne much fruit. As the Japanese population as of Jan. 1 was a record 430,000 smaller than a year earlier — the 10th annual decline in a row — only the five prefectures of Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa and Okinawa saw a population rise, with the number of Japanese in each of the other 42 prefectures falling.

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