Will the Japanese hear Elon Musk’s call for a start? “At the risk of stating the obvious, unless something allows more births than deaths, Japan will disappear. And it would be a great loss to the world,” the Tesla and SpaceX founder tweeted last Monday. The most influential business leader on the planet reacted to the announcement of another calamitous year for the demography of the Archipelago. In 2021, the world’s third largest economy saw its population shrink by 644,000 souls, to 125.5 million people. A new march in the collapse of the country, started in 2008, the year of its population peak.
Japan has never solved the problem of its declining birth rate. The number of under-fifteens has been falling since 1982; their share of the population, which has been falling since 1974, now stands at 11.7%. Everywhere, the signs of this depopulation appear. On the site of the IPSS, the local demographic institute, the list of prefectures by age category is dismal like that of the guests of a funeral ceremony. The prefecture of Tottori (southern Japan), for example, has only 22,000 children (0-4 years old). This desertification is not limited to the countryside. Even around Omotesando, the Champs-Elysées in Tokyo, a plethora of surrounding houses are vacant despite the value of real estate in this part of the capital. “The owners of these homes have no heirs. The neighborhood is withering away,” laments Seiichi Matsui, former president of the neighborhood merchants’ association.