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Japan..... Losing Population

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posted on Mar, 5 2005 @ 12:59 AM
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A Baby Bust Empties Out Japan's Schools
Shrinking Population Called Greatest National Problem

By Anthony Faiola
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, March 3, 2005; Page A01

NISHIKI, Japan -- When Kami Hinokinai Junior High opened half a century ago in this picturesque northern village, Fukuyo Suzuki, then a young mother, remembers joining other parents on a warm May afternoon to plant pink azaleas in the schoolyard.

The azaleas are still here, though bare in the winter snow and, like the new occupants of the school, more fragile than they once were. In a nation grappling with a record low birthrate and the world's longest average lifespan, Suzuki, 77, is spending the daytime hours of her twilight years back in the halls of her son's old school.



The second-grade class at the Kami Hinokinai school has only three children and their teacher, due to Japan's low birthrate. The school is to close in 2007. (Anthony Faiola -- The Washington Post)



_____Population Decline_____

• Charts show the decline of Japan's population, which has hit rural areas and small towns particularly hard.



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The junior high, which ceased operation six years ago because of a shortage of children, now houses a community center for the elderly. Suzuki comes to pass her time sipping green tea and weaving straw baskets with other aging villagers.

"I never imagined this school would close and that I would be back here myself," said Suzuki, a farmer's widow who lives with her 52-year-old son. Like one out of four men in Nishiki, her son remains single and childless. "Now, I hear our elementary school is going to close, too," she said. "It's so sad for us. Children are vanishing from our lives."

The change at the junior high in this shrinking village of 5,924 is an example of what analysts describe as Japan's greatest national problem, a combination baby bust and senior citizen boom. Indeed, next year Nishiki is set to pay the highest price for its shrinking population: Unable to sustain its annual budget, it will join a growing list of Japanese towns that have officially ceased to exist and have merged with a neighboring city.

In the aftermath of World War II, the rush to build a modern economy sparked migration from rural towns such as Nishiki to Japan's urban centers. But officials say the lure of the big city is no longer the key factor driving depopulation. For at least the past decade, the leading cause of the town's shrinking population base has been a disturbingly low birthrate.

Last year, 42 babies were born in Nishiki, the lowest number since the town was incorporated in the 1950s, while 75 villagers died, according to local statistics. Nishiki's plight, analysts said, could be an omen of Japan's future.

The national child shortage, even as the population ages, is raising fears about Japan's long-term ability to maintain its status as the world's second-largest economy after the United States. With more Japanese choosing to remain single and forgoing parenthood, the population of almost 128 million is expected to decrease next year, then plunge to about 126 million by 2015 and about 101 million by 2050.

Many people are asking: Will there be enough Japanese left to participate in the economy in the years to come?

"A nation requires a certain scale in the population to continue its momentum, but in Japan, we are confronting a serious combination of a low birthrate and an aging nation," said Kota Murase, a deputy director at Japan's Education Ministry. "Our pension system is already being tested to its limits. And with fewer young people in society, the question is: How are we going to sustain the elderly and the nation's future? We don't have a clear answer yet."

Japan's disappearing schools are emblematic of the problem. More than 2,000 elementary, junior high and high schools nationwide have been forced to close over the past decade. The number of elementary and junior high students fell from 13.42 million in 1994 to 10.86 million last year. An estimated 63,000 teachers have lost their jobs. Even as the percentage of people over 65 steadily climbs, an estimated 300 more schools a year are scheduled to shut their doors over the next several years -- including Nishiki's 122-year-old Kami Hinokinai Elementary School, whose final graduating class will leave in 2007.

"We simply can't go on as we are," said Nishiki's mayor, Chiyoshi Tashiro, 55. "We don't have enough children being born to continue as an independent village. It is sad, but it is our reality."

The baby shortage is altering Japanese society and traditions. In Kisawa, a town on Japan's Shikoku island, elders at the Unai Shrine have long called out the names of newborns at their autumn festival for happiness and health. Last year, there were no new babies to announce.

The lavish department stores of Tokyo have begun eliminating their rooftop playgrounds, replacing them with cafes and picnic areas for adults and the elderly. Over the past decade, 90 theme parks designed for children have closed in Japan; in the same period, Disney opened a popular sea-themed amusement park just outside Tokyo that targets adults more than children and allows the sale of alcohol.

As many as 117 hospitals nationwide now have no permanent obstetrician due to lack of demand and a shrinking pool of obstetricians and gynecologists, according to a survey conducted last year by a medical society based in Tokyo. The number of hospitals in Japan with pediatric wards shrank to 3,473 in 2000 from 4,119 in 1990, according to government statistics.

The list of solutions is short and complicated. The most obvious -- opening Japan to more immigration -- is enormously controversial in a society that is 98.8 percent ethnically homogeneous and, in many respects, still markedly xenophobic. Some farmers in Nishiki who have failed to find Japanese women willing to live traditional lives in rural villages have sought brides in China instead. But village officials said several of the Chinese women fled after they failed to win the acceptance of their new in-laws.

Although it is a national problem, depopulation is most severe in rural areas such as Nishiki, a proud farming and forestry town 248 miles north of Tokyo where the population peaked at 9,180 in 1956. Over the years, families left Nishiki, seeking better fortunes in Japanese cities. The population stabilized in the 1980s, but the birthrate began declining in the 1990s.

It has happened in part because towns such as Nishiki suffer from a shortage not only of children, but also of eligible women. When Japan's economic bubble burst in 1990, Japanese companies seeking less expensive alternatives to men began hiring women for contract and part-time jobs. Gender roles have changed as a result. With increasing financial independence, more women are avoiding marriage. According to a poll released this week by Japan's Yomiuri newspaper, seven out of 10 single Japanese women say they have no desire to become wives -- a role that in Japan still largely means staying home and raising children.

In Nishiki, daughters are now more likely to leave to seek work in big cities, while their brothers stay behind to claim their family inheritance rights. Single men in the village exceed the number of available women by a ratio of about 3 to 2. "It's hard here," said Kazutsugu Asari, 47, an unmarried employee of the city's construction department. "There are lots of single men but fewer women. And many are not interested in traditional lives. I can understand why the women would leave town. But I have an obligation to stay as the eldest son."

Japan has tried just about everything to boost the fertility rate, or number of children per woman, which hit a record low of 1.29 in 2003, compared with 2.01 in the United States. Nishiki is offering cash awards to families that have more than one child, even sponsoring mixers to bring young couples together. But so far, officials concede, most attempts have failed.

Kami Hinokinai Elementary School, where the number of students peaked at 266 in 1960, awaits closure. Today, there are 33 students left, 11 of whom will graduate this year. Only five new students will enter the school this year. Those numbers prompted the decision to shut Kami Hinokinai in 2007 and bus the remaining children to a school about 40 minutes away.

With no other children their age, the two girls and boy in the second grade have learned to make do. Tatsuya Wakamatsu, 8, a quiet boy in a black sweatshirt, says he persuades the girls to play baseball with him at recess and after school. In return, he grudgingly agrees to jump rope with them. "There aren't so many kids for us to play with in the neighborhood and sometimes the older kids tease us, so the three of us always play together," he said.

Adults take part in sporting events to help the students form soccer and baseball teams. Last year, first-grader Takuya Suzuki, 7, had to play two roles in the school play. "I was a mouse and a grandfather," he said, laughing.

When a baby is born in Nishiki, it is huge news. Last August, Yuna Wakamatsu arrived in a part of the community where no child had been born for 10 years. Traditionally, only women would come calling, offering gifts of food and money. But the men also turned out this time, showering Yuna with so many gifts that they now fill most of one room in the Wakamatsus' wood-frame home. "They all wanted to see the face of a baby again," said her beaming grandmother, Tazuko Wakamatsu, 59, who takes care of the infant because both parents work.

In Nishiki, the last pediatrician switched careers in the 1990s, becoming a geriatric specialist. The nearest doctor for Yuna Wakamatsu is almost an hour away in bad weather. "But I suppose there is nothing that can be done about it," said her grandmother. "It's just how it is."


Could this be a trend? Japan is the second largest economy in the world, behind the U.S. Could this adversely affect the U.S. economy? Is the Japanese populous in for "a daddy for hire" scheme?
Could Japan be "Un-Screwing" itself?


Cut me a break....It's my first thread....


Sorry if this is in the wrong category.....I got excited....




posted on Mar, 6 2005 @ 02:49 AM
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It is quite unfortunate this is happening, there is one way that could help, non-sexual reproduction.

If everyone gave DNA smaples, a random set of DNA samples could be mixed in a kind of cloning aparatus, thus creating a new person from two people.



posted on Mar, 6 2005 @ 02:53 AM
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Japan's problem is unwillingness of women to give up careers to have children, not a lack of ability to reproduce. Artifical reproduction would not solve the problem.



posted on Mar, 7 2005 @ 03:27 AM
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The demographic shifts in Japan, while creating several problems have several interesting consequences and solutions as well:

- the run to the cities, especially the females and thus breaking up the tradional lifestyle, does appear to have lessened some feodal based xenophobia in the sence that for upward mobile people in the cities typical european food, clothing and the modern retro mini Cooper has become very fashionable, an early adoption of broadband internet access has also made common Japanese people look more past the horizon of the sea surrounding their island.

- recent polls indicated that majority of Japanese would not longer be unfavourable to a female successor of the emperor (his wife only has a daughter, but not to long a go, even mentioning such a thing was unheard of)

- I just read that for the first time in history SONY has appointed a foreigner to lead the company, British born Howard Stringer, who has previously led Sony America division, also something that would be unheard of not to long ago, but with china emerging , the japanese seek to enhance ties with american interest to build enough counterweight

- The Japanese are putting very much effort in Robot technology to create their workforce of the future.

- Japanese start export their older population to care-centers in surrounding asian countries where more and cheaper staff is available.


[edit on 7-3-2005 by Countermeasures]



posted on Mar, 7 2005 @ 03:54 AM
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The same thing is happening in europe in reference to birth rates, the only reason europe isn't facing the same problem is due to immigration. Anywhere in the world you look, if there is a trend away from traditional family values this happens. When women become convinced that marriage and motherhood are "demeaning" to them this happens.
What do you expect?



posted on Mar, 7 2005 @ 04:21 AM
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Originally posted by djohnsto77
Japan's problem is unwillingness of women to give up careers to have children, not a lack of ability to reproduce. Artifical reproduction would not solve the problem.



Originally posted by mwm1331
The same thing is happening in europe in reference to birth rates, the only reason europe isn't facing the same problem is due to immigration. Anywhere in the world you look, if there is a trend away from traditional family values this happens. When women become convinced that marriage and motherhood are "demeaning" to them this happens.
What do you expect?




Oh my god, I can't believe you two just said that.....wait, actually I can. "Get in the kitchen, take care of your 15 babies, and shut up!".....typical.



posted on Mar, 7 2005 @ 04:32 AM
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Originally posted by Flinx




Oh my god, I can't believe you two just said that.....wait, actually I can. "Get in the kitchen, take care of your 15 babies, and shut up!".....typical.


No flinx thats not what I said, but I'm not surprsed thats how you chose to interpert it.
The simple fact is there is nothing "wrong" or "demeaning" about being either a wife or mother. A woman who has a career is no better than a woman who chooses not to have one in order to raise her family. However the simple fact is many people worldwide are trying to convince women that unless they have a career, the are being opressed. That unless they work that they are "less" than those women who do. That is bull#.
And anyone who tries to help those women who do decide to stay at home regain thier pride is as you did to me, demonised as a mysoginist.
I got news for you, stay at home moms work a hell of a lot harder than you or I do, so get off your high horse.
To those women who do choose to take care of thier family I say, good for you, dont let the feminazi's tell you that you are any less of a woman than they are.



posted on Mar, 7 2005 @ 04:47 AM
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I'll support you in that MWM, he did interpret that wrong. But we do have to recognize the social patterns that have created this psychological setbacks for women in society.



posted on Mar, 7 2005 @ 05:05 AM
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Originally posted by Flinx
Oh my god, I can't believe you two just said that.....wait, actually I can. "Get in the kitchen, take care of your 15 babies, and shut up!".....typical.


This is ridiculous. Neither mwm or myself meant that. It's a simple scientific observation of the problem afflicting birthrates in ALL developed societies, including Europe, the U.S. and Japan.



posted on Mar, 7 2005 @ 05:55 AM
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Yup, I wouldn't go as far to say that "told you so" all females belong behind the kitchen sink, but the Japanese figures just illustrates what happens if a very large number of females replace the kitchen sink with a deskjob.

There are both positive and negative points to the shift in Japan, I mentioned less xenophobia for example, it's all a matter of perspective...

On the other end of the spectrum we have the very very traditional tribal soceities where females walk around in the burka, now how good is that?



[edit on 7-3-2005 by Countermeasures]



posted on Mar, 7 2005 @ 06:31 AM
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Did Japan not at one time limit births in the country due to over population , something like one child per family?



posted on Mar, 7 2005 @ 06:35 AM
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Originally posted by drbryankkruta
Did Japan not at one time limit births in the country due to over population , something like one child per family?


No, you must be thinking of China. Japan has actually had a policy of promoting more child birth for a while now.



posted on Mar, 7 2005 @ 06:42 AM
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Originally posted by djohnsto77

Originally posted by drbryankkruta
Did Japan not at one time limit births in the country due to over population , something like one child per family?


No, you must be thinking of China. Japan has actually had a policy of promoting more child birth for a while now.







That may be , I just remembered hearing it was being discussed by some asian friends of mine, however I dont quite frankly care what race my friends are they are all friends so I couldnt tell you what nationality they where unless I asked.



posted on Mar, 7 2005 @ 07:40 AM
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Originally posted by Ohio_Ron
A Baby Bust Empties Out Japan's Schools
Shrinking Population Called Greatest National Problem
I got excited....


It's about Bloody time cause it's Bloody Crowded in Japan... Kyoto is not as bad as most but trust me it's BAD...

Neon.



posted on Mar, 7 2005 @ 08:09 AM
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The only negative factor of a reduced birth-rate is a temporary strain on the economy as the few young have to support the many old. There's a simple solution to that: Cull the old.

I mean, think about it. You could have a voluntary program where those who put themselves up for voluntary euthenasia get a big cash pay-out to their surviving family members.

Or you could have old people assessed as to their contribution to society and those who don't make the grade get put to sleep. They could even be minced up and reconstituted to be fed back to the surviving elderly, Matrix-style. You'd have tinned "old people food" just like pet food. That would cut down on resource consumption.

Failing that, you could have a curfew for old people. They can only leave the house for three minutes of exercise a day. In order to make it impossible for them to conform to this curfew, daytime soapies and talk-shows would be cut from the networks. Then, trained hit-squads would cruise the streets with crossbows (cheaper than bullets), neatly taking out rogue "grey-tops" that broke curfew trying to make it to the DVD store to buy old copies of Oprah. You knock down the old population and society is free from blame.



posted on Mar, 7 2005 @ 07:50 PM
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Wecomeinpeace, that has got to be the most horrible thing I have ever heard, you, nor does anyone else have the right to tell people if they can live or not, or when they can go outside.

I still think mandatory DNA combining to produce young, should be considered, whats better the survival of the race or illogical family units.



posted on Mar, 7 2005 @ 09:08 PM
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Originally posted by iori_komei
Wecomeinpeace, that has got to be the most horrible thing I have ever heard, you, nor does anyone else have the right to tell people if they can live or not, or when they can go outside.


Uhhh...just to clarify what I thought was obvious. My last post in this thread was a joke.



posted on Mar, 7 2005 @ 10:51 PM
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iori-komei, if you think that's bad, you should read "A Modest Proposal" by a guy named Jonathan Swift.



posted on Mar, 8 2005 @ 12:35 AM
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O.K. Lets delve a little deeper into this. This thread is not just about the "why's", but the results. Granted, it seems that the women of Japan seem more career oriented in this day and age than they have been in the past, but so are the women of innumerable other countries.
A National Economy requires a sustainable work force and without that workforce, any economy falls in the dumpster (Correct me if I'm wrong). If a female breeding population (don't mean to sound like a pig) waits too long to have children, that jepordizes their chances at having those children, i.e. sustainable work force. With an economy like Japan's and other large economic nations, they can ill afford to have a birthrate of less than equal that of their deathrate. Too cap that off, stockmarkets of large economic nations are tied into each other, and if one falters because of a non-sustainable work force (among a myriad of other reasons), the other markets react. Could this bring about a collapse of the world economy?
Now, don't get me wrong. I do not pretend to know everything there is about national and global economies, but to me, the first step in the ladder of a nation seems to be a sustainable work force, and every nation's economy depends upon every other nation's sustainable workforce to continue a viable world economy. If I'm rambling, let me know
. What Say U??



posted on Mar, 8 2005 @ 12:50 AM
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Don't forget we are talking about a very industirous nation who will make a way around this.

One of them will be the rise in domestic robots, and automatum, replacing the workers that won't be there.

Others will be technology that will promote births at an older age, people working longer etc.

In the end its a good thing, heck it was only 20 years ago in the 1980's when Japan was activly looking to move their retirement population off shore because of over crowding. One result was a huge buy up of land in Queensland Australia to create entire Japanese communities.

That concept seems to have died quietly... they don't seem to have eventuated.




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