Abstract

This article analyses rural depopulation in Japan and its implications by means of a case study of Niigata Prefecture and Sado Island. In the first part of the article we present population maps to show that rural demographic shrinkage is both deepening as well as broadening to include urban centres. We focus initially on Niigata Prefecture in the national context and then discuss migratory patterns in Sado. The data show that Sado, and now Niigata Prefecture as a whole, have entered what we call a 'double negative population disequilibrium', whereby both the migratory and natural reproduction population contributions have turned negative. Recent evidence also indicates that Niigata City itself may also have begun to shrink. In the second part we discuss the implications of depopulation for Sado Island via extracts from qualitative interviews gathered from local residents. We found that many residents now accept the inevitability of continued shrinkage and, rather than seeking to re-establish growth, many institutional and social and environmental entrepreneurs are instead working towards achieving community stability and sustainability. We conclude by suggesting that the example of Japan's rural communities presents Japan's regional cities with the occasion to consider life 'beyond growth', as their populations also begin to shrink in the years to come.


Below are two sets of population maps for Japan and Niigata Prefecture for the period 1950-2030 and a set of photographs from Sado Island depicting some of the impacts of depopulation there. These are supplementary materials for the article 'Coming to a City Near You! Learning to Live Beyond Growth in Japan's Shrinking Regions', published in Social Science Japan Journal in 2011.

All data through to and including 2005 was derived from the Japanese national census. Municipal level maps for Niigata Prefecture backdate from 2005 to 1950 to include municipal boundary changes. Data from 2010 to 2030 was taken from the National Institute for Population and Social Security Research (NIPSSR) 2002 prefectural and 2003 municipal data projections, which are based on the 2000 census. Although projections based on the more recent 2005 census are available on the NIPSSR website we use the earlier data because it is approximately 5 per cent less pessimistic. Please refer to the article itself for more detail on methodology.

Maps were created using ArcGIS, Corel Photopaint, MSPowerpoint 2007, and Arclab Watermark Studio software. All maps are copyright protected. If you wish to display any of these maps then please send me an email and ask for permission, and then I can send you a clean set.


Pleae find belw the following materials:

Maps 1-5: Improved colour versions of the maps that appear in the article itself.

Maps 6-13: Colour maps describing Japan's postwar population change (actual and projected): from expansion (1950-70), through consolidation (1970-90) and stagnation (1990-2010), to shrinkage (2010-2030).

Supplementary Photos: These are colour photos of aspects of shrinkage in Sado Island.


Population Maps 1-5
The following five maps are improved colour versions of the maps provided in the article itself.
Click on each map for an expanded view.
 

Map 1. Population Change in Japan by Prefecture and Prefectural Capital City in Percent, 1950–1990. Source: National Population Census, Various Years.

Map 3. Population Change in Niigata Prefecture by Municipality in Percent (2000 Boundaries), 1950–1990. Source: Higashide (2008); Niigata ken (2009); Niigata ken Website.

Map 2. Population Change in Japan by Prefecture and Prefectural Capital City in Percent, 1990 (Actual) to 2030 (Projected). Source: National Population Census, Various Years; NIPSSR.

Map 4. Population Change in Niigata Prefecture by Municipality in Percent (2000 boundaries), 1990 (Actual) to 2010 (Projected). Source: Higashide (2008); Niigata ken (2009); Niigata ken Website.

 

Map 5. Population Change in Niigata Prefecture by Municipality in Percent (2000 Boundaries), 2010 (Projected) to 2030 (Projected). Source: Higashide (2008); Niigata ken (2009); Niigata ken Website.

 

Population Maps 6-13
The following eight maps show population change (actual and projected) for Japan (by prefecture and prefectural capital) and Niigata Prefecture (by municipality - 2000 boundaries) over four twenty year periods: 1950-70, 1970-90, 1990-2010, and 2010-30. The maps present a narrative for Japan's postwar history in terms of its population change as well as, perhaps, its economic fortunes; showing a progression from expansion, through consolidation and stagnation, to shrinkage.
Click on each map for an expanded view.
 

1950-1970: Expansion
Map 6
. Population Change in Japan by Prefecture and Prefectural Capital City in Percent, 1950–1970. Source: National Population Census, Various Years.

1990-2010: Stagnation
Map 8
. Population Change in Japan by Prefecture and Prefectural Capital City in Percent, 1990 (Actual) to 2010 (Projected). Source: National Population Census, Various Years; NIPSSR.

Map 10. Population Change in Niigata Prefecture by Municipality in Percent (2000 Boundaries), 1950–1970. Source: Higashide (2008); Niigata ken (2009); Niigata ken Website.

Map 12.Population Change in Niigata Prefecture by Municipality in Percent (2000 boundaries), 1990 (Actual) to 2010 (Projected). Source: Higashide (2008); Niigata ken (2009); Niigata ken Website.

1970-90: Consolidation
Map 7
. Population Change in Japan by Prefecture and Prefectural Capital City in Percent, 1970–1990. Source: National Population Census, Various Years.

2010-30: Shrinkage?
Map 9
. Population Change in Japan by Prefecture and Prefectural Capital City in Percent, 2010 to 2030 (Projected). Source: National Population Census, Various Years; NIPSSR.

Map 11. Population Change in Niigata Prefecture by Municipality in Percent (2000 Boundaries), 1970–1990. Source: Higashide (2008); Niigata ken (2009); Niigata ken Website.

Map 13. Population Change in Niigata Prefecture by Municipality in Percent (2000 Boundaries), 2010 (Projected) to 2030 (Projected). Source: Higashide (2008); Niigata ken (2009); Niigata ken Website.


Supporting Photographs
The following photos present some scenes from Sado Island and provide visual support for the text of the article. As above with the maps, if you wish to use any of these photos, then please get in contact and let me know for what purpose. If it is teaching and research then it is not usually a problem, but they are not normally to be used for onward commercial use.
Click on each image for an expanded view.

Photo 1: Many small and isolated settlements in Japan, such as this one on the north-western coast of Sado Island in Niigata Prefecture, are shrinking and are under threat of disappearing entirely

Photo 4: Many residents are now older people living a difficult and solitary existence ...

Photo 7: ... leading to business closures.
 

Photo 10: ... and even larger businesses feel the strain..
 

Photo 13: ... to the large out of town stores that offer cheaper goods and easy parking.

Photo 16: ... though enterprising individuals and groups may find another use for school buildings.

Photo 19: Residents hope that the revival of Sado as a home for the Toki will signal a return to stability as an eco-island.

Photo 22: Some return to Sado to live a more simple life working in agriculture.

Photo 25: Sunset in Sado Island?

Photo 2: Within these communities the built environment is deteriorating as houses stand empty ...

 

Photo 5: ... and the numbers of children remaining has plunged to near zero under long term low fertility and out-migration..

Photo 8: Independent stores run down their stocks ...

Photo 11: Reinvestment is not absent, such as with this parade being rebuilt in Aikawa after a fire in 2008.

Photo 14: Even tourism facilities fold, as visitor numbers drop and Japanese seek their holidays overseas.

Photo 17: Some businesses find a niche and are able to prosper through exporting to the rest of Japan and overseas ...

Photo 20: Eco-tourism tours to the original growth forest in the north of the island are now being promoted.

Photo 23: But the overall trend is towards shrinkage as land and ....

Photo 3: ... and farms are abandoned.



 

Photo 6: Demand for products and services declines in areas where there are few people ...,

Photo 9: ... as shopping parades become shabby and deserted ...

Photo 12: By 2009 the buildings are back up, but the customers have gone ...
 

Photo 15: Schools lie abandoned and unused, and empty of children ...
 

Photo 18: ... while some come to Sado for the peaceful atmosphere; but they are few compared to the numbers leaving.

Photo 21: And the island's temples and shrines remain an attraction.
 

Photo 24: ... buildings slowly succumb to natural succession.