Depopulation, Aging, and Rural Restructuring in Japan

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Rural areas in Japan have seriously suffered from problems of low fertility rates and aging population due to out-migration since the 1960s. The rapid depopulation of rural Japan has led to a collapse of local communities. Japanese scholars call these phenomena Kaso, which means, ‘very scarce and/or too depopulated’. At around the same time, the Japanese government enacted the anti-depopulation law and started pouring funds into depopulated areas. The total amount of investment during the 1970-2018 period was about 1 trillion USD, of which almost 40 percent was used for the improvement of roads and communication networks. However, despite this huge investment, most rural municipalities in Japan have been endangered due to persistent depopulation and aging. In this process, the economic structure of depopulated areas became distorted and they have become subsidy-dependent. In this paper, the historical background of depopulation and aging in rural Japan, as well as the current situation, will be discussed in relation to the government policies of the last 50 years. Government’s official statistics are analysed along with previous research conducted by Japanese scholars in the context of international comparison.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-123
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Aging
  • Depopulation
  • Japan
  • Rural
  • Subsidy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development


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