Chiba Prefecture’s population has declined for the first time since record keeping began in 1920. Although the total population of greater Tokyo, which includes Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba, increased last year, certain districts within the greater area are beginning to see the start of a natural decrease in population.

According to Chiba’s census data from December 1, 2011, the population was 6,209,303. The population had fallen by 7724 residents since the beginning of 2011. A long-term outlook published by the prefecture in 2010 had estimated the population to continue to increase until 2017, before declining, but their forecasts appear to be seven years too late.

Possible causes cited for the decline include a reduction in new residents moving into the prefecture, liquefaction damage in Urayasu City from the Tohoku earthquake, and the discovery of several radiation ‘hot spots’ in residential areas.

There are also noticeable changes in the demographics of the population. The number of elderly residents is continuing to increase, while the number of deaths exceeded the number of births for the first time. 

An expert said that following the Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008, the number of residents moving into the greater Tokyo area from rural areas was shrinking.

Chiba Prefecture said they cannot say whether the decline is temporary or a long-term situation. A prefecture official said that without any resolution to the radiation hotspots and liquefaction-damaged areas, it will be difficult to attract residents.

With the exception of Chiba, the population in Tokyo, Saitama and Kanagawa is forecast to start to decline sometime between 2015 to the 2020s, with Tokyo expected to reach its peak population by around 2020.

Source: The Asahi Shimbun, January 9, 2012.