Tokyo’s population exceeds 14 million for the first time in history

The population of the Tokyo metropolitan area reached a record high of 14 million as of May 1. The continued centralization of capital, company headquarters, and universities has been the main attractor for students and young workers.

The capital’s total population reached 10 million in 1962. It quickly grew to 11 million by 1966. However, reaching the next milestone of 12 million residents took over three decades, finally hitting this number in 2000. In the following ten years the population grew again by another million residents. Edo (the former name for Tokyo) was estimated to have a population of just 150,000 residents in the early 1600s. By the early 1700s, the population had swelled to over 1 million. In contrast, London’s population was sitting at 865,000 in 1801.

Despite the national government including Tokyo in a list of risk zones that were seeing a surge in coronavirus cases back in April, the population continued to grow, adding over 20,000 new residents that month alone. April is typically a month where students start classes and new employees start work, and typically sees a large influx of residents arrive in the city. In recent years, April sees around 30,000 new residents. This year the number was lower due to companies and schools delaying intakes during the pandemic, while the number of registered foreign residents decreased by 3,700. Since the start of the coronavirus crisis, there has been a net decrease of over 12,000 foreign residents in Tokyo. Border closures may have contributed to fewer new foreign resident arrivals.

Shinjuku was the only ward to see a decrease in residents. Home to a number of universities and Japanese language schools, the delayed start or temporary closure of schools is the likely culprit of the population decline.

It is too early to tell if the current telecommuting trend amidst the coronavirus pandemic will have any lasting effect on the concentration of the population in Tokyo. 

The Nikkei Shimbun, June 10, 2020.
The Tokyo Shimbun, June 11, 2020.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Statistics Division.

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