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Kyodo News: Central Tokyo population expected to keep growing

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KYODO: The population of three central Tokyo wards is projected to continue growing after 2025, when the overall number of citizens in the capital is estimated to take a downward turn, thanks to an apartment construction boom and convenient transport access. Chiyoda, Chuo and Minato wards have seen an influx of families with children and elderly people and the population growth there is expected to continue through 2040, but it could present municipal governments with challenges in providing adequate child and nursing care.

According to a Tokyo metropolitan government estimate, the population of the capital is expected to fall after hitting its peak of 13.98 million in 2025. But the three central wards are expected to rise further and reach a total of around 635,000 in 2040, up some 40 percent from January 2017. The three wards faced population drain to suburbs due to soaring land prices in the period of steep Japanese economic growth around the 1960s and 1970s and in the peak years of the bubble economy in the late 1980s.

However, the number of residents picked up in the late 1990s with Minato Ward’s population exceeding 250,000 in February for the first time in 54 years. Emiko Kanno, a 42-year-old office worker, lives in a Minato Ward apartment close to Tokyo Tower. “With the developed transportation system, the area is convenient for living and my husband’s commuting,” she said. A native of Hyogo in western Japan, Kanno used to live in Kanagawa Prefecture, southwest of Tokyo, but she moved to the area four years ago when she got married.

The international character of the area boasting many foreign embassies has been a draw and Kanno seems satisfied with the environment for raising her 1-year-old son. High-rise apartment buildings in the waterfront areas proved popular among families with small children and the total fertility rate, which shows the average number of children a woman will bear in her lifetime, stood at 1.44 in Minato in 2015, the highest among Tokyo’s 23 wards.

Chiyoda Ward, home of the national parliament and many government buildings, also saw its population surpass 60,000 for the first time since 1981. The population in Chuo Ward, where the Ginza shopping district and Tsukiji fish market are located, once fell below 80,000 but has recovered to 150,000.

A Tokyo metropolitan government official said, “We have seen a trend of people moving to city centers after the burst of the bubble economy. The three wards with many office buildings have also gone through redevelopment.”The official suggested the latest trend reflects more people opting to live close to their offices after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disrupted transportation systems and forced many to walk back home.

But the growing urban wards are not free from problems. The number of children who failed to secure slots in preschools in Minato Ward rose 2.5 times in April from a year earlier. A Minato Ward official said the municipal government is “overwhelmed with delight but a lack of enough childcare services has been the biggest challenge.”

Some elderly families have also been moving from detached houses in the suburbs to apartments in city centers as they are more convenient and well managed, the Tokyo metropolitan government official said. But with more senior citizens living alone or the elderly taking care of their even older parents, more social workers would be required to look after them. “It would be difficult for social workers to come to homes of the elderly in high-rise apartments that are automatically locked at their entrances. There would also be a need to assist people in such cases as elevators stop in disasters,” the official said.

While Tokyo continues to draw population, neighboring prefectures have seen serious population outflows of young people. Even in prefectural capitals of Maebashi in Gunma and Kofu in Yamanashi, populations have been declining. In the city of Shizuoka in central Japan, an estimated population as of April 1 fell below 700,000.

© KYODO

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