Japan’s population is shrinking. Last year it fell by nearly 450,000 people. Not since records began in 1899 had so few babies been born (921,000). Before that, 2017 had also set a record. Meanwhile the number of people passing away last year set a post-war record. The figures are part of a larger pattern in which births have declined and deaths increased steadily for decades.
Less noticed is another alarming figure that’s been growing. According to the latest government statistics, the number of abandoned homes in Japan reached a record high of 8.5 million as of Oct. 1, 2018, up by 260,000 from five years earlier. As a proportion of total housing stock, abandoned homes reached 13.6%.