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Population drain accelerates in areas deprived of municipal gov't headquarters

TOKYO -- Populations in a total of 1,505 former cities, towns and villages whose municipal government headquarters were abolished due to the so-called "great mergers of the Heisei era" and other measures plunged by an average 17.5 percent between 2000 and 2015, national census data has shown.

The data also shows that the populations in 587 districts where municipal government headquarters were retained dropped by an average 8.1 percent, while the populations in 1,118 cities, towns and villages that were free of any mergers declined by just 9 percent. The survey results highlight an accelerating population drain in "peripheral areas" where central administrative functions have been lost.

The survey figures excluded areas subject to partial or blanket evacuation orders due to the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant disaster in 2011 and the volcanic eruption on Miyake Island in 2000.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the number of cities, towns and villages across the country plummeted from 3,229 in the year 2000 -- before the municipal mergers got into full swing -- to 1,718 by 2014. When taking a close look at areas where municipal government headquarters were abolished, 1,363 areas (90 percent) had seen a population decline in 2015, from a total of around 14.59 million to some 13.11 million.

Specifically, 17 of those areas even saw their populations more than halved, such as the former Miyagi Prefecture town of Ogatsu (the present-day city of Ishinomaki), whose population dropped by 80.5 percent in the wake of the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, and the former Nara Prefecture village of Oto (currently the city of Gojo), which saw a 68.1 percent fall in its population.

Meanwhile, 80 percent of areas where municipal government head offices have been retained saw a population decline, totaling 464 areas. However, their overall populations saw only a slight fall, from around 40.77 million to some 40.15 million.

With regard to municipalities that did not merge with other cities, towns or villages, their total populations climbed from around 63.21 million to roughly 64.44 million, thanks to a population influx into urban cities such as Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka. However, more than 70 percent of merger-free municipalities, at 813 municipalities, saw their populations dwindle.

In Tokyo's 23 wards, the population rose an average 21.3 percent, with that in Chuo Ward spiking a whopping 94.7 percent.

Japan's total domestic population stood at roughly 127.09 million in 2015, a marginal rise from the approximately 126.93 million in 2000.

(Japanese original by Hiroyuki Wada, General Digital News Center)

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