The Special Investigation Commission on Population Issues


The population is the very basis of the state and shapes the country. Fluctuations in the population govern the size of the economy, people’s living standards as well as the state of the nation and its power. Should the current birth rate remain unchanged, Japan’s population, which stood at nearly 50 million people 100 years ago, will shrink once again to 50 million by the end of this century. And it will not be a country overflowing with the young as in the Meiji Era (1868-1912), but an old country where the elderly account for 40 per cent of that 50 million. If this happens, there is strong fear that Japan’s social vitality and the vital forces of the state will be debilitated, the politics of jealousy become rampant, and people lose confidence and become trapped in pessimism, living just for the moment. No longer will we be able to maintain the culture and traditions we have nurtured unbroken. This must not happen. It must not be allowed to happen.


  • Examine how demographic trends are affecting the various aspects of Japan’s social structure in the context of the Greater Tokyo, life infrastructure, and public finance and the economy, and present the seriousness of the population issue.
  • Study the failures of past policies from the perspectives of population, national land, and politics.
  • Recommend an effective population policy based on the study of the failures. (The population policy referred to here alludes to both “mitigation” measures for staging a recovery in the depopulation process as well as “adaptation” measures for maintaining and improving living standards in the process.)

Private Ad Hoc Commission on the Population Issue

In April 2014, the Private Ad Hoc Commission on the Population Issue was established with the hope of upholding the spirit of the second Ad Hoc Commission on Administrative Reform chaired by the former Chairman of Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), Toshio Doko. In 1981, the government set up the second Ad Hoc Commission in order to move forward with administrative reform, declaring, “Realism will be used to examine the issues. We will find where the problems lay without any taboos.”


The outcome of this research project culminated in the publication of the report,  “Japan’s Population Implosion: The 50 Million Shock,” by SHINCHOSHA Co., Ltd. in June 2015, and the English edition was published by Palgrave Macmillan in December 2017. Population decline is the greatest challenge in Japan’s history and cannot be postponed. The report examines this issue from a variety of perspectives, and makes policy proposals.

Edited by Yoichi Funabashi, Chairman, AP Initiative
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
First Published: December 30, 2017
ISBN-10: 9811049823
ISBN-13: 978-9811049828

Table of contents
Chapter 1 Introduction
A factor we have not fully been aware of is the speed of future population decline and the huge scale of “negative chain reactions” that accompany it. The foreword sheds light on the intricately interlinked issue of population decline by examining the risks inherent in the four negative chain reactions that are triggered by a declining population, as well as the conflict of values that the population issue will bring.
Chapter 2 The Greater Tokyo Shock
Depopulation is also affecting Greater Tokyo, quietly but decisively. Loss of dynamism is already beginning to be seen on a full-fledged basis, starting with the outer areas, such as Choshi City, Chiba Prefecture and Yokosuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture. Even in the areas commutable to central Tokyo, there has been a noticeable increase in towns deprived of vitality, especially in new towns.
Chapter 3 A Collapse in Regional Infrastructure
How will population decline change the situation of regional areas? Based on detailed data, this chapter studies how depopulation will make it difficult to maintain life infrastructure that are essential for people to live.
Chapter 4 The Impact of Demographic Changes on Macroeconomic and Public Finance
The greatest challenge facing the Japanese economy is carrying out fiscal reconstruction as the population decreases. Unless labour productivity is raised, and unless Japan engages in fiscal and public finance and social security reforms, the situation could turn out for the worst, namely, government bond prices could plummet.
Chapter 5 Demographic Policy
Why was the population issue neglected? Various factors underlie this, including remorse over Japan’s pre-war militarism when the state made “Beget and Multiply” a compulsory program, memory of the post-war overpopulation and food shortage, and the government not realizing the gravity of the changes in population.
Chapter 6 National Land (Regional/Administrative) Policy
From the 1960s, large-scale regional development policies were promoted to solve the unbalanced use of national land, with the population concentrated in the three major city areas of Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya. However, these policies did not deliver the expected outcomes. Against this backdrop, from the late 1980s, population and businesses began to be over-concentrated only in Tokyo.
Chapter 7 The Demographic Issue and Silver Democracy
The elderly, now making up a majority of the population, exploit young people and future generations. This is the so-called problem of silver democracy. Can democracy fully function in the face of population decline? This chapter considers what is needed to avoid intergenerational confrontations.
Chapter 8 Population Growth Policy and Public Finances
Japan’s public finances and economy are heading towards contraction due to depopulation, declining birth rate, and aging population. Unless something is done, Japan will fall into a long-term stagnation. The keys to preventing such a situation are the execution of bold measures to counter the falling birth rate and the employment of foreign workers.
Chapter 9 Optimum Population / Land Relocation: Area Management – Crisis Management
“Compact city” is a concept that is gaining attention as a trump card for revitalizing regional cities. Whether or not it is successful depends on how population density is controlled. At the same time, Japan needs to solve the problem of over-centralization in major cities, especially Tokyo, by promoting partnerships across wide geographic areas as well as reforms of local governments, along with increasing mid-size cities that will serve as “population dams.”
Chapter 10 Countering Falling Regional Population with Business
Businesses that generate attractive employment in regional areas attract people and mitigate the speed of population decline. Companies that sustain their businesses in close collaboration with the regions generate vitality to regional economies that struggle with depopulation. This chapter introduces some success cases from different regions of Japan.
Chapter 11 Policy Proposals
This section outlines a new population policy and the approach for realizing this policy.

Palgrave Macmillan *Available as e-book and individual chapters


Ad Hoc Commission Members
(All titles current at the time)

Takashi ONISHI President, Toyohashi University of Technology
President, Science Council of Japan
President & COO and Representative Director, Internet Initiative Japan Inc.
Makoto KIGAWA Representative Director and Chairman, Yamato Holdings Co., Ltd.
Hikaru KOBAYASHI Professor, the Graduate School of Media and Governance, Keio University
Masaaki SHIRAKAWA Professor, the Graduate School of International Politics, Economics and Communications, Aoyama Gakuin University
Haruaki DEGUCHI Representative Director, Chairman and CEO, Lifenet Insurance Company
Mariko MOMOI Vice President, the International University of Health and Welfare

News and Events

2016/1/26 Japan’s Population Implosion: The 50 Million Shock introduced in Nikkei Business
2016/1/18 RJIF Chairman’s essay in the Japanese monthly magazine, Ushio
2015/12/17 “RJIF Chairman’s essay in the The National Interest
2015/12/14 Japan’s Population Implosion: The 50 Million Shock introduced in Ministry of Finance’s monthly journal Finance
2015/11/17 NewsPicks column: Shinjiro Koizumi and Lawson’s Genichi Tamatsuka urge preparation for the “50 million shock”
2015/10/14 Seminar “The 50 Million Shock: The Population Decline’s Impacts on Society and Business” is held
2015/7/4 Prof. Takashi Onishi gives press conference on Japan’s Population Implosion: The 50 Million Shock (English title is tentative)
2015/6/30 “Japan’s Population Implosion: The 50 Million Shock (English title is tentative) is published”