Transcendental Bloviation

Politics, Space, Japan

Monday, April 09, 2007

Japan's Birth Dearth

Today I noticed a news story about tele-obstetrics in Japan -- web-cam assisted pregnancy care. To those with a less jaundiced eye on the country, it dovetails with the standard view of Japan as a dizzyingly high-tech country. The real reason is different: the countryside (a source of voters for the Liberal Democratic Party, which is neither) is becoming one vast old folks home, and young couples especially would rather not have their children in a rural hospital system that's increasingly an archipelago of geriatric wards. Obstetric units are on the decline everywhere in Japan, but especially out in the sticks. The Powers That Be tend not to be very experimental (the country's medical association just recently considered the idea of endorsing surrogate motherhood, and voted it down), but they'll try anything just to keep the countryside populated.

I live in Takadanobaba. You won't see Aging Japan here. But Baba is different: it's home to a major university campus and countless little trade schools, where young people can learn everything from advanced animation techniques to flower arranging. Once, when I was coming back from a hike in Okutama, one of our party looking out the train window exclaimed "wakamono!" -- "young people!" We were back inside the Tokyo urban core, where social surface tension -- and a generally more interesting, if more expensive, existence -- causes young people to collect and cluster. These urban puddles of the young are drying up.

Birth rates have been below replacement rate for a long time. Last year, I read a story saying 2008 would be the first year of population shrinkage. It was followed almost the next day by a correction: the statistics had been recomputed, and 2007 would be the First Year of Shrink. Not long after, the truth came out: Japan was already shrinking. These consecutive revelations weren't too much of a contradication of my beloved Spectrum of Mendacity: Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics, Government Statistics and Japanese Government Statistics.

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It is a pity that japan birth rate is getting smaller. The cultural problem that it is behind it. They should do something about it to improve it.

 
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