The slightly unsettling sight of future Japan?

Japan’s ageing as well as shrinking population will create all manner of economic and societal pressures over the coming years; conditions that will more than likely change the country forever.

But that’s not to say it isn’t happening already — because it is. And it isn’t just restricted to the big issues either, as the shift from young to old, past and future, is often visible in the most common, everyday situations.

A sight that can seem both right, and yet very wrong.

ageing Japan


  1. winnie says

    This picture looked like the transition of old to young or vice versa. The little girl might not think of anything yet, the old lady on the swing looked sad, she might be thinking lots of stuffs .
    I like this picture.

    • says

      Yeah, it has a few interesting elements in it. I think if the old lady had been smiling, there’d have been some happiness in the photo, but her expression makes it a sad one for me.

  2. says

    One of your best this year, Lee – really fine storytelling in this frame. Well timed with the biking ojisan looking to the sad old girl on the swing. The color processing does add on to the impact for me.

    • says

      Thanks ever so much, Norbert. That means a lot coming from you.

      Yeah, the ojisan cycling past really helped. I had one other shot without him in it, and it wasn’t quite the same.

  3. Zack says

    i think that there may be some other perspectives as well. i don’t live in Japan, and i can’t say that i am aware of it’s statistics on employment, but perhaps a smaller population to a degree would actually not be a terrible thing in terms of stabilizing a country’s economy. take the US for example, whose unemployment is not really going to stabilize until about 2030, when the population makes a change from the last of the baby-boomers to become seniors and such. the reason we have such high unemployment has something to do with the state of our population right now, and i don’t know how similarly Japan’s economy would react to something like that.

    great site, by the way; i enjoy your perspectives as an outsider to a place i find very important.

    • says

      Thanks a lot, Zack.

      Yeah, I can see where you are coming from. And living in Tokyo it often feels like less people would immediately make things better. The trouble Japan has, however, is that there are an increasing number of old people, and as the birth-rate has been stagnant for so long, there won’t be anywhere near enough people working to pay for them. At least not at the current tax rate. So taxes will obviously need to be raised. Probably by a good amount too. And conceivably, non-Japanese will have to be brought in to make up the working numbers. A move that more than likely won’t be popular, and will mark the start of a very different Japan.

      At least that’s my take on it. Although a complete collapse of the economy in the not too distant future — which is often predicted — would change things quicker, and more dramatically…

  4. says

    Indeed, aging Japan is a big problem for Japan and you captured it nicely. Is the girl on the swing blond? If so, it even makes the photo stronger as Japan will soon need to start importing more NJ workers like they are already importing nurses from nearby countries. My wife’s family lives in the countryside and you can really notice the problem there. Looks like it is the right time to invest in a care home :-)

    My wife blames the low birthrate partly on all the silliness and incredible pressure for the parents around kindergarten, schools and university entrance exams. I guess she can be right as I have seen the burned out “helicopter” mothers chasing up the kids. :-)

    • says


      Not blonde, but grey. It’s an old lady!

      Yeah, I’ve travelled a fair bit outside the big cities, and it’s very obvious how the population is ageing. A problem made all the worse by the youngsters (what few there are) heading to the city as soon as they are old enough. It really is hard to see any kind of future for many places, apart from continued decline and eventual disappearance.

      That’s a good point about the birth rate. The entrance exams seems like a horrendous time for all concerned (apart from the schools who cash in on them of course), and despite the lack of kids, people still need desperately scramble round for a place at kindergarten. And then of course there’s the cost…

    • says

      Cheers, Chris!

      Neither of them look very happy, do they? We’ll have to try and put together a series of such shots.

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