Japan’s Population is Plunging, so Where are the Babies?

Sally Herships
Apr 20, 2016

“If you think you work long hours, meet Kumi Matsumoto.

“It’s very normal for us to stay until midnight,” said Matsumoto, who works for Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “and sometimes we have to stay until early in the morning, [the] next day.” Matsumoto lives in Tokyo. She’s 41, and when we met she was on maternity leave. But when she’s in the office she often doesn’t get her assignments until late at night. She says the hours can be brutal – especially for women with kids. “Some ask their mother for everything about their family. One of them, I know, met her child only on weekends,” she said.”

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While the government is hoping to persuade families to move to the countryside, schools like the Ishidoriya Elementary School in Hanamaki, a small city on the north of the Japanese mainland, are shrinking due to declining population. Credit: Sally Herships

Sally Herships is a 2015 US-Japan Journalism Fellow.