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Youth population on decline in mainland Japan; not Okinawa

Date Posted: 2005-05-19

There are 150,000 fewer Japanese children under the age of 15 than there were a year ago.

This month’s Children’s Day holiday celebrations brought the revealing figures from the General Affairs Ministry, which says there are now only 17,650,000 children in Japan. That represents only 13.8% of the population, putting Japan behind American, England, Germany and France.

Okinawa has been more prolific, staying even with the four leaders at 18.6%. Tokyo is only 12.3% children, making it difficult for the government to play for yuth services. Officials say the children’s population, calculated as youngsters younger than 15, has been on the decline in Japan for 24 years.

As countless thousands of parents celebrated the May 5th Children’s Day, spending additional time with their young ones at the beach, at parks or sports events, and in family events such as barbeques, government statistics brought home the changing face of Japanese youth.

Asking the question about growing up and seeking career paths, boys responded most often they wanted to be baseball players. Second ranking was also sports, either soccer or the National Basketball Association. Beyond that, boys sought careers as scientists, astronauts, pilots and doctors.

Girls most often wanted careers as florists when they grow up. Second was bakery and cake shop operators, followed by nursery school teachers, school teachers, and doctors.

As children expressed their dreams, parents are steadfastly clinging to the dreams of keeping property for their children’s futures. Parents are deeding property to their kids, while continuing to make the house payments. They say “children are a part of the parents’ bodies.” In Okinawa, the centuries old tradition of the house remaining in hands of the eldest son continues. The practice begun 500-600 years ago stays, because the Buddhist family altars are in the home.

The thinking reinforces, at least in Okinawa minds, the importance of Children’s Day.

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