Nearly three quarters of all Japanese live in the "Tokai-Sanyo-region", also known as the "Pacific Industrial Belt", a megalopolis stretching from Tokyo to Kitakyushu. The remarkably unbalanced spatial distribution of the population poses serious problems with the proportion of urban population currently at 79 percent.
Settlement patterns For natural geographic and socio-cultural reasons, the northern Kyushu and Osaka-Kyoto areas (the historic centre of the Japanese government urbanised development)-were economically developed early. Japan's Pacific coastal region has large plains and good natural harbours. The concentration process in this settlement and geographically preferred region continues today. The "Pacific Industrial Belt" is increasing, encouraged by the harbour breakwater system. Together with industrial sites on reclaimed ground, it has become a seamless urban landscape. As of 2006, approximately 127 million Japanese live mainly in the municipal compartments of the eastern and southeastern Pacific coast and other inland areas. Ten of the eleven large Japanese cities are over a relatively small area. Today, more than 30 million people live in the catchment area of the capital Tokyo, in the Kanto plain of approximately 13,000 km². Tokyo itself has about 8 million inhabitants and the greater Tokyo area is home to approximately 11.8 million people. As in numerous other countries, the reasons for this "draw to the city" are better work and educational opportunities, higher wages and a diverse range of leisure and entertainment facilities.
Demography and age structure Looking at Japanese society, with regard to age and demographic trends, there are a surprising number of similarities to Germany. The urn shape of the Japanese age structure, like in Germany, is typical of an aging and shrinking society tendancy. The difference between the two countries is that this process is somewhat more advanced in Japan. In 2000, in Nippon there were already more people aged over 65 years (17.2 percent) than 15-year olds (14.6 percent). This trend of aging is predicted to continue in the coming years. By 2025, the current number of 15-year-olds is projected to represent only 12.5 percent of the population, while the share of over 65-year-olds is expected to rise to 29.1 percent. H. Wüst; Ü: Colette Fleming