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Japan’s Declining Population: Beyond the Textbook

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Geography, as a discipline, allows students to explore, analyze, and understand the places that comprise our world. Most geography curricula focus on both physical and human geography, often in the context of “issues”-based learning; this serves to demonstrate the dynamic and applicable nature of the subject to learners. Within the context of human geography, population is an area of study that enables geographers to plan the use of Earth’s resources, make sense of the underlying factors influencing changes in societal demographics, and develop policies to mitigate the impact of population growth or decline.

While senior geography textbooks employ a range of geographic data and case studies, to best explore modern demographics, it is essential that students develop competence in identifying, analyzing, and interpreting data, particularly the most up-to-date available. Of special relevance for this are the following sites:

• Population Pyramids of the World from 1950 to 2100 (https://www.

• World Population Data: 2016 (

• Gapminder: Unveiling the Beauty of Statistics for a Fact-Based World View (

• Population Reference Bureau (

• World Bank: Japan (

This kind of interactive data provides a good context to extend geographic learning and create a foundation for analyzing and discussing various population dynamics before considering the causes, impacts, and responses of these changes. It is also particularly pertinent for establishing points of comparison on a range of scales, such as comparing Japan to other nations, regions, or even global and historical data.