Happy New Year and Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu from your friends in Japan, J-List. We hope 2019 is a happy and safe one for you and your loved ones!
A new year means lots of greetings by friends, delivered via nengajo New Year’s card or an in-person visit, watching marathon races on TV, and listening to a speech of congratulations by the Japanese Emperor. More grimly, it also means watching the news to discover who managed to die in a house fire over the New Year’s holiday (a family of three in Niigata), and how many elderly deaths there were from choking on those super-chewy mochi rice cakes (11 hospitalized but only one death this year).
It also means depressing news reports about how many fewer babies were born the previous year, because of Japan’s famously low birthrate. Just 946,060 babies were born in Japan in 2018, the lowest number since records started being kept in 1899. The discussion will continue for another two weeks until Coming of Age Day (January 14 this year), when new articles about how many fewer new adults will don kimonos and smart suits to take part in local celebrations of official adulthood. In 2018, 1.25 million Japanese 20-year-olds officially came of age, a lot lower than the nearly 2 million who participated when my wife had her ceremony in 1988. It’s enough to make a guy want to get a bottle of wine and rewatch the classic film Children of Men.
The reasons for Japan’s low birthrate are many. First, all societies experience falling birthrates as they industrialize and modernize — births in the Philippines, for example, fell from 8 to 3 per woman from 1955 to today. Obviously, we don’t live in a world where you need to have eight children because half of them might die, leaving you no one to care for you in your old age. These days, it seems that every new invention, from cell phones to Facebook to mobile games, keeps men and women from doing what they’d probably have done in our parents’ day, driving up to Lover’s Lane and necking, or whatever. Azur Lane racked up 500,000 players aged 18-30 in its first month of operation. Anyone addicted to a game like that won’t be going on many romantic dates.
Yet all is not lost. Japan’s problem isn’t actually its low birthrate, but its low birthrate coupled with lack of meaningful immigration to maintain a healthy population spread. Perhaps the recently proposed changes to Japan’s immigration laws, making it easier for semi-skilled foreigners to work in Japan, will help. When I think of all those unemployed young people in Europe, a land where people are naturally good at learning foreign languages and have high education, and who have grown up with a strong affinity for Japan, I can’t help thinking there isn’t an opportunity for both regions, if really wise policies were adopted.
Great news! We’ve gotten tons of quality anime magazines in stock, which are loaded with wonderful posters for fans, as well as other goodies for your collection. Browse the new anime magazines before the ones you want sell out!