Boomer Megacities: Tokyo As a Barometer for the Developed World?

Anthony Townsend's picture
I had heard stories about this the last time I visited Japan in 2004, but this month's Tokyo city briefing from The Economist brought this trend back to my attention. It seems retiring boomers are abandoning their suburban bedroom communities to return to the metropolitan core - presumably to be near friends, cultural attractions, and other amenities (health care? education?). I've seen rumblings of this as well in the New York metro area.
Tokyo's population is swelling at a rate last experienced in the boom of the early 1960s. Tokyo's population grew by over 90,000 in 2006, a result of economic migration from provincial Japan, according to the Land Ministry. As rural populations head for the cities, and the economic gap widens between the urban rich and the rural poor, some 2,600 villages across the country may face extinction. Hokkaido and Nagasaki have suffered most from this polarising trend, say demographers and economists. But the sharp increase in Tokyo's population is also related to the so-called "2007 effect": the mass retirement of baby boomers. Many couples in their 60s who spent their working lives in the suburbs are moving into central Tokyo to be closer to the bright lights.
Is this something people are seeing in other regions more broadly, or this strictly a global city phenomenon?
Anthony Townsend is a research director at the Institute for the Future (IFTF) in Palo Alto, California.



Robert Goodspeed's picture


Anthony, this is a very well documented phenomenon, and widely discussed in real estate circles. This ULI article describes both this trend and others in center-city revitalization.

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