The latest census gives the population of Japan proper, exclusive of Formosa, at 45,426,651, of whom 22,928,043 men, and 22,498,649 women. These figures refer to the 31st December, 1901. A comparison with those for each year from 1892 onwards, when the total was only 41,089,940 shows an average annual increase of 1.09 per cent. The great cities also show a constant growth. Tōkyō, which in 1894 had 1,368,000 inhabitants, numbered 1,440,000 at the last census; the corresponding figures for Ōsaka, the second largest and commercially the most important city in the empire, are respectively 506,000 and 821,000; those for Kyōto 343,000 and 353,000. The next in population after these are Nagoya with 244,000, Kōbe with 215,000, Yokohama with 193,000, Hiroshima with 122,000, and Nagasaki with 107,000; and there are now twenty-one cities of over 50,000 inhabitants, sixty-one more having over 20,000.
While Japan remained closed, plague and famine helped from time to time to keep the population clown. World-wide intercourse now completely obviates any recurrence of famine, and scientific hygiene restricts epidemic diseases within narrow limits. But emigration has stepped in as a new depopulating agency. Yezo, an empty and barbarous waste, which hardly counted as part of Japan proper till about 1870, has to be filled up; Formosa, since its annexation in 1895, requires at least officials and soldiers; Hawaii, lying so near at hand, and with a native population too idle to perform much work in the sugar-plantations, has for several years past offered a tempting field to Japanese labour; Hongkong, Singapore, even the American and Australian Pacific ports attract numbers of young men of a slightly higher class, who go off to seek their fortune as clerks, shopboys, hairdressers, domestic servants, etc.; and the mere knowledge that emigration is practised by Europeans has been a factor favouring it in the minds of several of the leaders of this most imitative nation.
Notwithstanding all this it is plain to every observer that emigration does not genuinely suit the Japanese bent. Yezo itself, rich though it be, and despite some colonies officially planted, does not get filled up. Thousands, it is true, cross over there every season for the fisheries and fortune-hunting generally; but with the approach of winter, they fly home to the Main Island. The same thing happens with the emigrants to Hawaii. They are but contract labourers taken over for a time in batches, managed for corporately, and all returning home as soon as their little pile is made. Climate may have something to do with it. The Japanese, unlike the Chinese, do not habituate themselves readily either to heat or to cold. Their method of house-building, which they carry with them unaltered, is singularly ill-suited to a cold climate, neither is it well-suited to a hot and damp one as, for instance, that of Formosa. They long for Japanese food, for the Japanese hot springs, for such Japanese social pleasures as go with the twanging of the samisen, for the thousand and one little amenities and facilities of Japanese life. Officials sent even to the provinces of Japan proper eat their hearts out yearning for Tōkyō, which is to them all that Paris ever was to the typical Frenchman. How much worse must they find their exile, when set down on some distant shore!
A sore point with those Japanese who favour genuine emigration is the discovery, made for them by statistics, that the class by which, of all others, they would least wish their country to be represented abroad is that which emigrates most,-at any rate to the China ports and as far south as Singapore. The subject is a delicate one; but we shall be understood if we say that, at more than one census, it has been found that the young female Japanese residents in such ports outnumber the males. Strenuous efforts are made to prevent emigration of this particular kind; but the cunning with which they are evaded is often remarkable. Another particular calling for improvement is the behaviour of Japanese emigrants towards less civilised races. Every one who has seen them in Formosa, and especially in Korea, tells of supercilious and often brutal conduct. They have imitated the white man in everything, even in his ill-treatment of what he contemptuously terms "natives." Hence the bitter hatred with which the Japanese are regarded throughout Korea, where, of all countries in the world, it would have been expedient to court popularity, and endeavour thus to efface the recollection of old-time wrongs.
Book recommended - Résumé Statistique de l'Empire du Japan, published yearly.