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Why half of Japan’s cities are at risk of disappearing in 100 years

With contributions from around 370 celebrities, intellectuals and cultural figures of the time, the April 1920 edition of the now defunct Nihon Oyobi Nihonjin (Japan and the Japanese) magazine ran a special feature on what the country would look like in 100 years.

Sakio Tsurumi, then-director of the government’s Forestry Bureau, predicted that the nation’s population would grow nearly five-fold to around 260 million by 2020, approximately double what it actually is now. Professor Riichiro Hoashi of Waseda University expected the majority of government spending to concentrate on education, when in fact the aging population has seen social security fees soar. Yaichiro Isobe, chairman of the Kokumin Eigakukai English school, wrote that kanji would be abolished and English adopted as Japan’s second official language, a far cry from the linguistic realities in Japanese classrooms and offices today.

Not all prophecies were entirely off the mark, however. As physician Rinketsu Shikitsu speculated, the average Japanese life expectancy has indeed reached 80 to 90 years thanks to developments in medicine and hygiene (as opposed to around 42 and 43 years in the early 1920s). And technology has allowed for the generation and storage of electricity produced from solar energy — something civil engineer Ayahiko Ishibashi foresaw.

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