An annual estimate released by the welfare ministry has revealed that Japan's population shrank by a record margin in 2010 as the nation rapidly ages.
The number of Japanese people fell by 123,000, the biggest drop since records began in 1947, the ministry said, an illustration of the demographic crisis the country faces as a smaller working population has to support a mass of pensioners.
It is the fourth consecutive year that Japan's population has declined. The fall was far larger than the 72,000 registered in 2009, the previous record.
The ministry estimated 1,071,000 babies were born in 2010 on Japanese soil, almost flat from 2009, while deaths soared by 52,000 to a record 1,194,000.
Japanese seniors enjoy increased life expectancy while many young people continue to defer starting a family because of the burden on their finances, lifestyles and careers.