Largest cities in Japan by population by decade

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This article lists the ten most populous cities in Japan by decade, starting after the Meiji Restoration of 1868. The first Japanese Census was not conducted until 1920, but other civilian and military population counts were carried out in the prior years between 1872 and 1918, and those form the source data for this article. When data is not available right on the turn of the decade, the closest year is used.

1873[edit]

In 1868, the Meiji Restoration deposed the Tokugawa Shogunate and founded the Empire of Japan. Many major cities had lost population since the Tokugawa Era, as samurai left the former castle towns after the collapse of the military order.

Source data is from "Nihon Chishi Teiyo" (日本地誌提要, the Japanese Topographical Outline).

Rank 2010 Rank Municipality Current Prefecture Population Notes
1 1 Tokyo Tokyo 595,905 Formerly known as Edo, whose population is estimated to be over a million under the Tokugawa, but after the Meiji Restoration, roughly half the city's population emigrated. Nevertheless, Tokyo retained its position as Japan's largest city, which it had held since the mid 17th century.
2 3 Osaka Osaka 271,992
3 7 Kyoto Kyoto 238,663
4 4 Nagoya Aichi 125,193
5 35 Kanazawa Ishikawa 109,685
6 11 Hiroshima Hiroshima 74,305
7 2 Yokohama Kanagawa 64,602
8 55 Wakayama Wakayama 61,124
9 12 Sendai Miyagi 51,998
10 87 Tokushima Tokushima 48,861 Tokushima's last appearance in the top ten, and last appearance of any municipality from the island of Shikoku.

1881[edit]

Several major cities and towns actually lost population over the 1870s, as people continued to emigrate out of the former castle towns.

Source data is from the Fourth Joint Military-Government Report (第四回共武政表), a requisitioning document listing municipal populations and available resources and provisions.

Rank 2010 Rank Municipality Current Prefecture Population % Change Notes
1 1 Tokyo Tokyo 712,259 + 19.53%
2 3 Osaka Osaka 292,636 + 7.59%
3 7 Kyoto Kyoto 236,032 - 1.10%
4 4 Nagoya Aichi 117,401 - 6.22%
5 35 Kanazawa Ishikawa 108,328 - 1.24%
6 11 Hiroshima Hiroshima 74,950 + 0.87%
7 2 Yokohama Kanagawa 72,630 + 12.43%
8 55 Wakayama Wakayama 58,239 - 4.72% Last appearance in the top ten.
9 12 Sendai Miyagi 54,496 + 4.80%
10 6 Kobe Hyogo 48,786 + 19.32% First appearance in the top ten.

1891[edit]

In 1888, the government enacted a sweeping overhaul of the municipal government system, part of which involved a drastic program of municipality mergers. Overall, the "Great Meiji Mergers" cut the number of municipalities in Japan by more than three quarters, while dramatically increasing the size of many cities as they absorbed their surrounding towns and villages.

Source data is from the 1891 Imperial Japanese Registered Household Report (日本帝国民籍戸口表).

Rank 2010 Rank Municipality Current Prefecture Population % Change Notes
1 1 Tokyo Tokyo 1,161,800 + 63.11% Tokyo passed a million people, bringing the city back to its Tokugawa-era population level.
2 3 Osaka Osaka 483,609 + 65.26%
3 7 Kyoto Kyoto 297,527 + 26.05%
4 4 Nagoya Aichi 179,174 + 52.62%
5 6 Kobe Hyogo 142,965 +193.05%
6 2 Yokohama Kanagawa 132,627 + 82.61%
7 35 Kanazawa Ishikawa 93,531 - 13.66% Steadily decreasing in population since the Meiji Restoration.
8 11 Hiroshima Hiroshima 90,154 + 20.29%
9 12 Sendai Miyagi 64,476 + 18.31%
10 38 Nagasaki Nagasaki 60,581 + 89.32% First appearance in the top ten, and first appearance of a city from the island of Kyushu since the Tokugawa Shogunate.

1898[edit]

Source data is from the 1898 Imperial Japanese Population Statistics (日本帝国人口統計).

Rank 2010 Rank Municipality Current Prefecture Population % Change Notes
1 1 Tokyo Tokyo 1,440,121 + 23.96%
2 3 Osaka Osaka 821,235 + 69.81% Osaka merged with its surrounding municipalities in 1897, increasing its size and population.
3 7 Kyoto Kyoto 353,139 + 18.69%
4 4 Nagoya Aichi 244,145 + 36.26%
5 6 Kobe Hyogo 215,780 + 50.93%
6 2 Yokohama Kanagawa 193,762 + 46.10%
7 11 Hiroshima Hiroshima 122,306 + 35.66%
8 38 Nagasaki Nagasaki 107,422 + 77.32%
9 35 Kanazawa Ishikawa 83,662 - 10.55% Kanazawa lost population for the third list in a row.
10 12 Sendai Miyagi 83,325 + 29.23% Last appearance in the top ten until 1950.

1909[edit]

Source data is from the 1908 Imperial Japanese Population Statistics (日本帝国人口統計).

Rank 2010 Rank Municipality Current Prefecture Population % Change Notes
1 1 Tokyo Tokyo 2,186,079 + 51.80% The first Japanese city to pass 2 million people.
2 3 Osaka Osaka 1,226,647 + 49.37% The second Japanese city to pass 1 million people, after Edo/Tokyo.
3 7 Kyoto Kyoto 442,462 + 25.29%
4 2 Yokohama Kanagawa 394,303 +103.50% Yokohama merged with its neighboring municipalities 1901, increasing its size and population.
5 4 Nagoya Aichi 378,231 + 54.92%
6 6 Kobe Hyogo 378,197 + 75.27%
7 38 Nagasaki Nagasaki 176,480 + 64.29%
8 11 Hiroshima Hiroshima 142,763 + 16.73%
9 35 Kanazawa Ishikawa 110,994 + 32.67% Last appearance in the top ten.
10 95 Kure Hiroshima 100,679 n/a First appearance in the top ten. A brand new city, created in 1902 through the merger of smaller municipalities.

1920[edit]

Source data is from the 1920 Census (国勢調査), the first formal census to be taken in Japan.

Rank 2010 Rank Municipality Current Prefecture Population % Change Notes
1 1 Tokyo Tokyo 2,173,201 - 0.59% Tokyo's growth stalled throughout the 1920s.
2 3 Osaka Osaka 1,252,983 + 2.15%
3 6 Kobe Hyogo 608,644 + 60.93%
4 7 Kyoto Kyoto 591,323 + 33.64%
5 4 Nagoya Aichi 429,997 + 13.69%
6 2 Yokohama Kanagawa 422,938 + 7.26%
7 38 Nagasaki Nagasaki 176,534 + 0.03%
8 11 Hiroshima Hiroshima 160,510 + 12.43%
9 81 Hakodate Hokkaido 144,749 + 64.67% First appearance in the top ten, and first appearance of any city from Hokkaido.
10 94 Kure Hiroshima 130,362 + 29.48% Last appearance in the top ten.

1930[edit]

Source data is from the 1930 Census.

Rank 2010 Rank Municipality Current Prefecture Population % Change Notes
1 3 Osaka Osaka 2,453,973 + 95.85% Osaka merged with more surrounding municipalities in 1925, bringing the city to roughly its current size. The second Japanese city to pass 2 million people, and the new most populous city in Japan.
2 1 Tokyo Tokyo 2,070,913 - 4.71% Population briefly dipped below 2 million in the mid-1920s. For the first time since the early 17th century, Tokyo was no longer Japan's most populous city.
3 4 Nagoya Aichi 907,404 +111.03%
4 6 Kobe Hyogo 787,616 + 29.41%
5 7 Kyoto Kyoto 765,142 + 29.39%
6 2 Yokohama Kanagawa 620,306 + 46.67%
7 11 Hiroshima Hiroshima 270,417 + 68.47%
8 8 Fukuoka Fukuoka 228,289 +139.30% First appearance in the top ten.
9 38 Nagasaki Nagasaki 204,626 + 15.91% Last appearance in the top ten.
10 81 Hakodate Hokkaido 197,252 + 36.27% Last appearance in the top ten.

1940[edit]

Source data is from the 1940 Census.

Rank 2010 Rank Municipality Current Prefecture Population % Change Notes
1 1 Tokyo Tokyo 6,778,804 +227.33% Tokyo merged with its surrounding municipalities in 1932, radically increasing its size and population.
2 3 Osaka Osaka 3,252,340 + 32.53% Osaka reached its peak population, becoming the second Japanese city to exceed 3 million people, alongside Tokyo. It has not yet surpassed its 1940 population.
3 4 Nagoya Aichi 1,328,084 + 46.36% The third Japanese city with over a million people.
4 7 Kyoto Kyoto 1,089,726 + 42.42% The fourth Japanese city with over a million people.
5 2 Yokohama Kanagawa 968,091 + 56.07%
6 6 Kobe Hyogo 967,234 + 22.81%
7 11 Hiroshima Hiroshima 343,968 + 27.20% Last appearance in the top ten until 1960.
8 8 Fukuoka Fukuoka 306,763 + 34.37%
9 9 Kawasaki Kanagawa 300,777 +189.21% First appearance in the top ten.
10 Nonexistent Yahata Fukuoka 261,309 + 55.54% First and last appearance in the top ten. Yahata was merged into the new city of Kitakyushu in 1963.

1950[edit]

Japan emerged from the Second World War in defeat, under temporary American administration. Many cities had been attacked by American bomber forces, and many of the largest cities suffered further loss as residents evacuated to more rural regions of the country. Cities, though, were already recovering quickly from their wartime lows.

Source data is from the 1950 Census.

Rank 2010 Rank Municipality Current Prefecture Population % Change Notes
1 1 Tokyo Tokyo 5,385,071 - 20.56% In 1943, the imperial government dissolved the City of Tokyo into its constituent wards, but the Census has continued to treat it as one municipality ever since. Tokyo lost more than a million people to bombing and evacuation.
2 3 Osaka Osaka 1,956,136 - 39.85% Osaka lost more than a million people, and the city has never completely regained its prewar population to date.
3 7 Kyoto Kyoto 1,101,854 + 1.11% Kyoto was not attacked severely during the war.
4 4 Nagoya Aichi 1,030,635 - 22.39%
5 2 Yokohama Kanagawa 951,189 - 1.75% Population briefly passed a million in 1944. Almost recovered its prewar population, despite war losses.
6 6 Kobe Hyogo 765,435 - 20.86%
7 8 Fukuoka Fukuoka 392,649 +28.00% Significant population gain, despite war losses.
8 12 Sendai Miyagi 341,685 +52.54% Second and last appearance in the top ten. Significant population gain, despite war losses.
9 9 Kawasaki Kanagawa 319,226 + 6.13% Recovered its prewar population, despite war losses.
10 5 Sapporo Hokkaido 313,850 +52.35% First appearance in the top ten. Sapporo was not severely attacked during the war.

1960[edit]

A series of municipal mergers throughout the 1950s known as the "Great Showa Mergers" cut the number of municipalities in Japan by almost two thirds, significantly increasing the size of many cities in the process. By this time, almost all of Japan's largest cities had recovered war losses and exceeded their prewar populations.

Source data is from the 1960 Census.

Rank 2010 Rank Municipality Current Prefecture Population % Change Notes
1 1 Tokyo Tokyo 8,310,027 + 54.32%
2 3 Osaka Osaka 3,011,563 + 53.95% Osaka passed 3 million people for the second time, but population remained short of the prewar record.
3 4 Nagoya Aichi 1,591,935 + 54.46%
4 2 Yokohama Kanagawa 1,375,710 + 44.63% Population passed a million for the second time.
5 7 Kyoto Kyoto 1,284,818 + 16.61%
6 6 Kobe Hyogo 1,113,977 + 45.54% Population passed a million people for the first time.
7 8 Fukuoka Fukuoka 647,122 + 64.81%
8 9 Kawasaki Kanagawa 632,975 + 98.28%
9 5 Sapporo Hokkaido 523,839 + 66.91%
10 11 Hiroshima Hiroshima 431,336 + 50.82% Second appearance in the top ten, and last appearance until 1990.

1970[edit]

Tokyo and Osaka began to experience a trend of suburbanization, as people left the cities for the less densely peopled surrounding municipalities. Other major cities continued to grow rapidly.

Source data is from the 1970 Census.

Rank 2010 Rank Municipality Current Prefecture Population % Change Notes
1 1 Tokyo Tokyo 8,840,942 + 6.39% Reached a population peak in 1965.
2 3 Osaka Osaka 2,980,487 - 1.03% Reached its postwar population record in 1965, but subsequently dropped below 3 million people.
3 2 Yokohama Kanagawa 2,238,264 + 62.70% Third Japanese city to pass 2 million people.
4 4 Nagoya Aichi 2,036,053 + 27.90% Fourth Japanese city to pass 2 million people.
5 7 Kyoto Kyoto 1,419,165 + 10.46%
6 6 Kobe Hyogo 1,288,937 + 13.67%
7 13 Kitakyushu Fukuoka 1,042,321 n/a First appearance in the top ten. A brand new city, formed in 1963 through the merger of five area cities, including former top ten city Yahata.
8 5 Sapporo Hokkaido 1,010,123 + 92.83% Population passed a million for the first time.
9 9 Kawasaki Kanagawa 973,486 + 53.80%
10 8 Fukuoka Fukuoka 853,270 + 31.86%

1980[edit]

Source data is from the 1980 Census.

Rank 2010 Rank Municipality Current Prefecture Population % Change Notes
1 1 Tokyo Tokyo 8,351,893 - 5.53%
2 2 Yokohama Kanagawa 2,773,674 + 23.92% Surpassed Osaka's population to become Japan's new second most populous Japanese city.
3 3 Osaka Osaka 2,648,180 - 11.15%
4 4 Nagoya Aichi 2,087,982 + 2.55%
5 7 Kyoto Kyoto 1,473,065 + 3.80%
6 5 Sapporo Hokkaido 1,401,757 + 38.77%
7 6 Kobe Hyogo 1,367,390 + 6.09%
8 8 Fukuoka Fukuoka 1,088,588 + 27.58% Population passed a million for the first time.
9 13 Kitakyushu Fukuoka 1,065,078 + 2.18% Last appearance in the top ten. To date, 1980 is the city's population record. Kitakyushu subsequently began losing people, dropping below a million by 2005.
10 9 Kawasaki Kanagawa 1,040,802 + 6.91% Population passed a million for the first time.

1990[edit]

By 1990, almost all the largest Japanese cities had assumed their present-day population ranking.

Source data is from the 1990 Census.

Rank 2010 Rank Municipality Current Prefecture Population % Change Notes
1 1 Tokyo Tokyo 8,163,573 - 2.25%
2 2 Yokohama Kanagawa 3,220,331 + 16.10% The third Japanese city to pass 3 million people.
3 3 Osaka Osaka 2,623,801 - 0.92%
4 4 Nagoya Aichi 2,154,793 + 3.20%
5 5 Sapporo Hokkaido 1,671,742 + 19.26%
6 6 Kobe Hyogo 1,477,410 + 8.05%
7 7 Kyoto Kyoto 1,461,103 - 0.81% Kyoto reached its record population in 1985, and has been fluctuating just below that level ever since.
8 8 Fukuoka Fukuoka 1,237,062 + 13.64%
9 9 Kawasaki Kanagawa 1,173,603 + 12.76%
10 11 Hiroshima Hiroshima 1,085,705 + 20.77% Third appearance in the top ten. Population passed a million for the first time.

2000[edit]

By 2000, the ongoing suburbanization drawing population from Tōkyō and Ōsaka was showing signs of abating, with people slowly moving back into the cities proper.

Source data is from the 2000 Census.

Rank 2010 Rank Municipality Current Prefecture Population % Change Notes
1 1 Tokyo Tokyo 8,134,688 - 0.35% Population reached its post-1965 low in 1995, dipping just under 8 million people, but began rising afterwards.
2 2 Yokohama Kanagawa 3,426,651 + 6.41%
3 3 Osaka Osaka 2,598,774 - 0.95% Osaka's post-1965 population low.
4 4 Nagoya Aichi 2,171,557 + 0.78%
5 5 Sapporo Hokkaido 1,822,368 + 9.01%
6 6 Kobe Hyogo 1,493,398 + 1.08%
7 7 Kyoto Kyoto 1,467,785 + 0.46%
8 8 Fukuoka Fukuoka 1,341,470 + 8.44%
9 9 Kawasaki Kanagawa 1,249,905 + 6.50%
10 11 Hiroshima Hiroshima 1,126,239 + 8.21% Last appearance in the top ten to date.

2010[edit]

In the mid-2000s, another series of municipal mergers was enacted. The "Great Heisei Mergers" nearly halved the number of municipalities in Japan, once again increasing the size of some cities significantly and creating new towns and cities. Despite a mounting population loss in rural areas and some smaller cities, Japan's major cities continue to grow.

Source date is from the 2010 Census.

Rank Municipality Prefecture Population % Change Notes
1 Tokyo Tokyo 8,945,695 + 9.63%
2 Yokohama Kanagawa 3,688,773 + 7.67%
3 Osaka Osaka 2,665,314 + 2.60%
4 Nagoya Aichi 2,263,894 + 4.25%
5 Sapporo Hokkaido 1,913,545 + 5.05% Record population.
6 Kobe Hyogo 1,544,200 + 3.45%
7 Kyoto Kyoto 1,474,015 + 0.46%
8 Fukuoka Fukuoka 1,463,743 + 9.12%
9 Kawasaki Kanagawa 1,425,512 + 14.06%
10 Saitama Saitama 1,222,434 n/a First appearance in the top ten. A brand new city, formed in 2001 through the merger of area cities.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]