Why is the Population of Japan Almost Double That of France?

Elizabeth Borneman


Different countries around the world vary in cultures, populations and traditions, which helps make up the wonderfully diverse world we live in. What are the factors that contribute to such a wide variety of facts about each country, though? There are many ways to think of each individual culture and many factors that influence their differences; today we’ll be looking at the populations of France and Japan and what factors influenced their individual makeups, despite their similar geographical size.

France and Japan couldn’t be more different, you might think. One is in the East, the other in the West. One is a hard-working trendsetter in terms of business and technology, the other known for its stunning architecture and great food. The two have seen fairly similar paths when it comes to their population increases and decreases; things like the economy, war, fertility rates, advances in technology and resource abundance tend to do the same things to populations no matter what country you’re talking about. They still remain very different historically and in modernity in terms of their individual, unique populations.

France Used to be More Populated than Japan

This great population gap wasn’t always the case, however; in the 1700s to late 1890s the French population was bigger than that of the Japanese due to the Industrial Revolution and advances in technology Japan had not yet experienced. There was a huge population explosion in French during the 1700s as mechanization occurred in the agrarian sector, prompting more food to be produced, the standard of living to increase, and more resources to be available for people looking to start and support a family. At one point during this period the French population was nearly double that of the Japanese.

Industrialization has been shown to increase populations around the globe, with few exceptions. The abundance of resources (including food) and streamlining of production helps raise the infant mortality rate as well as create an atmosphere of abundance for the middle and upper classes in a country. Pre-industrial Japan during the 18th and 19th centuries was just easing into its own technological revolution but its population had not yet seen the effects of this.

Free weekly newsletter

Fill out your e-mail address to receive our newsletter!

Increasing globalization and Western meddling (typical) prompted the Japanese to open their doors to foreign trade in the mid-19th century. At that point Japan was also conducting its own cultural, technological and financial restoration to grow the internal economy’s strength and its population surpassed France’s in 1890.

Graph of changes in population for France (red) and Japan (blue).  Graph: Ryan Chew.
Graph of changes in population for France (red) and Japan (blue). Graph: Ryan Chew.

Even though industrialization increased France’s population, Japan surpassed it by a long shot in terms of the rate of population growth seen during its own modernization. The fertility rates of the French were lengths behind Japan as well as Britain and Germany. There are few answers to why this might be, although some researchers have theorized that it was because of the youth culture of France at the time, political turmoil, domestic conflicts, and the use of contraceptives.

Bringing things up to more recent times, the effects of World War I and the Great Depression were also major influencing factors to the slow growth of the French population. Japan felt the effects of neither of these conflicts in terms of its own economy, and was slowly but surely gaining strength throughout the 1900s. While the Franco-Prussian War was occupying France the success of the Japanese restoration and gains in territory, resources, and technology had them running ahead at full force.

In modern day France and Japan both countries have seen stabilization, and even a slowing in Japan’s case, of population growth. This can be contributed to recessions in the 1990s as well as present day economic downturns. There are currently about 66,000,000 people inhabiting the country of France and around 127,650,000 people in Japan, a fairly significant difference taking into consideration that the French population was double that of the Japanese just a couple of hundred years prior.

Populations can be affected by many things, and industrialization has certainly had a major impact on the French-Japanese population relationship. There are always factors that cannot be reliably quantified, like the attitudes of youth towards becoming parents and the overall effects of recession on individuals’ choices towards having children. In the case of France and Japan, though, we can see that economics, resources, and war all have significant influences on the populations of each country.


Chew, Ryan. Why does France have a population of 66.6 million and Japan a population of 126.4 million? Web 27 October 2014. http://www.quora.com/Why-does-France-have-a-population-of-66-6-million-and-Japan-a-population-of-126-4-million

Wikipedia. List of Countries by Population. Web 27 October 2014. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_population

Resources cited for graph:


Photo of author
About the author
Elizabeth Borneman
My name is Elizabeth Borneman and I am a freelance writer, reader, and coffee drinker. I live on a small island in Alaska, which gives me plenty of time to fish, hike, kayak, and be inspired by nature. I enjoy writing about the natural world and find lots of ways to flex my creative muscles on the beach, in the forest, or down at the local coffee shop.