Japan's natural population decline hits record 268,000 in 2014

Japan's natural population decline - the number by which deaths exceed births - came to an estimated 268,000 in 2014, the largest drop on record, according to data compiled by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

The number of children born fell 29,000 in 2014 from the previous year to an estimated 1,001,000, a record low since the survey started in 1899. The natural decrease has continued for consecutive eight years, with the 2014 decline exceeding the one in 2013 by about 29,000.

Population data for November and December was estimated based on the increase-decrease rate from January through October. The rounded or final number of births, to be released later, could fall below 1 million for the first time.

"As the number of women who bear children is decreasing, the number of births will continue dropping," a ministry official said.

The number of deaths rose 1,000 from the previous year to 1,269,000.

A total of 649,000 couples married in 2014, a drop of 12,000 from the previous year. There were also 222,000 divorces, down 9,000, the data showed.

1st rise in new adults in 21 years

The number of Japanese who became legal adults by turning 20 in 2014 is estimated to have increased by 50,000 from 2013 to 1.26 million, the first rise in 21 years, according to a survey released by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry.

These new adults are composed of 650,000 men and 610,000 women. According to the ministry, children of the second generation of baby boomers born from 1971 to 1974 are starting to reach the age of 20, contributing to the increase in new adults.

The number of people born in the Year of the Sheep, which falls in 2015 according to the Chinese zodiac, stands at 10.07 million, with 4.88 million men and 5.19 million women, the statistics showed. This accounts for 7.9 per cent of the total population, in ninth place among the 12 Zodiac symbols.

Of those people, the largest number - 1.88 million - were born in 1967.