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Japan keeps building suburbs even as population shrinks

Empty homes mushroom in urban areas, stalling plans for compact cities

The Tsukuba Express passes through Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture. Areas along the train line have logged population growth. (Photo by Nobuyoshi Shiota)

TOKYO -- As Japan's population shrinks, consolidating scattered residents into denser, more compact cities is increasingly seen as a must. Yet the steady outward creep of the suburbs continues unabated.

In the 10 years through 2015, residential areas expanded by 1,773 sq. km, an area three times the size of Tokyo's 23 central wards, according to an analysis by Nikkei and the Nikken Sekkei Research Institute.

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