Photo/Illutration The central area of Tokyo on March 8, 2019 (Kazuyoshi Sako)

For the first time in two years, Tokyo’s central area saw more people moving in than those leaving it, thanks to the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions.

There were 21,420 more people who moved into the 23 wards of the capital’s central area in 2022 than those who moved out, according to data released on Jan. 30 by the internal affairs ministry.

“Migration flow into Tokyo grew as COVID-19 restrictions were relaxed,” said a ministry official.

For the entire Tokyo area, the figure stood at 38,023, up 32,590 from 2021. The margin of increase expanded for the first time in three years.

The data indicate a return of the long-term demographic trend from pre-pandemic times of people moving to Tokyo from other parts of the country.

The number of people moving out of the 23 wards began to rise in 2020 when the pandemic began. The area saw a negative migration balance in 2021 for the first time since 2014 when the statistics began to include the number of foreigners. 

Ten other prefectures including Kanagawa and Saitama followed Tokyo with the trend. Of those, Miyagi saw more people coming in than going out for the first time in seven years, and Nagano turned its balance positive for the first time since 2014.

But the other 36 prefectures lost residents to other areas, with Hiroshima reporting 9,207 more people leaving than coming in, the largest negative balance.