The series of reports "Annual Statistics of the City of Tokyo" (東京市統計年表) gives insight into the demographics of Tokyo from 1905 until the 1940s. In particular, for each ward of Tokyo (they weren't special wards then), you can look up its population at a given time. Fortunately, a large part of the series is made available online free of charge.

In 1908, there were just 15 wards. Surprisingly, the table (on the lower right here) for that year includes a 16th row with the label 水面 which I couldn't make sense of at all (I first thought maybe it was the name of a ward that only existed for a short time).

Originally, the series was published in English, this only changed after issue 25 from 1929, when the series switched entirely to Japanese. Since those English issues cover the year 1908 already, naturally, it's possible to see how 水面 was translated.

Indeed, in the issue from 1929, e.g., the population is split into "Lands" and "Waters". This distinction may seem a little unnecessary since the "Waters" population is always stated as "-" in that table, but as you can see on the next page, in later years they did indeed collect corresponding data for all districts.

So, my actual question is: What is the meaning of 水面 here? What is "waters population"? Please note that on the next page that I mentioned earlier, which gives data from 1920, you can see that many wards of Tokyo had such "waters" population, not just those that were by the Ocean, including e.g. 牛込区 (Ushigome-ku).

  • It’s interesting learning to know that "Annual Statistics of the City of Tokyo" in early 19 century classified resident population into “land residents” and “waterfront residents.” We have a cluster of “水上生活者” today, but their number will be negligible to be included in vital statistics. In other counties (China, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, etc.) in Asia, we still see a sizable number of “water face” resident population. Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 5:01

1 Answer 1


The linked English version has an answer:


本表中ニ水面トアルハ船舶等ニ依ル水上現住者ナリ 合計ハ水面ノ數ヲ含ム
Population on "Waters" given above are those living in the ships or vessels in the port or such like places.

Apparently this category was used only in the statistics of the year 1908 (see this PDF).

  • Oh my, I feel rather silly for missing that now. Thank you! PS: It seems population on water was also only counted 'in bulk' as far back as in 1923: kindai.ndl.go.jp/info:ndljp/pid/1448372/159
    – anonymous
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 22:39
  • That's a very helpful PDF btw. Thanks again!
    – anonymous
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 23:15

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