Generally higher rates of unmarried men in eastern Japan prefectures and among women in prefectures home to major cities have led some analysts to say the trend of women moving to cities and men staying in rural areas to carry on family businesses in agriculture and other industries may explain the differences.
A National Institute of Population and Social Security Research report released last month showed a record 23.37 percent of men aged 50 nationwide in 2015 had never married, compared with a record 14.06 percent for women of the same age.
Among Tokyo and 46 other prefectures in the country, the highest for men was Okinawa in southwestern Japan at 26.20 percent and the lowest Nara in western Japan at 18.24 percent, while the highest for women was Tokyo at 19.20 and the lowest Fukui in central Japan at 8.66 percent.
An official of the northeastern Japan prefecture of Hokkaido, which logged the second-highest unmarried percentage of women at 17.22 percent, said a higher rate in the capital city of Sapporo has pushed up the average for the island prefecture.
"Hokkaido has long been said to have less social pressure for marriage. In Sapporo in particular, women may be feeling less pressed to marry, as there are many singles around them," the prefectural official involved in marriage promotion said.
Also included on the list of 10 prefectures with the highest rates of unmarried women are such major cities as Osaka, Fukuoka and Kyoto.