Japan’s continuing influx of foreigners and what it means for YOU

Quiz time! What percentage of Tokyo is non-Japanese?

Answer: 2.93% – that’s the percentage of registered foreigners in Tokyo as of January 1, 2007 (an increase of 1.8% over last year), says Shukan Toyo Keizai. That means that 3 out of every 100 people you see in Tokyo are foreign (one of whom could be a white dude staring at the Daily Yomiuri [picture courtesy STK]). There are 371,000 registered foreigners among Tokyo’s overall population of 12.69 million. The information comes from a “population movement survey” conducted by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

white-dude-47_1.jpgTop nationalities:
Chinese – 126,000
Korean – 109,000
Filipino – 31,000

Most foreign districts:
Shinjuku-ku (where Tokyo’s Koreatown is located): 30,000
Adachi-ku: 21,000
Edogawa-ku (home to Indiatown in Nishikasai): 21,000

Tokyo’s foreign population has surged 2.5-fold over the past 20 years, going from a mere 150,000 in 1987 to the present 371,000 (18.5% of the estimated 2 million registered foreigners, or about 1.5% of the total population).

These numbers may just be the tip of the iceberg. The ‘registered’ foreigners are merely the people in the country legally for purposes other than tourism, some of whom are temporary visitors who have no intention of making a life here. But many do plan to (there were 349,804 permanent residents that are not zainichi Koreans/Chinese as of 2005). According to Immigration Bureau statistics, there were approximately 190,000 people illegally residing in Japan (presumably concentrated mainly around Tokyo) as of 2006. Though the number of illegal immigrants has decreased as controls have gotten stricter over the years, Japanese manufacturers have no intention of turning back from their use of cheap, often illegal, foreign labor to stay competitive as the numbers of Japanese workers decrease and fewer people are willing to take such jobs. On top of that, other industries, including the medical, restaurant, and agricultural industry are eager to expand their use of foreign labor.

While many of the legal immigrants were educated at least partly in Japan (and in the cases of Chinese and Koreans, their families may have been in the country for 3 generations or more) and lead normal, middle class lives, the conditions for illegal workers in Japan can be downright dreary. A recent government-produced documentary depicting the daily activities of immigration officials features a scene in which the “Immigration G-Men” break up a textile operation in a small Tokyo apartment that was making handbags for local consumption. The workers are Korean, speak poor Japanese, and look like they rarely leave their work stations. Even among legal residents of Japan, many are “trainees” at manufacturing companies whose “training” consists of full time work on an assembly line for low pay.

The regular publication of statistics like these, and the regular, adversarial reporting of developments in this issue, should remind the public as well as the authorities that real “internationalization” based on economic interests, rather than the abstract concept of peace, cooperation, and English study that is usually associated with that term, has already arrived in parts of Japan, making it necessary to adjust and respond. Recently publicized cases of some issues facing foreign laborers, such as abuse in the “trainee” system the difficulty that children of foreign residents face in getting an education, have resulted in increased attention by the authorties, and even some incremental reform. Justice Minister Nagase is heading efforts at the ministry to provide a legal framework to tap unskilled workers, a move that would give legal credibility to the current practice but at the same time would give the foreign workers rights and proper status. The Ministry of Education has begun requiring children of permanent residents to attend school.

These are necessary steps forward, but I feel like the current developments facing foreign residents in Japan have yet to receive the top spot on the agenda that they deserve. Back in 1990, Japan began a program to accept Brazilians of Japanese descent as temporary guest workers. I wasn’t around at the time, but it’s clear that the issue received very wide coverage that I think helped prepare people mentally for the small-scale but significant change in policy. Today, with the foreign population exploding (by Japanese standards), where are the public opinion polls, dramas featuring foreign laborers, rants by unqualified political commentators, etc etc?

Corporate-led Social Revolution

Generally, Japan’s immigration policies are much more liberal than the US – in the rare case that you speak Japanese fluently and have connections within the country. For the rest of the world, Japan’s immigration policies focus on attracting skilled foreign workers in areas such as computer programming where Japanese skills aren’t enough to meet demand. Some industries, meanwhile, are calling for an addition to that policy of allowing more low-skilled workers in to either fill shortages or drive wages down. The most recent victories for advocates of such policies were the “free trade agreements” signed with the Philippines and Thailand, which will allow foreign nurses and chefs, respectively, to work in Japan. However, the Japanese side insisted on language requirements that guarantee virtually no significant numbers will be let in.

This is a radical change for Japan, which has traditionally coddled its low-skilled workers with decent wages and living standards and kept out large numbers of non-Japanese foreigners. Like the US, Japan has a valuable currency and lots of industry, making it an attractive destination for low-skilled workers. Bringing in lots of foreign unskilled labor would make Japan’s immigration structure more like the US, which imports millions of unskilled laborers with poorly enforced immigration laws while making highly skilled jobs very difficult through unofficial barriers such as difficult licensing requirements and tight visa quotas. From the perspective of an average citizen who wants to see the best people in the right jobs, I would advocate opening up the books for all levels of jobs. The US situation is a nightmare for both the illegal immigrants from Mexico who have no prospects back home but must leave their families and live as an outlaw to support their families in the US, and the Americans who have seen low-skilled jobs with decent pay evaporate as a result of the immigration and outsourced manufacturing.

Japan, meanwhile, has relied almost exclusively on what the Japanese government coyly calls “international division of labor” and less on importing labor. Large Japanese corporations are major investors around the world, particularly in China and SE Asia, and employ hundreds of thousands if not millions throughout the region. This decision by the Japanese companies no doubt increases the supply of labor for the companies and allows them to save on wages. But Japan managed to avoid the US situation by maintaining stable employment in domestic industries such as service and construction, sometimes at the expense of efficiency or economic rationality.

But the business community has changed its tone over the years, and now the two top business lobbies, the Keidanren (made up of manufacturers) and Keizai Doyukai (a more brazenly neo-liberal group of top executives), are calling for massive importation of labor to avoid a drop in GDP due to the shrinking native work force that will accompany Japan’s population drop to 100 million by 2050.

No more – Economic analysts have been pointing out for years that Japanese consumer consumption is low relative to other developed countries, and that poor consumption is holding back Japan’s GDP growth. The low consumption is blamed on two factors – deflation that makes people delay large purchases, and stagnant wage growth – the latter of which Morgan Stanley economist Stephen Roach argues stems from the “powerful global labor arbitrage that continues to put unrelenting pressure on the labor-income generating capacity of high-wage industrial economies.” In other words, Japanese labor is in competition from foreigners, a prospect that means money for the global corporations but hardship for the domestic workers.

Japan’s media has been sensitive to this issue, if a bit reluctant to blame it on globalization. Economic disparity between the rich and poor (known succinctly as “kakusa” in Japanese) has been a persistent buzzword over the past 2 years. A host of phenomena – growing income disparity, the collapse of stable employment and the rise of fluid ‘temporary’ employment, a jump in the welfare rolls, the rise in prominence of a new wealthy class, the bankrupt finances of local governments, the near-collapge of the social insurance system, low economic growth for more than a decade, a shrinking/aging population, and on and on – have given average Japanese people the sense that the future looks rather dim.

Now the manufacturing interests, among others, are calling for more foreign labor to come to Japan, and as we’ve seen above it is on its way, putting perhaps more pressure on the average worker. But in my opinion this is only a problem if only labor is allowed to be fluid while corporations with stable management and shareholders reap the profits. Highly skilled laborers such as lawyers, doctors, professors, journalists, and especially corporate managers/investors should be allowed into Japan. Allowing a full spectrum of business opportunities into Japan, which with a highly educated population, peaceful society, and hyper-developed infrastructure, would allow for a wealth of more business and labor opportunities.

But of course that’s a silly proposition. The stewards of Japanese society will continue to hoard the top positions and continue making hypocritical appeals to racial harmony out of one side of their mouths when it comes to reform of corporate boardrooms while pushing for internationalization of cheap labor from the other side. Like it or not, the choice average citizens have is how to deal with the situation that’s been thrust upon us.

Where East and West meet

It’s easy to see a disconnect between, say, the interests of English teachers, IT workers, and businessmen that make up the bulk of Japan’s semi-permanent Western population, and those of the “low-skilled” world of immigrants from Asia.

But that would be wrong. Apart from entry requirements and visa stipulations, Japanese law treats all foreigners basically the same. And while perceptions of foreigners is different based on skin color and culture, the rights of foreigners and the level of their acceptance in Japan will depend on the experiences of other populations. There are already many examples of this connection. The question of whether zainichi Koreans will be accepted as a distinct “Japanese-Korean” identity or whether they will end up mostly assimilated and forgotten will decide how future populations will be dealt with. And if human rights activist Arudo Debito is successful in his campaign to get a national law passed banning racial discrimination, that legal framework will be enforceable for the entire foreign population.

At the same time, the bad deeds of a small group of people can ruin things for everyone else, fairly or not. Crimes committed by foreign nationals are often highly publicized thanks to a xenophobic police force that I suspect is in search of a scapegoat to help market security equipment and grab bigger budgets. Whatever the case, the anti-foreign crime campaign has resulted in bothersome ID checks and humiliating signs warning citizens to watch out for suspicious foreigners. And as limited as its impact was (thanks mainly to successful protests that cut its shelf life to mere months), the “Foreign Crime File” book, a despicable, short-lived multimedia diatribe against the foreign population in Japan, did not distinguish between Asians, Africans, or Westerners in its cheap attempts to cast foreigners in a negative light.

My biggest worry is that without proactive efforts to make this immigration smooth and easy, Japan will start to experience something like the US illegal immigration problem, with all the poverty, crime, and mistrust that goes with it. Occasional statements from high-level politicians, like Education Minister Bunmei Ibuki’s statement that Japan is a “homogeneous nation,” should remind people that race consciousness and nativism are not dead and work as appeals to a conservative voter base. The time to lay the groundwork is now to prevent a backlash against foreigners that would prove a major headache for the entire foreign population, and a loss of the culture of tranquil co-existence with neighbors that has defined Japanese society.

48 thoughts on “Japan’s continuing influx of foreigners and what it means for YOU”

  1. something like the US illegal immigration problem, with all the poverty, crime, and mistrust that goes with it.

    Actually, illegal immigrants are more law-abiding than average, according to the most recent research; something about not wanting to run afoul of the law. And they tend to be pretty hard-working, so poverty isn’t the issue, either.

    Lowering wages for marginal ‘native’ workers, on the other hand, does produce some poverty and crime… by natives.

  2. “Actually, illegal immigrants are more law-abiding than average, according to the most recent research”

    Interesting. Can you provide a link or names several books which handle this theme? I was always interested in this theme.

    I can only imagine the future of Japan as a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society. Ofcourse it will be a different one from ,say, north america or Europe but still, this future is inevitable, whether you like it or not.

    Every minister in the cabinet should be forced to read the book by Oguma Eiji first before they run the post in the future.

    Adamu, a very good article. Thanks.

  3. I don’t really see why a “multicultural” Japan is “inevitable.” Any number of factors could turn Japan starkly against immigrants, and the idea of a stark labor shortage is likely to be exaggerated. While a lot of Japanese people have no problem with people moving to Japan, perhaps a majority are ambivalent or generally against the idea of large permanent minorities, if it’s something they’ve even considered. And the minority that is dead-set against such an idea (the far right) are bullies that have the tacit support of the conservatives in power to rough up agitators. The government is very cautious, if pragmatic, about letting foreigners in (a recent plan calls for no more than 3% of Japan’s population).

  4. you are right. I should have stopped at “multi-ethnical”. Multi-culturalism is a different thing.It has its problems.

    On the other hand, yea there are pretty much people who are against immigrants, and especialy the conservative, but even Ishihara once said that he thinks that there is no problem if there is an Iranian-Japanese.

    And traditional right-winger are based on pan-asiatic ideologies. Their reaction to immigrants is more complex and diverse than simply to say,they would do everything to protect the “purity” of the Japanese.

    But you can’t stop people comming in. Ofcourse how much immigrants you tolerate or whether to continue the current double standards would be a problem, but in an age of globalization, I don’t think that it is realistic to “dream” about the homogenious nation.

  5. “illegal immigrants are more law-abiding than average, according to the most recent research”

    Which ones? The ones in the U.S. or the ones in Japan?

  6. Two weeks ago I had a party in the house of a Mongolian illegal worker in nearby Tokyo.They lived quietly and worked hard.They even drive a car without international licence.However I wonder what will happen if they have some auto accident.Probably run off to Mongolia and never come back.

    “illegal immigrants are more law-abiding than average, according to the most recent research
    While it all sounds logical,I wonder whether we can have reliable data from illegal alien that can compare with the natives.

  7. Jonathan, are you seriously asserting that poverty is not a problem among illegal immigrants to the US/ Hardworking? Absolutely. Impoverished? Yes, indeed.

    Unfortunately, working hard and being impverished can and do go together all the time.

  8. Adam, nice work. A few points:

    I think it’s important to keep ‘immigration’ separate from ‘foreign labor resources’ – not because they necessarily should be, but because this is what the powers that be are insisting upon. Keidanren’s proposal for allowing more skilled foreign workers very clearly states that these people are to stay in Japan for a few years and then go home; In other words, they should be legally circumscribed from attaining ‘immigrant’ status. Their program is not meant to be a path to ‘immigration.’

    Of course, this is hardly realistic, and perhaps it is a sort of compromise to keep the politically conservative happy – after all, we all know it’s not so hard to keep extending a visa, and once you marry a citizen, well, you’re good.

    At the same time, Keidanren’s proposal has hallmarks of what seems like an ‘immigration’ policy: they want people to learn the language and something about the culture so they are able to function seamlessly in Japanese firms, alongside Japanese workers. Now, if you tell me I have to study my butt off to gain proficiency in Japanese so I can come work in Japan for three years just to get kicked out, how motivated will I be to do that?

    One more thing. Roach is correct that consumption has been low and that it should pick up, but of course it’s not guaranteed in the future. There are other potential GDP increases – we’ve seen quite the leap in percentage of GDP coming from exports in the recent years, for example.

    At the same time, labor productivity in Japan is about 70% of that in the US. It is astoundingly low for an OECD nation, especially in the service industries. It could be argued that gains in GDP could be leveraged out of gains in labor productivity, and that these gains could render foreign workers unnecessary.

  9. Adamu never disappoints. Good thing I did not bother investing in Japanese ETFs earlier this month.

    I wonder what Shintaro-kun thinks about the rise of foreigners in his city and prefecture?

  10. I think Ishihara is concerned of the CRIME commited by foreigner,Not the presence of the foreigner itself Mark.It happened to be the very reign of Ishihara at MPG when foreign population increased in Tokyo.Seems to me it is the foreigner who dislikes Isihara’s whole presence more than the other way around.The town belong to the man for another 4 years,If you don’t like him that much,consider Yokohama.

  11. People interested in this topic should check out this article –


    Limiting immigration is NOT necessarily a racist or xenophobic agenda.

    I`m not sure that bringing in more semi-skilled and non-Japanese speaking people into Japan is going to do anything for either the immigrants or the people already in Japan except post some higher GDP numbers. What about quality of life all around? Do we really want to stuff another 10 million people into Tokyo over the next 20 years? Its not like many immigrants are going to be anxious to go to Shimane or Akita.

  12. Nobody is anxious to go to Shimane or Akita. If Tokyo wants to keep itself from reaching critical density, then there need to be better plans to promote business development in the outlying regions. Immigrants will probably go whereever the jobs are, and many would probably love to live in a cheaper and less hectic place than Tokyo.

  13. Since many foreigners are working in service industries, Tokyo is going to be a natural gathering place. No amount of promoting business development in outlying areas is going to change the fact that Tokyo is the core area for service / nightlife, etc.

    I saw the visa breakdown for foreign residents of Fukuoka the other day and a huge majority are teachers, students, on entertainment visas, etc. Big cities are always going to have this dynamic and that is not going to change.

    In any case, is there any country (regional business development or not) where foreigners are not collecting in the big cities?

  14. In case for Brazillians there are population densities in Tochigi,Aichi and Shizuoka,
    Only Aichi has big city(Nagoya).This is due to the fact that Brazillians are usually factory labor in Japan.Mongolians are in Chiba,especially Narita region and working as agriculture labor.(Funny thing to see Mongolians working in the field).

  15. There are Brazilians in those areas because of factory owners recruiting them in an organized fashion. At present, I think that the Tokyo area is home to over half of the non-zainichi foreigners in Japan. Is there really a way to change this? For people entering Japan and looking for service work, the big cities are the only place. Interesting about the Mongolians.

  16. As a foreigner I would be more than happy to move to either Akita or Shimane, both of which are very pleasant places – far more so, in my opinion, than the hideous cancer that is Tokyo. But I am not a semi-skilled (I hope) migrant worker who goes where the money is, and the money is in Tokyo. Enough Japanese have gone there already to make that very clear. And despite the various decentralisation ideas that float out from time to time, it is not likely that anything will change very soon. Unless Osaka/Kansai develops more. It appears that the foreign population is increasing more quickly than the Japanese population….

    But still, 3% of the population is I feel pretty insignificant. Tokyo might start serious change at about 10% foreign, but at the moment there are few enough, especially noticably ‘different’ ones, to make much of an impact. It may be a big issue to us, but not to most Japanese.

  17. It is a big issue to us Japanese.Liberals as always support the idea of multi ethnicity and the conservatives arfe also interested into having immigrant coming over.They are focusing how to keep Japan as powerful as today while not losing it’s Japaneseness.

    I agree with Jade on Akita and Shimane would be a present places to live for foreigner compare to Tokyo for two reasons.1)the rent is cheap.2)Few labor competition for rural youth prefers to live in the big cities.

    I also agree that 3% are insignificant to call Tokyo itself a cosmopolitan city.but we all understand the concept of tipping point .3% is big enough to make sustainable community and social infrastructure for foreign residents and big enough for local government to make legistrative measure,such like educational service or certain medical cares.It’s not so far to go 10% from here.

  18. Yes, 3 percent of a city the size Tokyo does constitute a significant number of foreigners. Enough of a critical mass to engage in activities that are perceived and incorporated into the dominant culture.

    With apologies to Mr Einstein, not everything is relative.

  19. “Yes, 3 percent of a city the size Tokyo does constitute a significant number of foreigners.”

    How is this significance determined? Is it purely media hype of say gaikokujin hanzai type stuff (and if so, does %age make a significant difference there)? Or is it that 3% of a place the size of Tokyo is a pretty significant number anyway?

  20. As culture is primarily about shared messages, I would define “significance” in this case as the amount of people needed to form networks that support and sustain such messages and then spread them to the public at large. The size of the community depends on the nature of the message. To take a mundane example, you can now buy authentic middle eastern kebabs in central Tokyo, although it was pretty hard to find them anywhere in Tokyo five or ten years ago. As opposed to hamburgers, or even tonkatsu, which were introduced from the outside by Japanese entrepreneurs, I suspect these kebab shacks were started by immigrant vendors. Given the networks you need to succeed in any new enterprise, whether it be customers, people to help run the thing, or (if those vendors sell halaal meats) suppliers. I doubt they were started up by one guy who lived in Japan disconnected from anything resembling his own community and they have “diversified” Japanese culinary culture that one little bit. Of course there have always been foreigners living and congregating in Japan, but there seems to be a greater willingness on the part of many native Japanese to try out new things that originate from these foreign communities at home.

    I agree with Aceface that 360,000 odd foreign residents in one city is big enough to make a sustainable community and social infrastructure for foreign residents, and in some places these residents will have an impact on overall culture. Whether or not this will impact on policy areas like education is still to be seen, however.

  21. “Whether or not this will impact on policy areas like education is still to be seen, however”

    I think education will be the primary legistrative measure for accepting foreigner in this country,because they would be here mainly as either student or workforce for bluecollar work.That means most of the potential immigrants would be either 20 ir 30 something.
    In case of the Brazillians they were mostly 30 something and they brought their infants along,who would later demand Portuguese substitute in public schools or Brazillian schools.

  22. Good heavens, kebabs in Tokyo. Must try that next time I am there…. I know that for example Ameyokocho has been selling halal meat for ages – foreign students from Indonesia etc in my dorm waaaay back when used to get their meat there.

    So you would define significance as a “message” (in this case, kebabs) spread to “the public at large”? Does “at large” merely mean that it is available if you know where to look? Given the vast 多様性 (for want of a better word) of Tokyo, and the ways in which the various subcultures connect and interact without necessarily impinging on what might be called the ‘over-culture’, the general 全体像 of the place, is there not a difference between being able to give the message, and having that message understood and accepted? In other words, what is the amount of people you would say meets the “significance” standard? Does the fact that there are three or four authentic Indian restaurants in my city mean that there is a “significant” Indian presence here? Or is significance only significant in select circles/cultural groups? Eg is it significant when Yumi and Mai want to have Rogan Josh, but otherwise ignored?

    Not being a sociologist or political scientist, I tend to remain sceptical that three percent is “significant” unless it is a very vocal and visible three percent. Certainly if I was Tokyo Governor it is not a figure which would bother me very much (perhaps one reason I am not Tokyo Governor – then again, maybe not…). In general I cannot help feeling that foreign-oriented news and trend reports from Japan tend to play up the “foreign experience” and thus remain calmly sceptical (ie I am prepared to change my mind if the arguments merit it) about suggestions that Tokyo is going to change “significantly” (that word again) with three percent.

    Where are those kebab places? I could really go for one soon….

  23. Kebab places are now everywhere in Tokyo,not as ubiquitous as Sturbacks,mind you.But I know two in Shibuya and they ARE run by Turks.though I’m not saying they are the symbol of significant 3%.
    You go to ShinOkubo and you’ll find out plenty of Thai,Korean,Malysian,Burmese presence,And If you ever have any opportunity to go to Oizumi,Oota or Isezaki
    in Gunnma.You will think Japan goes multiethnic.Lots of Brazillians and Halal foods.
    Or used car auctions at Noda,Chiba.All you’ll see in sight are all Pakistanis.Seriously.

  24. I think you misunderstood me, Jade. I did not say that “significance is a message”, I said that in order to be classed as “significant”, a subgroup has to be large enough to support and sustain culture (shared messages) and then spread them to what you term as the “over-culture”. Also, I’m not sure that the “over-culture” has to “accurately” perceive the message the subgroup is attempting to communicate.

    Also, I don’t think the “message” communicated has to be understood in its original form to qualify as contributing to “multiculturalism”. It is enough that it changes the way members of the “over-culture” think and behave (although generally the multiculturalism junkies would add that the “overculture” has to respond in a positive manner befitting the term “tolerance”). So, yes, if Rumi and Ai love their Rogan Josh, and this can be seen as some Japanese people embracing other cultures. do they care about the lives of the Indians that are serving them? I don’t know if that is relevant. But if a society allows for foreign groups to establish themselves and communicate culture to the majority – whether this be in the form of food, religion, work habits or whatever – then I suppose you could call that society “multicultural”. the significance of foreign groups within society depends on their ability to communicate with members of the “over-culture” in ways tof their own choosing.

    The reason I mentioned the kebab places is

    a) they are highly visible (when I was in Shibuya last there were about three within sight of each other right on the main intersection),
    b) they are something that has sprung up from the foreign community, not as a result of Japanese “importing” foreign culture (a la tonkatsu) or foreign companies “exporting” foreign culture to Japan (a la McDonalds),
    c) they are enjoyed by a large number of Japanese, if the drunk salarymen in Shibuya seemed to be any indication; and
    d) they have changed the eating habits of a significant number of Tokyoites (although not necessarily a significant number of all Japanese)

  25. Being a husband of an ex-illegal alien worker in Japan,I’m actually quite dissatisfied with the cynicism and sarcasm coming from gaijins on the “immigrant in Japan issues.I mean,everybody always come up with the wackiest fact as evidence for their argument.As if exceptions are norm.

    Everyone talk about Ishihara as example of xenophobic Japanese politics.Fine.But why overlook the fact that current diet has at least three ex-immigrant delegates.(Hak Shinkun(ex-Korean)Ren ho(ex-Taiwanese)Tsurunen marutei(ex-Finn)?

    Koreans are only consisting 0.7%of entire population but they are VERY vocal and well represented in both academe and media.I would even say they are punching above their weight.
    Kang Sang Jyung is definitely the most media friendly prof in Todai and you can see a half dozen picture of him in Japanese bookstores everywhere.He even writes book like”Manner of Patriotism”Preaching how to be politically correct and patriotic at the same time.
    Sai Youichi is now the chairman of the Japanese federation of the motion picture directors.”LETTER TO IWOJIMA”actor Ihara Tsuyoshi(act as Baron Nishi)a third generation Korean from korea town of Ikaino,Osaka and naturalized in ’95.

    In sports,Mongolian is the second largest group(38) in Sumo world’s Kunimon国者,wrestler’s birth place classification,only next to the Aomori.and Taiwanese(baseball legend Oh Sadaharu of Fukuoka Hawks,owned by SOFTBANK whose CEO is another immigrant hero Son Masayoshi) is leading national baseball team.

    With these people elsewhere,Japan got to be heading toward multiethnic society.

  26. Bryce: misunderstandings are par for the course in internet forums. While not being entirely sure what you meant in your initial sentence correcting my assumption, I do want to clarify that I don’t claim the significance IS the message itself but the degree to which it is heard by the “over-culture”. The “spread” part was how I was interpreting your original words. Of course I could be misunderstanding your correction….

    If I understand you, then technically Japan has always been multicultural, or at least since Buddhism arrived. While I am fine with this interpretation, it seems a bit shallow. I would suggest that an essential aspect of a multi-cultural society is that it is *perceived* as multi-cultural – to take the curry example, do Japanese eating the brown stew that is House-brand Vermont (famed for its spicy foods) curry think of themselves as eating “foreign” food? Or even more so, “Indian” food? Probably not a fair question, considering the great diversity of Japanese, but as something that has was originally clearly foreign and still retains very little in common with more traditional Japanese cuisine, yet is so thoroughly assimilated into the Japanese diet that it bears little resemblance to its original form, I do wonder how “foreign” curry-rice is seen in normal life.

    In other words, multiculturalism is more than simple diversity: it seems to me to also require a degree of awareness, as opposed to assimilation. The “message” you speak of, that is, not only has to penetrate to a significant degree (whatever that degree is) , but retain its ‘other-ness’. Simply put, is it changing the over-culture, which while it changes over time, is still is seen as (in this case) Japanese, or is it adding to its diversity, with an increased awareness of the alien factors?

    I’m not arguing in opposition, just exploring the ideas….

    And how much are those kebabs?

  27. 3% I suppose is a relatively small number (something like a third of New York City is foreign-born, and 30% black; 10% of people in general are gay, 10% are left handed, so chances are that Tokyo residents are seeing 3x more gays and southpaws than they are foreigners) but unlike those more prevalent demographic groups in Tokyo the foreign population stands out, both in terms of street presence and making their voices heard. That makes 3% seem like more than it is, even if walking down the street it might be hard to tell if the people are around you are ethnic Koreans/Chinese.

    I’ve heard that about ‘over-representation’ of Koreans in the media before – from 2ch and right-wing blogs. So there is truth to that claim after all?

    That Japan Focus article seemed pretty irrelevant to the actual issue – he seemed to be more about chiding academics for bringing the discourse into unrealistic territory and focusing too much on nihonjinron. Also, I didn’t like that he takes as much for granted Japan’s supposedly inevitable influence from global trends discouraging migration as the people he criticizes assume that Japan is destined to embrace multiculturalism. Plus I think he’s just wrong when he flat-out dismisses Japan’s ‘need’ and political will to open its borders. And I thought those “questions” he picked weren’t all that helpful.

    But even if, as he argues, Japan hasn’t embraced the multiculturalism concept the same way as other countries, I don’t think that generally Japan’s unwelcome to foreigners or even that they are doing that bad of a job overall in terms of dealing with foreign residents. My concern is more that the coming trend toward a lot more immigrants in Japan – which while not certain is very real – will create new challenges, such as where they’re supposed to live, what to do with their children, etc that the current climate doesn’t really seem ready for. My concern is a pretty boring one, much like the ‘debate’ over the US-Japan alliance – there’s a need to keep watching this issue develop and play up the positive impact foreigners play in Japanese society or risk a backlash.

    Is this cynical?

  28. Kebabs,

    Curry in Japan is a legacy of Anglo-Japanese alliances in the early 20th century.

    It was actually brought into Japan by Briton expats in Yokohama as canned food.
    Imperial Navy trying to resemble themselves with the Royal Navy introduced curry as ration.
    Another curry boom came from Nakamuraya of Shinjyuku,known as baker and restaurant.The owner od Nakamuraya who was political activist during
    freedom and people’s right movement era had helped Bengali nationalist Rash Behali Bose who was political exile in Japan.London demanded Tokyo to turn Bose over to the embassy by threatening the protection of” the terrorist” could harm the alliances.Furious at this demand Pan Asianist and ultra nationalist Touyama Mitsuru and others asked Nakamura to take care of the Bengali who then eventually married to his daughter.Bose unsatisfied with the sorry state of Japanese curry, made his own recipe for his father in law which became sensational hit at the time.The copy at the time was 恋と革命の味,spicy like love and revolution.
    From homepage of Nakamuraya.
    on Rash Bihali Bose.

    Legacy live until today. In Maritime Self Defence Force,Wednesday is the curry day.In Nakamuraya,”Indian”Curry is the most popular dish of the restaurant.

  29. “Is this cynical?”

    No.That’s actually what’s happening right now.And I say again 3% is big enough to tackle such problems or get attention from government for some kind of measures.

    “I’ve heard that about ‘over-representation’ of Koreans in the media before – from 2ch and right-wing blogs. So there is truth to that claim after all?”

    How about reading some mainstream Japanese newspaper and magazines and liberal blogs for a change,Adamu?
    Anyway when a Korean speaks in public sphere,few objects at the face.Usually many agrees passionately.It’s Japanese PC thing and 2ch dwellers think that’s hypocricy so they write flammable comments.No matter how whacked out the argument comes from Koreans,they get kid glove treatment,or that is the perception in blogsphere.While you object that you get labeled as racist.2ch dwellers pretend as if they don’t care about it but not very amused about it

  30. If you pop into a bookstore, you can grab any of 100 or so new books by zainichi. These are published in all of the major non-fiction series, etc. There are also a variety of zainichi authors of fiction who have hit it big (Kaneshiro, Yu Miri). They really are `over-represented` if you compare presence with population.

    I think that I may have mistakenly cited the wrong Japanfocus article. There seems to be a problem with the site now so I can`t check. In any case, it was an article pointing out that not taking in large numbers of immigrants is a perfectly legal, ethical, and reasonable choice for Japan. It means that the population will shrink, that the economy will likely shrink, etc. However, population density, pollution, etc. would decrease and there would be other advantages. This idea that Japan has an absolute, undeniable need for lots of immigration seems to me to be ignoring the other possibility – accepting zero economic growth and a smaller international role and not facing the kinds of problems that, for example, France is at present. The idea that countries need to slam as many people in as they can and grow, grow, grow while %&#$ing the enviornment seems to be archaic and misguided, given some of the problems (resources, immigrant populations beging forced into deadend shit work like in parts of the USA) that we are coming up against. Individuals like Debito who argue that Japan needs 250,000 – 350,000 immigrants a year (meaning that the population should eventually come out something like 60% non-Japanese by the end of the century) are ignoring the fact that Japan CAN decide to limit immigration and not vanish from the face of the earth. Limiting immigration may be the best choice for most people in Japan.

  31. Soilentgreen VS Children of Men?
    Not exactly a brave new world awaiting,Is it?
    Any nationalist would give a greenlight for immigrant(controled,but still more open compared from today)to avoid that.I guess.
    I also say economic reform is must before any kind of new immigrant come over along with more cheap public housing policies.

  32. “to take the curry example, do Japanese eating the brown stew that is House-brand Vermont (famed for its spicy foods) curry think of themselves as eating “foreign” food? Or even more so, “Indian” food?”

    No no no Jade. I’m saying the change has to occur from within for a society to be “multicultural”. There is a degree to which Japanese society has internalised not just foreign culture, but “foreign” *people* living among the Japanese who then pass on their culture. And I think that sort of thing has increased over a very short space of time. As it has everywhere.\

    Anyway, I have had a few glasses of wine and shall type more when I am more lucid.

  33. “Imperial Navy trying to resemble themselves with the Royal Navy introduced curry as ration.”

    Again, like tonkatsu, this is the Japanese themselves introducing, changing and popularising a “foreign” product.

    Happy ANZAC day.

  34. Yes,But Nakamuraya-Bose factor on curry introuction to Japan suggests immigrant can find stronghold in Japanese society by using his or her cultural identity as social capital and achieve success.Just like Kebab guys from Turkey is doing now.

  35. So by eating curry in Japan we are supporting Pan-Asianism and anti-colonialism, huh? Do they have Black Dragon Curry, I wonder?

  36. I actually thought more of the kebab stand guys were Iranian. All of the ones I’ve spoken to in Kansai and the one I spoke to in Tokyo was, but maybe that was just a random sample that doesn’t represent the entire population.

    Last night, on my way home at about midnight I stopped by a new stand run by the Iranian kebab entrepreneur in Kyoto and found that it is now being run by a round-bellied middle-aged Italian guy named Mario, who has a similarly round-bellied Japanese assistant that he lets make the chicken kebab while Mario teaches him how to make pasta in the semi-outdoors. He’s also selling kebab of his home-made Italian sausage, which hang in strips from the ceiling like in a good Italian butcher shop.

    It definitely seems that Koreans in Japan are over-represented in the media as compared to their population, much as the way some minorities (most famously Jews) are in the US-and I’m sure other countries have their own examples. The media is a market, and clearly there are enough consumers who find stories of the hardships and triumphs/defeats of the minority/immigrant experience more compelling than say, stories about middle class guys from mid size cities who go to college, get a job at a big company, and then retire 30 years later having gone on two short trips to Hawaii in that time.

    Incidentally, that 0.7% figure isn’t really correct, because it includes only Korean citizens that aren’t naturalized Japanese or the children of naturalized Japanese, and not ethnic Korean-Japanese citizens. I think there are at least as many ethnic Koreans who are citizens of Japan, and many of them still maintain some association with Korean culture.

  37. Ace – There are also Zainichi stories like Chi to Hone (Blood and Bone) that are FAR from a triumph / defeat cookie cutter work and are more of commentary on human nature that really transcends Zainichi and should, frankly, shock the shi1t out of just about anybody.

    I really like reading stuff by Zainichi that has nothing to do with Korea and Japan. It shows that the authors are a part of a larger community instead of always talking about where one community ends and another begins.

  38. I agree with MF that life of zainichi is way more interesting than average Japanese Joe.and that along with Japanese progressiveness had made them big in mediasphere.What I said “punching beyond weight”(not over-represented”was meant to be targeting at the guy like Kang Sang Jyung,who keep reminding everyone that he is a forigner and a Korean while on occassion he become one of “us”.Not that is bad if we are talking about something not related with politics such like constitution or Korea policy.

    And Yes.M-Bone,I enjoy a lot of zainichi related fictions and non-fictions,actually I ‘ve wanted to be sorta Korea hand in my work back in the day.Yang So-gil/Sai Youichi tags had made two of Yang’s works on Zainichi into films.They are the only people who had drawn”Bad”koreans in their works,something not PC for Japanese auteurs.

  39. I wonder what “over-representation” in the media means. Surely TV and magazines and the like aren’t supposed to be an accurate reflection of society, especially not in the case of entertainment shows, where much of this “information” about Zainichi and foreigners comes from. Hell, if English speaking countries’ TV programming schedules reflected the make up of society, at least 5 percent of the English speaking world would be horny professionals with links to the medical industry and comething like half of those in non-U.S. English speaking countries would by American. In Japan one of the more interesting shows recently featured an autistic dude who worked at a zoo and by all accounts anime are still popular. Is this “over-representation” in the media?

  40. We are not talking about TV and magazines dispatching showers of Korean wave to the public here,for Yon-sama is no zainichi.
    We are talking about PC related confessional books written by Koreans living in Japan which most are pretty much like “if you read one you read’em all”kind torn and content.

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