As more foreigners arrive, how will they change Japan?


"Getting to know 1.3 million foreign neighbors." That's the title of a seven-page article in Flash (Jan 22).

The reason for the article's timing should be obvious. After the majority party rammed new legislation through the Diet last month, Japan's immigration policy has changed for the year to allow entry by a maximum of 345,000 foreign workers who do not come under the category of having a special qualifications or skills.

The main impetus behind passage of the law, which will take effect from April this year, is to address the increasingly severe shortage of workers in certain agricultural, manufacturing and service sectors. At the end of 2017, foreigners here under this status of residence, called gino jisshu or technical trainee, numbered some 274,000, broken down by 77 occupational categories engaged in 139 varieties of tasks.

Under the new system, the status will be segmented into types 1 and 2, with the former limited to a duration of five years without possibility of extension. Type 2 will recognize the individual as holder of an "advanced skill" which makes him or her eligible for extension of stay and also able to bring family members into the country.

Yoshifu Arita, an Upper House member of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, resolutely denounced the new law, describing it as "lacking content, hollow, empty and vacant. The framers of the proposed bill said they would provide basic guidelines, but it's been all wrong from the get-go." 

Arita has gone on record in the Diet to attack abuses in the trainee system that led to deaths, due to various causes, of 69 individuals between 2015 and 2017. (In the eight years ending in 2017, he determined, the deaths rise to 174.) In addition, he pointed out, some 26,000 workers left their jobs and cannot be traced, although they are still believed to be in Japan.

"It is possible some of those deaths were due to suicide," Arita told Flash. "We don't know if the victims were entitled to workers' compensation. None of those cases were verified and now here we are on the verge of starting a new system that makes no provisions for dealing with the problems, so it's likely that the same tragedies will be repeated."

American Tv "talent" Patrick Harlan, a 25-year resident of Japan, doesn't think much of the five-year limit.

"Let's assume they work hard and acquire not only skills but Japanese language and comprehension, to the point that they can contribute to society," he says. "Then at the end of five years it's time to go home. I think that's getting the priorities backwards."

Instead of repatriating their earnings, Harlan suggested that with longer, or even permanent, residence, their patterns of consumption would change, and they'd buy a car and a house and think about spending their future in Japan, "which would serve to support Japan."

"To do that, however, minimum wages that would ensure a regular livelihood would need to be guaranteed," he pointed out.

After obtaining more views from an Italian, Sri Lankan and Chinese national, and visiting "Little Yangon" and "Little Ethiopia" neighborhoods in Tokyo, Flash's reporter traveled to "Little Saigon" -- where 178 Vietnamese now reside -- which has sprung up around the Icho public housing tract in Yamato City, Kanagawa Prefecture. Many of the breadwinners are employed by nearby plants producing motor vehicles and parts.

Four establishments selling Vietnamese groceries and serving meals can be found in the neighborhood.

According to Akio Komatsu, chairman of the Icho Autonomous Residents Association, in the initial years following their arrival, there were plenty of rough spots, with disputes arising between neighbors of different nationalities. Japanese encouraged the newcomers to take part in various events and exchanges, and backed by staff at the local elementary school, several NPOs and government agencies, eventually the Danchi Matsuri festival with international food, music and dances became something of an institution at Icho.  

"We've learned that in living with foreigners when a problem occurs, instead of biting the bullet and doing nothing, it's important to convey one's thoughts and intentions," Komatsu said. "The Japanese way -- that 'They ought to understand' -- won't work. More than that, people need to make efforts to understand the customs and culture of their foreign counterparts and develop tolerance."

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Well done by the Icho Autonomous Residents Association. Excellent example of how to help foreign residents and local citizens learn to get along well.

A mutual desire to respect and learn from each other can work wonders.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

An increasing population of foreigners into Japan could be a good thing, but these immigrants have no path to citizenship and will not get one because it would threaten the power structure of the country. But having a large population of second-class citizens is also a threat to the status quo. Whatcha gonna do Japan?

8 ( +10 / -2 )

I think it will prove to be a self fufilling prophecy with the Japanese finding their greatest arguments against immigration coming true.

"The Japanese way -- that 'They ought to understand' -- won't work. 

The Japanese need to get over themselves.

When a Japanese is causing a problem, thinking "they ought to understand" does not achieve anything either.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Japan should accept more foreigners , not because some brain dead Left ideology but for practical reasons !

After that foreigners owe to respect japanese culture, the same way they want to be respected .

After 5 years Only IF they learn at least N3 japanese and assimilate with society , they must allow to stay , it's for the best !

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

N3 should be a condition of entry, not a 5-year goal.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

It should be obvious but the more attractive Japan is as a destination, the higher the quality of the workers who will come.

Offer people no future, such a permanent residency, and no opportunities, and the best will go somewhere else. Those who do come will see Japan as a source of revenue only and will not make extra efforts to assimilate. The companies who use them may benefit short term from low wages etc., but will lose out long term by having to constantly train new recruits who do not stay for long.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

What a one sided country............we need people but we do not want to change. This show the Japanese island mentality. We have money , we pay them therefore, we Japanese can do what we want. Dream on , who will want to help Japanese when they have this kind of attitude ???. go do yr own dirty job. Then, understand human rights and then began to talk. good brains have many countries to choose from. What more Japan is one the way to the setting sun. Speak real human rights , not yr language. Good luck to the setting sun.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

As more foreigners arrive, how will they change Japan?

Komatsu said. "The Japanese way -- that 'They ought to understand' -- won't work. 

Some foreigner like Carlos Ghosn can expose about Japanese judicial system, most of Japanese accepting long detention by law enforcement in Japan for decades. Foreigners are needed to make some changes in Japan.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Those who do come will see Japan as a source of revenue only and will not make extra efforts to assimilate.

If they have to leave in 5 years regardless, what's the use of assimilating?

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Automation is already in more use here.Automated tractors, bank tellers, immigration counters, supermarket checkouts etc, In a decade or so Japan will be using machines in the place of humans-it is already happening happening now-any plans for assimilation will be countered by automation.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Not sure that inviting more people that Japanese people have difficulty getting on with is the right idea. Intrinsically, the average Japanese citizen is OK, but NIMBY (not in my back yard)... The question I was asked more often than any, over a 17-year period in Japan until recently, was, "When are you going back (to your home country)?". I've gone, congratulations.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

This could lead to a real estate boom in places like Okinawa when many naichijin flee from their homes to get away from all of the negative effects of having to live in close proximity to people who's way of life is antipathetic to their own. Just like has happened in th UK with so many relocating to southern counties such as Cornwall and Dorset.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Nothing will change if the Japanese with poor heart and mind live and behave the way they are. The Japanese have so many complexes that only they can understand, they cannot communicate nicely without shouting. They cannot be fair and like in the 2nd world war mentality, they think that they have money and they can do what they want because, they pay. Actually, it is a very sad country with very sad people. Look at , who they are bring in , blue collars workers from 3rd world countries. Japanese still think others are slaves.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Foreigners jawing on about foreigners. I love it :-)

Japan will cope just fine, if anything - its culture will be enriched and not destroyed. Don't be scared of us, Japan! We're here to help.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

"If they have to leave in 5 years regardless, what's the use of assimilating?"

Well, considering that 99.99% of the JT expert crowd refuses to assimilate, preferring to badmouth the country, people and society at every opportunity, it's only fair to "assume" that the new arrivals will do likewise.

No, new foreigners will not assimilate; and it's nothing to do with them having to "leave in 5 years regardless!"

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Yeah, lets bring in more Australians and make Japan just like them; why not one billion Nigerians too? Throw in a few more million Sudanese into the mix. Great, Japan's revival from the brink is totally assured!

Certainly these highly intelligent and diligent, hardworking individuals can only elevate Japan to similar heights as those perfect societies they're coming from.

Thanks for the reply.

Your comment speaks for itself.

My point is again proven. Have fun thinking that about foreigners in Japan (or about other foreigners; I don't know your nationality). It won't help the foreigners to integrate, which in turn won't help Japan in any way.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

"Those who do come will see Japan as a source of revenue only and will not make extra efforts to assimilate."

If they have to leave in 5 years regardless, what's the use of assimilating?

Maybe I didn't word it right, but that is my point. Offer people no future in the form of residency and there is no incentive for them to assimilate. The ultimate loser though is Japan because hard-working assimilated immigrants are a huge asset.

I hope no-one in power looks at say the UAE and thinks they have a successful immigration policy worth copying in Japan.

You can be 100% assimilated into Japan and still think locking people up for months without charge, marking down female applicants to medical university, and falsifying quality reports for decades are deplorable. If the Japanese public are apathetic about such things, shame on them.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I think Japan has left it too late in the day to change on matters such as immigration, to be able to reverse it's economic, international, cultural, and moral decline.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well, Japan will only allow third world countries people in to do the untouchable jobs Japanese believe they are too good for. I'd rather see them work elsewhere where they will actually be appreciated and looked after - not in Japan where they will be taken advantage of from day 1.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Seems most posters here believe Japanese should adapt foreigners' customs and culture instead of foreigners adapting and assimilating to Japan.

When some of my grandmother's family emigrated to Bolivia and Peru during the 1950s, did those countries bend over backwards to accomodate the new immigrants? No! The Japanese immigrants had to assimilate, learn the new language and become Bolianos and Peruvians,

Hope Japan doesn't follow U.S. example. U S, particlarly California, is so acommodating to foreigners' customs and traditions especially from Latin America that it has become a third world country.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The Japanese immigrants had to assimilate......and become Bolianos.....

Correction: should read Bolivianos.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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