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Do you think opening Japan up to immigration would raise the country's birthrate in the long term?

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Opposites attract. I have to think Japanese men and women would make babies with the new foreign residents.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

How many 100s of millions of people can Japan hold before we wake up to the idea that a falling birthrate is sometimes a good thing?

The real question here is: Do you think opening Japan up to immigration would solve the government's profligate spending and anti-economic growth policies in the long term?

The answer is no.

14 ( +15 / -1 )

In short, no. The problems pertaining to Japan's population woes are way beyond repair. It would take systemic change on every level (health, welfare, employment, education etc.) PLUS a healthy economy to spur growth from within. Sorry to say, but Japan will have to go through unforeseen hardship before things improve.

Any which way you cut it, Japan as a nation is in decline. You simply can't reverse the decades of damage done by the old boys' club. The population will most likely level out at around 50 ~ 60m. What's wrong with that? Kanto is ridiculously overpopulated. Don't even get me started on Tokyo...

8 ( +9 / -1 )

no, because the newcomers would eventually come under the same financial and economic pressures that have contributed to Japan's low birthrate.

13 ( +14 / -1 )

no, because the newcomers would eventually come under the same financial and economic pressures that have contributed to Japan's low birthrate.

Agree

7 ( +8 / -1 )

I'm not Japanese, and even I don't want any more people here.

I want less people so there are less buildings, less stores, less people on the trains, less cars on the road and less people in front of me at the 7-11 store.

Constant, never-ending growth and population is the work of the devils dressed up in suits and working at banks.

12 ( +14 / -2 )

It may or may not increase the rate of births, and could possibly even lower the rate of births. Obviously though, it would increase the population. In particular, it would raise the population of working-age adults who are contributing to the economy and offsetting/subsidizing the skyrocketing population of non-working-age citizens.

Still, it is a moot point. It won't happen.

Japan will never open the doors to immigration. At most, the government will increase numbers of limited-term sweatshop laborers brought in through Japan's foreign worker "trainee" program (who obviously won't boost the birthrate).

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Yes. Among the immigrants.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

And the trainee program would contribute very little to the social security fund as they are allowed to refund their contributions. They shld allow to work the people who are already here, wiling and able bodied despite of age. Now, why am I out of work again? Life sucks!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The rural and downtown areas are mostly hit hard by declining birth rate. Educated, young Japanese are unwilling to stay in their hometown and tend to move to city areas. So obviously those abandoned village areas do have capacity to embrace immigrants who would create a new layer of economy turning the zombie areas into lively. But irony is, only the blue collar workers from developing countries would be eager to fill up those country side areas of Japan and immigration usually doesn't allow them stay for long time.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

JeffLeeFeb. 28, 2016 - 08:23AM JST no, because the newcomers would eventually come under the same financial and economic pressures that have contributed to Japan's low birthrate.----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

How would any newcomers be able to survive in Japan when so many Japanese are in poverty. Low minimum wage compared to all other advanced countries, high costs of food, utilities and minimum welfare etc. impossible.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Its an eventuality that will be embraced out of necessity rather than through solid, well thought out planning.

I don't want lots of uneducated people heading here, and given the falling economy I doubt we will be getting the kind of people Japan really needs.

While I think sometimes there are issues of xenophobia here, this is a different matter, I don't know the answer but if there isn't a way to increase wages and ensure more time off and less unnecessary stress Japan is going to disappear.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Depends on where the migrants come from. If its from countries with already low birth rate (west Europe, Korea, Oz etc) I don't think there would be much impact. But if its from regions with higher birth rates then yes it would temporarily raise Japan's overall birth rate then the numbers would slowly drop like they do in most similarly developed countries that opened their borders to migrants.

In any case I don't think Japan wants nor have the means to welcome new migrants from third world countries (i.e. with higher birth rates). Where would they live anyway? In the emptying countryside? What would they do? A 150M multicultural Japan would not necessarily mean a happy and prosperous Japan.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Some impact but no silver bullet. With a resurgent and belligerent China prominent in the region, Japan's dire demographics are a threat to national security.

There are a lot of younger Japanese who aren't getting married due to their own personal failings, lack of social skills or whatever other reason. Get these people sorted, get them married and get them producing children.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Yes, obviously it would. But I think trying to make immigration into a yes/no question is to make the question so simplistic it's not worth asking.

The question Japanese leaders should be asking themselves is not "Immigration: Yes or no?" it should be "Immigration: How do we organize it so that every stakeholder in the process is happy?"

Because make no mistake, immigration is already happening. I routinely meet immigrants and children of immigrants. It's not mass immigration like we saw with Brazilians in Japan in the 1980s, but the borders aren't closed. Many of us on this very page are proof it's happening.

By debating about immigration as though it weren't already happening, Japanese leaders are able to pretend they don't have to deal with it. But they absolutely must build a comprehensive and meaningful plan to assimilate non-Japanese people into the society now, while the population is small and there is time to test out policies and adapt. If there is ever a crisis in the future when Japan has no choice but to accept large numbers of immigrants, it will be too late to then make an assimilation plan. Whether or not that happens will be decided by economic, demographic, and political realities at home and abroad - whether or not the old guard in Tokyo are ready for it won't make a bit of difference. But that doesn't seem to be stopping them from putting their heads in the sand and pretending that if they just ignore the problem and insist they really, really, don't like immigration, they will never need immigration.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Immigration won't stem the birthrate. Most immigrants would be in low-paying jobs, so their biggest effect would be in augmenting the labor force. It's not as if Japanese women and men are going to flock to marry immigrants and have lots of kids. In general, Japanese would prefer to marry Japanese, and women especially are looking for high-income husbands.

As has been said many times before, the government has to find ways to make child-rearing and child care more affordable. But there is more to it than that. Attitudes toward marriage are changing. There seems to be a growing number of young people who don't want to get married and have families, for various reasons. In my office, there are two very attractive single Japanese women in their mid-30s who claim they happy with their lives and have no desire to get married. As far as I know, they live with their parents and they spend all their income on leisure time for themselves or with their girlfriends, going on trips abroad, weekends at hotel spas, dinner at the Ritz, etc. They don't seem to feel any maternal instinct. Who knows? Maybe they will regret it one day.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

sighclops is right; there is no infrastructure in place for foriegners, so they would just become a burden. The system was designed to keep the forienger out at every level, so the whole thing would have to be reconfigured, and would require too much effort. I personally think the whole paradigm of keeping anything foriegn out, and keep everything Japanese is what keeps it all together in Japan. Ive seen very lame attempts at welcoming foreigners, buts its a very unatural, uncomfortable experience and it always comes back to the same ware ware wa Nihonjin result, and the foreigner is left out. Almost a complete draining, brainwashing routine is required, from undoing your own language and norms, and replacing them with everything Japanese, (because anything thats not Nihon sei is considered inferior, unsafe or risky) only to be told your not Japanese and can never really integrate. I could say there is hope, or things are changing, but I wouldnt be honest if I did.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

It would certainly raise the birth rate. However, depending on who you invite, it would also destroy Japanese culture. So what does the government want?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Yes and no. Given that it would ease the work burden people would save without the immigrants, and would allow for the same or a similar standard of living instead of said living getting worse, people will feel more comfortable and justified in having kids. That said, I don't know if it will increase it so much as it will keep it from declining as rapidly as it is. And it's not like immigrants are going to come here for the purpose of having kids. Many will, but if they come to serve as labor they might end up thinking it's too expensive and hard, just as people are here now.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

@willib,

It would not destroy Japanese culture because there is no common vehicle in place that would allow for cross cultural exchange then on to assimilation, like an internationally understood language like English, some would argue a common religion as well, like Judeo-Christianity, but I wont go there. You could argue Japanese would be the bridge, but the issue with Japanese is that it doesnt act as a bridge, rather its used as a barrier to assimilation; it allows for and promotes us vs them thinking. The more Japanese you speak act and think in, the more of an outcast you become. The only way I could see any assimilation into Japanese culture is if gaijin ghettos increased and the people there only spoke in their native language, while speaking Japanese elsewhere, like what you have today. The whole purpose of the gaijin ghetto is to keep them mendokusai gaijin "over there" There would never be any erasure of Japanese culture; its either their way or no way, there would never be a 2nd language like you see in other countries. This a good thing or bad thing? Depends on what side of things your on I guess. The minute you had foriegners running around at the post office or town speaking and acting in the native tounge, Japanese would freak out. Ive had conversations in public places and the stares and reaction I got, you would think the sky was about to fall down.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

5 petals:

" It would not destroy Japanese culture because there is no common vehicle in place that would allow for cross cultural exchange then on to assimilation "

It is a numbers game. And the population that is outnumbered is by definition on the loosing side. Just ask the native Americans about it or the Tibetans, or the Ainu, or for that matter the residents of the Paris or Amsterdam suburbs.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The more Japanese you speak act and think in, the more of an outcast you become.

Rubbish.

The whole purpose of the gaijin ghetto is to keep them mendokusai gaijin "over there"

'Gaijin ghetto'? What gaijin ghetto?

The minute you had foriegners running around at the post office or town speaking and acting in the native tounge, Japanese would freak out.

I've been 'running around' at the post office and other parts of town for decades now, speaking Japanese (don't do much 'acting', my thespian talents are sadly wanting), nobody freaks out or even takes much notice. I do my thing, they do theirs, everyone is happy, nobody cares.

Ive had conversations in public places and the stares and reaction I got, you would think the sky was about to fall down.

The mind boggles to imagine what you're conversing about in public to elicit that kind of reaction....

0 ( +4 / -4 )

The more Japanese you speak act and think in, the more of an outcast you become.

This is such a ridiculous comment, and I guarantee that anyone who speaks Japanese at an advanced level will disagree with you.

I've been 'running around' at the post office and other parts of town for decades now, speaking Japanese (don't do much 'acting', my thespian talents are sadly wanting), nobody freaks out or even takes much notice. I do my thing, they do theirs, everyone is happy, nobody cares.

Yep. Or, I get the other side of it where people appreciate that they can speak to me without having to choose their language, or worry about whether or not I understand.

Ive had conversations in public places and the stares and reaction I got, you would think the sky was about to fall down.

This is more likely your read of the situation, then actually what it is.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Do you think opening Japan up to immigration would raise the country's birthrate in the long term?

Only if they restricted immigrants to blokes.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

You don't need immigration to raise fertility rates. France is a good example. People say it's because of the north african population, but in fact it's not true.

Good policies can improve fertility rates. The problem is that Japan's bureaucrats-government-business don't want/fail to put in place such policies.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"'Gaijin ghetto'? What gaijin ghetto?"

The gaijin ghetto is a place where the majority of residents are gaijin. There are a couple in Tokyo, some in other places, I think most know where they are, its a sensitive issue, but maybe sheltered types would rather not know about it.

I've been 'running around' at the post office and other parts of town for decades now, speaking Japanese (don't do much 'acting', my thespian talents are sadly wanting), nobody freaks out or even takes much notice. I do my thing, they do theirs, everyone is happy, nobody cares.

"Ive had conversations in public places and the stares and reaction I got, you would think the sky was about to fall down.

The mind boggles to imagine what you're conversing about in public to elicit that kind of reaction...."

Before you get your mind all boggled, go read again what was posted, then try reposting , with a less boggled mind?

"The minute you had foriegners running around at the post office or town speaking and acting in the native tounge"

Emphasis on native tounge. Get a bunch of gaijin speaking in their native tounge, and watch the reaction from Japanese. But let me guess, youve never had that experience.

If you have made Japan your lovely home, then I expect nothing but defensive answers. It doesnt change reality, no matter how many times you post "but Ive never had that experience"

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

It's still a ridiculous comment. No one who actually speaks Japanese would agree with it.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

@5petals

I personally think the whole paradigm of keeping anything foriegn out, and keep everything Japanese is what keeps it all together in Japan. Ive seen very lame attempts at welcoming foreigners, buts its a very unatural, uncomfortable experience and it always comes back to the same ware ware wa Nihonjin result, and the foreigner is left out.

So true. I recently went back home for a couple of weeks and, upon arrival at Sydney Airport - one sign at Immigration read Non-Australian Passport Holders. Arrive at Immigration at Narita, in massive capital letters - FOREIGNERS with a giant arrow! Made me chuckle (been doing the trip back & forth for almost 20 years and nothing has changed).

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Not in the long term. Why? Because progressively the migrants will start to act like the local people. This is what is happening also in Italy.

Record low birthrate is common between all the developed countries:

"U.S. Pregnancy Rate Hits Record Low, Data Shows"

http://www.nbcnews.com/health/womens-health/u-s-pregnancy-rate-hits-record-low-data-shows-n478381

"Italian birthrate hits historic low"

http://www.ansa.it/english/news/politics/2016/02/19/italian-birthrate-hits-historic-low_9af590ed-6a9d-4776-a489-37d8e4b222cb.html

"What's Behind Greece's Declining Population Rate?"

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/womens-unemployment-in-greece_us_56a8ea6ee4b0f6b7d544688b

"More than half the European Union is in demographic crisis"

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/12/15/more-than-half-of-european-union-in-demographic-crisis.html

Welcoming refugees will not quickly reverse the trend of more deaths than births in 58 percent of EU counties

"South Korea Birthrate Hits Lowest on Record"

http://blogs.wsj.com/korearealtime/2014/08/26/south-korea-birthrate-hits-lowest-on-record/

This is a global trend, and there's not an easy solution. But it's really bad? Maybe there are too many people on this planet, and nature is only rebalancing the things.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

To answer the question asked the answer is clearly no.

Japan just kind of tolerates long term foreign types, and if you have lived here 10 or more years you have no doubt seen Japan does VERY poorly wrt to educating non-Japanese kids far too often, the classic example was the latin of J-decent community, Japan totally blew that one & then politely offered them free flights home & they of part J-blood!

I think the birthrate will continue its decline so highly unlikely new immigrants can RAISE the birth rate.

That said I wish Japan would at least offer dual citizenship for starters....

As time passes with Japan losing out to the rest of the world it will have an increasingly harder time attracting foreigners with higher education & even people from poor countries will almost ALWAYS look elsewhere before considering Japan..........so Japan has in my opinion basically screwed itself wrt to doing right not just for foreigner but even more so to JAPANESE!!!

That's why Japan is in decline & with little hope of any real change as far as I can see

4 ( +5 / -1 )

@GW: it's a global trend. Another article about the situation in the US:

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/6/26/baby-bust-census.html

The Great Recession has more women, especially Latinas, postponing childbirth The impact of the U.S. recession will reverberate for generations to come as women — both Anglos and Hispanics — continue to postpone having children.

So, how is Japan situation different from the rest of the world? i don't know it.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

@Alex: becuase the rest of the world has a population that is either stable or increasing.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

That's important what second generation would do in 2050. Now, they need adult migrants that already have kids to fill the low natality of 20 yrs ago, to take jobs today and in 10 yrs.

So, how is Japan situation different from the rest of the world?

In most other OECD countries, enough migrants have already come, learned the language, completed education/training, integrated economy and settled permanently, so there is no workforce shortage. Japan has nearly zero permanent immigration. In Japan. The economy already shrinks due to that. Factories, restaurants and medical services are already closing due to lack of staff. That's the case of my company, a Japanese industrial maker that had 5000 persons in factories and product development in Japan; and a few staff abroad to export the goods. But in the last 15 yrs, they have found it impossible to recruit enough workers in Japan, particularly the 18 and 22 yrs old they'd take in factories and trained. They no longer send expats to my country (they have to trust us the barbarians...). They no longer extend nor renovate fabrication lines in Japan. They now build all new factories in other Asian countries (with political risks), so security and training costs (having to educate junior highschoolers or lower level) are offsetting the lower wages there. Prices are increasingly high compared with competitors. Next step ? What is happening to Sharp now.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Emphasis on native tounge. Get a bunch of gaijin speaking in their native tounge, and watch the reaction from Japanese.

Now I see. Since this is Japan, I understood 'native tounge' (sic) = Japanese (especially after you ranting about the more Japanese you speak act and think in, the more of an outcast you become. You mean an outcast from the foreigner community? If so that's a problem with the foreigner community, not Japan). So you mean the gaijin's native tongue. OK. I didn't realise English was not your native tongue.

When friends visit, they don't speak Japanese. I take them around and we speak English together. For interactions with locals, I interpret. No problem. Again, no one cares.

Did you mean also that your mind-boggling conversations in public are in a language other than Japanese? A bunch of foreigners talking together in a foreign language? Do you really think anyone cares?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Alex: becuase the rest of the world has a population that is either stable or increasing.

That is completely false, like the articles I linked show. If you read them maybe you can learn something about the topic.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Curious that no one has mentioned Germany or Italy. Both have had substantial immigration in the postwar period. Both have essentially the same fertility rate as Japan (1.4). Moreover, most of their immigration has been from countries with cultures that favored large families.

Rather than asking general readers about this, Japan Today should have asked someone who specializes in demography and immigration to summarize what the historical experience in other countries has been.

Generally the pattern is that while the fertility rate for first generation immigrants from high fertility rate countries is high, the fertility rate for subsequent generations converges rapidly to the overall pattern of the host country.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Curious that no one has mentioned Germany or Italy. Both have had substantial immigration in the postwar period. Both have essentially the same fertility rate as Japan (1.4). Moreover, most of their immigration has been from countries with cultures that favored large families.

I'm from Italy...and I confirm this:

Generally the pattern is that while the fertility rate for first generation immigrants from high fertility rate countries is high, the fertility rate for subsequent generations converges rapidly to the overall pattern of the host country.

Indeed in my firts post I wrote:

Not in the long term. Why? Because progressively the migrants will start to act like the local people. This is what is happening also in Italy.

Currently, foreign women fertility's rate is converging to Italian women's standard.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Heheh heard the Japanese Fallopian track is different - immigrant girls are more fertile

0 ( +0 / -0 )

NO!

Japanese should increase their own fertility rate & increase there population by birth rates. Japanese should not turn to immigration, this will only increase the foreign population in the country not the natives thus increasing social unrest among the society.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

That said I wish Japan would at least offer dual citizenship for starters....

by law, japan don't allow dual citizenship after 22 yrs of age. but, as long as japan doesn't know about your "other" citizenship, you can get away with it. i know a bunch of japanese citizens who hold another passport.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Immigration only increases the (foreign) population of a country not the native population nor the native's fertility rates of that particular country (Call it mixed in the past but that's what made today's natives). Multiculturalism is fantasy, it never worked in any country properly, point out Malaysia, Indonesia, India or China, Multiculturalism is what leads to discrimination, hate, genocide, & war. Look at Europe, it's loosing it's cultural heritage and increasing in the number of discrimination's against immigrants. What exactly did Europe gained from immigration ? Insecurity, Unemployment among natives, Governmental instability, pubic tensions, terrorists, Increased number of criminal, etc. Immigration is totally expensive, worthless & a (Major) disadvantage for the country & it's natives.

Immigration & politics work unfortunately for Europe and fortunately for East Asian countries. Soon we'll be reading articles similar to "EU AND IT'S LOSS IN AMBITION AS THE EU DECIDED TO CLOSE BOARDERS TO IMMIGRANTS AS THE MAJORITY VOTES FOR ANTI-IMMIGRATION LEADERS SURGES" this will unavoidably happen given the direction this world is currently moving towards. Racism is becoming a fashion while anti-racism rants are going out of fashion.

Japan is very fortunate to have THE president Shinzo Abe. Yeah he's having his own holes but that's what makes him a human. Grow up and post articles that are much more beneficial for the world. Want wars ? Want genocide? Want hate ? Want Criminals ? Want terrorists ? then allow immigrants and immigration in massive numbers.

Minimal Immigration itself is not required in this century as Machinery could more effectively produce goods at a lower costs & In a much more quality state. Worried about tax payment ?

Japan also have started to replace the workforce with robots showing "NEVER" sign for more immigrants and maintaining the current immigrant community with a controlled inbound and outbound system along with strict screening and monitoring the procedures for foreigners entering Japan (Which is fixed to be toughened this year even more) .

Japan is not a country that forgets this important fact

Native population comes first before foreigners/outsiders

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Not sure even foreigners would want to have kids here. Most of my friends have 1-2 kids or none. Raising kids in Japan, is tough and thankless, and expensive. Having kids is now a lifestyle choice.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

No, immigration won't boost the birthrate. Empirical evidence strongly suggests otherwise. Immigration will boost population by approximately the number of people Japan lets in, but the birth rate won't move a tick. The people whom Japan would attract will have kids at approximately the same rate that Japanese people have kids because the economic realities of childbearing in Japan are what they are.

All that high immigration rates would accomplish is a steady reduction in wages. Given that wage stagnation is already a problem in Japan, immigration would have a profound negative effect on working-class wages, opening up wage gaps similar to those we see expanding in the U.S. today. It would also likely depress wages in the tech sector, as Indian, Chinese, and other nationalities flood into Japanese companies, as they have in American tech giants like Google and Apple.

Of course, if TPP has its way, then the forces of free movement of goods will inevitably bring about the free movement of labor as well, whether Japan intentionally tries to bring in the immigrants or not. Free trade always brings about free movement of people, legal or otherwise, as well.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@katsu78

Yes, obviously it would. But I think trying to make immigration into a yes/no question is to make the question so simplistic it's not worth asking. The question Japanese leaders should be asking themselves is not "Immigration: Yes or no?" it should be "Immigration: How do we organize it so that every stakeholder in the process is happy?" Because make no mistake, immigration is already happening. I routinely meet immigrants and children of immigrants. It's not mass immigration like we saw with Brazilians in Japan in the 1980s, but the borders aren't closed. Many of us on this very page are proof it's happening. By debating about immigration as though it weren't already happening, Japanese leaders are able to pretend they don't have to deal with it. But they absolutely must build a comprehensive and meaningful plan to assimilate non-Japanese people into the society now, while the population is small and there is time to test out policies and adapt. If there is ever a crisis in the future when Japan has no choice but to accept large numbers of immigrants, it will be too late to then make an assimilation plan. Whether or not that happens will be decided by economic, demographic, and political realities at home and abroad - whether or not the old guard in Tokyo are ready for it won't make a bit of difference. But that doesn't seem to be stopping them from putting their heads in the sand and pretending that if they just ignore the problem and insist they really, really, don't like immigration, they will never need immigration.

You. I like you. Always thoughtful and intelligent comments, thank you.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Well I guess I've already contributed - with two Japanese sons...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"The more Japanese you speak act and think in, the more of an outcast you become"

'Rubbish' (Cleo) 'Anyone how speaks fluent Japanese will tell you that's nonsense (Strangerland)

Well, as counterintuitive as it may seem, I don't think we can reject this out of hand. I have experienced this to some degree, with certain people.

I think we need to be a bit more precise in what this means. Let me try and explain what I think people who hold this position are getting at.

Firstly, short-term visitors and tourists in Japan have almost a unanimously good experience. People are helpful and go out of their way to create a good impression, often motivated by genuine kindness, sometimes because they like it when overseas people like Japan. Everyone knows how to help someone who does not know there way around - you help them out, you show them a good time, you introduce them to Japan, it's very paternalistic.

As you speak more Japanese a a longer-term immigrant, you start to do more for yourself. You start to have more opinions, these are met with a more diverse range of reactions, some pleasant, some hostile. It is clearly overstating the case to say 'speaking Japanese makes you an outcast' but there is an element of truth in that fluency allows you to see beyond superficial politeness and engage at a deeper level. If you find things you don't like, and have the temerity to mention them, you will indeed by shunned. Japanese people tend not to call each other out. When this is combined with an almost pathological hatred (among some not all people) of having anything negative about Japan pointed out by a non-Japanese, or having any non-Japanese voice an opinion on possible alternatives to a particular way of doing things, you can see why people feel the deeper you go the more resistance you encounter.

Short-term visitors have no stake in a society. They are simply watching what they see in the same manner as one views a stage on a play in a theatre for a couple of hours. They are spectators, not participants. Japan (to generalize) wants to put on a good show. The flip-side to this is an intense and defensive dislike of 'foreign' (in all senses of the word) opinions, a trait that can leave some long-term visitors feeling the only way to assimilate is to do exactly what you are told and not have an opinion on anything. Is demanding long-term residents behave in this way in order to gain acceptance is an acceptable form of integration? - well people'e opinions will differ. One does not want to blunder in telling people what to to. At the same time, if any attempt to be an active participant in society (which by definition involves making suggestions, giving ideas and taking some form of initiative) is met with rejection and hostility, then the longer-term resident starts to question their place in the society. Since the deeper forms of interaction are only possible with language fluency, that is why you end up with the equation, the more Japanese you speak, the more people hold back from you.

Part of this is simply that there is a template, a very positive template, for how one responds to short-term visitors. By contrast, there is no template for responding to and co-operating with long-term non-Asian looking fluent Japanese speakers trying to take on a role or initiate some action - there is no template or real precedence for how such people should be integrated into the social framework. Part of the reason for this is that the government and the media like to pretend that long-term integrated foreigners don't already exist.

When looking at Japanese TV shows, for example, the emphasis on canvassing the views of visitors and other non-Japanese speakers is clear. Conversely, integrated (or would-be integrated foreigners) are dismissed as 'strange gaijin', - in other words they are labelled as an outlying subset of the foreign population rather than as a new subset of the local community.

Sure you, can go down the route of pretending you have absolutely nothing to bring to the table and nothing to add, doing what you are told, and accepting the labels people place on you, but this complete psychological surrender can be dangerous depending on the individual - it is essentially a denial of one's self as a social actor and participant in the community.

Of course, some individuals (maybe Cleo and Strangerland are among them) will have the ability to negotiate themselves a safe place more skillfully than others, and will be able to make positive contributions that build on what local people's existing frameworks without provoking any conflict, eventually leading to the casting off of the 'outsider' label and full integration and participation. However, the social and perceptual barriers that are put in front of fluent Japanese non-native speakers make this a very difficult goal to achieve.

A further separate issue here is that bigoted and prejudiced discourse is far more socially acceptable in Japan than Western countries (not with-standing Donald Trump), particularly when directed at other East Asians. The more Japanese you learn, the more you will here people saying they 'hate Koreans' or 'can't stand the Chinese', opinions that, as a short-term visitor with no Japanese ability, you are simply not going to come across, as your host treats you graciously and leaves you with a fine impression of a hospitable country.

Anyway, that's my analysis. I don't think it is constructive to dismiss as "rubbish" the concerns of immigrants who feel that the more you try to integrate into Japan and the more Japanese you speak, the worse your circumstances may become, in the case of particular individuals.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

If you find things you don't like, and have the temerity to mention them, you will indeed by shunned.

Will you, indeed. Well, when my kids were at school I found plenty of things I didn't like and I did have the temerity to not only mention them, but debate them with other parents, PTA officials, teaching staff and the BoE. I was not shunned. Indeed, not long after the school asked me to interact regularly with the kids as part of the 総合的な学習の時間 (general education programme). I was also asked to take part in a number of panel discussions between the BoE and the local government.

the only way to assimilate is to do exactly what you are told and not have an opinion on anything.

No. If you're honest and fair, people will respect you for your integrity.

One does not want to blunder in telling people what to to.

Exactly. And pointing out to people in their own country that they are doing it wrong and they should do it like people do in your country, is a huge blunder and an enormous social gaff. (A bit like (e.g.) Muslims going to a place like the UK and demanding that all music, dancing and fraternising between the sexes must stop, and sharia law be instituted right away. Ain't gonna happen, shouldn't be expected to happen). Point out instead that you have a problem with this or that aspect of the way things are done, and negotiate a compromise. Sometimes you'll get your way, sometimes you won't, same as anywhere else. But if you feel simply 'speaking the language' is getting you shunned maybe you need to do a rethink of your basic people skills.

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Well Cleo, I agree with some people are more skilled than other in making their voice heard - that's why I wrote: "Of course, some individuals (maybe Cleo and Strangerland are among them) will have the ability to negotiate themselves a safe place more skillfully than others, and will be able to make positive contributions that build on what local people's existing frameworks without provoking any conflict, eventually leading to the casting off of the 'outsider' label and full integration and participation."

So thanks for reading what was a very long comment, but you're only restating what I stated already. People skills may vary and produce different results. I'm actually quite please that my assumptions about your position are not too wide of the mark.

If you are well integrated in Japan, that would seem to indicate that your social skills are above-average (by definition, since only a tiny percentage of people stay, happily forever out of choice).

So, I won't disagree my personality is probably one of the variables. But what about the other points raised?

Do you disagree there is a disconnect between the universal welcoming of short term visitors and the varied, sometimes hostile, reaction to longer term visitors?

Do you disagree that significant pigeon-holing of the long-term foreign population takes places?

Do you disagree that some individuals are defensive of Japan to the point of pathology?

Do you disagree that the media focuses overwhelmingly on new arrival, creating a template that 'foreigner=short-term visitor' that is detrimental to integration?

Do you disagree that foreigners are always 'starting from scratch' with new people, and having to work extra hard to overcome their preconceptions?

Do you disagree that it's an effort to be treated as a regular individual (even if it's an effort that you seem to have made successfully?)

-Do you think there is nothing that could be done in Japan to be more welcoming to migrants who want to learn Japanese and fit in?

And finally, what do you think about all the out-and-out racism you get to hear once your Japanese is good enough? What is your strategy for dealing with that?

Do you call people out or let is slide to preserve your hard-earned social standing?

I would also argue that if Japan suddenly took on a large number of immigrants now, it would be a disaster, because Japan has not laid the ground work. Do you think it would go well? If you think an attempt to increase the number of foreigners in Japan would not go well, who would be to blame? Is the Japanese government doing everything possible to make sure that everyone has a positive immigrant experience like you?

Isn't it just the case that you, as a success, are the outlier? I think your social skill in getting into a rare position leads you to false assumptions about what is possible for other people. I'll guess for example that your husband is well known and respected locally. I might be completely wrong there, but that could also be a factor in your success.

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the ability to negotiate themselves a safe place

I really don't understand what this is supposed to mean. I haven't negotiated myself a 'safe place'. I'm just me, here, being me.

Do you disagree there is a disconnect between the universal welcoming of short term visitors and the varied, sometimes hostile, reaction to longer term visitors?

I'm not a visitor, I live here. I have come across varied reactions, from gushing to terrified. Never openly hostile, though. As a female European, I realise I'm probably near the top o'the pile, foreigner-status wise.

Do you disagree that significant pigeon-holing of the long-term foreign population takes places?

I can only go by my own experience. I do not allow people to pigeon-hole me. If they try, it's to their detriment, not mine.

Do you disagree that some individuals are defensive of Japan to the point of pathology?

No, I don't disagree. But those individuals tend not to remain long in my circle of acquaintances.

Do you disagree that the media focuses overwhelmingly on new arrival, creating a template that 'foreigner=short-term visitor' that is detrimental to integration?

No, I don't disagree. Then again, a TV programme with the theme 'these people are just the same as you and me' would be pretty boring.

Do you disagree that foreigners are always 'starting from scratch' with new people, and having to work extra hard to overcome their preconceptions?

Isn't everybody? I've had people from different parts of Japan tell me of the preconceptions they had to overcome when they moved to another part of Japan; Osakan's struggling to make friends in Tokyo, a man from Hiroshima struggling to fit in in his wife's home town in Okinawa. It's about 'outsiders', not 'foreigners' as such.

Do you disagree that it's an effort to be treated as a regular individual (even if it's an effort that you seem to have made successfully?)

Yes, I do disagree. I don't 'make an effort', I'm just me being me.

Do you think there is nothing that could be done in Japan to be more welcoming to migrants who want to learn Japanese and fit in?

I'm sure there could.

And finally, what do you think about all the out-and-out racism you get to hear once your Japanese is good enough? What is your strategy for dealing with that? Do you call people out or let is slide to preserve your hard-earned social standing?

I don't hear a lot of it, but when I do, I call people out on it to preserve my social standing.

Is the Japanese government doing everything possible to make sure that everyone has a positive immigrant experience like you?

No it isn't, and until and unless the government decides it wants to promote and encourage immigration, they can't be expected to.

I'll guess for example that your husband is well known and respected locally. I might be completely wrong there, but that could also be a factor in your success.

lol, yes you are completely wrong. Like most Japanese husbands, he has spent his days at work, well away from the local community; and it's only in the past few years, when he's had more time away from the rat race and able to participate in community affairs, that he has become 'well known and respected' (not that he was ever disrespected...). I'm the one people here know, and even if they don't know me personally, I stick out like the proverbial sore thumb.

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"longer term visitors" was a typo, well spotted. Thanks again for reading, your responses are very interesting. When you say 'you are just you being you', it makes me wonder if you underestimate the difficulty in what you have achieved. A white woman, 'who sticks out like a sore thumb' involved with the BOE, the PTA, the school, and the government. So I would ask you to spare some compassion for those who find that learning Japanese can be isolating in someway, when you graduate from being the cute new foreigner everyone is trying to help and people are no longer sure how to respond to you.

Anyway, it's interesting to hear another point of view.

The only further point I'd make about what you wrote above is that I don't agree the Japanese government can't be expected to try and help people have a positive experience as an immigrant unless it decides to promote and encourage immigration.

I think that trying to support the immigrants who are already present and not isolate or stereotype people is a good ideas even if there are no plans for large scale immigration in the future. It is quite logically possible for a government to restrict immigrant numbers wile trying to ensure that the limited numbers that they do let in have their rights upheld.

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Interesting last few posts there.

I think a good point was brought up. Some people start to learn Japanese, and find that they have troubles with the Japanese, and then think that the Japanese don't like them because they speak Japanese, whereas the problem is that the person doesn't have very good social skills. I find that often people like this don't have such good social skills in English either, but since they've spoken English their whole life, they don't see that the same thing is happening in both languages.

I was fortunate that when I moved to Japan, I had a group of friends in which we all encouraged each other to speak Japanese, helped each other, and worked with each other when we were out and about with Japanese people. Because everyone was positive, and generally just wanted to enjoy ourselves and have a good time, we never got this impression that the Japanese don't like when foreigners speak Japanese, since we were just out having fun and getting along with the Japanese people we were speaking with.

If someone came to my home country, and as they started to learn the language, they began to criticize my country, I'd not like them either. Not because they were learning the language, but because they were criticizing my country. To borrow from Cleo's example, if a Muslim person started telling me how my country was wrong because we let women hold hands and be affectionate in public with men (something that goes against their morals and idea of what is right), I would be unfriendly to them. I suppose they could then think that I am disliking them because they are beginning to be able to communicate in my language, but that's would be a misdiagnosis of the problem. I think this is what has happened with many of the foreigners who think that the Japanese don't like foreigners speaking Japanese. They criticize Japan because of whaling, or the government, or pick something people on JT whine about, and when the Japanese get annoyed because of this, the person misdiagnoses it to mean Japanese people don't like when foreigners speak Japanese.

Sometimes you just need to learn to speak with tact; choose your subject and comments appropriately. And that is irrelevant of language and language ability.

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