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Japan’s ‘no immigration principle’ looking as solid as ever

by Chris Burgess

Special To The Japan Times

Hidenori Sakanaka’s message is very clear: Only immigration can save Japan. Sakanaka, a former Justice Ministry official and director of the Tokyo Immigration Bureau, proposes bringing in 10 million migrants over 50 years. In making his case for opening up the country, he cites a mountain of demographic evidence, specifically the declining and aging population and the shrinking workforce.

Sakanaka’s proposal is perfectly logical and rational, but what he fails to understand — and this is rather surprising given his bureaucratic background — is that policymaking is rarely based on logic. In fact, policy is often discursively driven: Elite prejudices and public perceptions play a key role in shaping the policymaking process. The result is often policy that can appear irrational, or even contrary to the national interest.

I was recently invited to speak with Sakanaka at a symposium titled “Immigration Nation Japan?” In contrast to Sakanaka’s unbridled optimism, I argued that Japan has little prospect of becoming a “migrant nation” anytime soon. My argument centered on the still-dominant and pervasive discourse of “homogeneous Japan,” which manifests itself in the policymaking domain as the “no-immigration principle.”

A central tenet of Nihonjinron — a popular genre of writing on national identity — is that the Japanese are a homogeneous people (tanitsu minzoku) who constitute a racially unified nation. While Nihonjinron has been thoroughly discredited in academic writing, it remains deeply rooted in popular discourse. The official report of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, for example, described a disaster that was “made in Japan,” and identified its major causes as groupism, insularity and a reluctance to question authority.

Of course, the fact that Japan is relatively homogeneous — it is one of the few industrialized countries not to have experienced a tremendous inflow of international migrants in the postwar period — adds a veneer of believability to the discourse. Thus, comments by politicians on Japan’s homogeneity — such as then-communications minister Taro Aso’s 2005 “one culture, one civilization, one race” pronouncement — are eminently uncontroversial in Japan, since they reflect (and in turn reinforce) a popular and widely held perception.

One aspect of the homogeneous-people discourse that has relevance for the migration debate is the notion of the Japanese as harmonious and peace-loving. Thus, when the then-education minister called Japan “extremely homogeneous” in 2007, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he saw no problem in the remarks since he was “referring to the fact that we (the Japanese public) have gotten along with each other fairly well so far.” The implication is that bringing in foreigners may disrupt the “traditional” harmony and cooperation that characterizes Japanese society, leading to a perception of foreigners as criminals.

Interestingly, the “foreign crime” discourse (which is by no means found only in Japan) seems to have weakened in recent years. A 2006 Cabinet Office survey found that 84.3 percent of Japanese felt public security had worsened, and the top reason given was that “crimes committed by foreigners had increased.” However, the same survey in 2012 found similar anxiety over public security but far fewer pointing the finger at foreigners. A major reason for this weakening of the perception of foreigners as criminals is certainly the drop in the foreign population since 2009. However, with the first rise in the foreign population in five years in 2013 — coupled with the first rise in foreign crime in nine years — the foreign-crime discourse looks set for a comeback.

The no-immigration principle is an institutionalization of the homogeneous-people discourse. The principle basically states that Japan does not accept migrants. Indeed, the M-word (imin in Japanese) is markedly absent in legal, media and popular discourse, where it is replaced by euphemisms such as “entrants” and “foreign workers.” On the policy side, this means that it is necessary to do as much as possible to prevent foreigners in general from staying long or settling down. Tessa Morris-Suzuki argues that this principle has remained relatively unchanged since the first Nationality Law of 1899, which aimed to a) prevent an influx of unskilled labor, and b) restrict access to Japanese nationality.

The failure of immigration reform to date demonstrates the persistence of the no-immigration principle. Debate on the possibility of allowing in foreign manual workers first emerged at the end of the 1980s but resulted in nothing more than the enlargement of (skilled) visa categories and the introduction of two “backdoor” labor sources (Nikkei Latin Americans and trainees). The second reform debate from around 2004 saw a number of revolutionary proposals — including Sakanaka’s — but all of these came to nothing. The only change was a more restrictive “entertainer” visa policy and the inclusion of health workers in economic partnership agreements struck with Southeast Asian nations.

With the economy picking up and population forecasts making increasingly stark reading, one might expect cracks to be appearing in the no-immigration principle. Certainly, opinion polls show the Japanese public to be increasingly worried about the effects of the declining population. However, when asked what should be done to secure the labor supply, the top two answers in an April Yomiuri poll were to increase the rate of working women and encourage more elderly to work. Only 37 percent said more foreign workers should be accepted, and only 10 percent of those said manual workers should be brought in. The bottom line is that the no-immigration principle continues to be broadly supported by the Japanese public.

Which brings us to Abenomics. A November 2013 Fortune article pointed out that the one thing missing from Japan’s master plan was immigrants and immigration reform. Certainly, Abe’s new growth strategy is full of talk of cultivating “global human resources,” but this is concerned only with attracting highly skilled foreign professionals. Even then, the hurdles are set impossibly high: A new points-based system introduced in 2012 attracted only 17 foreigners in its first 11 months due to overly strict criteria, particularly regarding income. And Abe himself has bent over backwards to avoid the M-word: In a joint meeting of the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy and the Industrial Competitiveness Council in April, Abe stressed that we should be careful not to mistake the “utilization” of foreign workers in nursing care and housekeeping for immigration policies.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics is another case in point. While every effort is being made to make Japan more tourist-friendly, demand for construction workers is being met through an expansion of the technical internship (trainee) program to allow longer stays — until fiscal 2020. Such moves make Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe’s recent statement that human plurality and diversity should be the basis for the games sound very hollow.

In sum, we may wonder at the resilience of Japan’s no-immigration principle — and the nation’s ambivalence to globalization in general. Is it related to what Paul Gilroy has called (in the context of postwar England) postimperial melancholy, a mentality that still clings to an idea of the nation as a self-enclosed entity, a homogeneous center? Japan’s nostalgia for and failure to come to terms with its colonial legacy suggest there may be something to this. But whatever the reason, what is certain is that immigration reform proposals such as Sakanaka’s — together with acceptance of the M-word — are for the time being nothing but pie-in-the-sky.

Chris Burgess lectures in Japanese and Australian studies at Tsuda College, Tokyo. He would like to thank all the participants in the April 25 “Immigration Nation Japan?” symposium for their insightful contributions and stimulating discussions. Comments: community@japantimes.co.jp

  • Daniel Francis

    I have read the article twice, slowly, looking for mention of the obvious, safe, civilized solution: if a Government made it profitable (in every sense of the word) for citizens to have and raise children, there would be no need for immigration.

    • Platonic_Finger

      The government cannot make children profitable. This would only exasperate Japan’s National Debt problems. Most Japanese would rather have an extensive wardrobe than children, it’s a fact of developed and modern economies. But what is contradictory is outright hostility to the rest of the world and how much Japan depends on it to survive.

      • jake Harods

        Most Japanese under 25 might desire extensive wardrobe! The myth of the fashionable Japanese is debunked if you know any Japanese person.

      • Platonic_Finger

        I am married to a Japanese national and have lived in Japan for over 5 years.

        Japanese put a lot of emphasis on how or what you dress like, meaning they must spend a small fortune on keeping up to date on the latest clothing so they do not look different or behind anyone else. If they do not keep up they may be socially shunned or bullied, even in adulthood bullying is very common in the workplace and among friends in Japan.

        Those who have been here for a short while may see a “well oiled machine” but talk to many Japanese nationals and you will find a very stressed out and mostly exhausted individual. It is not one of the more happy nations on the planet.

    • robertds47385

      indeed.

  • Andy

    As a well-traveled, Jamaican-born, American national living in Nihon for the past many months, I have seen many instances of the widely-held notion that foreigners disrupt the well-run Nihonjin social fabric. I weave in and out of scenarios frequented by all walks of society (and proud to be privileged to be able to do so) and have plenty examples of ill gaijin behaviour to share; from Tokyo to Fukuoka. In particular from male caucasians from Western Europe and the US. Ill, ill behaviour. Simply classless. They seem intent on corrupting this society. It’s not gonna happen, as Nihonjin are a tough bunch.

    As we are well aware, Japanese society is exceptional in many regards, and seemingly few of the gaijins I have witnessed have proper regards for this old society. To be clear, Nihon is not without its misgivings, however, it is truly exceptional to anywhere else on Earth, in many, many regards. Spend a minimum of 3-weeks anywhere in Nihon and sit back and learn how civil society ought to operate. This is the most well-oiled machine in the world and Nihonjin should guard vigorously against infiltration. It’s a matter of national and cultural security. It is an absolute privilege to be here. My returns to the West are fraught with disgust and disdain at how uncivil and disorderly things are, relative to Nihon.

    Re: Multiculturalism and Damage to the Host nation
    Canada is perhaps the best example of harmonic, functional and productive multiculturalism, proving that if implemented properly, it works. Proper implementation relies heavily on egalitarianism, which is lacking from most Western implementations: i.e. UK, France, US, Australia, etc. Wide socioeconomic chasms result in what the West, led by the US has become: a dump. Extreme capitalism is the root of this evil; benefits the few at the expense of the rest.

    Globalization affords no option but multiculturalism; there is no choice. The world is not that big, and efficiencies must be spread. This is not lost on Nihonjin; travel anywhere the world-over and you see Nihon’s influence in virtually every category of existence. And might I add, the influences are almost always aspirational, uplifting, browbeating, and so on. The question is who has the most functional, egalitarian, institutions, corporations, solutions, policies and so on, to deliver a good social mix. My bet is Nihon.

    Harnessing the inputs of a diverse group yields greater yields for all. After all, isn’t this the essence of Nihonjin philosohpy? Group think or collectivism? It’s very definition is diversity. As one case study, have a look at Toyota’s production line and the influence wielded by any input and you will see the power of collectivism. Multiculturalism made America’s GDP #1. And yes the 70% or so caucasian contingency that is America is diverse; they’re not the same, drawing from all walks of diverse Europe. The principle problem with America and similar incarnations is excessive greed, lack of egalitarianism, which have bred ill-sentiment and yielded rotten produce. This is the natural evolution of that brand of capitalism.

    Nonetheless, time tells and corrects all and we are witnessing the largest collapse of society in history: Western society. So, multiculturalism and collectivism are good policy, gross inequality and extreme individualism, bad policy. Nihon is far more egalitarian than most places, which breeds general content, which harbours harmony. It’s quite simple policy folks. When you are in Nihon, try to gauge content unscientifically (we don’t need policy wonks from rotten, failed societies gauging anything here). A little common sense is the lone prerequisite. Probe everyone from the taxi drivers to menial workers, and so on. Generally, people are content, and that is the difference.

    Re: Japan and Homogeneity
    This is far from true. Anyone with halfway decent actual and mental vision can see that Nihonjin are an extremely diverse people; from Hokkaido to Okinawa, diversity abounds. Look and listen more carefully and you will understand the differences. Wa kare mas ka? Yet, their collective culture binds them in a way not seen elsewhere. Culture is the primary key.

    Re: Nihon’s Population Decline
    So what. Fall to the size of Germany. Nihon will still be a top-10 economy. It will remain one of the key patent-machines of the world (it’s been #1 for as long as I’ve been alive), ensuring its standard of living. That’s good living anywhere. Nihonjin specialize in doing more with less, so let the population fall. They’ll figure it out. So long as high culture and high educational standards remain the order du jour, Nihon will continue to be, well, Nihon.

    Summary:
    Nihon has to be very, very careful about opening its floodgates to mass immigration at the risk of ruining this very special culture and place. This is why there is little to no action on immigration. Tokyo must take its time.

    • itoshima2012

      Very well said! Agree 100%!!!

    • blackpassenger

      As a well travel Jamaican, who’s made Japan home since 2001, I thoroughly agree. I write about this extensively in my book, black passenger yellow cabs.

      • Andy

        I will buy your book on Amazon. I have seen PR about it. Will read soon. Thank you for your efforts!

      • inubiyamarsha

        As a semi-well travelled Jamaican in Turkey. I would love to join you and Andy in Japan! Long for a place with discipline and function

    • Platonic_Finger

      Disagree. Your argument is full of quasi-mythical beliefs and lacks factual basis. Japan is not any older than any other culture on the planet or is it any more unique.

      I would even argue that Japan’s current immigration policy merely attracts the wrong type of people. Namely people that have no desire to make a home or living in Japan because it isn’t worthwhile nor worth the amount of effort in comparison to other places, which are more accepting. You haven’t been here that long so you probably do not yet realize what kind of social barriers are in the way to making a life here, even if you have a family so I can understand how you are still wide eyed about the differences you find.

    • jamarmiller

      LoL living in Japan for a few months ??? That means you are still in that honey moon phase . We all probably thought Japan was perfect during this phase . Come back and share your opinion when you have been here for much longer and have established a real life here

    • Mots

      you are absolutely right. The biggest problem in the world is overpopulation and the biggest problem of Japan is overpopulation. When the population gets down to less than 100million or some lower number, there will be big families again. Furthermore, having tons of people is no longer a strategy to wage war and have a vibrant economy. Half of Americans are on some kind of welfare, the real unemployment is about 25%, the military planners are working on more drones and robots and dont need millions of half-educated lazy overpopulation for their stupid wars anymore or for staffing factories to make things. Too many people are being replaced by robots and the elite that run things in the US consider most people expendable suckers of government largess. As a result society is breaking down rapidly. Look at Detroit, Ferguson etc. Japan is doing the best thing and all of your arguments are right on. People need to learn what the real problems (overpopulation) are. We need a little patience and the demographics will become balanced again. This is a long term issue. Look at the appropriate (big) picture. Overpopulation for the sake of increased money circulation or war mongering is stupid. Japan is so much more civilized for obvious reasons, I am surprised by the lack of veracity in the counter arguments. Japan has had long knife/sword/gun control for at least 400 years, whereas the US itself just started less than 250 years ago. Japan is a lucky country and should not let an unrestricted influx of self-selected foreigners looking for something other than quality, freedom and civility screw things up.

      Many if not most of the Japan weakpoints “oh, you are still in honeymoon period and dont understand the true miserable Japan etc. blather” comments pertain to negative foreign influences such as a foreign import low wage labor system to replace long term employment with fungible lowest cost labor that has no long term commitment to a company (short-term-profit McDonaldization of the economy) and an out of control corrupt nuclear power industry inspired and brought on by copying and worshipping foreign economic “growth-growth-growth!” ideas. Japan can survive and thrive in the new century by casting off the stupid more population and more economic growth foreign ideas, not embrace them more. Success will come from a sustainable cullture and Japan is successfully further down that road than other countries.

  • itoshima2012

    Best news ever! Keep immigration low!! Good news, very good news indeed!

  • http://www.reginald-gruenenberg.de/ Reginald Grünenberg

    Japan will die eyes wide open and not understanding what is going on. Like Andy and itoshima2012 in this thread. I know that it will happen, because I am already writing the novel that will sing about Japan’s fate.

    • Gordon Graham

      The final chapter may surprise you…as the free market economy cannot sustain exponential growth. The need for an ever-increasing population growth will throw the entire world into chaos.

    • Andy

      Dream on Reginald. Nihon’s culture is so strong, so unique, so robust. Nothing in the West, including my beloved Germany, is even close to Nihon no bunka wa. Wa kare mas ka? To reiterate, even if Nihon’s population falls to that of Germany, it’s still one of the top world cultures; way past any trash Western Europe or America has to offer.

      Korea and China, the closest on-the-rise Asian rivals, of which Nihonjin are logical descendants, are not even in the same ballpark as Nihon. I’ve spent time in both countries (Kankoku and Chugoku), and, Germany, and Australia, among others; not even close. I almost have to re-sanitize myself after I’ve left Nihon to visit those filth-boxes. I certainly de-sanitized after my recent trip down-under. I almost apologized to Nihon immigration for leaving. ;->.

      Welcome to the last vestige of high-culture, high-society, high-everything. Nihon is simply the best country in the world. Period. And, remember, I come from little poor Jamaica, albeit upper-crust, but, I can tell you that everywhere I’ve been in the West is a rubbish-dump compared to this special country. Let’s repeat, the West is a rubbish-dump.

      Re: Subservitude of foreigners in Nihon
      Depends on your vantage point. I live in Nihon without financial worry on a small monthly appropriation, without servitude to anyone. In fact, I can and often hire Nihonjin to help my business.
      If you are without skills, Nihon, nor Germany or other Western states are ideal. At least Nihonjin are honest enough to say that you are skill-less and should play a lower role. In the lying West, you are told that you have a crack at making it, whilst wasting away. Two different approaches: honesty vs. dishonesty.

      And by the way, despite popular myth, Nihon is not that expensive. Try visiting Sydney or Melbourne; both American-like rubbish dumps and tell me that Nihon is price exceptional. Anywhere in Australia you get considerably less for your money; certainly no culture, just high, unjustified prices.

      There is a reason why people like us rave ad-infinitum about Nihon. It is the last place in this world that you have not and cannot corrupt; and you know who ‘you’ are. Wa kare mas ka? You’ve tried for centuries, but my fellow Nihonjin simply know how to suppress your efforts, and, it is a beauty to watch. So, keep trying; not gonna happen.

      Just like Nihonjin LOVE my music: REGGAE, I LOVE, LOVE NIHON!

      Nihon, Nihon!

      Dream on buddy!

      • robertds47385

        die painfully mate..

    • Andy

      Japan has survived before the ‘rise’ of the West and will persist in its demise. If you are from Germany, you are still $2 trillion/annum GDP off and hundreds of thousands of patents/annum off, so analyze your comments carefully.

      Think about it, despite Nihon’s relatively small size (geographically smaller than California), it has led the world in patent filings as long as I’ve been alive (since the 70s). Do you know what that means and | or amounts to? It means, despite the nonsense you folks talk about Nihon’s institutions being behind, and them copying, and so on, is absolute rubbish, and, you know it.

      Add insult to injury: Of the top 5 patent filers, only 2 are anglo! ooooohhhhh. Top 5 are Japan, US, China, Korea and Germany.

      So, talk on.

      When you come to Nihon, keep quiet, be on your best behaviour, be well-dressed, attentive and learn from the masters of thought.

      Full stop!

      One other comment on sub-servitude role:
      Many of my largest clients are Nihonjin shakai(companies) distributed the world over. They’re not closed or superior. They simply seek and pursue excellence. If you play proper ball, you will reap the rewards.

      I could go on and on, as I have seen so many examples of how Nihonjin simply do things properly, causing me to question all this time wasted with you guys; and you know who ‘you’ are…

      • Tando

        Well just as well as the Japanese managed Fukushima. Hubris comes before the fall.

      • Gordon Graham

        As opposed to Enron, Love Canal, Three mile Island, Vietnam, Iraq…et al

      • Tando

        All the examles are from the US. The Us and Japan are very similar in the blame game. It is always somebody elses fault. Never acknowledge that there are some faults in the own history or system

      • Gordon Graham

        Ok, then, Tando…give us your example of a well managed nation

      • Tando

        I was just replying to the Japan Hagiography of Andy. In this world there is no perfect place and Japan is definitly not one either. Maybe I should add that I would not be here if I only thought it was all terrible. That said you two need a bit more exposure to the real Japan, if your are foreigners and not just trolling nationalists.

      • jontheman150

        Japan is one of the countries that is closest to perfect. I would choose Japan over Jamaica any day.

      • iuyyyyui

        Nobody said, or says, Japan is “perfect”. Foreigners with perspective (as opposed to foreigners pushing the left-wing – or “social-democrat” – or “progressive-liberal” – “Desired Narrative”) are saying that, all in all, Japan seems to be closer to “getting it right” than (e.g.) Western liberal democracies, at least when it comes to societal stability.

        “Hagiography” indeed. Looks like you’re spending too much time in your Shinagawa one-tatami flat (with shared bathroom down the hall), reading drivel so you can get that online Ph.D. from Phoenix University … since you can’t get one from any other university.

      • odilon

        Andy – I’m sorry, I realise this is an extremely petty point to make, but please, please stop referring to Japan as ‘Nihon’ when you are speaking English. We call it ‘Japan’. Now, before you lecture me about how Japan is called ‘Nihon’ in Japanese, I am aware of this. I have lived in Japan and did my undergraduate degree in Japanese language. I am aware that ‘Japan’ as a term is of relatively obscure and debatable origin. However, your insistence on calling it ‘Nihon’ despite making your entire argument in English and presumably being a native speaker of English is deliberately obscure, condescending and elitist. Please stop trying to distance yourself from all the rest of us ‘gaikokujin’ through using such terminology – it only gives an impression – mistaken, I’m sure – of pretension, self-loathing and snobbery. Again, I’m sorry for making such a trivial point, but I am sick of non-Japanese people trying to compete with each other to show how ‘Japanese’ they are. I’ll summarise – no one cares that you know the Japanese word for ‘Japan’.

        Commenting on your argument in general, I understand from my own experience that Japan has many admirable points, and its society has ‘got it right’ in various respects. However, it also has flaws, as does every nation on earth. I can only say that it is unwise to blindly adore any country, ‘Nihon’, USA or any other, as you are doing. I have every respect for Japan and its people, but I believe that Japan’s closed attitude to immigration will be among the internal factors that will cause Japan trouble in the long run if left unaddressed.

  • Brion Valkerion

    Great article and interesting read. As someone hoping to live in Japan for a few years just as a general life goal (common job opportunities!) these issues are always a part of my mind. As much appeal as Japan has as a place to visit or live these issues with policy are disheartening. It’s like trying to tell a friend they have a problem but they just don’t want to listen.

    While I do appreciate Japan for what it is I feel like the population problem is two fold rather than just flat immigration change though it is a large part of it. Their attitude towards women in the workplace and motherhood of professional women needs to change. Simple changes that help and incentive or at least make it a neutral position to have a child instead of openly penalizing them would do wonders.

    Following that immigration is an issue as well. It’s not a “taking our women” policy and I feel like that’s the way it is portrayed.

  • Paul Johnny Lynn

    As usual the “Japan is unique” argument and “foreigners are bad” are served up to justify maintaining the status quo. Japan is happy enough to have the world buy it’s products but loathe to have the customers here. Sure you can come as a tourist and ooh and ahh at things, or work as an indentured slave as long as you’re required, but please don’t forget to go home. The resisitance to immigration, on any scale, is racism pure and simple. Even though those who practice it may not believe it, I’m sorry, but it is.

    • Andy

      Paul,

      It’s not that ‘Japan is happy enough to have the world buy it’s products…’

      Let’s elaborate here:
      Who dictated these capitalistic terms? The West. Who ultimately makes the best products in most categories: Nihon. this is not about happiness. This is, Nihon simply does what you do better. Period. There are no emotions here; it’s capitalism.

      Case-and-point: I am from Jamaica. I was born in 1975. I left Jamaica for the States in 1983, and, as far back as I can remember, in Jamaica, the government nor corporations would touch American or German (BMW included) cars with a 10-meter pole. Why? Trash!

      The environment your ancestors created dictated the rules by which Nihon and others play. So check your comment about ‘happy’ about buying products. Noone is ‘happy’. It’s the rules your society set and now you are upset when others do it better…

      As young as 13 in high school in Brooklyn, NY, I would never buy an American-made car; nor German for that matter until Nihon forced Germany to up its game. In other words, the reason why BMW is now considered high-quality is because of Japan! Don’t believe it, read the history from the 1980s onwards.

      So, noone is ‘happy’ here. Nihonjin simply make better products in most categories.

      Remove emotions from the equation and focus on quality.

      • dawnshine

        Also, many “Japanese” style products are Actually made in CHINA. Japan buys much of its goods from China, where production by Capitalist exploiters (Japanese, USA, and otherwise, ha ha) can be done on the cheap! So, just like Most modern, Post industrial countries, Japan buys Chinese — despite any current and historical political strife.

      • Platonic_Finger

        Your argument doesn’t even make much sense. What does this have to do with immigration? Japan is in demographic and economic freefall, it is also no longer an exporting nation but an importing one. Its national debt stands at over 225% of GDP and rising it is not exactly a shinning example of greatness.

      • Zenos

        It is also the world’s largest creditor nation. They are faring far better than the US is.

      • Platonic_Finger

        You assume I was comparing it to the U.S., which by the way by all indicators is set for growth while Japan is set for the opposite. I’m not American nor do I consider the U.S. any sort of example anyways. If companies do not expect growth they will not seek to do business in said nation.

        As I mentioned Japan also has the largest debt within all developed nations. See what many people don’t understand is that an aging population has inherently higher costs as it is less productive and those elderly need to be cared for with the taxes of the young. This makes life more difficult for the young and raises the costs of goods and services, it may even cause capital flight.

      • jake Harods

        Well the national debt is a load that is mostly on Japanese savers head. I think they, savers, don’t mind much. Collective good, They will panic when their population shrinks to nowt.

      • jake Harods

        Andy,

        I don’t know if you are keeping apace with events. If you are, you’d realise that South Korea has eroded major aspects of Japanese gains. Nuclear, Technology even in autos.

        I remember telling my gf (Japanese) that wow, Samsung are now superior and I would never buy another Sony tv, she reacted with fury. That is emotion for you. I whipped out an article I read in the Economics about it and the end result was withdrawal of affection!!

        Emotion has nothing to do with much…..Japan is unable to get to grips with change. It is patently obvious

    • iuyyyyui

      Huh, Obama says that too, just about every day: Racism, Racism, All is Racism! I ran for President and nobody would vote for me, it’s all Racism, Racism! I coulda been a Contender! I coulda been President!

      Never enough for you “Desired Narrative” types, right? Let in 1 million immigrants, you want 10 million in. Let in 10 million, you want 20 million. “If you don’t do as I say, you’re Racist!” “I need you to prove to me that, deep in your heart, you’re not Racist!”

      Since when does Japan, as a country and a people, have to prove ANYTHING to you? The Japanese are right: please, PLEASE don’t forget to … GO HOME. Here, here’s 300,000 yen for a one-way plane ticket, now begone from us, you pestilence.

      The more the Japanese smell of people like you, the more they see that … sakoku was a great idea way back when, and might be due for another try.

      • Paul Johnny Lynn

        How very hysterical and extrapolative of you. Oh, and referring to me as “pestilence”, so very charming. Drive a black van do you?

    • jake Harods

      Let’s just boycott their products! Well SK has taken all the tvs and some cars, Germany. Of course you are right it is. The Japanese have a unique way of looking at the world. My myriad Japanese gfs will moan and complain about immigration here and when I say, well, I have read about loads of foreigners complaining about your shoddy immigration in Japan, silence and banality ensues!

  • TomMarx

    Oh? The Japanese population is shrinking? Well, now they will not need to invade other countries for lebensraum. Koreans and Chinese can rest easier now.

    • Gordon Graham

      And we can all breathe more easily without all the congestion

      • robertds47385

        morrer..

    • Andy

      Read history. Nihonjin merely copied the lowly Europeans on this front. The game was and is still called: Empire. Very simple. they all played it. Nihon is singled-out because it was and still is to a large extent (per-capita, etc.) the prominent Asian force.

      When Kankokujin (Koreans) and Chukokujin(Chinese) talk about Nihon’s wartime imperial past, my rebuttal is simple: read history. Both have simply been uneducated for too long. Nihon simply played the game du jour: Empire. Europeans taught them that game…

      BTW – The game continues. Britain and America are still empires under the guise of: English (Eigo) and crony capitalism…

      So, if you think you’re really free under the current norms, you simply are uneducated…

      • TomMarx

        Oh, yes: read history. After killing thousands of Japanese persons, the warrior and militarist, Hideyoshi, invaded Korea with the intent of also conquering China. At this time, the countries currently called Germany and America did not even exist. The first Japanese colonies in Korea were definitely not inspired by “lowly” European examples.

        I must inform the Chinese and Koreans that they are not educated, and you can enlighten them.

        Free? Who said anything about “free?”

        Crony capitalism? They have a word for that in Japanese, “Keidanren,” or something like that. Maybe zaibatsu.

      • Andy

        They definitely were Euro-inspired due to rapid industrialization. Nihon’s most egregious offenses occurred post-Euro contact. Rapid industrialization compelled Nihon to rapidly expand its influence unlike no other time in history. This is a natural direct consequence of industrialization. China is the latest offender in the ‘ring’. This is all 19th-20th century history and it is a direct consequence of observing and learning from the most egregious perpetrators of crimes against humanity: Europeans and their various trashy offspring.

        Nihonjin have historically been a warrior culture. It’s one of the aspects we ALL admire; i.e. Martial Arts. However, their most egregious offenses were post-industrialization. It was the en-vogue way to play the game: divide, conquer, rape and profit. Now, the game is disenfranchise (via bogus immigration policies and dubious corporate practices) and conquer. A shift from hard-power to soft-power. All industrial powers play this game. China and Korea are now in the ring. They can thank America and Nihon for their entry cards. Same end-game, different rules…

        Re: Chinese and Koreans – Nihon’s Aggression
        Nihon’s encroachment was egregious. History tells us that. It’s regrettable. However, compared to the atrocities committed by Europeans and their trash offspring sprinkled across the globe, Nihon’s aggression was a joke. Certainly these matters are relative, however, within the larger scope of humanity and world history, Nihon’s offenses were trivial; almost laughable. Much of the world is not unequal because of Nihon’s wartime past, but rather, because of Euro-aggression (colonialism).

        One could argue that Nihon’s regional aggression strengthened Korea and China; look at what they have amounted to. Conversely, European aggression has left large swaths of the world in shambles. Look at my ‘dump’ of a country: Jamaica; that’s a result of gross, egregious aggression and disenfranchisement. The examples are spread the world-over.

        Nihon deserves considerable credit for suppressing, copying, and ultimately leapfrogging by out-innovating Euro influence (this includes the trash that constitutes the American Euro-contingency).

        Europe, nor America could subjugate Nihon. To this day, Euro | American (Euro trash) influence is suppressed. Run the numbers on Euro-leadership in Nihon; virtually non-existent. Scan the universities and other halls of influence; same result-set: empty. China and Korea are direct beneficiaries of Nihon’s aggressive ways. Copy, copy copy cat: wa kare mas ka?

        Re: Atomic Bomb (WWII)
        If you think America’s atrocious and illegal act (current academic consensus is that it was to threaten Russia, and not to combat Nihon’s aggresion) constitutes subjugation, not so.

        Compare any city anywhere in Nihon to any city anywhere in America and you will see why Nihonjin are superior. Within one generation, post-WWII, Nihonjin have rebuilt and outclassed America categorically. Again, walk around America; absolute dump. Nothing but shame due to gross inequality. A land of lowly animals.

        I live in the richest state in America, in one of the wealthiest counties in America, and dare not roam many parts of that county, that state, or America because of how rotten its cities and now suburbs are. Absolute cesspool. I can walk anywhere, anytime in Nihon with no worries other than how much culture to digest. Can other societies match?

        Nihonjin have formulae for most categories of our existence that simply outclass others. This is why they are so special.

        So, before any of us from our rotten, broken societies comment on this great society (this is why Nihonjin have not installed us as societal commentators; rather we’re relegated to English teachers and other menial roles), we should try to learn as much as we can about what make Nihonjin ‘tick’.

        If you travel as much as I do, you will see clearly that Nihon is leaps-and-bounds ahead of any other country in virtually every category of human existence. This is why we appreciate and study them… How do they do it?

      • robertds47385

        umiru bolno.

      • amclarenf95284

        umiru bolno.

      • robertds47385

        sterben…

  • Earl Kinmonth

    I wonder if the author of this article reads Japanese. There has been far more discussion of immigration both pro and con than this article would lead one to believe. Immigration and immigrants are not a single well-defined commodity. Without talking about immigrants from where, how selected, with what rights to bring in relatives of what degree, any discussion is pointless. Contrary to what the article says, Japan does have a history of immigration. During the Empire, a large number of Koreans and Taiwan Chinese moved to Japan voluntarily. (Forced labor was a tiny fraction of the flow.) Manchukuo (aka Manchuria) which was created by the Japanese military was explicitly a multicultural society. It is only post world war II that there has been an emphasis on a single ethnic mono-cultural Japan. The European record on immigration is very mixed. Sweden, France, Italy, and the UK have had very large scale “urban disturbances” (aka rioting) involving primarily immigrant populations. Many European countries have immigrant ghettos and slums. Is there some reason to think that Japan would handle immigrants better than European countries?

    • Andy

      Great points Earl. Nihon is quite diverse. It has to be. It has drawn on Asia, namely China and Korea, among others, to form what we know as Nihon. The study of Kanji alone reeks of diversity.

      Re: Smart Immigration
      I think Nihon would do a better job than what we have so far seen for a number of reasons surrounding collectivism and egalitarianism.

      So long as they target the skills and standards desired, they will fill some gaps, and, if they don’t meet expectations, as I’ve previously argued, let the population collapse to the level of Germany (that’s the current prediction by roughly mid-century). GDP falls to $3 or $4 trillion, resulting in a possible per-capita/annum boost. As long as they keep innovating 90 million (a la Germany) is the same as the current 126 million. Policy makers may simply see this as ‘trimming the fat’; a leaner Nihon.

      Let the population collapse. They do not and may never have the impetus to welcome the world en-masse for fear of cultural erosion, etc. So let it collapse. They’ll figure it out.

      In a nutshell, I think Nihon’s blend of: collectivism, more-equal egalitarianism, less-than-extreme capitalism and world-leading innovativeness makes it the envy of the world on many fronts, resulting in a superior society.

      I am personally happier here than anywhere else in the world. Everything just works. There are systems, conduits, hubs, rules, order, etc. in place for everything. If you think some facility doesn’t exist, double-check; it exists. Whatever you have thought of, Nihonjin have already implemented; and implemented well. Not half-assed like in the West. A lot of thought has been expended on virtually every facet of human existence in this society. What a wonderful society!

      It’s almost impossible to not rave ad-infinitum about Nihon, especially if you have lived in | extensively traveled to the ‘creme-de-la-creme’ of developed nations. Nihon is the archetypal society. There isn’t a nation on earth in the same league as Nihon.

      If others have examples of higher societies, do tell so I may visit.

    • Warren Lauzon

      While true that there are a lot of Koreans and Taiwanese in Japan, how many of those actually have Japanese citizenship? And while many European countries tout the liberalism and diversity, it in fact has a very mixed record. The US and Canada probably have the best overall record on immigration, but there are still numerous problems and issues there also.

      • Earl Kinmonth

        No way of knowing since the Japanese census does not ask questions about ethnicity. You can look at the figures on naturalization. Koreans and Chinese account for the bulk of foreign nationals taking Japanese citizenship. One major reason the number of so-called zainichi has been declining is that they have been taking Japanese citizenship. There’s a lot of paper work but otherwise it’s fairly easy.

      • Warren Lauzon

        You may be correct. I left Japan in the early 90′s, and at that time it was very difficult for Koreans – even those living there for decades – to even get permanent residence.

      • Earl Kinmonth

        Koreans born in Japan automatically have a special status 特別永住者. It is different from my permanent residency primarily in that they do not have to get finger printed at ports of entry. My recollection is that naturalization law changed in 1989. It became much easier for Koreans to become citizens. The change also eliminated the gender discrimination that prevented Japanese women from passing their citizenship to their children in the case where they were married to a foreign national.

    • Chris

      I would like to thank Mr Kinmonth for
      taking the time to read my article. The article was discussing recent government
      migration policies (or lack thereof) so when I write that Japan, “is one of the
      few industrialized countries not to have experienced a tremendous inflow of
      international migrants” I was referring to post-war migration. I apologise for
      the lack of clarity in that sentence and will ask the editor to amend the
      online version. As the bio at the end of the article states, I am a Japanese studies
      university lecturer, so you would expect me to be aware that Japan has a history
      of migration. You might also assume that I am able to read Japanese. The only
      reason I can see for you to start your post by questioning the author’s
      Japanese ability is to undermine the author’s credibility and (implicitly) emphasise
      your own. Many of the Japanese language newspaper articles I read on migration talk
      of the need for further discussion or debate (kentō/giron) and stress the need for caution (shinchō); in other words, a lot of lip-service is paid but actual policy
      remains pretty much unchanged (despite increasingly grim demographic data and growing
      labour shortages). In the article I try to offer an explanation for this apparent
      conundrum.

      Mr Kinmonth seems to make a habit of
      offending others. I remember a few years back on H-Japan, an online discussion
      network for academics, how his disparaging remarks and acerbic comments
      alienated so many people that he eventually “voluntarily” withdraw altogether. More
      recently, in a discussion on women’s participation in the labour force on SSJ
      Forum, one participant noted (to quote) that “his gratuitous comments at the
      outset of the email do little to contribute to constructive debate.” Indeed. A
      little civility goes a long way, Mr Kinmonth; it’s a shame that despite having
      apparently lived in Japan for some considerable time this is a lesson that you
      are yet to learn.

    • robertds47385

      sterben..

  • Warren Lauzon

    I am not so sure that immigration is the answer, or maybe just part of the answer. Demographics is a killer, and a lot of Japanese acknowledge it, while at the same time not accepting gender equality in real life.

    • robertds47385

      umiru bolno…

  • Paul Johnny Lynn

    It’s very difficult to take anything you say seriously when you insist on denigrating people and countries simply because you don’t like them. Your repetitive refrain that “Japan is the best” is merely your opinion. You’re perfectly welcome to love this place, but slagging every other place off makes you look like an immature sycophant.

  • DavidGolani11

    Immigration has been a disaster for the European Union.

  • dawnshine

    The apparently official idea of a Japanese “race” is government propaganda to unify order in Japan, that foreigners eat up… but the reality of different ethnic (race) groups being the true indigenous peoples of the Japanese islands, and thus true Japanese, is an ever multiracial culture. Some of those ethnicities only getting recognition as true “Japanese” post WWII. I do not understand the constant ideas about Japanese homogeneity with these lurking bloodline realities that still offer differentiation among Japanese by their own distinctions in appearances, accents, and location-specific rituals/traditions. “Homogenious Japan” is a political acheivement, aimed at denying the human reality of variation and deviancy in Japan by Japanese. It is not a social truth, even among officially “Japanese.” This being the case…. truly foreign, non-native, peoples will surely encounter a hard time by such officials and their devotees.

    However, the issues surrounding immigration are not unique to Japan…. Most nations suffer much political and social tension when regarding immigration ideologies. It is a matter of the territorial nature of humans as well as some misplaced pride. I have Never seen a completely logical and non- xenophobic approach to immigration issues by Any country in their politics or their popular opinion. THAT is Human Nature, not just Japanese Nature.

    • robertds47385

      well said. i agree 100%

  • Guest

    The apparently official idea of a Japanese “race” is government
    propaganda to unify order in Japan, that foreigners eat up… but the
    reality of different ethnic (race) groups being the true indigenous
    peoples of the Japanese islands, and thus true Japanese, is an ever
    multiracial culture. Some of those ethnicities only getting recognition
    as true “Japanese” post WWII. I do not understand the constant ideas
    about Japanese homogeneity with these lurking bloodline realities that
    still offer differentiation among Japanese by their own distinctions in
    appearances, accents, and location-specific rituals/traditions.
    “Homogenous Japan” is a political achievement, aimed at denying the
    human reality of variation and deviancy in Japan by Japanese. It is not
    a social truth, even among officially “Japanese.” This being the
    case…. truly foreign, non-native, peoples will surely encounter a hard
    time by such officials and their devotees.

    However, the issues
    surrounding immigration are not unique to Japan…. Most nations suffer
    much political and social tension when regarding immigration ideologies.
    It is a matter of the territorial nature of humans as well as some
    misplaced pride. I have Never seen a completely logical and non-
    xenophobic approach to immigration issues by Any country in their
    politics or their popular opinion. THAT is Human Nature, not just
    Japanese Nature.

  • iuyyyyui

    Asians in general and Japanese in particular retain a better intuitive and instinctive understanding of the dangers of liberal immigration than “social-democrat” Westerners. Which isn’t easy, given the intellectual intelligentsia (see especially all the loser … uhh … “English teachers” hanging around in Japan forever, who consider themselves real academics while they private-tutor English at some Tokyo Starbucks) banging the drums of “racism, racism, all is Racism; you must erase your borders and allow anybody and everybody to walk in at will!”.

    The government’s sound policy, based on rational self-interest, is clearly posted on its English website to let the world know that Japan – - unlike Germany, Sweden, the U.K., and the U.S. – - is no patsy:
    “By connecting Japan and the world through proper immigration control services under the motto ‘Internationalization in compliance with the rules,’ making efforts for smoother cross-border human mobility, and deporting undesirable aliens for Japan, the Immigration Bureau, the Ministry of Justice makes contributions to sound development of the Japanese society.”

    Rapes and riots in Stockholm by Muslims imported for “humanitarian” reasons? Not in Tokyo, we’ll pass, but thanks for the offer – - says Japan. There are rapes – - not “he said, she said” rapes, but brutal and violent rapes, just about every month, down in Okinawa committed by the Status-of-Forces-Agreement (SoFA) legal aliens – - the U.S. military. No need to import more foreigners, just to get more beat-down, bruised black-and-blue rapes.

    Infected (multiply drug resistant ‘MDR’ TB) spreading in California? Illegals hanging out on every street corner and in every parking lot, with their women giving birth (again and again) in public hospitals throughout Arizona? Japan says again, “Thanks, you go ahead and enjoy. We’ll pass.”

    Japan is the smart one, in the long run. Better to build robots, rather than to latch onto the “easy” (for industry, anyway; not easy for society at large) option of importing millions of cheap, illiterate peasants for 1,000-yen-an-hour labor. Question to English “teachers”: why are you still (still!) hanging around here in Japan, pushing your “racism” schtick day after day?

    Since you love “immigration” so much, why aren’t you back in your home country with its literally MILLIONS of Illegals, all of whom “immigrated” just for you and your oh-so-valuable … uhh … “English teaching skills”? Where your newspaper editorial pages are waiting just for your and your oh-so-intelligent “racism narrative”? Go back home already, everyone’s waiting for you. Oh … that’s right, I forgot. You’re unemployable wherever you came from, which is why you stick around here for years and years sucking up JPN Yen. No options and nowhere to go, huh?

    • John

      Yes, you Nationalist can keep your 48 year old kidnappers of 13 year old
      girls and children to rape, force manipulate, kill, and the such like
      your country is so much better. Also can keep your sexual harassing male
      politicians that can’t get a clue on how to treat women horribly. The
      old men that aggressively attack foreign and Japanese women because they
      are seen walking with a foreigner. Your nation is so perfect! All
      nations have their issues yes, but when you come in here saying you hate
      being called racist, yet make racist accusations its rather sad.

      I
      have met A lot of great Japanese people, then I see these black and
      white vans putting out horrible propaganda and smoking their cigarette
      in undesignated areas and being disrespectful to police and people that
      are hear legally with visa’s because your supposed way is best? I came
      here to go to a university and am doing so and graduating just the same,
      but that doesn’t matter does it, you just pay attention to what you
      want to, a small minority and blanket your opinion on all foreigners
      even if they are law abiding and generous hard working people, “because
      they smell bad” Have you smelled the salaryman on the train? Those that
      don’t wash for days nor deodorant or pass out drunk as can be naked on
      the train in the evening? I would like to give everyone the same
      opportunity and not discredit them just because I look at them and think
      “dirty foreigner”.

  • iuyyyyui

    Excellent and informed rebuttal.

  • sam browning

    Is this true that the Japanese truly hate Americans? every year i see a few japanese familys visit the area close to where i live, Bellefontaine ohio, there is a sister city in japan.Suzuka, Mie i wanted to visit but after reading all the story’s of foreigners not being welcome in japan i had to rethink my plans.
    the thing that gets me is the fact i get along well with the Japanese i meet here and they return the sentiment.
    i try to make them feel comfortable because its the right thing to do,and i do like to amerce myself in to cultures that are different than mine.
    i would like to here your opinion good or bad.

    • S Yamz

      Well, I hail from Japan and currently live in the US, but I think most people in Japan are welcoming to an extent. But then I’m pretty much from the sticks within rural Japan, maybe it’s just where I hail from. I hear there are right wingers in the major cities, spreading their propaganda. The uyokus, or right wing ultra-nationalists may dislike Americans, but I’m rather certain those that are on the moderate right or left should be okay with foreigners. I think being as polite as possible is the best course of action as a visitor.

      • sam browning

        right wingers are mostly the same anywhere ya go lol
        i guess i would be considered a moderate lefty(common sense democrat)
        politeness is always a good thing whether at home or abroad.
        we were taught to mind our manners as they called it at an early age, along with chivalry which doesn’t always go over to well in today’s society.
        the thing is i like to meet new people i want to be exposed to cultures that are different than my own maybe make new friends along the way but nowadays its getting harder to do because every one seems to have preconceived notions of america’s people and politics before they even meet us. you cant fill a glass that’s already full.

        and i no what you mean about being from the sticks, same here.
        tried city life for years was fun for awhile but there is nothing like the country.

      • S Yamz

        It could become somewhat alienating if you go to Japan alone though, make sure to with a friend, or perhaps family with you. Glad to meet a fellow country-raised gentleman. I hope the best upon your travels.

  • carrnil

    Too many Gaijins, ruin Japanese culture.
    Gaijins out of Japan, beautiful Japanese culture, beautiful people.
    Regards from : Immigration ruined Finland.

  • Michieie

    Canada is doing something like that. They’re encouraging latin american couples to go live there and have canadian babies.

    • robertds47385

      sterben.

  • Zenos

    The only way Japan will open to foreigners is when there are like 2 people left in the country.

  • jake Harods

    The poor are unworried about burden of kids as they have no money to start with. The squeezed middle in Japan are worried about the cost of kids, the need to save for a rainy day and poor health. Throw in inate selfishness and easy to see why most won’t procreate.

    Add to that the extreme shyness and social awkwardness of some but not all Japanese!

    I know a lot of single unmarried (no kids) types and they are not happy at all!

    The happy singleton is a myth that was perpetuated by feminists.

  • patrick o’loughlin

    if it aint broke, then don’t fix it. japan has been or is seen to be happy with itself, why should it answer to other countries or people when outside interference from outside can seriously damage a country, like england, america, and much of europe has proved in the past, in the middle east and africa.

  • Don Largo

    So Japan’s position is that since the Japanese no longer feel like working, they will bring in migrant labor “braceros” to work for pennies on the dollar to what they pay 1st class Japanese citizens. That’s so sweet!

  • AceMoDo4

    I live in a country which is regarded as a “success” with regard to our immigration policy. Canada.

    From Canada let me advise Japan… DON’T DO IT. You are trading temporary material gains for long term societal well being. The demographic crunch will pass. Japan will be less crowded (is that bad?). Japan will have to become more productive (is that bad?). And eventually Japanese culture and inventiveness will find an answer to the issue.

    I have seen the negative effects of immigration of alien cultures into a previously stable and reasonably well functioning society. Corporations love it – more cheap labour. Politicians don’t care – they have new special interests to pander to. But are the people better off? I don’t see that. I see a lot of division and alienation in a nation that did not have that problem 30 years ago.

    Don’t destroy Japan, this unique country, for the benefit of corporations and politicians.