NEW YORK – Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara has softened his stance on immigrants, saying Japan must open its doors to foreigners to counter a growing labor shortage, according to the latest issue of Newsweek, which hit newsstands Monday.
He also said that amnesty for illegal immigrants in Japan should be considered.
“I have said time and again that Japan needs an immigration policy (to cope with a labor shortage),” the novelist-turned-politician said in an interview carried in the weekly.
“We are entering a new era, in which Japan must take a definite stance toward immigration in order to maintain the labor force,” he said.
Regarding workers already living in Japan illegally, Ishihara said those people accustomed to life in Japan should be given “priority” to stay, after first setting qualifications and standards.
“We should give them special resident permits,” he said. “We have to adopt policies whereby they will be accepted into Japan.”
Newsweek described Ishihara as the “most controversial politician in Japan,” who in the past caused a stir with his “incendiary comments.”
He recently came under fire for his use of the term “sangokujin” in a speech before members of the Ground Self-Defense Force.
The term is widely considered to be derogatory because it was used in the years immediately after World War II to refer to people from Korea and Taiwan who lost their Japanese nationality after the war.
In the April 9 speech, he said: “Atrocious crimes have been committed again and again by sangokujin and foreigners who have illegally entered Japan. We can expect them to riot in the event of a major disaster.”
In the interview, Ishihara declined to offer a direct solution to the question of voting rights in local elections for third- and fourth-generation Korean residents of Japan.
“The ideal thing is for them to become naturalized Japanese, but (that idea clashes) with their pride,” he told the magazine.
“With issues such as nuclear power plants, even a mayor’s election could bear upon national policy. It is a tough issue that calls into question the meaning of nationality.”