Huang Tianshu came to Japan from China five years ago, hoping to learn more about the language and culture of her peers at a China subsidiary of a Kobe-based car navigation system manufacturer, where she worked for six years after graduating from college.

Now a senior at Toyo Gakuen University in Tokyo and fluent in Japanese, she is looking forward to returning to her home country.

"As a foreigner, I can't picture myself living here for very long," said Huang, 33, sipping tea in a busy cafe in Akihabara, Tokyo, one recent afternoon.