One in 29 babies in 2014 had at least one non-Japanese parent


One in 29 babies born in Japan in 2014 had at least one non-Japanese parent, a Kyodo News analysis of government data found, increasing the need to provide language support to such families at schools and medical facilities.

Of the 1.02 million babies born in Japan in that year, an estimated 35,000, or about 3.4 percent, had at least one parent who is not Japanese, according to population statistics compiled by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

The proportion is close to the record high of 3.4 percent in 2008.

With the percentage trending higher over the long term — 1.7 percent in 1990 and 2.6 percent in 1995 — the proportion could rise even higher if more foreigners come to Japan as guest workers through deregulation.

The number of babies whose parents are both non-Japanese is estimated at about 15,000, compared with the nearly 20,000 who are believed to have been born to Japanese and non-Japanese couples, according to the ministry data.

A separate survey by the education ministry showed that children in public schools with Japanese citizenship who need special help to learn the Japanese language have been increasing.

These children tend to struggle with Japanese if they speak a different language at home, according to support groups for foreign nationals.

By nationality, Chinese nationals accounted for the largest number of both foreign-born fathers and mothers of babies born in 2014. Koreans accounted for the second-largest and Americans the third-largest number of foreign-born fathers, while for mothers, Filipinas constituted the second-largest group, followed by Koreans.

By prefecture, the greatest number of such babies — just over 5.9 percent — were born in Tokyo, followed by 4.9 percent in Aichi Prefecture and 4.8 percent in Gunma Prefecture.

Local governments in such prefectures as Shizuoka, Aichi and Mie have taken steps to ensure such children enroll in schools and are provided with special language training. But the issue is often overlooked in areas with smaller populations of foreign nationals, said Kosei Sakuma, professor emeritus at Tokyo Woman’s Christian University. Even Tokyo has room to improve, he said.

  • Jay

    Why is this news? I have always said that the Japanese are the most racist people I have ever encountered, and this article demonstrates it. It isn’t a malignant form of discrimination so much as a benign preoccupation with “Japaneseness” and others. Here we are told of the potential problems involved in accepting non-Japanese people to Japan: “these children tend to struggle with Japanese if they speak a different language at home, according to support groups for foreign nationals.” My own children use a lot of English at home but do just fine in Japanese; all the children of my friends who use English and other languages at home do well in Japanese. The only problem I have seen has been the singling out of these “mixed-race” kids as other by their “pure” Japanese classmates. They speak Japanese just fine but have been told repeatedly in numerous subtle ways that they don’t belong.

    • Roddy Kirk

      The Japanese arent that racist at all. Many however are xenophobic. Many more simply value the preservation of their culture and heritige. Youre conflating racism with xenophobia and mischaracterising a desire for racial purity as negative thing. It doesnt need to be. I think the less western people who settle down and have children the better.

      • Jay

        The desire for racial purity is not a negative thing?? Have you studied history at all, particularly 20th century history? Xenophobia IS racism, my friend: fear of the other. There is no room in a global society for tribes, policies that pit one against another. My 4 children and the children of my friends who live here are a valuable contribution to this society, in my opinion.

      • Roddy Kirk

        Racism is the beleif in superiority of ones own race. Xenophobia is a fear of other races. The two can be completely seperate but are often confused. Most of the japanese i know dont feel racially superior to westerners at all. But they are still invested in their culture and heritige and dont want to lose it. This manifests as xenophobia when westerners threaten that homogenicity.

        I dont question your contribution in Japan. Most foreigners who stay are hard working and educated. They contribute enormously to Japan. But it kind of misses the point im trying to make. Which is that its possible for japanese people to not want foreigners in their country without them being racist.

      • Steelhound

        Uh…no, actually there are racist Japanese people. The anti Korean protests in 2013-14 are proof enough of that. If I may add a bit of history Japanese soldiers and civilians were taught they were racially superior to westerners and other asians during WW2. The whole concept of racial purity itself is utter BS as no one on this planet is a pure anything. We have a common ancestry. Also you think fewer westerners should settle down in Japan? That’s a discriminatory attitude right there. If preserving culture means excluding people who “don’t look enough like us” than that’s not a virtue to be lauded. It’s a mindset that belongs in the past.

      • Roddy Kirk

        I didnt claim that no japanese are racist.
        Yes your example of ww2 indoctrination is a good example of racist thought.
        However not wanting ones racial purity altered by immigration is not automatically racist. There are a multitude of reasons why a society may not want immigration and intermarriage of outsiders. Can you think of any reasons which are not racist? I can think of dozens

    • Sam Gilman

      With my own kids it’s been a situation where sometimes their classmates have never met a kid with a mixed culture background before, and the teacher hasn’t either.

      It can be frustrating to be the “first” and go through all the tedious curiosity when what you want is for your kids to settle in and be part of the crowd, and not to have their difference focused on. At the same time, I think it’s a far easier ride than the experience of the kids of the first and second waves of non-white immigrants in the UK, for example. That’s not to excuse any problems your children have had, but the trajectory seems to me more positive than perhaps you’re painting it. Judging from what I hear of people raising mixed race kids 20 years ago, things really seem not so bad now.

      • Jay

        My first two were constantly asked to “speak English,” which they began to hate. They had a couple of tough teenage years during which they were unsure of their identities and they longed to be “just Japanese.” They seem sorted out now they are in their 20s. The next two are integrating much better, and though I can’t be sure why, it would appear that the atmosphere has indeed changed slightly for the better as you suggest. There are other mixed race kids at the school, and most of the kids seem more curious than xenophobic. Still, when we go out places, I see people all around looking at us, pointing and talking. Sometimes they say positive things such as “kawaii!” Other times they just stare.