Monday was Coming-of-Age Day, when thousands of new Japanese adults celebrated turning 20 while wearing traditional kimono in commemoration ceremonies.
But it was not only Japanese citizens who observed the personal milestone in the country. In fact, this year more than 1 in every 8 new adults in Tokyo’s 23 wards are not Japanese citizens, figures compiled by The Japan Times show.
According to data provided by the 23 ward offices, 10,959 new non-Japanese adults live in central Tokyo, or 13 percent of the 83,764 new adults living in the city.
Shinjuku Ward has the largest number with 1,837 new foreign adults, accounting for as much as 45.9 percent of the ward’s total number of new adults this year.
This is followed by Toshima Ward, which had 1,206 new foreign adults, accounting for 38.4 percent of the total in the ward, the figures showed.
Five years ago, the ward only had 335 new foreign adults.
New adults are defined as those who turned 20 or will turn 20 between April 2, 2017 and April 1 of this year. Those with dual citizenship of Japan and another country are counted as Japanese citizens. In Japan, those with dual citizenship are obliged by law to choose one of the two nationalities by the age of 22.
The ratios look particularly high given that foreign residents accounted for only 4.4 percent of the 9.3 million people living in Tokyo’s 23 wards as of January 2017.
In fact, the demographic composition of the foreign community in Tokyo is much younger than that of Japanese nationals. According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, those aged 60 or older accounted for as much as 27.5 percent of the total Japanese population of the 23 wards as of last January, while only 6.8 percent of foreign residents fell into that demographic.
Experts attributed Tokyo’s recent surge in the number of young non-Japanese to a flood of foreign residents coming with student and training visas.
Japan is suffering from a labor shortage in part because its working population is shrinking due to a low birth rate. This has helped attract a vast number of young foreign workers, in particular to the capital, said Toshihiro Menju, managing director at the Japan Center for International Exchange in Tokyo.
“This trend will continue over the long run. So Japan should not deal with it through ad hoc measures,” he said.
Japan has officially banned the immigration of unskilled foreign laborers, but it has allowed numerous foreign workers to come and work with student and so-called technical trainee visas, Menju said.
According to the metropolitan government, those who live in the city with student visas nearly doubled from 58,764 in 2012 to 104,889 last year.
Many have part-time jobs with up to 28 hours of work per week, the legal upper limit set for individuals holding student visas. However, some are believed to be illegally working longer hours.
Meanwhile, Nobuharu Hikiba, an official with the metropolitan government in charge of policies for foreign residents, also noted that the total number of foreign residents has continued its increase in Tokyo recently and that more foreign residents are staying for longer periods in the capital.
According to the Justice Ministry, the number of foreign residents in Tokyo’s 23 wards surged 25.5 percent from 2013 to hit 410,650 in 2017.
Staff writers May Masangkay, Cory Baird and Sakura Murakami contributed to this report.