Stroll through Shibazono Danchi in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, on a weekend and you will find children shrieking with glee. They run across its communal playground or splash about in the fountain of the public housing complex as elderly residents enjoy leisurely walks in the background. Apartment blocks as high as 15 floors, their balconies dotted with drying laundry, tower over a courtyard lined with trees.

But what one might find unusual about the scene is that the children speak Mandarin, sometimes interspersed with Japanese, as their mothers converse in rapid-fire Chinese.

Such scenes are expected to become more prevalent nationwide after the government introduces a new residential status for foreign newcomers in April. The move is part of measures aimed at securing much-needed labor as Japan's working population dwindles.