Reflecting a nationwide trend of an increasing number of foreign residents in Japan, Fukushima Prefecture is also seeing its foreign community expand.
According to a census report released earlier this month, there were 14,047 foreign nationals living in Fukushima Prefecture as of the beginning of this year — an increase of 1,263 from the same point in the previous year.
Compared to 2013, when the survey of foreign nationals registering their residency began, the number of foreign nationals in Fukushima has increased by 154 percent. The trend is especially evident in urban areas like Koriyama, Iwaki and the city of Fukushima. As of Jan. 1 Koriyama logged the highest number of foreign residents, with 2,682 — an increase of 205 from the previous year. Iwaki came next, with 2,541 foreigners, and the city of Fukushima was home to 1,925.
As the foreign community continues to expand, the prefecture is tasked with building an environment in which they feel welcome and supported. “With the central government’s policy of increasing the number of foreign laborers, we’re seeing more technical intern trainees working in places like factories,” an Iwaki official said.
The number of foreign laborers — including technical trainee interns — is growing nationwide, and Fukushima Prefecture is no exception. According to the Fukushima Labor Bureau the number of foreign laborers in the prefecture has tripled, from 2,493 in 2011 to 8,130 in 2018.
As the population and availability of workers both continue to dwindle in the prefecture, the need for residents to coexist with foreign laborers is growing.
“The foreigner laborers who work in our town are members of the community and a vital source of labor,” said the chairperson of a supervising body at the Hanawa Chamber of Commerce, in the town of Hanawa in Fukushima Prefecture. The chamber was authorized by the government to take on responsibility for hosting foreign laborers. Opportunities to study Japanese are also being considered as a way to better welcome foreign nationals, whose labor could lead to a revitalization of the region.
According to the Japan Student Services Organization, the number of foreign exchange students in Fukushima Prefecture was about 2.5 times higher in 2018 than in 2012, with the number jumping from 302 to 776.
For foreign nationals living away from their home countries, administrative support is essential. “For those who can’t speak Japanese well, it’s crucial for there to be systems in place to help with communication,” said Chung Hyunsil, a 58-year-old South Korea-born Fukushima resident who serves as the director of a nonprofit called Fukukan Net.
Taking such needs into account, the prefecture is seeking to improve its consultation services. Its plan includes expanding accessibility at the Fukushima International Association from seven languages to 11 by the end of the year, and using social media to promote events and community-building in different languages as well.
Fukushima Prefecture’s International Affairs Division aims to “explore the needs of foreign nationals while building an environment in which they can live comfortably.”
This section features topics and issues from Fukushima covered by the Fukushima Minpo, the largest newspaper in Fukushima Prefecture. The original article was published on July 11.