When Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced in March 2022 that Japan would accept Ukrainians fleeing Russia's invasion, many were surprised with the decision given that Tokyo has long held a strict definition of who is eligible for asylum.

Over the course of the year, however, Japan took in 2,302 Ukrainians — much more than the handful of refugees it typically accepts each year. Now the key question is whether this signals a major shift in Tokyo’s refugee policy or if it's a special case resulting from Europe's most consequential war in decades.

During a news conference last week, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno suggested it was the latter, describing the rare move as an “emergency measure” based on the critical situation in war-torn Ukraine.