Japan’s demographic struggles are forcing companies and communities to open up at an unprecedented rate.

Last year, the number of foreign workers hit a record 2.04 million, up 12.4% from 2022, according to labor ministry figures released late last month. That inflow is set to continue at a fast pace as Japan seeks more assembly line staff, construction workers, vegetable pickers and caregivers for the elderly.

"Japan is entering an era of mass foreign immigration,” said Junji Ikeda, president of Saikaikyo, a Hiroshima-based agency that sources and supervises foreign workers. "Incremental adjustments will not suffice.”