There were 298,980 students from abroad studying in Japan as of May 1, an increase of 12 percent from a year earlier, according to an education ministry report released in January. Of the total, students from Asian countries accounted for 95 percent and those from North America and Europe less than 4 percent. By country, students from China numbered 114,950, up 7.2 percent, Vietnam 72,354 (up 17.3 percent) and Nepal 24,331 (up 13.2 percent).

A quick glance at these figures seems to indicate that the government's goal, adopted in 2008, of increasing the number of foreign students in Japan to 300,000 by 2020 has been attained two years ahead of schedule. While this may appear to be a laudable achievement as far as the number is concerned, a closer look would cast doubt on what the government's plan actually accomplished.

In the first place, it was never expected that students from Asia would account for an overwhelming 95 percent of the foreign student population. The government's plan stated that accepting 300,000 foreign students was part of a global strategy of making Japan more open to the rest of the world and expanding the flow of people, goods, money and information between Japan, on the one hand, and Asia and other parts of the world, on the other. Although Asia was specifically mentioned, the lopsided percentage of students from that region does not sit well with the government's contention that the plan is part of Japan's global strategy.