The second topic in the course “Talking about Japan: Social issues” was about immigrants. As you know, the number of immigrants in Japan is increasing. According to the Immigration Bureau of Japan (, it is 2.011.555 in 2004, when it is the first time to be over 2 million. It is 47.7% increases in number in these 10 years. And the rate of immigrants in Japan is 1.57%.

     The biggest population of immigrants is Korean, they are about 600.000 and the rate is about 30% among all immigrants. The second biggest is Chinese and the rate is about 26%. After that, Brazilians (15%), Filipinos (9%), Peruvians (3%), Americans (2.5%) and others come.

     The prefecture which has the largest number of immigrants is Tokyo and the rate is 17.3%. Thereafter, Osaka (10.5%), Aichi (9.7%), Kanagawa (7.5%), Saitama (5.2%), Hyogo (5.0%), Chiba (4.8%), Shizuoka (4.6%), Kyoto (2.7%), Ibaraki (2.5%) come. Those 10 prefectures account for about 70% of immigrants in Japan.

     As you know, Tokyo is the capital of Japan and has about 12 million people, which is about 10 % of Japan’s population, and has the largest GDP of any metropolitan area in the world. If you add surrounding prefectures to Tokyo, it is an area so-called the Greater Tokyo Area. It includes Kanagawa (4th), Saitama (5th), Chiba (7th), Ibaraki (10th) and has about 35 million people. Tokyo has the mainstay of society. That is, it has many departments and ministries of the government, and many head offices of the major industries.

     Kanagawa is the fourth largest commercial area. It has three big ports and is very important for foreign trade. It also has many major industries for Japan’s economy as like: Nissan, Fujitsu, NEC, or Cannon. It has American military bases and Japanese Defense Force bases, too. Saitama has many departments of the government and some major industries like Honda, but it’s more like a commuter town. Chiba has Narita National Airport and Makuhari Messe, the convention center, it looks like an international city. It has many laboratories, universities and other schools, and head offices of some major companies and major industries like Aeon, Seiko, Sharp, Fujitsu, NTT. Ibaraki is one of the best agricultural areas in Japan because of the warm climate, and is also one of the biggest industrial areas and a school zone because of the location which has many ports, rail ways and roads. It has many industries like Hitachi, Sumitomo Metalworking, Cannon, Intel, Nestle, Mitsubishi Chemical, NEC, Daikin, Matsushita and so on, has many food industries like Kirin Beer, Asahi Beer, Coca-Cola, QP, Kagome and so on, and many pharmaceutical companies like Kyowa-Hakko, Astellas, Tsumura, Banyu and so on.

     Osaka is the second largest prefecture after Tokyo with a population of about 8.815.000 people. The area which is added Hyogo and Kyoto to Osaka is called Greater Osaka Area and it has roughly 15 % of Japan’s population. The gross prefecture product of Osaka for the fiscal year 2004 was ¥38.7 trillion, second after Tokyo. Osaka is a strong point for Japanese economy because it has some important ports and airports. It has a big industry area called Sakai-Semboku Industiral Region, which has many major industries like Nippon Steel, Hitachi Zosen, and Kubota and so on. There is another big industry area called Hansin Industrial Region laid across Osaka and Hyogo, which has many industries like Nippon Steel, Sumitomo Metal, Kobe Steel, Mitsui Chemicals, Matsushita, Sanyo, and Mitsubishi and so on.

      Aichi is supported by the world’s second largest automaker company, Toyota Motor. It is also the eighth largest company in the world with revenue of $179 billion last year. So Aichi has many related industries to Toyota, too. Shizuoka is famous for a tea-producing district, but is typical secondary sector of industrial area, which has many plastic model companies like Tamiya, many pulp and paper industries like Oji and Mishima, many musical instruments industries like Yamaha and Kawai, and many motor bike industries like Yamaha and Honda, and also a big motor industry, Suzuki.

    The reason that many immigrants are in those areas is obvious. Those industries need labor. It’s natural that people gather to the places where you can make money. It may not too much to say that Japanese economy is supported by those immigrants.

     Industries can have labor and immigrants can make money. It seems that the both of them look happy, but they aren’t. Probably many Japanese managers are complaining about their foreign workers, saying, “They are rude, aren’t diligent, aren’t punctual…” At the same time, workers is also complaining, saying, “We are working as same as Japanese workers, but the pay is cheaper than them! It’s unfair! We have to work harder than Japanese! The school doesn’t accept our kids! We cannot understand Japanese!” It’s a natural result that immigrants lose their zest for job in such bad working conditions. Yet most industries in Japan haven’t tried to make the working conditions better or to give immigrants enough for welfare and money. But they need and have to do soon because other countries also need labor. Human resources may become the most important imports from now on.

     But many companies hire foreigners illegally because they want to make wages as cheaply as possible. I mean they are hiring illegal or overstaying immigrants. Those immigrants put up with bad working conditions, cheap pay, or other problems without complaining because they are afraid of the discovery of their overstaying and so on. If it’s revealed, they must go home by force. If major industries accept immigrants with better working conditions, those immigrants have still many problems. The government and the educational world don’t accept them.

     The government’s stand is: There is policy for immigration control in Japan, but it’s not social policy, not for accepting immigrants. We never accept immigrants as permanent residents when they enter to Japan. If we give immigrants the right of permanent residence, it’ll be just on the occasion when they have stayed for a fixed period of time and they meet their requirements. That means that Japan don’t accept immigrants. But the government won’t be refuse the fact that Japan is lack of labor soon.

     Immigrants have problems in educational world, too. Most schools in Japan usually don’t accept immigrants because they don’t know what to do. But some schools in the area which already has many immigrants have accept. They couldn’t wait for the government’s movement. But Fundamental Educational Low has no words for immigrants still now. It means that it’s very difficult to have proper education for immigrants and their kids in Japan.

     Japanese national isolationism have sill continued.


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