Nikkei: In roughly three decades, the number of foreign residents in Japan has grown to 2.47 million, from just 980,000 in 1989. So while this period will go down in history as the time the country’s population went into decline, it has also brought an unprecedented influx of newcomers from abroad. Tagalog, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai, Indonesian: The students at Keiwa Elementary School in the southwestern prefecture of Mie speak nine different languages at home. But at school they use Japanese…
Foreign nationals tend to gravitate to places where their children are likely to receive better education. Mie — home to Keiwa Elementary — is a testament to this. The prefecture is gaining a reputation for supporting students born to non-Japanese parents. “Mieko san no Nihongo,” a textbook for teaching classroom Japanese developed by the Mie International Exchange Foundation, has proved useful in this regard and is now used in elementary and junior high schools nationwide.
According to the Ministry of Education, the number of students requiring additional instruction in the Japanese language at public elementary and junior high schools topped 30,000 for the first time in the year ended March 2017. The central government, too, is looking to bring more foreign workers into the country. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last month said his government will design a reform plan for this purpose by the summer. Yet Abe is not exactly jumping in with both feet — the policy will not encourage permanent settlement, with a cap to be placed on the maximum stay and restrictions on bringing family members along. Even so, Japan is far more diverse than it was in 1950, when there were only 600,000 residents from overseas. From large cities to tiny villages, Japanese grow ever more accustomed to mingling with their fellow global citizens. And the newcomers are breathing life into communities that looked destined to fade.
COMMENT: As an antidote to the program talked about last blog entry, where hunting NJ for public sport and amusement became yet another TV show, here’s a relatively rare article showing the good that NJ do for Japanese society: revitalizing communities that are dying, as they age and endure an exodus of their young to more prosperous cities. The article is a bit too optimistic to be realistic (given that all this progress could be undone with a simple mass cancellation of visas and government repatriation bribes; the former has happened multiple times in Japan’s history), but I’d rather have the article than not. Have a look and tell us what you think.