Nikkei: Japanese-Brazilians snub Tokyo’s diaspora residency program, attracting exactly ZERO applications after starting 3 months ago


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Hi Blog.  Here’s the latest installment of what I like to call “the jig is up” phenomenon affecting Japan’s public policy, specifically the one that is trying to maintain Japan’s exploitative “revolving-door” NJ labor market.

The Nihon Keizai Shinbun has given us an inadvertently amusing article about how the government’s latest policy U-turn towards the Nikkei Brazilian Community (whom they officially bribed to leave Japan a decade ago), and how this wheeze simply isn’t working.  ZERO applicants applied for a special labor program in three months.  Even though the NJ resident population is at an all-time postwar high, some people have learned their lesson:  don’t come to Japan just to be exploited and then summarily sent home.  More comment from Reader and Submitter Gulf below the article.  Dr. Debito Arudou


Japanese-Brazilians snub Tokyo’s diaspora residency program
Effort to bring over young workers attracts zero applications in 3 months
By NAOYUKI TOYAMA, Nikkei staff writer
October 25, 2018, Courtesy of Gulf

SAO PAULO — Japan’s new residency program for fourth-generation Japanese descendants living overseas did not attract a single Japanese-Brazilian applicant in its first three months.

The program, launched in July, allows descendants ranging in age from 18 to 30 to stay in Japan for up to five years and perform specific types of work. The goal is to ease Japan’s labor shortage, and the Justice Ministry initially expected to accept 4,000 people a year. But the Japanese Embassy and consulates in Brazil had not received any applications as of the end of September.

The South American country is home to the largest ethnic Japanese community abroad.

Potential applicants may be put off by the limited period of stay, as well as restrictions on bringing family members along and required certification of Japanese fluency.

The limitations contrast with the rights granted to second- and third-generation Japanese-Brazilians, who are free to live and work in Japan with residency status granted under a 1990 immigration law revision.

Japanese-Brazilian communities are dotted around Japan. Many residents work in the manufacturing sector. But their numbers are in decline: After surging from 170,000 in 1991 to a peak of 310,000 in 2007, the population dropped to 190,000 at the end of 2017 due to a sluggish economy and other domestic factors.

Despite the need for new sources of labor, Japan’s government has insisted participants in the program would not be considered immigrants. An organization representing Japanese descendants in Brazil blasted Japan for “treating Japanese-Brazilians, who are their compatriots, as unskilled workers for a limited period.”


COMMENT FROM SUBMITTER GULF: I shouldn’t laugh, but in a way it’s a relief that there aren’t any takers. I have relatives in Brazil and I lived there when I was 5 and 6 years old. It’s actually the reason I came to know Japanese culture and decided to study the language.

To be fair I doubt there are many 4th generation Nikkeis that speak Japanese, if any. But of course the poor conditions on offer certainly aren’t an incentive to learn their ancestral language.

Thank you as always for your efforts and for keeping up the site as a 20+ year old archive on human rights in Japan. –Sincerely, GULF.

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29 comments on “Nikkei: Japanese-Brazilians snub Tokyo’s diaspora residency program, attracting exactly ZERO applications after starting 3 months ago

  • Gulf thinks he shouldn’t laugh. I think he should, I am laughing so hard!
    Let’s take stock shall we?
    The program to attract ‘elite’ NJ didn’t get any applicants.
    The program to attract NJ nurses hasn’t attracted any more than a literal handful of applicants who are willing to jump through all the hoops and barriers.
    And now this total failure.

    If the J-Gov wants people to come, lower the barriers. Or not, if they don’t. I can’t wait to see what happens when all these old LDP voting farmers start passing away unnoticed and alone, because there aren’t any carers, and hyper inflation means the value of their pention will be too low to allow them to be one of these ‘AI wonder robot carers’ that I am continually assured are just around the corner.

  • Hmm, just want to throw an idea out here. Lets say Japan runs out of places to recruit NJ in the near future, will Japan then try to attract strictly Pro-Japan ideologically as some last resort?

    At least on the inter-webs, I am seeing so many apologist NJ posts on the internet (4chan and /r japancirclejerk being some of the most notorious) who shamelessly admit that they are jealous of people who get to live in Japan. The most common defense of apologists I see the most are “this is Japan not America”, “In Rome do as Romans do!”, “Thats the way things are, I suck it up so should you!”

    So I am wondering, if no one wants to go to Japan, how about sending some purely ideologically driven apologists over to Japan and see them learn a lesson or two? I wonder how many will be singing the same tune after 5 years and then get booted out.

    I sometimes wonder if Japan is trying to avoid hiring from the west due to higher cost and legal liability (fear of getting sued or worst if the injured worker is for example American as opposed to lets say from the Philippines).

    This is not to say I condone making Japan a cesspool of racist nihojinron apologists, but going just by Japanese logic wouldn’t Japan eventually want to recruit those who are blindly loyal to Japan.

    It would also be a good experiment to see how many are willing to “do as Romans do” in Japan and for how long and if they are as tough as they sound online.

    The reason I post this is that I kinda think that the Jgov might think something along the lines of “Nobody wants to come but we see these forums full of apologists who would do anything to be here so why not bring them in?”

    If Japan is to continue the way things are, where else would Japan attract people other than from the most determined of apologists? Assuming apologists won’t complain about pay and working conditions and obediently do as Romans do all the way of course.

    — And they’ll get to question the assumption of whether they’ll ever be accepted as Romans themselves, even if they do everything as the Romans do.

    • Didn’t Japan already try this about two years ago? Didn’t they make it easier to get visas for people who ‘promoted’ Japanese culture, using that points based system to attract ‘elite NJ’?
      It totally failed, right?
      None of the weaboos wanted to move out of their parents basements I guess.

      • Jim, after reading Bayfield´s comment I also remembered those “promoting Japan” visas. Looked for info about them, alas with no success.

        Does anybody know if they made it further than the brainstorming room?

  • Unlike Japan in 2018, anyone could be a Roman citizen in 212AD.
    “an edict issued in AD 212 by the Roman Emperor Caracalla, which declared that all free men in the Roman Empire were to be given full Roman citizenship and all free women in the Empire were given the same rights as Roman women. “wiki


  • “how about sending some purely ideologically driven apologists over to Japan and see them learn a lesson or two? I wonder how many will be singing the same tune after 5 years and then get booted out.”

    These people are only used for shows like we see where they come to Narita and are followed around and asked about why they are in Japan; they invariably respond how wonderful Japan is or how somebody was so nice to them and carried their bags. The Japanese are not stupid, they know these people would run at the first experience of othering or racism and avoid at all cost interviewing people who are honest about Japan

    • Reminds me of interviewing at the Japanese Embassy for JET, they really just wanted someone who was completely GENKI, didnt know much about Japan (i.e. wasnt jaded or had other options) was interested in Japan (difficult to balance, that one), and wouldnt mind being sent to Inakamono Machi.
      Unfortunately I let slip I had other options, friends in Tokyo, and spoke Japanese. Plus the sheer fossilized condescending stuffiness of the relics interviewing me (RIP) really got my angry young back up at the time, and that didnt go down too well, either.

      • love this comment, says it all “Who wouldn’t want to get a degree, learn to speak a (possibly third) language – one of the toughest, travel thousands of miles from home leaving their family and friends behind, to work in a minimum wage job, paying first world prices for their food, transport and rent in a hostel, so they can engage in the hard manual labour that is farm work, outdoors in all weathers, from dawn till dusk, being feared, mistrusted or just disliked by the locals. Dream job. Bonus: no shackles.

        I wonder if I should cancel my plumber and just live without a working boiler. He is certified but I doubt he has a degree”

      • Wow, this article is… eye-opening.

        This is where the rubber hits the road, they stopped pretending and now are openly targeting countries with a GDP low enough (“1/10 of Japan”) because they hope to get university graduates do blue-collar jobs. And to think I was happy to see they had somewhat changed the policy of kicking migrant workers out after 5 years (presumably because not many will want in, as we see with the Nikkeis). Though as Debito says the unlimited renewals could be undone down the road with visa policy changes…

        Well, let us have the good people of Bangladesh, Zambia, Cambodia, Cameroon, Lesotho… vote with their feet. I just hope people don`t come believing Japan is a land of opportunity once you learn Japanese, and the visas end up locking them exclusively in blue-collar jobs, which is likely enough. Or discrimination does that anyway.

        If you want to check which 53 countries have a per capita GDP equal or lower to one tenth of Japan´s:

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Despite (or because of?) a string of consequence free detainee deaths at Japanese immigration centers, immigration staff continue to feel free to dish out punitive punishments for perceived slights, with disregard for detainees health and safety.
    This time the detainees were punished for complaining about the lack of health and safety consideration during detention;

    • “Detained for jeering”. Jeering. Kowaaaiiiii. Oh Boo hoo, safe spaces for hypersensitive J-officials, what next? It seems “jeering” and sniggering is a big no no in Democratic Japan. We’ve seen this before.
      I guess they are following the lead of Abe’s at a Southern All Stars Concert. He can get upset easily so they can too?
      And of course the classic
      “foreign detainees in a room for six people for about 24 hours after they acted aggressively, officials said Monday.The measure was taken in June at an immigration facility in Osaka “to keep order” after their belligerent acts, including jeering, an official said, describing the measure as “appropriate.”

      No one was hurt, according to the officials.”

      • Jim Di Griz says:

        Yeah. They can stomach the agonizing screams of an inmate crying out for medical attention until the guy literally dies, but a little jeering? Well, apparently that’s where they draw the line!

        • I think when they feel not respected (even if they have not earned that respect), is what they hate the most.
          “Stop Laughing shut up shut up. Japan is a leader in Human rights” (cue sniggers).
          Translation: Respect My Authoritah. (-rianism). I am Erai Hito. Listen respectfully even if I am just making it up as I go along and Japan has in fact done the complete opposite from what I have saying.

          • Yes, this kind of vertical social hierarchy that places ‘erai hito’ and such above reproach, is surely part of the same ‘unique Japanese culture’ that needs to be protected from ‘foreigners who are incapable of understanding it and respecting it’, hence the paranoia about NJ and the detentions in the first place.
            And yet, here the detainees are being punished for not understanding it.

          • in reply to Jim, and also Roger ““how about sending some purely ideologically driven apologists over to Japan and see them learn a lesson or two? I wonder how many will be singing the same tune after 5 years and then get booted out.”
            I was once very Pro Japan and placed it above western culture. Look at me now. Am I going to drive a truck? Or pick strawberries in Fukushima? Hell no..

            learnt my lesson indeed.

    • Japan is KETCHI these days. Seriously price conscious in stark contrast to 80s where they often preferred quality over price.
      I have just had a Japanese bank turn me down for a freelancer because I was 1200 yen more expensive. But I speak Japanese and the cost cutting competition dont’.(maybe that’s what they want, someone who doesnt understand them, so they can revel in their unscrutability?)
      Same thing a few months ago from a J banker who says he “had no money this month until salary day.”
      J banks are hard up indeed, how long before Japan sinks to 4th largest economy?
      Their overseas buying power already seems very weak, so indeed Abe and Co is doing it on the cheap.

      • Do ketchi I would say.
        Last year I was looking for work and a Thai woman said she knew of a job. Not teaching but being a care worker. Shift is 5 p.m.-4 a.m. for 18,000 yen. No thanks, I said. So of course they have a hard time getting workers and there was talk of making the shift shorter so just get foreign people to do it since not enough Japanese want to do that work. It is not easy. My brother-in-law’s wife does it in Osaka but some of the old people are so hard to deal with complains about them a lot.

        • As bayfield says:
          Japan is running out of money to take care of its elderly, so the gov decided to blame NJ as some kind of catch all solution.
          That job was such anti social hours it should be double pay, never mind 18,000 yen. Before tax etc no doubt

    • Japan is running out of money to take care of its elderly, so the gov decided to blame NJ as some kind of catch all solution.

      Now, if cutting whatever meager benefits NJ workers is bad, its not even at its worst yet. Soon the thought of retirement in Japan will be all but a pipe dream.

      Those news articles kind of remind me of what the Russian government tried to do recently, that is to raise the retirement age high above the life expectancy of the average person. As a consequence, many people will never live long enough to collect their retirement.

      I am suspecting that the J-gov is trying something like that.

      Raising the retirement age and chopping benefits, its no wonder Japan suddenly wants NJ to stay longer or even permanently.

      Blaming NJ for leaching Japan is a convenient defense when average citizens complain about the government raising retirement age. And unfortunately blaming NJ seems to be a catch all PR solution that ALWAYS work without fail in Japan.

      You know, there are even times where I wonder if Japanese students ever tried the excuse “NJ ate my homework so I have nothing to hand in today” at school and it works.

      But then again I really haven’t seen a case where the Japanese would suddenly step back and say “hey hey hey, that doesn’t make sense, you can’t blame NJ for that too!!”

      • ‘Gaijin ate my homework!’
        I’m putting that on a T-shirt!
        But yes, I agree, the J-gov is putting the squeeze on its social welfare payments to all residents of Japan, and running out the old ‘to stop abuse by NJ’ ensures absolute blind acceptance from the masses.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Ha! And here is the catch!
    Japan wants (needs!) half a million graduates to fill its blue-collar vacancies, but sure as hell wants to hedge its bets in case the economy takes a downturn and it decides to kick them out, just like it did to the Nikkeijin Brazilians a couple of years ago!
    These workers WON’T be allowed to apply for permanent residency. Just rolling short term visas.

  • Abe certainly thinks Japan will be a choice destination for imported NJ labor, he’s setting a ‘cap’ on the number Japan will accept; well below the half million the government has said Japan needs.

    Interestingly, the man responsible for implementing this…’plan’ (and I hesitate to dignify it with such a word), was forced to state in the Diet this week that;

    ‘despite a threefold increase in the annual number of non-Japanese who have entered the country over the past decade, criminal offenses by foreign residents have halved.’

    Since he was;

    ‘himself a frequent target of questioning, scrambling to ease concerns from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that an inflow of foreign workers could trigger a spike in crime or strain Japan’s social security system, even leading to a possible abuse of its health care system.’

    Gee, I guess they didn’t get Abe’s memo? Or they are putting on the fear mongering to reassure their base?

  • realitycheck says:

    I appreciate that many here and of course Dr Debito himself, have put in so much effort to make changes, small though some of them are, in the life of this country we are residents in and a relative few foreigners are citizens of.

    I think we can all try to make positive changes in our corner of Japan and some will succeed. However, it’s also wise to understand what it is we are up against and that we includes Japanese family members. Some in the countries we come from are also fighting the future but diversity will win as it has throughout thousands of years of history.

    The USA will sooner or later elect more politicians who understand that it is easier to make change pro-actively and manage it so that most of the population will understand that legal pathways for people who don’t currently have them is sound economic policy in the long run just as it is better from a humanitarian perspective.

    I see no such future for Japan. It will make all the public announcements about real economic needs but as always that will be hedged about by assurances to a declining, xenophobic population that yes they can have their rice and eat it too, and no the gaijin won’t be permitted to stay longer than set years.

    It’s all about how ‘unique’ the Japanese are in this deluded worldview. Dementia is sharply increasing, just about every week there is some report about murders of old family members by their spouses or younger members because the dementia-afflicted person is too difficult.

    Even given Japan’s population, the incidences are way out of wack compared to other first world countries.

    Yet at the same time the requirements for non Japanese nurses and care workers are set up to be an obstacle course. The ‘problem’ of language that the Japanese are always trumpeting could be solved easily by companies investing in intensive Japanese language courses provided for free to those training both in their home countries and in Japan.

    But no, the pathological need to move sideways like a crab away from the issues directly facing it is a strong feature of Japanese society. There are civil servants who understand very well how delusional the attitudes of government and society here are but they cannot make a real dent in the tunnel vision.

    As for ‘straining’ or ‘abusing’ the healthcare system – what a joke. Developed countries outside of the USA are known for good to excellent healthcare systems that cost less than Japan’s. Those of the UK, Canada, Australia and NZ for starters. Oh yeah and you don’t bring your own knife and fork, etc, everything is provided.

    Even private healthcare in some developed countries is cheaper than Japan’s national health system. And the four countries mentioned above don’t make low income earners like those earning less than 20.00000 yen pay anything in many cases.

    You’ll never be a low income earner and get a demand from the Canadian equivalent of 200 dollars per month for the healthcare system unlike the system here.

    I hesitate to say leave but if even if we love some aspects of Japan, why should we agree to a future of being 3rd rate residents and paying disproportionate tax for it, all the while being told we are a problem?

    And think of how bad it will be for those workers who will do the three D jobs and be treated no better than temporary pack animals who will be sent home after a set period and have no family to alleviate the stress of life here?

  • Looks like there’s now 43 takers.

    4th-generation Japanese visa applicants hamstrung by language, age requirements
    July 3, 2019 (Mainichi Japan)

    July 1 marked one year since Japan launched a new visa system to accept fourth-generation foreigners of Japanese descent, or “nikkei yonsei,” to work in Japan, but the requirements for acceptance under the system present too high a hurdle for many.

    The government initially anticipated the scheme would see around 4,000 users per year, but up until June 17, 2019, only 43 people were granted the certificate of eligibility required to apply for a visa.

    Many fourth-generation Japanese people have deep ties to their home countries. The scheme is aimed at encouraging those people to serve as a bridge between Japan and their home countries, but the new language requirements present a high hurdle for them, especially as programs for third-generation Japanese descendants did not impose such conditions.

    An association of Japanese descendants in Brazil is urging the government to complete a widespread review of the current system.

    Jaqueline Oliveira, 23, is a fourth-generation Japanese person living in Sao Paulo, Brazil, home to the largest Japanese diaspora in any city in the world. “The third-generation didn’t have to speak the language; there’s injustice between the generations,” she lamented. For the third-generation’s visa applications, proficiency in the Japanese language was not necessary, but for the fourth, a basic level of linguistic understanding is required.

    Candidates are expected to have obtained at least the N4 level of the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test. While doing sewing work, Oliveira is studying to pass the exam at the end of the year. She attends a language school three days a week, studying for three hours a day.

    Oliveira lived in Mie Prefecture, central Japan, until the age of 5, after her father, 50, a third-generation Brazilian of Japanese descent, arrived in the country to earn money. She attended the same kindergarten as other Japanese children, but after returning to Brazil, she forgot most of the language she had acquired. Even so, she said, “I love Japanese culture. I always thought I wanted to go back there. My dream is to work in the fashion industry there.” But when it comes to the language requirements, she said, “Memorizing kanji is very difficult. I want them to ease the Japanese language proficiency requirements a little more.”

    Even some fourth-generation foreigners of Japanese descent who overcome the language requirements, seen to be the scheme’s greatest hurdle, still cannot obtain a certificate of eligibility. One example is Marjorie Kamura, 23, a Japanese language school student who is certified N2, two levels up from the scheme’s N4 criteria.

    In February 2019, she applied for the certificate of eligibility at the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau via her father, 50, living in Japan. But her application was unsuccessful.

    The immigration bureau was reportedly concerned by Kamura’s lack of steady employment in Brazil, as well as her receiving support from her father to live. They questioned whether she would be able to find work sufficient to sustain her life in Japan. “I don’t understand why they denied it even though I’ve worked part-time there before,” she said, expressing feelings of distrust for the immigration bureau that rejected her attempt to live in Japan.

    Kamura spent around 10 years of her childhood in Japan, living in the prefectures of Kanagawa and Chiba in east Japan. Because she was unable to continue residing in Japan after reaching adulthood, she returned to Brazil. For two years beginning in 2016 she stayed in Japan on a foreign student’s visa. She studied at a Japanese language school, and worked part-time at a convenience store.

    In smooth Japanese she said, “To become an interpreter of Japanese and Portuguese, I want to improve my Japanese in Japan.” She also wants to live near to her father and younger sister, 21, and intends to reapply for the certificate of eligibility again in 2020.

    Yasuo Yamada, president of the Japan Federation of Provinces Associations in Brazil, a group for Brazilian people of Japanese descent, spoke to the Mainichi Shimbun. He said other restrictions for issuing the visas are causing many people to give up on applying, including that applicants must be aged 30 or under and cannot be accompanied by family members.

    It’s estimated there are over 150,000 fourth-generation foreigners of Japanese descent aged 30 and older. The federation is trying to get the government to review current requirements including abolishing the age limit to open up the scheme. Yamada said, “The new system is a considerable distance from what we’re asking for. A program that isn’t used is a failure. We want them to open the door wider for fourth-generation foreigners with roots in this country.”


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