Kyodo: “Record 3.4 million foreign residents in Japan as work visas rise” in 2023. Only a brief reference to foreign crime (i.e., overstaying) this time. Fancy that.


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Hi Blog.  Interesting statistics here on how the labor migration has resumed to the point where hundreds of thousands of NJ are migrating to Japan every year, and NJ Residents are at record highs.  Also interesting is that Kyodo doesn’t seem to feel the need to shoehorn in foreign crime statistics this time (just a brief allusion to overstaying at the end).  I’ll be incorporating these stats into my next SNA Visible Minorities column, out shortly, and argue how this influx can translate into political power. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.


Record 3.4 million foreign residents in Japan as work visas rise
PHOTO: Foreign tourists visit Sensoji Temple in the Asakusa area of Tokyo. As of the end of December, 3,410,992 foreign nationals resided in Japan, up 10.9% from the previous year.
The Japan Times/Kyodo Mar 23, 2024

The number of foreign nationals residing in Japan hit a record high of over 3.4 million in 2023, government data has shown, with employment-related visas seeing significant growth amid the country’s efforts to address its acute labor shortage.

As of the end of December, 3,410,992 foreign nationals resided in Japan, up 10.9% from the previous year to mark a record high for the second consecutive year, the Immigration Services Agency said Friday.

The number of specified skilled workers jumped 59.2% to around 208,000, while trainees under Japan’s technical internship program grew 24.5% to around 404,000 to approach the record high level marked in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic, the data showed.

The specified skilled workers visa, which allows the holder to immediately take on jobs in designated industries without the need for training, was introduced in 2019 in response to Japan’s severe labor shortage resulting from its declining birthrate, with the aim of attracting foreign workers.

Meanwhile, permanent residents, who made up the largest group by residential status, stood at around 891,000, up 3.2%. Engineers, specialists in humanities and international services, including foreign language teachers, rose 16.2% to around 362,000.

By nationality, Chinese accounted for the largest population of foreign residents at around 821,000, followed by Vietnamese at around 565,000 and South Koreans at around 410,000.

The number of foreign arrivals, excluding reentry by residents, increased more than sixfold from the previous year to around 25.83 million following the easing of border restrictions associated with COVID-19.

The number has now recovered to over 80% of pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

In 2023, over 9.62 million Japanese nationals left the country for reasons including tourism, which was more than triple the figure from a year earlier but still remained under half of pre-pandemic levels.

There were 79,113 foreign nationals who overstayed their visas in Japan as of Jan. 1, 2024, an increase of 8,622 compared with the year before. Vietnamese made up the largest group at approximately 15,000. ENDS

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15 comments on “Kyodo: “Record 3.4 million foreign residents in Japan as work visas rise” in 2023. Only a brief reference to foreign crime (i.e., overstaying) this time. Fancy that.

    • The Yahoo News comment section is already running wild with this one lol. I‘m not s fan of Biden at all (literally handing out billions to a genocidal regime like Israel), but at least a US president finally calls Japan out on this, instead of the typical „Japan is an ally of the West“ bullshit.

      • Japan is an “ally” like Israel is.. they have their own nationalist agenda and uniqueness as nation building-not really aligned to western countries’ interests, but they’ll talk the talk to get the aid, etc.
        Quite a few Japanese rightists I have talked to mention they like Israel or the Japanese are “the Jews of Asia” whatever that means.

        At least they aren’t anti-semitic. Just anti a whole load of others instead!

        — I would dispute the claim that Japan’s rightists aren’t anti-semitic. They’re just opportunists for grievance and victimhood. If anyone gets in the way of that, they’re anti-them, regardless.

      • Absolutely agree with you! It’s such a breath of fresh air after decades of ‘we share the same values’ lies- the US State Department advice about getting in trouble in Japan, and UK’s ‘Japan is more authoritarian than you may be used to’ have belied knowledge of the truth for years, but the pretense continued.
        And yes, the internet blowing up with indignant ‘Japan *may be* xenophobic, but the US is racist!’ is amusing. Whilst apologist NJ claim that Japan *just can’t be xenophobic, look at all the Vietnamese guest workers*🙄
        But I can’t help but think this is POTUS reminding the LDP that he is still right now calling the shots, and they better not try to undermine him;

        Aso went to meet Trump on April 24th. Biden’s comment is a very public slap down.

      • Biden probably was speaking before engaging brain/without diplomatic niceties and Trump also just would tweet exactly what’s on their minds, so its revealing how Japan is now actually perceived on both sides of the American political spectrum.

        The “Japan is just like us” postwar branding jig is most definitely up.

        Popular(ist?) thinking is more along the lines of “They took our Jerbs!” in the 80s i.e. Rising Sun plus all the stories of them returning Ex pats and their stories of exclusion, along with frustrated businesspeople tired of “The Japan That Can (always) Say No”- the latter one was really Japan PR shooting itself in the foot.

        Japan is increasingly seen as a competitor rather than an ally. Ironically this was more true in the 80s than now, but it is certainly true they get shamed by being put in the same category as Russia and China.

        Ditto, Japan’s mediocre press freedom rating #70 East Asian nation 70th- – behind Hungary, Sierra Leone and Malawi.
        (UPDATE has ostensibly risen slightly to #53 in 2024 below South Korea (ha!), South Africa, and slightly about beleaguered Hong Kong (!). Wow, way to go Japan. Lowest in G7, but well, the jig is up so no surprise really.

        New article about that,

        Johnny Kitagawa gets a mention- its only after the Beeb (gaiatsu) outed him that the Japanese media belatedly admitted they’d known his perversions for decades.

    • These four countries are also all “High Context” societies but this can also be code for “I am not going to say my opinion directly or I can always change an agreement or decision when I feel like it, its just that You Foreigners do not get the background context. E.g. Japan’s Wa or historical Isolation still used as an excuse to get a Free Pass, or Putin’s justification that Ukraine and Russia are historically part of the Kievan Rus blah blah”. It is interesting that the Japanese “Noruma” system (you must bring your own customers into a job or event) is directly from Soviet Russian factory management targets.

      More on this, and why they’re (easily) upset and how Biden (and Trump) have about as much subtlety as a bull in a China shop (pun unintended)

      Tangent, but possibly related anecdotes: “Japan is a high-context society. Even if you speak perfect Japanese, it’s hard to know what is really in their mind. They are extremely shy and not usually very expressive. This makes communication extremely difficult. I can only keep saying nice things and there’s not much else because I don’t want to offend them. All exchanges with them are necessarily shallow in this way. No wonder most people find their culture very “strange” or “weird.” I bet this answer alone is enough to offend many of them!”

      “all exchanges are necessarily shallow” might be an exaggeration but if you are a Westerner looking for Deep Meaning or Zen, good luck peeling that endless onion.

      I would argue the mystery has worn off, to be replaced by exasperation, and this hurts Japan’s standing in the world.

  • Neither Biden or Trump are known for their tactful words, though the cause is different. Trump however changed his tune on Japan after Abe presumably charmed him with some good sushi and sake. Biden seems to be errr, at an age where his honest ramblings come out regardless of diplomatic niceties.

    Its good to see Japan lumped in with China and Russia- I have been saying that in terms of cultural decision making and other aspects they are more similar than they care to admit, but this is usually glossed over. If they do not want to be grouped thus, they should make genuine efforts to implement anti-racist treaties and laws they have signed.

    Japan and Russia’s Uncertainty Avoidance scores (Hofstede) are near identical, the determinator which could most relate to xenophobia. I.e. They do not trust outsiders and different ways of doing things because that leads to unease.
    Russia however, at least is a multi ethnic federation that acknowledges other ethnicities and gives them their own republics and flags etc although Moscow has taken back a lot of their real power in recent years. However the first step to true independence is to exist as a separate, recognized state, e.g. postwar Poland, or the Irish Free State post 1922. I do not see Japan doing that for the Ainu or Okinawans. No, instead we get tiresome, boorish, Absolutist Denial like “Okinawa IS Japan” and postmodern ignorance of historical realities that it actually was American until 1972. In private conversations with various Okinawan cultural leaders and local diet members, they have asserted when in their cups that Okinawa is another country.

    No mainland Japanese wants to consider this though. And I do not want to talk to them about it to just hear the same old cliches or “The Correct View of Japan” or how Japan did good things in colonial Korea blah blah without any sources or evidence, so as someone recently posted, it is actually pointless or impossible to have a meaningful conversation with most of the populace.

    Thus indeed, Japan passing both culturally and economically. Kawaii Anime alone does not a country make.

  • Good editorial, with an important conclussion:

    „ The JCIE’s Menju says, “Japan is no longer in any position to treat immigration as taboo. The government must make its basic stance on this clear.”

    Japan is becoming an immigrant society that simply will not work without its foreign members. The country’s politics must look at this fact in the face.“

    Probably not going to happen though, as the article says earlier:

    „ but the government has also stated that it “will not implement any policy of maintaining the nation through allowing foreigners to settle in Japan with their families permanently.”

    Well good luck to Japan and the LDP then. As one Japanese feminist once said: „We have to get used to being poor, because we won‘t take immigrants“ (paraphrasing, because I don‘t remember the exact quote).

    [That comment, from Ueno Chizuko, is here. — Debito]

    Funny how they claimed Biden‘s remark was wrong, but when speaking to a Japanese audience, they always make it clear that they don‘t want any immigrants (and Nippon Kaigi goes even further and wants to remove all foreigners from Japan). So how is Biden wrong exactly? I want someone from the LDP to explain it to me.

  • Japanese restaurant in Tokyo decides it can charge NJ-looking tourists 20% extra because ‘the yen is weak’ so tourists can afford it (or does advertising this fact really mean that they just don’t want NJ customers?). What are they going to do about Japanese living overseas who come to visit?
    Anyway, the fact that this ISN’T ILLEGAL 🙄


    Well the following part surely made me laugh:

    „ Since an increase in the number of people wishing to live permanently in Japan is expected, the proposal also includes stricter requirements for permanent residence status to crack down on workers who do not fulfill their public obligations.“

    Where did they get the data that the number of people wanting to live in Japan permanently is going to increase? After what the GOJ did during covid, even the hardcore japanophiles and apologists don‘t want PR anymore, because they realized it‘s useless. Every visa scheme the LDP tried to introduce in the last 30 years failed miserably and never met the targeted number of „immigrants“, or „trainees“ (which is not a surprise because people don‘t want to settle and start a family somewhere where they basically have no human rights protection).

    How is kicking out current permanent residents over not paying taxes going to make your country more attractive for new immigrants? These LDP politicians all had their brains surgically removed, there is no other explanation (well, except for racism probably *wink).

    At least this guy gets it: „ At the May 8 meeting of the judicial affairs committee, lower house member Takeshi Shina of the CDP noted that the counterproposal does not include stricter requirements for permanent residents. He added, “Taking away permanent residence permits without sufficient discussion will lead to a country that won’t get ‘chosen’ by foreign workers.”

  • Well the Mainichi is on a roll currently. Good to see honestly:

    Especially the first article is unexpected for a Japanese newspaper. Even left leaning Japanese people I talked to would never admit that xenophobia is baked into Japan’s constitution. Their arguments would always be that the constitution was written by the US, so how could it be racist against foreigners? (of course ignoring the fact that the US didn’t impose the constitution onto Japan, like the Japanese government claims, but wrote it together with them and tried to find a diplomatic solution for most disagreements). Unfortunately, they compromised on equal rights for foreigners in order to push through Chapter I about the Emperor and Chapter II regarding the renunciation of war, as the article states.

    This shouldn’t have been something to comprise on, but since this was 1947 and minorities weren’t even equal to white people in the US, I can’t blame the US retrospectively for something like that. After all, Japan had more than enough time to come up with modern laws protecting foreigners and immigrants, plus come up with an actual immigration policy that doesn’t rely on “trainees” and doesn’t break international human right laws, but they of course refuse.

    Anyways, good luck, I guess:,Fund's%20estimates%20released%20this%20month.

  • I’m so tired of foreign journalists doubling down on Wajin racism.

    “The country needs to grapple with these problems before overtourism replaces omotenashi (already happened decades ago, but ok). The weak yen might be a tailwind now, but more than 30 million people still visited Japan in 2019 even with the currency closer to 100 to the US dollar (about 135 to the Australian dollar). There are a couple of possible quick wins. The country charges a paltry ¥1000 ($9.80) departure tax: that needs to be quadrupled or more. Ditto with the accommodation tax some areas charge, including Tokyo, levied at only ¥100 to ¥200 per night.”

    Does this genius even realize that these things apply to Japanese nationals too? For example: “Effective Jan 7, 2019. Departure tax is charged to each passenger leaving the country by aircraft or ferry regardless of nationality.”

    Same goes for the accommodation tax. Also, raising the prices of these taxes will not stop overtourism. Nobody is going to pass on staying in Tokyo just because you raise the taxes a bit. This has been already tried in cities like Paris, Rome, Venice, London, etc. and it never solved overtourism.

    “Services only used by foreigners should impose much higher prices, such as the 70 per cent increase levied last year on the Japan Rail Pass, a product only for tourists, which gives unlimited rides on the main Shinkansen line.”

    Yeah, how about no? I will just travel to a country that won’t try to rip me off with a 70% price increase. Also, JR shot itself in the foot with those new railpass prices. Most tourists are now either flying domestically (especially Tokyo-Osaka, you can get a ticket for like 30 Euros on some days), or they’re buying individual Shinkansen tickets. The new railapss literally only pays off if you travel from Tokyo all the way down to Fukuoka and then back to Hokkaido, which almost no tourist will do (and even then, flying will be cheaper).

    But the most important question I have is: Why should tourists have to pay a higher price in order to save the weak yen and Japanese economy”?

    The Japanese government decided by itself that they want to ban all tourists for 3 whole years (and in the first 6 months all foreigners, including PR holders). So now they’re trying to make up for those lost 3 years by overcharging all foreign tourists?

    Also, the vast majority of tourists are still not from rich western countries with a better currency exchange, most tourists come from countries with an even weaker currency like China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, etc. How is charging them more going to work out in terms of tourist retention? It looks like Japan’s plan for tourist is the same as for “trainees”, ie. let them constantly rotate instead of trying to retain them. This is not going to work in the long term (already failing in the immigration department), because those “trainees” and tourists will start to spread around the word that Japan isn’t really that hospitable and in a few years or decades from now, tourists will stop wanting to come to Japan, just like Vietnamese and Chinese “trainees” don’t want to come anymore.

    A few years ago when Suga was still prime minister he said that he wants to almost double Japanese tourist arrivals up to 60 million by 2030. How is that going to work out if they can’t even handle the roughly 2.7 million people who entered in 2024 so far (stats are from April 2024)?

    Anyways, decades of failed LDP policies, including the refusal to accept any meaningful immigration which could have actually saved the economy led to where Japan’s economy is now, so how about an extra tax for all LDP politicians and all the Japanese nationals who are anti immigration? You guys are literally at fault here, not foreign tourists. Why should foreign tourists pay a literal “gaijin” fee to save your failing economy that you’re responsible for?


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