Fun Facts #6: “Newcomers” soon outnumbering “Oldcomers”


Hi Blog. I added this on specially to the end of my previous newsletter, but don’t want it to get buried. Let me reprint it specially as a FUN FACT:

…the Permanent-Resident “Newcomers” prepare to outnumber the “Oldcomers” by 2008

Latest figures for the population of registered NJ residents (i.e. anyone on 3-month visas and up) were made public last week by the Ministry of Justice (see them for yourself at

These are up to the end of 2006 (it takes about 5 months to tabulate the previous year’s figures). The headline:

The Yomiuri Shinbun May. 22, 2007

The number of foreign residents in Japan as of the end of 2006 hit a record-high of 2.08 million, increasing 3.6 percent from the previous year, according to the Justice Ministry’s Immigration Bureau.

The figure of 2,084,919 accounted for 1.63 percent of the nation’s total population.
By nationality and place of origin, the two Koreas combined had the largest share at 28.7 percent, or 598,219. But because of the aging population and naturalization, the number of special permanent residents is decreasing after peaking in 1991.

In order of descending share after the two Koreas, China registered 26.9 percent or 560,741; Brazil, 15 percent or 312,979; and thereafter the order was the Philippines, Peru and the United States…

By prefecture, Tokyo came top with 364,712. Thereafter, Osaka, Aichi, Kanagawa, Saitama, Hyogo, Chiba, Shizuoka, Gifu and Kyoto prefectures accounted for about 70 percent.

Gifu Prefecture increased by 7.6 percent from a year ago, and Aichi by 7.1 percent. The high rates of increase in the two Chubu region prefectures is thought to be attributable to the area’s favorable economic conditions.
(May. 22, 2007)

COMMENT: Oddly lost in translation from the original Japanese article ( was the fact that this represents the 45th straight year the NJ population has risen. And at the rate reported above (3.6%), under the laws of statistics and compounding interest rates, this means the NJ population will again double in about 20 years.

It took twenty years to double last time, so the rate is holding steady. In fact, although the average is usually around a net gain of 50,000 souls per year, 2006 saw a gain of about 70,000. Accelerating?

The bigger news is this, though only briefly alluded to above:

Japan has two different types of Permanent Resident: The “Special PRs” (tokubetsu eijuusha), better known as the “Zainichi” ethnic Korean/Chinese etc. generational foreigners born in Japan, and the “General PRs” (ippan eijuusha), better known as the immigrants who have come here to settle and have been granted permission to stay in Japan forever.

Once upon a time, thanks to Japan’s jus sanguinis laws behind citizenship, most “foreigners” were in fact born in Japan–former citizens of empire stripped of their citizenship postwar and their descendents.

No longer. Every year, the number of “Oldcomers” are dropping, while the “Newcomers” are in fact catching up.

According to the MOJ, these are the raw numbers of people each year between 2002 and 2006 respectively:

489900 475952 465619 451909 443044

(rate of decrease 2005-2006 of 2%)
223875 261001 312964 349804 394477

(rate of increase 2005-2006 of 12.8%)

If things continue at 2006’s rate, the number of “Newcomer” immigrants will surpass the “Oldcomers” this year, 2007!

Oldcomers: …434183 425499
Newcomers: …444,970 501926

which means that according to statistics, the Newcomers with PR will double again in a little under six years!

Of course, we won’t see the point of inflection officially until May 2008, but those are the trends. This is a major sea change, because with PR these people are probably here to stay forever, as per the terms of their visa.

As far as rights and internationalization advocates go, this should sound hopeful for increasing pressure on Japan to pass a law against racial discrimination. But I’m hearing rumblings:

According to sources I really cannot name, the “Oldcomers” have a much longer history of human-rights advocacy, and a greater sense of entitlement to “victimhood” than the upstart immigrants. It’s entirely likely the Zainichis might not be too cooperative. After all–they’ve suffered for generations and gotten a few policy bones thrown them by the GOJ. Why should they help make life any easier for others who haven’t paid their time and earned their stripes?

Those are some crystal-ball prognostications. Let’s see how things look in five to ten years, as the landscape keeps shifting under the advocates of human rights for minorities in Japan.

Arudou Debito in Upstate NY, USA

3 comments on “Fun Facts #6: “Newcomers” soon outnumbering “Oldcomers”

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