NJ population falls in 2009 for the first time since 1961


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS now on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog.  In probably the most significant news germane to Debito.org this year, we have for the first time in nearly a half-century (48 years) the population of NJ decreasing in Japan.  Looks like the “Nikkei Repatriation Bribe” was very effective indeed.

To try to take the edge off this bad news, I have an Ishihara joke at the end of this blog post if you’re interested.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Number of registered foreigners marks 1st fall since 1961
Kyodo/Japan Today Wednesday 07th July 2010, 06:00 AM JST


TOKYO — The number of registered foreign residents of Japan declined 31,000 from a year earlier to around 2.186 million as of the end of 2009, marking the first year-on-year fall since 1961, the Justice Ministry said Tuesday. The ministry’s immigration bureau attributed the fall to a decline in job offers in areas with manufacturing businesses, including automakers, amid the global recession.

The number of foreign residents came to 674,000 in the first survey in 1959 before falling to 640,000 in the second survey in 1961, after which it continued to increase, topping 2 million in 2005, according to the bureau. By prefecture, Aichi, the home of auto giant Toyota Motor Corp., saw the largest decline with a fall of 13,600 from the year before to 215,000, followed by Shizuoka, where the number fell 9,800 to 93,000. There was a significant drop in the number of Brazilian nationals, the third-largest foreign population in Japan, from around 312,000 to 267,000.

The number of foreign residents increased in the Tokyo metropolitan area, including Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama prefectures, mostly because the urban region still attracts workers for food service industries, according to the bureau.

外国人登録者数、初めて減少 09年、金融危機影響か

朝日新聞 2010年7月6日19時58分






The Ishihara joke, source unknown:

“Tokyo Governor Ishihara has long declared crows in Tokyo to be a public nuisance, so he was offering a cash prize to anyone who could figure out a way to get rid of them, such as creating a recipe to make them edible etc.

“One day, a man walked into the Tokyo Governor’s office claiming to have the solution to the crow problem.  Ishihara granted him an audience.

“The man pulled out a box and opened it.  Inside was a Golden Crow, which took wing and began flying circles around Ishihara’s office.

“‘This is the solution?’ Ishihara grumbled impatiently.  The man said, ‘Wait, open a window and let him outside.’

“A functionary charged with opening windows was summoned, and the Golden Crow flew out, resuming his airborne circle over the city of Tokyo.

“In due course, all the other crows in Tokyo began following the Golden Crow, flying round and round in a huge cloud.  Then suddenly, the Golden Crow flew out to sea, and crashed into Tokyo Bay.

“All the other crows followed suit and drowned.  Tokyo was de-crowed.

“Ishihara flashed his vulpine smile.  ‘Well done!’  And as he pulled out the cash prize, he asked:

“‘Now, do you think you can come up with a Golden Gaijin?'”


30 comments on “NJ population falls in 2009 for the first time since 1961

  • And that whole global economic slump didn’t have anything to do with it?

    — Of course it did. What do you think also triggered that Repatriation Bribe? If you’d read the article I linked to, what I’m objecting to is the GOJ’s intention to recuse themselves of any responsibility of actively bringing NJ over here in the first place, instead trying to bribe them out of receiving the state safety-net assistance and support that they’ve earned over here after contributing to the system like any other worker. I’m disheartened that this cynical ploy seems to have worked.

    Capiche? Or do you prefer to be remain obtuse and camouflage yourself as a Devil’s Advocate? I shouldn’t have to explain this all over again.

  • Basically, a lot of brazilians families were paid to leave Japan during the recession.
    I’m brazilian and I know a lot of compatriots that lived this situation.
    Don’t worry, Arudou, you’ll see these numbers growing for the next few decades, unless Japan wants to bankrupt.

    — I’m hearing that many who took the bribe and went back now want to come back to Japan. True from what you’ve heard?

  • Less foreigners in Japan, well, this means in future less crime in Japan? But what if the crime rate continues to rise, which certainly will happen? I see already the comments by the media and politicians: Less foreigners committed more crimes than ever….

    — I don’t see why it “certainly will happen”.

  • Orient, is there statistics leading you to believe that crime in Japan is increasing? (it could just be more people reporting too)

    Anyway, I hope this bribe doesn’t continue to work. I would hate for the GOJ to think they “won”…..

  • >But what if the crime rate continues to rise, which certainly will happen? (Orient)

    Where are you getting your crime rate data, Orient? (certainly not from the “wide shows”, god forbid?)

    Crime rates in Japan — ALL ACROSS THE BOARD — have been in freefall since the 1980s. (This is particularly true of crime involving face-to-face violence such as rape, aggravated assault, armed robbery, and murder).

    Why is this not more widely reported?

    In any other society on the planet, the cops and conservative politicos would be on TV puffing up their chests and taking credit for it.

    — Source for the freefall?

  • crustpunker says:

    I’m truly starting to think the bloom is off the rose for a lot of young people in terms of wanting to come here to live for a few years let alone forever. Japanophiles can import all the Japan they want these days and then take a week or two off work to visit here. From talking to quite a few young people from western countries over the past 5 or 6 years I have started to get the impression that Japan has become a place that is viewed as a hard place to live for foreign nationals, a place that has little to no real career opportunities and is “A cool place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there” If these numbers stay the same or continue to decline then we might be able to assume in some regard that Japan has become a place that is viewed as a generally unappealing place to live for foreigners? The gov. of Japan should be thinking about paying people from other countries an incentive to STAY here while they give the best years of their lives for a country that, without the support of workers from outside of Japan WILL eventually be unsustainable. Grim…..
    “Into a world of slumber, the dull march on”

  • How did I know that was going to be the particular Ishihara joke included? Probably because I’ve never heard any others…

    — We need more of them! Political humor is sorely lacking in this society.

  • – We need more of them! Political humor is sorely lacking in this society.
    I thought Ishihara was a sick old joke already.

    My favorite personal joke is that since Aso was a Sori Dajin, I was indeed a sorry gaijin.
    And a certain former METI Minister was Anmari yokunai.


    My jokes in English ain’t much better either. Time to kill this missive off 😉

  • Tacit Blue says:

    To add to what Crustpunker said, the bloom is off for me, at least.

    All the nasty stories I’ve been reading (here and elsewhere) have left a bad taste in my mouth. I was at one time greatly looking forward to living in Japan, which was (and to a lesser degree still somewhat is) a great dream of mine, but now I’m not so sure…

  • @#6: All they have to do is make it SIMPLER for people to go live in Japan. I still belong to the group of the people that actually want to go live in Japan, even if it goes wrong, I’ll try again.(I’ll try [almost] anything twice). The ocean of things I have to go through to actually get there is another matter.

  • Crustpunker wrote: “From talking to quite a few young people from western countries over the past 5 or 6 years I have started to get the impression that Japan has become a place that is viewed as a hard place to live for foreign nationals, a place that has little to no real career opportunities and is “A cool place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there””

    I’ve heard that too from my peers. They are just lazy though. I am 19 years old and I’ve got plans and I intent to fully execute them. Often what I notice is that they talk about living in Japan only to find out that they have to work hard to learn the language and learn about “boring” stuff like immigration, visas and the like. Many talk, but few go. I almost never hear about racism from them, just that it “would be hard to live in Japan”. Anyway, I’m sure the numbers will bump back up in a few years or so.

  • Crustpunker

    I am pushin 50 and I have heard what you have as well. Additionally alot of my friends who worked for large international companies in Japan are off to Singapore or China as expats are leaving Japan and taking supporting jobs and tax revenues with them.

    The shine has worn off and I believe the lack of leadership at the top is to blame. I was at a gathering that included Embassy officials and I heard more than once that it is hard to take a country seriously that changes leaders once a year over a 4 year span.

    I think Japan’s leaders have failed to transform Japan from a manufacturing economy, built on efficiency and efficient use of space and resources into a modern vibrant economy willing to use resources (such as riversides etc) to simply make Japan a better place (which in turn would stimulate creativity).

    Over the years I have been in Japan I have went through cycles beyond the general culture shock (love, hate, etc.). Recently (in the past 2 years or so) I have learned to truly like and appreciate the Japanese people in a way I never have before.

    I blame only the leadership (especially those folks like Ishihara) for Japan’s ills and failure to, among other things, internationalize and develop a sensible immigration policy that includes encouraging industry/business to participate in hiring foreigners.

    I am a business owner and business is doing well (knock on wood) so I have no intention of disengaging from Japan. However if I was in a different situation I would seriously consider it.

    I truly hope, mostly for my Japanese friends, that the government will find a way to turn things around. Because of the culture (all of the good and bad) Japan needs a strong leader with a clear vision (and these days a very open mind).

    Allen – sorry for my bleak post, however you sound like you have the right idea and a good head on your shoulder. I say go for it! Come with an open mind. You will experience racism and if you are in Japan long enough I think you will also find out there are many good people in Japan. My advice though is..come with a good skill that is useful to Japan and be willing to take risks. Although things are not well there are very good opportunities for foreigners now, especially in technical fields.


  • crustpunker says:

    Doug said: “My advice though is..come with a good skill that is useful to Japan and be willing to take risks. Although things are not well there are very good opportunities for foreigners now, especially in technical fields”

    Very sound advice indeed. In the “golden” days of English teaching here in Japan, I think the draw for young people who had just finished university and had a load of student loans to pay off was the very respectable wage that they could expect to earn compared to what a recent college grad would be making back home (home being the U.S. in this case) Sure, a great many of those who came here most certainly had some inherent desire to visit Japan anyway and experience the culture, chase after poon, learn the language, whatever. But I think that generally, the money you could potentially hope to earn was the real draw for younger people back in the day.

    Nowadays in Japan for the kind of entry level jobs that don’t require any specialized skill the money is sub-par to LESS to what you might get per hour working at Costco or something back home so I feel that perhaps there is really not much of an incentive for people to commit to moving to the other side of the planet for peanuts. I’m afraid that nowadays, even having a skill in something like IT while certainly helpful, will not cement your chances at finding a decent gig with equal work for equal pay and all that….

    Look, I know it’s tough everywhere now. Long hours, low pay but who the hell needs to jaunt to the other side of the globe to experience that when they can just stay where they are and feel the pain just as easily? Japan has GOT to find a way to make itself more appealing once again if it ever expects to get people coming back. Right now Japan looks like how some of the legendary old hollywood screen actresses did when they reached their seventies but still applied the make up like they were in their twenties.

    Sad, pitiable and depressing.

  • Mark Hunter says:

    If employment is available, even lowish wages, I’d very strongly recommend to any young grad from another country to come to Japan and check it out. At the very least they’d learn an awful lot about how others can think in a radically different way from oneself. The typical suburbia born and bred North American, for example, could greatly expand his or her views and, in my opinion, make themselves more marketable for having shown they are willing to break out of the mould. Of course, floundering for years is not good, but I fail to see how exposing oneself to another culture can be a bad thing. Those of you considering coming, absolutely do it. Japan still remains a safe, fascinating place, albeit down a bit in terms of opportunities for foreigners with limited skill sets. All the above comments could apply equally to Korea and Taiwan, if we’re thinking about east Asia. China is a slightly different beast, but is also well worthy of consideration, especially for the really adventurous. Happy travels!

    — Japan as purgatory, or way station in the tapestry of life’s experiences? That’s hardly doing this society justice. Japan deserves better contact with the world than just temporary larkers.

  • Crustpunker says: “Allen – sorry for my bleak post, however you sound like you have the right idea and a good head on your shoulder. I say go for it! Come with an open mind. You will experience racism and if you are in Japan long enough I think you will also find out there are many good people in Japan. My advice though is..come with a good skill that is useful to Japan and be willing to take risks. Although things are not well there are very good opportunities for foreigners now, especially in technical fields.”

    Oh do not worry. I’ve had full intention of immigration for a long time now. Also, my twin and I are keenly aware of the racism(as if being a regular poster on this site tells you anything) and in fact have full intentions of joining the FRANCA once we get settled in. I am starting university next spring and I plan on getting an education and making sure that I can get a work visa for what I wish to do(right now I am wanting to work in psychology). We(my twin and I) have already been learning the language and will continue our studies in college. We are trying to take every step necessary to come into the nation prepared to make a contribution to society. Now, if only my peers were as mature about this as everyone here. Then would immigration increase.

  • Mark Hunter says:

    Debito, agreed that Japan deserves better than just tourist types only. It would be a shame, however, if the tone in some of the prior posts led any of this blog’s readers outside Japan to put off coming at all. Some of those “larkers” go on to do wonderful things for this society via careers in Japan. I have met quite a number of very good people who have contributed for many, many years to this society. I would say the majority came with no plan or concrete intentions. Just my experience as I don’t tend to hang around with big company expat types.

    — Of course. I would hope that nobody takes one blog’s word as 100% gospel about any society. Point taken.

  • I’m amazed nobody else pointed this out, but from the numbers above, Japan net gained foreigners other than Brazilians (-45000 brazilians, -31000 foreigners, so +14000 non-Brazilian foreigners), so this reflects no exodus of Americans, Brits, etc. You all got the story wrong.

  • Tacit Blue says:

    For my part, I can say that after much thinking about it, and carefully considering everything I’ve learned from what I’ve read here and elsewhere, I stubbornly still have the urge to move to Japan.

    I can’t shake the dream. Maybe I’m just delusional, maybe I’m a masochist, but despite all the sour news and hatred, for some reason I don’t want to let this dream die. I want to make a go of it for myself, and see if I can’t build something resembling a happy life in what is still my favourite country.

    I’d very much like to believe that’s still possible. We’ll see what happens.

    — Well, then, do it. Let us know how it goes.

  • I think the point was that there was a net loss in the number of foreigners period, regardless of nationality.

  • Tacit Blue, I feel the same. If anything, being here on Debito has made me want to go even more because now I want to fight for the rights of foreigners/PRs/NJs and really contribute to society. Reading Debito’s old tales from speeding tickets to his naturalization is very exciting and I can not wait to tell y’all my own.

    But I am getting off-topic.

  • Tacit Blue says:

    Not to continue to derail, but in a way it’s history repeating. I’m no expert on the subject, but over a hundred years ago even the United States was a fairly awful place for immigrants. But people kept coming, and eventually things changed because there was no other choice. Now the U.S. is well-known as an immigration powerhouse.

    Maybe the same is possible in Japan. People just need to keep coming, naturalising, positively contributing, and influencing society, and the nation will have no choice but to see the new reality and change for the better.

  • These news do not surprise me. A lot of my colleagues who also came to Japan to do science are leaving the country much earlier than they had initially planned, sometimes after only a few months. Many of those who are still here are planning their departure. A lack of communication, both within academia and socially, and unbelievably complicated rules for everything and anything are the main reasons. Add regular experiences like eating dinner while getting stared at, and Japan turns out to be a very un-attractive place for young researchers, compared to the US, Europe, Canada or Australia.

    — Oh come on. “Getting stared at.” Boo hoo. There’s a place where one has to draw the line and say, “Look, some things you’re just going to have to learn how to deal with as adults when you’re in not in your society of birth,” and this is one of them. Chill.

  • You enjoy getting stared at while eating (in an aggressive, not a curious manner)? I have lived in several other foreign countries before, and traveled to lots more, and never had that happen to me. In other countries people rather chat you up. In any case, I am just sharing that many of my friends and highly qualified colleagues rather don’t want to deal with treatment like this (the staring is just one of many things), and are drawing the consequences. Japan’s loss.

    — No, I don’t enjoy being stared at. That’s why I do something about it, not avoid it or cry “Boo Hoo Bad Japan Victimizing Poor Helpless Me” in my beer. That’s called “dealing with it like an adult”. If some people are not adult enough to contend with the possibility of situations in other societies that make them uncomfortable, they should stay at home. And not bring it up here because we want grownup conversations here, thanks.

  • —I’m truly starting to think the bloom is off the rose for a lot of young people in terms of wanting to come here to live for a few years let alone forever.—

    Forget Japan. China is the future.

  • Hi Debito,

    No need for polemics.

    It is not that you are made uncomfortable in all *other societies*, this happened to me so far in *Japan only*, and I have been to every continent but Antarctica, and lived on three. And this is the point I wanted to contribute to this conversation:

    There is a fierce global competition for qualified young people. Put yourselves in the shoes of someone in her late 20s, early 30s, with a PhD in science or engineering. She could come to Japan, where a large part of the population will have a negative attitude towards foreigners. And where she will have a hard time communicating with people at work, and a hard time socially integrating. Will she come to Japan, or stay there for an extended period, or rather go to more immigrant friendly places like the US or Australia? Probably the later. And this partially explains the drop in NJ numbers, IMO.

    A fellow expat friend of mine had to go to the hospital for emergency surgery this spring. Due to this she missed a single day of work – and was promptly fired. The people at her job didn’t even have the spine to tell her that to her face, they only emailed her. Treatment like this would cause a huuuge lawsuit and negative PR in the US. And this was by no means the 1st negative experience she had made. Well, unsurprisingly, she and her boyfriend (PhD in computer science) left Japan 4 months later. Can you blame them? This is not an isolated case, and stories like this might explain the drop in NJ numbers, don’t you think so?

    I frequently hear the comment from long-term foreign residents of Japan that one has to “deal with the problems”. I don’t think getting used to unfriendly treatment is a psychologically healthy course of action. Rather, many people go to places (often other than their home countries) where they are welcome. And this is what I recently observed a lot of (cosmopolitan, culturally flexible, highly educated) people doing. This is the observation I wanted to share, related to the, for me, unsurprising news about a drop in NJ numbers.

    — For someone so avowedly worldly as you portray yourself, you offer very facile comparative societal analysis.

    You kicked off this conversation by talking about being stared at in Japan, and how that’s driving educated people away. Now you’re getting into other issues, such as job security and workplace harassment, which are a quantum level different. There are things that people can do about these things too (join a labor union, hire a lawyer), as you would in other countries. But the point is, always, find a way to deal with it, be it speaking up and telling people to be nicer to you, or resorting to legally-sanctioned action.

    No need for polemics, you say. But your line of argumentation calls for exceptionalism and, yes, polemic. Golly, things are so tough in Japan. How about other societies where you can’t walk down the street or enter a barrio without being assaulted, where stopping at a stop light might mean you get mugged or shot, where there are checkpoints on roads manned by warlords, where you to have to get official permission to move house or have a child, where you might get beat up or murdered for not toeing the ruling party line, where you might be incarcerated for lese majeste, where you might get blown up on a bus for being a tourist or of the wrong religion, where you might get stoned or beheaded for adultery, where you might get acid thrown in your face or face an “honor killing” for not being of the right caste, where you could get beat up for showing the bottom of your shoe or attacked/arrested for showing your hair or skin or makeup in public, or severely fined for chewing gum? Need I go on? And you’re rattling on about being stared at in a restaurant? As if this only happens in Japan? Grow up, man. Show some worldliness.

    Besides, the NJ population hasn’t gone down in nearly a half century (or haven’t you read this blog entry title?), so Japanese society hasn’t been all that successful in driving foreigners away so far. The statistics don’t bear out your facile assertions. Here, lie down on this couch. Maybe you’re just projecting what you personally have a phobia of, and assuming that every person (in the broad and wide and multicultural pool of examples you seem to be referring to) that you imagine is in the same position as you has the same phobia. But that’s your psychological issue to deal with. Don’t bother bringing it here. Again, this is a society for grownups, and this is a blog dealing with grownup problems. Bye.

  • I’m sorry if I derail this thread further, Debito, but I feel there’s a need for a clarification regarding Klausi’s point above. Now, I didn’t mind the staring while I was in Japan (heck, I even went over to talk to those people sometimes) One of the girls I knew, on the other hand, couldn’t stand it. Things like staring, children pointing or high-school boys making rude remarks like “Oppai sawaraseteyo!” sometimes made her break down and cry at the end of the day. This may look like a case of “boo hoo, poor me, why are Japanese people so mean?!” from the outside (I couldn’t understand why it was such a big deal either), but to her, it was a very real problem.

    And this brings me to the point I’d like to make: while in Japan, I felt like there was a serious lack of sensitivity and proper manners towards foreigners sometimes. This may sound cliché, but Japan overall could do with a little sensitivity training of the “foreigners are real people with real feelings, too” sort. The kind of behavior I described above affects -some- people, even if it’s just people who are too self-conscious, or people with phobias. Their feelings should matter, too.

    — They do. Fight back. Now back on topic.

  • Russell Watson says:

    Tacit Blue and others. I would recommend any graduate who is considering living in Japan for a few years to try it. From a financial standpoint alone it makes sense. Even with the lower salaries for English teaching, there are still jobs on offer for about 250,000 per month or more. Add a couple of private students and there is no reason why someone couldn’t save 60-70,000 a month if they were reasonably disciplined with their spending. That is $800 US dollars a month or more at current exchange rates. How many other entry-level jobs offer that? I should imagine you could pay off a fair chunk of your student loan within two or three years. I’m no longer here by choice; after more than two decades in Japan, I’ll be heading off home within another two years with any luck, but to the newcomer, Japan offers a window on a totally different world from the one you grew up in. My only other advice is to leave Japan while it is still fresh and interesting, not stay until you are jaded and worn down by all the negative aspects…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>