Historical artifact: NJ Jobs in 1984 (Tokyo Shinbun)


Here’s a little something friend Mark S sent on to me after cleaning off his bookshelves:


Yep, according to some magazine in Feb 88 citing Tokyo Shinbun January 8, 1988, the most popular jobs for foreigners in 1984 were:

1. Entertainers and Pro Sports
2. People working in regular companies
3. Foreign-language educators
4. Cooks of foreign foods
5. Artists and artisans
6. Academics in higher education
7. Technical specialists
(a mere 13 counted)

The article also mentions the concurrent Eikaiwa boom (with a snipe at why Japanese foreign language abilities seem to be going down).

It doesn’t mention the hundreds of thousands of Zainichi generational foreigners (probably by only counting “zairyuu gaikokujin”, even though only doing that still gives a very slanted account of how many foreigners are here), or the trades they engage in (entertainment, pachinko, regular corporate, and the olive-oil-style front businesses). And even if you total the numbers given, less than 15,000 people still seems artificially low. I guess either this is within Tokyo-to itself, or else bad social science isn’t only the province of the present day.

In any case, those were the days, for some. Now with the NJ population more than doubled since then, and most NJ residents are not from Anglophone countries (so lose the big gaijin noses whenever you try to depict a foreigner), I bet the highest number of NJ in one job sector would be factory worker.

Any other insights out there on the numbers then and now? Go for it. Debito in Sapporo

8 comments on “Historical artifact: NJ Jobs in 1984 (Tokyo Shinbun)

  • I’m a professional freelance translator.
    Where do I fit into this hierarchy? Or don’t translators exist?

  • Andrew Smallacombe says:

    That’s like recent TV quasi-news about the most popular sites among foreing tourists in Tokyo, and their breakdown of all the foreigners they found at Asakusa – almost all Anglophile. The dozens of Chinese and Koreans somehow escaped notice.
    As the saying goes, 47% of statistics are made up on the spot.

  • Interesting! Almost like a wistful Barbara Streisand rendition of “The Way We Were!” I don’t have the source at hand, but I seem to remember a blurb, probably from the Daily Yomiuri, about 12-14 years ago regarding Japan’s looming population and workforce problems. Apparently, the numbers of new workers needed to be imported just to maintain 1990 levels of production was estimated at 60,000 per month, for at least five years. But even way back before the Great Hanshin earthquake, the publication lamented that it simply wasn’t going to happen. That number of foreigners would be unthinkable, as it would change the face of the society, and basically, that would be intolerable.
    So, inevitable decline, on all levels of society, is the preferable route, it seems. It’s like the whole country has cemented an unspoken Jonestown-like suicide pact.

  • As I recall, there really were a lot of entertainers. As in hostesses. So many that I think there was a bit of a crackdown back in the early 1990s, but others may have a better memory. I distinctly remember visits to the Immigration Office where yakuza-looking guys would be with some young woman from SE Asia as they were going through the process.


    The foreign baseball players were kind of old. Maybe even grandfathers.


    Look on the bright side. Bringing in immigrants now isn’t going to help save Japanese production much. There’s no way to compete with the rest of Asia with the infrastructure so built up in China. Back in the 1980s was a different story. Of course, the Japanese PTB decided to go the high-finance route with a high yen, so it would have been a tough fight in any case.

  • What are “people working in regular companies” exactly? Salarymen-types? Like office workers?

  • Willie,
    Couldn’t agree more. I watched the interviewed newly-minted 20-year olds last weekend, and hardly one of them voiced optimism about either their own prospects, the future of the country or the state of the world. These folks are the future, and they seem like a giggly but realistically grim bunch. With the daily toll of suicides still touching 90 people or therabouts, the currency obviously overvalued, pensions and other funds rapidly hollowing out, a smaller range of products for export still the primary national goal, and any vision of an “utsu-kushi kuni” well and truly buried, I’m afraid that I share the “seijin-shiki” peoples’ point of view. I wonder is Japan beyond redemption at this stage? Or what would it take to revive the dying beast?

  • G8,
    Young people in the US seem to have a similar take on things-except they are further down the drain with all the strange or bad food, additives, pharmaceuticals, vaccines, etc. In other words, a lot of them now are more-or-less half-coherent when they try to think or talk, so the pessimism is more visceral than expressed.

    Japan needs a revolution. That might or might not do the trick. Of course, it might require some kurofune. I kind of doubt that simply getting Ozawa in office would remotely be enough. It would, however, be quite satisfying to see the 1955 Order fall apart.

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