Asia Minute: Record Number of Foreigners Living in Japan

Apr 2, 2018

Credit Moyan Brenn / Flickr

The number of foreign residents living in Japan has hit a new record. More than 2.5 million foreigners live in Japan, and the fastest-growing part of that population may surprise you. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

For more than 200 years Japan barred foreigners. No immigration, very limited trade, and definitely no foreign workers.

That policy ended in the 1850’s. About a hundred years later, the government started keeping detailed information on the number of foreign residents in the country.

Last year, that number swelled by 7.5 percent to the highest level since records have been kept—for the third consecutive year.

The biggest number are Chinese—more than 750,000. Second are South Koreans—about 450,000.

The third biggest source of foreigners in Japan is Vietnam—more than 260,000. Ahead of the Philippines and Brazil. And the Vietnamese are the fastest-growing group, up by nearly a third in the past year.

Over the past five years, immigration from Vietnam to Japan has quadrupled.

Credit Chris 73 / Wikimedia Commons

The Justice Ministry, which tracks the numbers, says most are technical intern trainees or students.

Part of the push: increased investment by Japanese companies into operations in Vietnam.

Separate government figures show Japan became Vietnam’s largest foreign direct investor last year with companies mostly spending on infrastructure projects—including at least five billion dollars on coal plants.