Recent Trends in Migration from the People’s Republic of China to Japan
Historical Overview of Immigration to Japan
Traditionally, Japan was never a country of immigration. During China’s “Reform and Opening-up” in 1978, Japan had just 766,894 foreign residents, including 659,025 (85.9 %) South and North Koreans, 48,528 (6.3 %) Chinese, 21,396 (2.8 %) Americans, 4511 (0.6 %) British and 33,434 (4.4 %) others. The Koreans and Chinese who migrated to Japan prior to World War II were mostly colonial immigrants. Japan has always welcomed foreign skills and technologies, but to protect Japanese “racial” purity and the sense of Yamato (Japanese) cultural homogeneity, the concept of Wakon-yosai (Japanese spirit and Western techniques) was for a long time encouraged. However, since the early 1980s, Japan has started accepting large numbers of international students, mainly to promote internationalization, enhance the country’s international image and cultivate affection for Japan (Shao 1996, 2008). Around the mid-1980s, Japan experienced rapid economic development but was short of unskilled labor (owing to the native workforce’s refusa to do dirty, dangerous and demeaning jobs) (Komai 2001; Mori 1997). To address this problem, it adopted a “side-door” policy and began to accept foreign labor in the guise of pre-college (Shugakusei) and trainee programs, thereby allowing the government to adjust the length of visas and force foreigners to leave when the market no longer needed them (Zha 2003). Since the start of the 1990s, Japan has been accepting Japanese descendants born and raised abroad, known as Nikkejin (Japanese diaspora), in order to minimize the ethnic conflict that recruiting non-Nikkejin foreigners might unleash. The country has a severely aging population and an internationally low fertility rate, so it has no choice other than to open its doors a little in an attempt to meet labor-market needs. It thus increased the number of Filipino skilled immigrants, especially nurses. As of the end of 2014, the population of foreigners reached 2,121,831, nearly triple that in 1978. The Chinese are the largest group (33 %) with 694,974 people (654,777 from the mainland, 40,197 from Taiwan), followed by Koreans with 501,230, Filipinos with 217,585 and Brazilians with 175,410 (see Fig. 7.1).
Fig. 7.1 Foreign nationals in Japan by country (Source: Japanese Ministry of Justice)