Debates on Japanese immigration policy

Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren)

Interim Recommendations on Accepting Non-Japanese Workers: "Bring Dynamism of Diversity into Japan by Opening Doors to Transnational Human Resources," 14 November 2003

"JAPAN 2025: Envisioning A Vibrant, Attractive Nation in the Twenty-First Century," 1 January 2003

Acceptance of Diversity: "Japan will build a society where people from around the world can live in comfort and participate in meaningful ways, with full rewards for their talent and effort."

Prime Minister's Commission on Japan's Goals in the 21st Century

"The Frontier Within: Individual Empowerment and Better Governance in the New Millennium," January 2000

The late Prime Minister Obuchi Kozo established the Commission on Japan's Goals in the 21st Century on March 30, 1999, appointing sixteen leading private citizens from diverse fields of expertise as its members. The mandate of the Commission was to produce a report for the Prime Minister on the desirable future direction of Japan to which the next generation of Japanese can aspire in the new century, thus encouraging a broader national debate on the subject. The Commission comprised five subcommittees with thirty-three additional experts drawn from various fields. Each subcommittee was assigned one of five themes: (1) Japan's Place in the World, (2) Prosperity and Dynamism, (3) Achieving a Contented and Enriching Life, (4) A Beautiful Country and a Safe Society, and (5) Future of the Japanese. The commission's proposals on immigration policy are as follows:

"To respond positively to globalization and maintain Japan's vitality in the twenty-first century, we cannot avoid the task of creating an environment that will allow foreigners to live normally and comfortably in this country. In short, this means coming up with an immigration policy that will make foreigners want to live and work in Japan. Achieving greater ethnic diversity within Japan has the potential of broadening the scope of the country's intellectual creativity and enhancing its social vitality and international competitiveness."

"It would not be desirable, however, simply to throw open the gates and let foreigners move in freely. First of all we should set up a more explicit immigration and permanent residence system so as to encourage foreigners who can be expected to contribute to the development of Japanese society to move in and possibly take up permanent residence here. We should also consider preferential treatment for foreigners who study or conduct research in Japan---such as allowing them automatically to acquire permanent residence status when they complete their academic work at a Japanese high school, university, or graduate school."

The Asahi Shimbun Asia Network (AAN) Report on "New Age of Migration in Asia," December 2000.

The Asahi Shimbun is the most influential newspaper in Japan. Their proposals are 1) Work for an ''open Japan'' policy within Asia; and 2) Prepare conditions to attract foreign high-tech experts.

Yamawaki Keizo, who chaired the study group on a basic law for a multicultural society, contributed a Japanese article elaborating the necessity of such a law to The Asahi Shimbun on 6 November 2002, and its English translation, titled "New legislation needed for a multicultural Japan," appeared in International Herald Tribune/The Asahi Shimbun on 17 December 2002.

In June 2001, Yamawaki Keizo, Kondo Atsushi and Kashiwazaki Chikako published a monograph, "Taminzoku Kokka no Koso [A Vision for a Multiethnic Japan]," in Sekai, one of the most prestigious monthly journals in Japan. They presented a comprehensive proposal for Japan's immigration and integration policy, including local government's policy and educational reform. It was the first time for anyone to make such a comprehensive proposal. (a summary in "Views from Japan" of Foreign Press Center, Tokyo.) The monograph was then revised and published in Higashi Asia de Ikiyo! [Let's Live in East Asia!], published by Iwanami Shoten in January 2003.

Japan Association of Corporate Executives, "How to Make Japan a Place Where Non-Japanese People Want to Visit, Study and Work," 23 October 2002.

Chikako Kashiwazaki, "Japan: From Immigration Control to Immigration Policy?" in Migration Information Source Global Data Center's country profiles by Migration Policy Institute)

Takeyuki Tuda, "Reluctant Hosts: The Future of Japan as a Country of Immigration," a paper for the workshop in 2001 by Comparative Immigration and Integration Program of Migration Dialogue, University of California at Davis.

Takashi Iguchi, "International Migration in the East Asia: A growing challenge for Japan," a paper for the workshop in 1998 by Comparative Immigration and Integration Program of Migration Dialogue, University of California at Davis.

Wayne Cornelius, "The Structural Embeddedness of Demand for Immigrant Labor in California and Japan," a paper for the workshop in 1998 by Comparative Immigration and Integration Program of Migration Dialogue, University of California at Davis.

Stephen Castles, "Migration as a Factor in Social Transformation in East Asia" a paper presented to Conference on Migration and Development, 4-6 May 2000, which was posted on the global library of the global site.

Keiko Yamanaka, "Contesting Immigrant Rights in Japan," in World On the Move (Newsletter of of the Section on International Migration of American Sociological Association), Vol. 6 No. 2, 2000.

Atsushi Kondo, "Immigration Law and Foreign Workers in Japan," a discussion paper of Faculty of Economics, Kyushu Sangyo University, 2000.

Atsushi Kondo, "Development of Immigration Policy in Japan," a discussion paper of Faculty of Economics, Kyushu Sangyo University, 2002

Aging of Japanese Population

World Economic Forum's Pension Readiness Report, January 2004

BBC News: "Italy looks to migrants," 21 March 2000

BBC News: "US population to 'double by 2100'," 13 January 2000

BBC News Special Report: World Population, 12 October 1999

BBC News: "Global migration reaches record high," 2 November 2000

IT Experts

Hiroshi Watanabe, "Employment Projections for the 2000-2010 Period," Japan Labor Bulletin, Vol.40, No. 1, 2001.

IT immigrants in the US

Computerworld: H-1B Visas,


Yasushi Iguchi, "Challenges for Foreign Traineeship Programs in Japan: The Growing Importance of the Technical Intern Traineeship Program," Japan Labor Bulletin, vol. 37, No. 10, 1998.


Financial Times: "Japan looks at employing foreign nurses," 9 January 2003


Daily Yomiuri: "Govt ponders response to refugee influx," 30 January 2003

Overstaying Foreigners

According to the Ministry of Justice, there are 224,067 foreigners whose visa hava expired as of 1 January 2002. Many of them arrived in Japan around 1990, when there was a severe labor shortage because of Japan's"bubble economy."

In September 1999, a group of twenty-one foreigners, made up of five families and two single persons, who overstayed their visas in Japan visited the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau to request special permission for residence. Up to then, only those who had married a Japanese national were given the permission. In October, 12 migration scholars, led by Professor Komai Hiroshi of Tsukuba University, made "the Urgent Appeal for the Japanese Government to Grant 'Special Permission for Residence' to the Twenty-one Foreign Overstayers," and collected signitures from researchers around the world. In 3 weeks, almost 600 signatures were obtained, including over 100 signatures from abroad. The list of the signatories was submitted to the Ministry of Justice along with the statement in November. In order to draw the public attention to this question, they held a symposium on "Japan's Immigration Policy at the Crossroads: Overstaying Foreigners and the 'Special Permission for Residence'" in December. Based on the presentations at the symposium, they published a booklet, Choka Taizai Gaikokujin to Zairyu Tokubetsu Kyoka: Kiro ni Tatsu Nihon no Shutsunyukoku Kanri Seisaku [Overstaying Foreigners and Special Permission to Stay: Japan's Immigration Policy at the Crossroads], (Tokyo: Akashi Shoten) in January 2000. In early February, 16 of the 21 foreigners who had applied for the Special Permission for Residence obtained the permit to stay. For further detail, refer to the homepage they set up at that time.

Yamawaki Keizo, one of the above mentioned scholars who led the campaign, served as a commentator for the feature program on overstaying foreigers at NHK's "Japan This Week," which was broadcasted on 11 March 2000.

Soon after the issuance of the special permission to stay to those overstaying foreigners, Mr. Ishihara Shintaro, controversial but popular Tokyo Governor, made a very provocative statement regarding "illegally staying foreingers." On April 9 he indicatded the possibility that "many sangokujin who entered Japan illegally" would riot in the aftermath of natural disasters, and he repeatedly emphasized the negative impact of undocumented foreigners on public security. (Sangokujin is a derogatory term refering to Koreans and Chinese used mainly in the late 1940s and the early 1950s.) So some of the scholars who led the campaign made the Joint Statement by Scholars Demanding the Retraction of Governor Ishihara's Remarks Viewing Undocumented Foreigners as Dangerous on 24 April 2000.

Takeshi Inagami, "Gastarbeiter in Japanese Small Firms," Japan Labor Bulletin, Vol. 31, No.3, 1992


Center for Multicultural Information and Assistance, Osaka: Founded shortly after the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, the Center has been offering help and advice to the foreign community in Japan. Its offices are in Osaka, Hyogo, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Tokyo.

International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination
(IMADR), Tokyo: IMADR is an international non-profit, non-governmental human rights organization devoted to eliminating all forms of discrimination around the world, forging international solidarity among discriminated minorities and advancing the international regime of human rights. Founded in 1988 by one of Japan's largest minorities, the Burakumin, IMADR has grown to be a global network of concerned citizens and minority groups with regional committees in Asia,
North America, Latin America and Europe. IMADR is in consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Isso Kikaku: Tokyo-based NGO which was establied in 1992 to promote ethnic and cultural diversity in Japan.

Arudou Debito/Dave Aldwinckle's Home Page: Mr. Aldwinckle is an activist against racial discrimination in Japan. He is originally from the United States and came to Japan in 1988. He became a Japanese citizen in 2000. He is one of the plaintiff who filed papers in the Sapporo District Court in February 2001 to sue Yunohana Onsen, a family bathhouse in Otaru City, Hokkaido, which refused entry to foreigners, and Otaru City. In November 2002, the court decision was handed down, ordering the bathhouse to pay 1,000,000 yen compensation to each plaintiffs. For further detail, see the Otaru Lawsuit Information Site.

United for a Multicultural Japan: An organization working to promote the welfare and legal rights of non-Japanese with Japanese spouses, and other long-term or permanent residents of Japan.

The Community: "Founded on September 28, 1999, in Jiyugaoka, Tokyo, we, the members of "The Community", seek to represent and organize the scattered and varied peoples who are concerned about the treatment of non-Japanese in Japan. Essentially "we" means anybody who wants to participate in our organization."

Korean Immigration Policy

Korea Times: "Ministry Eases Criteria for Permanent Residence" 17 March 2003

Korea Times: "Number of Illegal Aliens in Korea Surges 530 Pct Since 1991" 5 March 2003

Korea Times: "Gov't to Address Human Rights of Migrant Workers," 13 February 2003

Korea Times: "Work Permit System May Be Introduced in February," 2 February 2003

Updated January 2004 | Home