Number of foreigners leaving Japan soars

An immigration official says more than 161,000 foreigners have left Japan since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that triggered an unfolding nuclear crisis .

Taichi Iseki, an immigration official at Japan’s major airport, Narita, said Friday the number of foreigners flying out from March 11 to March 22 totaled 161,300 _ an eightfold increase from about 20,000 in the same period last year.

The quake and giant tsunami decimated much of northeast Japan, while the crisis at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima, one of the quake-hit areas, triggered a massive exodus of foreigners.

The number of foreigners arriving at Narita from March 11 to 22 plunged 60 percent year-on-year to 33,400.

Japan creates 6-month medical visa for foreigners

The Japanese government instituted a new visa Friday to enable foreign visitors to stay in Japan for a maximum of six months to receive health care treatment starting in January.

The medical stay visa is designed as an economic stimulus measure to attract affluent visitors from China and other parts of Asia, following calls for the government to revamp the visa system as countries such as Thailand, Singapore, India and South Korea step up medical tourism.

"Based on Japan’s new growth strategy adopted in June, we will launch a new visa to promote visits to our country by foreign patients," Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara told a news conference.

"We hope the new visa will enable as many people as possible to receive advanced medical services to get healthy or undergo checkups in Japan," the minister said.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku said in a press conference that barriers must be lowered as Japan could be left behind in high- level medical services.

So far, visitors seeking health care in Japan have acquired visas categorized as those for a short-term stay, special purposes or visiting relatives, which allowed them to stay up to 180 days.

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Japan’s population of foreign nationals drops for first time in 48 years

Japan’s population of foreign nationals dropped for the first time in 48 years, led by Brazilians, as the nation’s auto industry cut factory jobs after the global financial crisis.

Registered foreign residents fell 1.4 percent to 2,186,121 as of Dec. 31 2009, according to a Ministry of Justice report released July 6. Japan has a population of about 127 million.

A 14 percent fall in the number of Brazilian residents, many of whom worked in the car industry and are of Japanese descent, was one of the reasons for the overall decline, ministry spokesman Yuji Fukui said.

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Racism and discrimination remain common in Japan according to UN envoy

Racism and discrimination remain common in Japan, a United Nations envoy warned on Wednesday, urging greater efforts to protect the rights of foreign minorities.

Jorge Bustamante, UN special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, issued the warning after interviewing government ministers and officials, migrants, lawyers, teachers, academics and civil society activists.

Problem areas included immigrant detention centres, work programmes that exploit foreign industrial trainees, and a lack of educational services for many migrant children, Bustamante said.

“Based on information provided by civil society … (Japan) is still facing a range of challenges, including racism and discrimination,” he said after a nine-day visit to Tokyo, Toyota City, Nagoya and Hamamatsu.

Bustamante also visited the East Japan Detention Centre near Tokyo and schools for foreign children, and interviewed Chinese, South Korean, Brazilian, Peruvian and Philippine migrants.

“Racism and discrimination based on nationality are still too common in Japan, including in the workplace, in schools, in health care establishments and housing,” he said.

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Japan local vote plan allowing foreigners to vote triggers backlash

A plan by Japan’s centre-left leaders to give foreigners the vote in local elections has sparked a conservative backlash, showing ethnic minority issues can touch a raw nerve in the island-nation.

The idea is to grant local and regional but not national suffrage to almost one million permanent residents of ethnic Korean, Chinese and other foreign backgrounds, both those who were born overseas and their descendants.

But when the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) under Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama floated the idea for the current parliamentary session, a key coalition partner quickly managed to derail the plan, at least temporarily.

Siding with protests from the conservative opposition, the maverick leader of the tiny People’s New Party, Financial Services Minister Shizuka Kamei, this month threatened to quit the government over the issue.

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Foreigners in Japan and Where Do We Stand?

Where do we stand….How about some statics to get our numbers straight…

The number of foreigners in Japan has more than doubled over the past 15 years–rising from 886,000 in 1990 to over 2 million today. That adds up to 1.57 percent of the overall population. This number is small. So small do you think we should even matter? This number is so small even Western Europe and not to mention the United States or Canada have anything so minute in number. The United States adds 2 million immigrants to it’s population every 2 years at almost 1 million immigrants a year. But the figure of immigrants in Japan tells only part of the story…and it is rising.

The rise in the foreign population is taking place against the background of Japan’s demographic decline. As the population ages, native-born Japanese constitute a diminishing share of the work force. Meanwhile the number of marriages between Japanese and non-Japanese has been rising sharply. So-called international marriages made up 5.5 percent of the total in 2004 (the last year for which data are available).

The numbers also reveal a growing trend toward what one might call “genuine immigration.” For many decades, the only foreigners in Japan were ethnic Koreans, the vast majority of them born in the country but not automatically entitled to citizenship. In recent years, as they have either died out or increasingly opted for naturalization, their share of the total number of foreigners has been declining. Meanwhile, so-called permanent residents–foreign-born people who have chosen to live in Japan for the long term–are steadily growing.

The current rise in numbers show that immigrants, not generational foreigners, are now becoming the most common permanent residents in Japan, meaning they’re not going to leave. In fact, less than a decade ago half of the foreigners in Japan were born in Japan. Now it’s more like a quarter.

The naturalization process is complicated, but it only takes about 1 to 2 years to complete. When you compare this time to other countries such as America this process is quite short.

Yet, where does the average foreigner in Japan stand in these trouble economic times? There are many current labor issues. And the current trend of the temporary workforce in Japan has eroded any sense of loyalty or job security. How does one make it in a land that they have no bearing?

Does the aging society of Japan have in its realm of possibilities an open-door policy for foreigners?