International Japan


Many people have an image of Japan as being very genetically uniform. Very few people not of Japanese descent ever become citizens of Japan; however, that is not to say there are no foreigners living in Japan. My prefecture actually has a high number of resident aliens. Many workers come here to support factories and also the fishing industry; both of which are substantial here.

Today our city newsletter on human rights circulated to my desk. One chart shows a breakdown of mother tongues of foreign students in our elementary and junior high schools.

  • 53% Portuguese
  • 15% Spanish
  • 14% Tagalog
  • 6% Chinese
  • 2% Pashto
  • 2% Visayan
  • 8% Other

 Languages falling in the ‘other’ category include:

  • Indonesian
  • Mongolian
  • English
  • Malaysian
  • French
  • Vietnamese
  • Korean
  • Urdu
  • Arabic

There are more than 300 students speaking each of these 15 languages as their mother tongue. Our city provides staff at these schools to support these children and their families. At the school facilities students are given extra instruction in Japanese, a bit of counseling and international exchange activities. Most of the students, having young flexible minds, come up to speed within a year or two and the amount of support required declines rapidly. Translation of communications between schools and families; however, becomes an ongoing concern. Parents are much less likely to achieve language proficiency for various reasons, but need to be informed of many logistical issues in order to work smoothly with the schools.

Note that more than half of our foreign students are speakers of Portuguese. Japan has a long history with Brazil and many Japanese people have emigrated to Brazil over a long period. In many cases it is very easy for Brazilians to gain residency because they have Japanese grandparents (or other ancestors). At our international exchange events there is no shortage of South American influence.

So, while Japan does not have the mixed background of America, there are many countries represented here.


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7 Responses to “International Japan”

  1. titus2woman Says:

    The Brazil connection interests me~why Brazil? Not that you have to answer that….

  2. びっくり Says:

    In 1850 Brazil banned the use of slave labor. The government and farmers subsidized immigration from other countries to bring in workers to replace the slave labor. Many of the immigrants were treated like slaves when they arrived, so Italy banned emigration to Brazil. Japanese people were recruited to pick up the slack. Bans on non-white immigration to Australia and the US at the time, made Brazil an attractive option to Japan. From 1908 until WWII a large number of Japanese emigrated to Brazil. I think the current Japanese population in Brazil is about 1.5 million (more than 1% of Japan’s population). Ironically Japanese were recruited to do the labor which Brazilians didn’t want to do, and now Brazilians are drawn to Japan to do th work Japanese don’t want to do.

  3. titus2woman Says:

    Fascinating~*THANK YOU!* My whole family is interested and reading over my shoulder! 🙂

  4. びっくり Says:

    I did more reading and found all sorts of other details. Japanese immigrants created a headache for the government because they lived together in their own communities within the general community, but the government want colored people to intermarry with white people. Much like Australia they wanted to breed out the color making everyone ‘white’. They started passing laws making it difficult for minorities to live close together.

    This is silly on so many levels: thinking there is something wrong with being colored; thinking those genes just disappear somewhere if sufficiently diluted; and probably best of all, essentially encouraging people to marry people they considered somehow unpleasant or inferior. History is full of bizarre stuff.

  5. titus2woman Says:


  6. びっくり Says:

    Sorry to make you post a frowny face. Hopefully the oddness of history is ‘history’, and we can keep moving forward correcting these bits one by one.

  7. titus2woman Says:

    I did post a frowny face, because it is sad, BUT it still fascinates me A LOT! A kind of favorite subject anyhow…

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