Tokyo – In the third installment of its “Map to relocate in Tokyo” series, Nikkan Gendai (March 5) informs readers that one consideration for house hunting in the Big Mikan ought to be the prospect of “coexistence with foreigners,” whose numbers have been growing.
At the end of 2011, according to Ministry of Justice figures, Japan had 2,078,508 registered foreign residents—roughly equivalent to the population of Nagoya. While the total number last year showed a decline of 55,643 foreigners—down by about 2.7%—from the 2011 figure, Tokyo managed to post an overall increase in the number of its foreign residents. As of Jan 1 of this year, Tokyo boasted 417,442 foreigners, an increase of 20,032 over 2014.
National demographic data for the Japanese labor force in the 15 to 34 age bracket in 2014 was about 17,320,000, down by approximately 1.41 million since 2010. The fact is, foreign workers will be needed to fill at least some of the looming shortfall.
“Without achieving ‘coexistence’ with foreigners, the labor pool of young workers will be insufficient,” warns Atsushi Miura, an author and founder of the think tank CULTURESTUDIES. He added, “Tokyo owes its economic growth to having attracted young workers from all over the country. But the number of young people are declining and between 2010 and 2040, their numbers are expected to drop by half, creating a labor shortfall projected to be about 3 million workers.”
While citizens of China and the two Koreas remain the most numerous among Tokyo’s foreign residents, in recent years people from Southeast Asia have been increasing rapidly. Already, communities of Indians and Myanmarese have sprung up, in Nishi Kasai, Edogawa Ward and Takadanobaba in Shinjuku Ward, respectively.
“I think Japanese will acquire more internationalized values as a result,” remarks columnist Soichiro Ishihara. “They still tend to be unsociable and only used to their own ways of doing things. Even if friction or trouble occurs at first, they can expand their horizons through organized community meetings or personal contacts. And I suppose international marriages will increase too.
“On the other hand, with the mixing of different cultures, sometimes disagreements or troubles arise due to unfamiliarity with certain taboos. In Thailand, for example, patting small children on the head is verboten, but Japanese do it as a way of showing praise.
Among the major gainers in foreign population among Tokyo’s 23 central wards last year were Shinjuku with 30,616 (up from a year ago by 1,895); Edogawa (25,294 and 1,798); Adachi (23,679 and 1,163); Toshima (21,616 and 2,083; Ota (19,353 and 808); Minato (18,420 and 316); Itabashi (18,022 and 1,308); Arakawa (16,188 and 629); and Kita (16,005 and 1,447).