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February 1997, Volume 4, Number 2

Japan: Nikkei Come to Stay

Brazilians and Peruvians of Japanese ancestry, known as nikkei, are continuing to migrate to Japan despite their mixed reception and the Japanese recession.

About 176,400 Japanese-Brazilians and 36,300 Japanese-Peruvians were living in Japan at the end of 1995, up from 56,400 and 10,300 in 1990, and 2,140 and 550 in 1986. The largest nikkei populations are in Aichi, with 36,000, Shizuoka, 31,000, Kanagawa, 20,000 and Gunma Prefecture, 14,000.

The Immigration-Control and Refugee-Recognition Act in 1990 formally authorized nikkei to come to work and stay in Japan for renewable three-year periods. An estimated 30 percent of the nikkei plan to remain in Japan indefinitely. In 1995, 18 nikkei working as laborers at Tokyo's Narita Airport formed Japan's first union of non-Japanese workers as a local of Zennichijiro -- the Construction and Rural and General Workers' Union.

Japanese immigration policy is seemingly made by Ministry of Justice decree, with little input from the parliament (Diet).

Peru has the second-largest Japanese immigrant community in Latin America. Since the election of Peru's president Fujimori, the Japanese government has become the major source of foreign aid to Peru. There are about 80,000 Japanese living in Peru.

The standoff between the police and Tupac Amaru in Lima has postponed plans for increased investment by Japanese corporations in Peru. Travel between the two countries has fallen by 60 percent.

Illegal Immigration. Chinese brokers or "snakeheads" are reportedly stepping up their efforts to smuggle Chinese into Japan. In 1996, some 672 illegal immigrants were apprehended in 28 cases. In December, 40 Chinese nationals, as well as nine Japanese and three Chinese smugglers, were arrested in Tokyo for violating the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law.

The Chinese, from Fujian province, set sail from near Shanghai on a Chinese ship, changed to a Japanese fishing boat off the coast of Nagasaki Prefecture, and traveled to Tokyo by minibus. Each Chinese paid about 3 million yen (US$25,000).

The number of illegal Thai workers in Japan rose from 17,884 in 1980 to 40,000 in 1996, including 7,000 in Japanese prisons, according to Suriya Samutakup and Pattana Kitiarsa of Suranaree Technology University in Northeast Thailand. The majority of Thais in Japan are women in the sex industry. According to the researchers, a Thai prostitute in Japan can earn $133,250 per year and keep 38 percent ($50,600), with another 38 percent going to the Japanese "mamasan" who runs the brothel and 24 percent to the procurer agent.

The Thai women must first pay off the smuggling fee to get into Japan, which is typically $40,000.

Thai men working illegally in Japan earn 180,000-200,000 yen per month.

In mid-January, 36 Bangladeshi men were apprehended after they were discovered stowed away on a ship traveling from South Korea to Japan. Another 21 Iranians, Chinese and other Asians were detained on suspicion of smuggling themselves into Japan by sea.

According to the Malaysian government, some 5,000 Malaysian students and trainees have studied or been trained in Japan. In 1996, there were 2,000 Malaysian students in Japan and 60,000 in the US, Australia and other countries.

Demography. The Japanese population, currently 126 million, is expected to peak at 128 million in 2007 and then decline to 121 million in 2025 and 100 million in 2050. The proportion of the population 65 and older, currently 15 percent, is expected to increase to 27 percent in 2025 and 32 percent in 2050.

About 1.3 million children were born in Japan in 1996. There were 896,000 deaths, so that Japan's population increased by 400,000. Woman have an average of 1.42 children. There were 794,000 marriages and 206,000 divorces in Japan in 1996.

The percentage of Japanese residents 65 and older is expected to increase from 15 in 1995 to 25 percent in 2025.


"Profits keep people-smuggling boom alive," Mainichi Daily News, February 3, 1997. "Migrant workers keep coming despite tales of hardship," Mainichi Daily News, January 12, 1997. "More Latin Americans working in Japan, ministry says," Deutsche Presse-Agentur, January 9, 1997. "More than 40,000 Thais working illegally in Japan," Deutsche Presse-Agentur, January 3, 1997.