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September 1998, Volume 5, Number 9

Japan: Apprehensions, Students

Japanese police charged 1,360 foreigners in 1997 with illegal entry, including 1,209 Chinese. In the first eight months of 1998, some 677 foreigners were charged, including 492 Chinese. Japanese police arrested 2,000 illegal foreigners in June 1998, compared to 1,500 in June 1997. In 1997, there were 1.5 million foreign residents in Japan, 68 percent more than in 1987.

Students. More foreign students are enrolling in primary and secondary schools that are not equipped to deal with students with limited Japanese-language skills. Of the 41,129 public and private K-12 schools in Japan, 5,209 schools had 17,296 students who required training in Japanese as a foreign language as of September 1997, up almost 50 percent from the previous survey in September 1995.

Japan has no national policy to provide language training to non-Japanese speakers, and experts say it will be difficult to formulate such a policy because, according to one official, "Immigrants in Japan are mostly laborers who plan to stay for several years, which makes it difficult to set definite Japanese-language goals." An estimated 80 percent of the parents of foreign students cannot read the school papers that children take home.

Two years ago, Senshu University Professor Yasuo Hirota said that "Japanese society has not yet figured out quite how to deal with the growth in the number of foreign children." Despite warnings about the increased number of students without Japanese language skills, little has been done over the past several years to adapt the Japanese school system to the presence of non-Japanese native speakers.

Hamamatsu, a manufacturing center home to Suzuki and Yamaha in Shizuoka Prefecture, has 16,000 foreign residents, including 10,000 ethnic Japanese from Brazil. Many of the subcontractors supplying parts to large companies hire foreign workers.

Brazil. 1998 marked the 90th anniversary of the start of Japanese emigration to Brazil. Since 1990, thousands of second- and third-generation Japanese have returned to Japan, a migration termed dekasegi. In December 1997, about 230,000 Japanese-Brazilians were in Japan, including 21,520 in the Kansai area. Revisions to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act in 1990 allowed ethnic Japanese to move to Japan with renewable three-year work and residence permits.


Tomoyuki Tabata, "Trials and tribulations of migrant workers," Mainichi Daily News, August 12, 1998. Masako Fukuda, "Schools see surge in foreign students," Nikkei Weekly, August 3, 1998.