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June 1999, Volume 6, Number 6

Japan: Foreign Brides

Rural Japanese families are spending up to $25,000 each to import brides from China, South Korea, Thailand and the Philippines. In 1997, there were 274,000 residency visas for foreign spouses of Japanese citizens, an increase of 30 percent in five years. The declining birth rate and the emigration of young women from rural areas is being blamed for the shortage of wives for rural Japanese men. Japanese custom requires that the family's oldest son inherit the land and care for elderly parents. Some foreign wives of rural Japanese men complain that they must work in a full-time job, take care of the household and care for in-laws.

The Economic Council, an advisory panel to the prime minister, in April 1999 called for Japan to consider relaxing regulations that restrict the entry of foreign workers. However, a February 1999 survey of 3,400 Japanese women who act as price monitors for the Economic Planning Agency found that 80 percent oppose relaxing the current rules limiting jobs open to foreign workers. Some 52 percent of respondents favor the current regulations, 30 percent would like to see the rules tightened and 16 percent favor allowing more foreign workers to enter Japan. Those opposed to more foreign workers cited unemployment and fears of crime.

Two of the top four yokozunas in sumo are Americans, and one American beat another in May 1999 to become the 67th yokozuna, or grand champion, in the 300-year modern history of sumo.

"Poll: Nation in fear of foreign workers," Mainichi Daily News, May 11, 1999. "Majority of Japanese oppose more foreign workers: poll," Kyodo News Service, May 11, 1999. Michael Zielenziger, "Imported Brides find little happiness in Japanese villages," San Diego Union-Tribune, May 1, 1999.