There are numerous indications Japan will be inundated with immigrants in the coming years. The same problems seen in Europe today are coming to Japan in the near future. There are several reasons why I think this will happen.
First and foremost: Japan’s low birth rate. This is one of the purported reasons Germany is taking in so many immigrants. This “replacement migration” is intended to maintain population levels. Japan’s population has been in steady decline since the mid-1970s. At present, about 27% of the Japanese population is over 65 years old.
Japan is an island nation slightly smaller than the state of California. Over 70% of Japan is rugged, densely forested mountainous terrain. Only 11.65% of the land is arable and Japan has few natural resources. The majority of the 127 million people comprising the Japanese population are crammed into the few areas with level ground, resulting in some of the most densely populated urban areas on Earth. The Kanto Plain, where Tokyo is located, has a population of 43 million people, or 1,300 people per square kilometer.
One of the reasons for Japan’s expansion into Korea and Manchuria early last century before WWII was to secure land for agriculture and resources to support the growing Japanese population. Today, Japan must import nearly all its food, fuel and natural resources. This results in a higher cost of living compared to countries with populations proportional to land and natural resource availability.
Given all these factors, one would think Japan would actually benefit from downsizing. Wouldn’t a population in line with the available living space and arable land be more sustainable for Japan? Yet, the shrinking population and graying of society are cited as prime reasons why Japan should accept more immigrants. The immigrants would augment the dwindling workforce and prop up the national pension fund, while at the same time increase the number of caretakers for elderly Japanese who would otherwise have to fend for themselves. I suspect few elderly Japanese are comfortable with the idea of having a Chinese, Vietnamese or Filipino care for them in their vulnerable final years.
Accordingly, although refugee/asylum seeker numbers remain low, immigration policies have been streamlined and relaxed in recent years, enabling an increasing number of immigrants, including those from Middle Eastern and African countries, to live and work in Japan. There appears to be a correlation between growing numbers of immigrants and foreign workers and an increase in the crime rate. However, the Japanese government does not include permanent residents, military personnel or the families of both in its statistics on crimes committed by foreigners. Instead, it counts these as Japanese citizens. This is one trick the government uses to understate the level of crime perpetrated by foreigners in Japan. But why would the government want to hide these crimes from the Japanese people the way the police in Sweden and Germany do?
Despite the low number of refugees and asylum seekers in Japan, in February 2015, a 29-year old refugee from Nepal molested a middle school girl in broad daylight near Shibuya Station, one of Tokyo’s busiest train stations and entertainment districts. He told police he did it “because she was cute.” This is reminiscent of the explanation given by an Iraqi refugee who raped a 10-year old boy in a Vienna public pool because he was experiencing a “sexual emergency.” Maybe Japanese girls are simply too cute for their own good? On December 27, two Turkish refugees aged 22 and 16 forced a tipsy young Japanese woman on her way home into a public toilet, where they gang raped and robbed her. The Japanese media doesn’t provide much coverage of these incidents, and the government doesn’t consider these as crimes by foreigners. In this way, the government of Japan is enabling refugee rape in a similar fashion to many governments in Europe.
There are many ways foreigners can establish residence in Japan. Marrying a Japanese citizen enables you to live in Japan indefinitely, without having to work. Others become residents through work permits, student visas and through religious activities. There are even “entertainer” visas for foreigners (mainly women) who work as bar hostesses or prostitutes in Japan’s quasi-legal “leisure industry,” which is controlled by the yazuka, who also use foreigners (Israelis and Iranians) to sell drugs on Tokyo streets. Ironically, the yakuza may prove to be the biggest deterrent against the immigrant take over of city streets as currently seen in Europe.
“Diversity” is a ubiquitous buzzword in nearly all governance/employee policies in corporate Japan. Well-known global brands including Capcom and Mitsubishi claim that diversity is essential to creating corporate value. Yet these companies are dominated by older Japanese men. Very few women hold management positions in corporate Japan. Same goes for the Japanese government. Foreign workers are practically non-existent in corporate Japan, although a few companies have hired non-Japanese CEO’s (Nissan, Sony). Many foreigners working office jobs at Japanese companies provide language support (translation/interpreting).
So where is all this diversity happening? At the lowest levels of Japan Inc. Low-paid, unskilled immigrant workers are being brought in to replace high-cost Japanese workers. This not only solves the problem of a shrinking workforce, it also enables corporations to pocket more profit vis-à-vis lower labor costs. To a large extent, immigration in the West is driven by corporations that benefit by replacing their higher cost domestic workforce with cheap labor from developing countries.
Last week, the house across the street was demolished, and the crew of men who performed the work were all foreigners who appeared to be from the Levant region. This was the first time I have ever seen a work crew with no Japanese boss in charge. A few weeks prior, I saw some movers loading a truck and one of them appeared to be African. These kinds of jobs are what the Japanese refer to as “3-D work” (dirty, dangerous and difficult). As in the West, immigrants are rapidly replacing local workers due to their acceptance of low pay and their willingness to do jobs the locals won’t.
Mass media brainwashing
As in the West, the media in Japan is heavily engaged in the use of propaganda and misinformation to condition and program viewers in terms of mainstreaming the presence of foreigners as a permanent feature of the Japanese landscape. Unlike when I first came to Japan more than 20 years ago, foreigners are everywhere on Japanese TV. One of the most popular programs right now is called “Why Did YOU Come to Japan?” in which a TV crew interviews international travelers arriving at Narita Airport. Each episode focuses on one or two foreigners as they travel or proceed about their business in Japan. The program features foreigners who are in Japan to study some aspect of Japanese culture or traditional crafts, visit some unique place in Japan, or who live and work in Japan. It mostly revolves around Westerners with an interest in Japanese culture who have only positive things to say about Japan. The program goes out of its way to showcase how incredible Japan is (appealing to Japan’s inherent sense of superiority over other cultures), which is validated by the foreigners featured on each episode (fulfilling Japan’s pathologically obsessive need for recognition and approval from the West). The program rarely features Chinese or Koreans (who actually comprise the majority of the foreign population in Japan), nor does it present critical opinions or show the difficulties many foreigners face while traveling or living in Japan.
Another program, “Tokoro-san no Nippon no Deban,” features a different Japanese industry each week, such as imitation crab meat production or shipbuilding, and focuses on 2-3 foreigners from that same industry who are visiting Japan to learn how the Japanese do it (better, of course). The program is a thinly veiled promotion for the company featured, and the foreign guests are always depicted as amazed and humbled by the superiority of the Japanese way of doing things. Programs like this tend to use Japanese voice overs when the foreign guests are speaking, and I frequently notice that what the person is actually saying differs from the Japanese dub.
Many TV programs include a panel of foreign commentators from a variety of countries, whose main role is apparently to nod in agreement with everything the Japanese hosts say, while praising Japan and explaining the differences between their home cultures and Japan. This frequently involves admitting that Japan/the Japanese way is better. There is a lot of self-deprecation by foreigners on Japanese TV. Back when I first came to Japan, simply showing a foreigner in an unexpected situation (like an African man wearing a school boy’s uniform at high school, or a white man seeing patients in a doctor’s office) during a comedy sketch was enough to induce howls of laughter. The premise of these jokes was always that it was absurd to depict foreigners in those situations, since in most people’s daily lives they never even saw a non-Japanese, much less interacted with them. Watching Japanese TV today, one gets the sense that foreigners (especially Western people) are a permanent part of the landscape and Japan has surreptitiously morphed into a multicultural utopia.
These types of TV programs present a carefully managed image of foreigners to Japanese people. Foreigners (especially Westerners) who appear regularly on Japanese TV speak Japanese fluently, rarely say anything critical of Japan (unless they are solicited to do so or it is done in a humorous fashion), observe Japanese cultural norms and politeness and appear to be friendly, good-natured and harmless. In contrast, Chinese are presented as criminals, cheats and untrustworthy, despite the fact that they have more in common, culturally, than someone from Australia or Denmark. Whenever China or Chinese people are mentioned on TV, some of my in-laws let loose with xenophobic, racist rants based on stereotypes and generalizations. This is the result of conditioning via the television set. With the exception of myself, as far as I know, none of my in-laws even knows or regularly interacts with any non-Japanese.
In addition to specific programs, foreigners are featured prominently in television commercials in general, even when there is no clear reason for their presence. One ad I saw showed a Japanese couple walking down a high street, and in the background, we see a white person with a big smile speaking Japanese while purchasing something from a shop. Like most people in developed countries, Japanese people experience the world in large part through their television sets. Since many Japanese have no opportunity (nor desire) to interact with foreigners on a daily basis, the TV is an efficient way of virtually bringing foreigners into Japanese homes. It appears the Japanese are being conditioned to accept the permanent presence of foreigners based on a false impression created through the hyper-reality of television.
Tourism and Olympics
I think the media’s heavy promotion of foreigners is aimed at conditioning Japanese people to be more open to and accepting of non-Japanese. At the same time, it creates a warm, fuzzy feeling by conveying the idea that Japan is not only on par with the West, but also that the West accepts and admires Japan. To be clear: I think Japan has a lot to take pride in, and a lot to offer outsiders—it is truly an incredible place. Over the past 20 years, Japanese pop culture has taken the world by storm, which in turn has led to an increase in the number of people who want to visit or live in Japan. Furthermore, the Japanese government has been heavily promoting tourism to attract tens of millions of visitors to Japan. And, with the 2020 Olympics coming up, there is a big push to become more hospitable and friendly to foreigners in Japan. While this is all well and good, it is an easily demonstrable fact that tourism does not provide the kind of economic benefits Japan’s flailing economy desperately needs. Tourism turns your home into someone else’s playground. And the economic bump provided by the Olympics lasts for a few weeks at most. Given the substantial corruption surrounding the Olympic Games (not least of all, the bribes required to be selected as host), and the tremendous amount of debt countries go into when they host the games, it is doubtful Japan will even be able to break even, much less profit, from hosting the Olympics.
The National Police Agency has announced plans to change all the stop signs throughout Japan so that they are more recognizable to foreigners. This will cost taxpayers an estimated $214 million dollars. The Olympic games only last two weeks and since they are being held in Tokyo, public transportation is the easiest and cheapest way to get around. Furthermore, the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan announced it will change map symbols to reflect those commonly used in foreign countries. I wonder if the Olympics are being used to subtly shift away from these and other traditional Japanese representations and introduce global standards more familiar to foreigners?
While the Japanese take great pride in all things Japanese, they also love Western clothes, foreign luxury brands and eating Western cuisine. After WWII, the United States formally gave Japan its Constitution, while the CIA was clandestinely involved in the creation of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has controlled Japanese politics for the past 60 years, as well as the creation of the Yomiuri Shimbun, one of Japan’s largest broadsheets. The entire country was rebuilt in the likeness of the West. Given the negativity and discrimination towards other East Asian cultures, perhaps the Japanese see themselves as more Western than Asian? Like Germany, Japan has been made to feel ashamed about their history and actions during WWII, which has resulted in the aforementioned bipolar condition wherein Japanese are afflicted by an inferiority and a superiority complex. This, I think, is why they constantly seek validation and praise from outsiders. News programs frequently report on the refugee crisis in Europe and ask rhetorical questions like “what role should Japan play?” and “What can Japan do to help the refugees?” The assumption is that Japan has some kind of duty to provide assistance above and beyond the massive sums of cash typically donated to those who need it in times of crisis. Perhaps Japan will take in refugees in attempt to show solidarity and equality with European nations? Or just to be trendy?
A neutered society
Since the Kamakura Period, the Japanese citizenry have been disarmed and pacified. Modern Japanese men have been feminized, and demoralized. As a result, many Japanese women are extremely keen on dating or marrying non-Japanese. Some young Japanese have no interest in sex (i.e. maintaining their population), and like most youth around the world, are totally distracted by and addicted to their smartphones, video games and other virtual realities. Few want to become salaried company employees, few are interested in politics or paying attention to the disastrous policies of Abe and the BoJ. Like everywhere else, most people in Japan seem to be sleepwalking through life, unaccountably optimistic about the future, as exemplified in the popular saying: ”things will work out somehow! (nan toka naru). Most believe the government and corporate elite are smart enough to figure out solutions to social problems and take care of everyone. At the same time, many Japanese are nihilistic when it comes to natural disasters or the future. Rather than struggle and fight, many choose to simply give up, as evidenced by their high suicide rate. This is a society that is by and large passive, dependent and not at all prepared to fight for its existence. Walking around Tokyo today you will see that many younger men are skinnier than their girlfriends, and the last thing anyone wants is to become entangled in some kind of confrontation. If the rape incidents mentioned above increase to the levels we see in Europe today, will Japanese men be able to protect their women and their country?
Barely one year after Shinzo Abe returned for his second stint as Prime Minister, Japan’s parliament enacted legislation intended to severely punish anyone who leaks information deemed “state secrets.” Conveniently, the legislation does not define what constitutes a state secret, but instead creates categories: defense, diplomacy, counter terrorism and counterespionage. Any public servants or journalists who go public with “sensitive information” in any of these categories faces up to five years in prison. Over 60% of the Japanese population opposed this law, but Abe claims it is necessary, particularly given the stronger cooperation with the U.S. in terms of countering China’s growing military projection.
In the past year, three prominent television news anchors have lost their jobs because of their reputation for asking tough questions. In one case, an NHK presenter was fired for simply asking a politician an unscripted follow-up question. Earlier this month, Japan’s minister of Internal Affairs announced “broadcasters that repeatedly failed to show ‘fairness’ in their political coverage, despite official warnings, could be taken off the air.” Commentators who criticize or otherwise anger the Abe administration are banned from television. Media executives have been called in front of the parliament to answer for what the government deems “impartial coverage.” At the same time, other media executives have been wined and dined by government officials in an attempt to influence their activities and encourage self-censorship. This intimidation and bribery is nothing new. In 2005, Abe asked NHK to edit a documentary on wartime sex slaves. The current NHK chairman was appointed specifically because he is in the administration’s back pocket. He admits NHK will toe the government line on key diplomatic issues. Nevertheless, most Japanese still believe everything NHK reports because they believe everything their government tells them.
These examples indicate that the government will not tolerate criticism or dissent in the media. It implies the government may be directly censoring news stories. And the government has already enacted legislation aimed at punishing anyone who dares to blow the whistle on government impropriety or leak information that would prove to the Japanese people just how corrupt their government truly is. Censorship and secrets do not facilitate an informed citizenry. It is hard to believe that something is in the people’s best interest if it has to be hidden and censored from the media. It appears the Japanese government is attempting to avoid dissent by preventing the free flow of information. Having such a system in place could enable the same kind of unopposed invasion we are witnessing in Europe at present. I hope that Japan is able to maintain its cultural identity and homogeneous society, but I am not optimistic about the future. Will Japan regain the samurai spirit when they need it most?