Japan in Transition: Economic Realities Mean Japan Must Confront its Reluctance to Accept Immigrants

Toshihiro Menju (JCIE) is interviewed by John Shmuel
August 17, 2016
Financial Post

“Japan’s closed country policy that began in the 1630s meant the island nation was literally shut down to foreigners for more than two hundred years. Known as Sakoku, or the ‘period of isolation’ to Westerners, it marked an extremely insular era of Japan’s history. Trading with European and Asian powers was restricted to certain Japanese cities, and nationals who left the country faced the death penalty if they ever returned.

Modern Japan is a much less restrictive place when it comes to trade — a lifeblood of the country’s economy — but its immigration policies continue to echo its insular roots. Immigrants, or imin in Japanese, are still negatively viewed by society at large. So negatively that in 2005, then-Communications Minister Taro Aso was widely applauded for describing Japan as ‘one culture, one civilization, one race.’”

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Toshihiro Menju is a Managing Director and Chief Program Officer at JCIE/Japan, where he leads the Population Decline & Immigration in Japan Program.