Structural Denial of Ethnic Diversity in Japan

by Sten Alvarsson

Japan’s ethnic diversity is continuing to be denied at the expense of a more equal and inclusive society. Ironically, equality and inclusivity are both at the heart of mainstream Japan’s perceived identity. This could be described as “ethnicity blindness” and is best described by Professor Kondo (2013) who states that, “Japan is still the only developed industrialised democracy that does not have an anti-discrimination law” (para. 6). This can be seen as a result from the belief that racism and discrimination do not exist in Japan so, therefore, there is no need to have laws targeting such behavior. On the whole, however, ethnicity blindness is not the most accurate depiction of the situation regarding ethnic minorities in Japan. Instead, the inequality and exclusivity regarding the country’s ethnic diversity is what I would describe as being “ethnic denial”.

While Japan’s ethnic diversity is fully comprehended by the country’s ethnic minorities, amongst the Yamato majority, however, the belief in a monolithic and homogeneous national identity persists. This belief is structurally enforced which was highlighted by the country’s 2010 census which failed to provide a measure for ethnicity (Japan Times, 2010). Instead, only nationality was measured without the acknowledgment of the ethnic diversity that exists under the umbrella of Japanese citizenship. This structural denial of the ethnic diversity of minority groups includes the Ainu, Koreans, Ryukyuans, Chinese, naturalized citizens and children from mixed marriages. Ethnic minorities are ignored despite the fact that minority groups such as these make up around 10 percent of the local population in areas such as the Kinki region of central Western Japan (Sugimoto, 2010). This structural denial is one of the keystones in maintaining the myth of a national identity that is both monolithic and homogeneous.

Japan’s structural denial of ethnic diversity within the country in order to enforce the myth of a monolithic and homogeneous national identity is not only a domestic issue but is also of international consequence and concern. Japan uses its perceived ethnic and cultural purity to ignore its international obligations as a signature member of the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Instead, Japan maintains a policy of neglecting asylum seekers and rejects the overwhelming majority of their claims (Dean & Nagashima, 2007). In fact, from 1981 to 2007 Japan only accepted 451 refugees (Sugimoto, 2010). Sadako Ogata, a Japanese national who served as the former High Commissioner of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from 1991 – 2001 stated that one of the fundamental reasons for Japan’s exclusion of asylum seekers is due to, “prejudice and discrimination against foreigners which is based upon the mono-ethnic myth” (as cited in Dean & Nagashima, 2007, p. 497). It must be remembered that this mono-ethnic myth has no historical routes and was brought into popular consciousness after the Second World War.

Ethnic diversity in Japan needs to be acknowledged and accepted. Unlike the country’s last census in 2010, Japan’s next census in 2015 should strive to measure its ethnic diversity. In order to achieve this, such questions as, “Where were you born?”, “Where were your parents born?” and, “What national origin or ethnicity do you consider yourself to be?” should be included in the census. As a multicultural country, Australia recognises 275 different cultural and ethnic groups in its census (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011). For Japan, there is no excuse not to also measure the diversity that exists amongst its citizens.

The structural denial of ethnic diversity in Japan needs to end in order to contribute to a more equal and inclusive society for all its members. After all, in Japan there are over 100 different varieties of the chrysanthemum flower (kiku 菊) with a myriad of different colors, scents, sizes, textures, patterns and durations. Wouldn’t it be a shame if Japan only recognised a single variety of chrysanthemum and denied the existence of the rest?


Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2011). Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups. Retrieved from

Dean, M., & Nagashima, M. (2007). Sharing the Burden: The Role of Government and NGOs in Protecting and Providing for Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Japan. Journal of Refugee Studies, 20(3), 481-508.

Japan Times. (2010, October 5). Census blind to Japan’s true diversity. Retrieved from

Kondo, A. (2013, May 6). Can Japan turn to foreign workers. Retrieved from

Sugimoto, Y. (2010). An Introduction to Japanese Society (3rd ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Japanese History: 100 Years of Solitude on Fantasy Island?

by Robert Moorehead

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” Audre Lorde

Repeatedly in the past few weeks, some of the worst parts of 20th-century Japanese history have been in the news. Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto has repeated comments he’s made over the years, including denying that women were forced into sexual servitude by the Japanese state during the war. Just yesterday, Lower House representative Nariaki Nakayama joined the party by saying “We need to raise our voices and tell the world that (females) were not forcibly taken away.”

These comments have been widely criticized for their fictional view of Japanese history, but how well do people in Japan understand that history? If there’s hope for the future, then present-day university students would show a deeper, more accurate grasp, right?

One of my classes has been discussing the experiences of refugees, including whether Japan should accept more of them. In recent years, Japan has granted refugee status to only about 0.05% of applicants, for a total of about 10-30 people per year. In contrast, other developed countries have accepted tens of thousand of refugees per year. Japan has ratified the UN Convention on Refugees, and as one of the wealthiest and most populous nations in the world, Japan could be a stronger member of the international community by lending aid to more of the world’s most needy.

However, many students disagreed, and their disagreements show a clear pattern in describing Japan as a special, unique place that cannot be compared with anywhere else. In this version of Japan, there are no foreigners, only Japanese—and all Japanese share the same ethnicity and language. (Well, some say that there are Ainu, but their existence does not refute the dominant narrative.)

How could Japan sustain this monoracial, monoethnic, homogeneous space? Geography. As a series of islands, Japan was inaccessible to the rest of the world. Precisely how the inhabitants of the Japanese islands got here is unclear, because if they used boats, then couldn’t other people have also used boats to travel here? Was there an ancient land bridge that later collapsed, standing the islands in the middle of the ocean? Were the original inhabitants amazing swimmers who made the journey from the Korean peninsula?

The Japanese people have been united through a shared “island mentality” (shimaguni konjō) that instructed them to love each other and to love being Japanese. This mentality prevents Japanese from accepting others into their club. Also, the fact that Japan has always been so homogeneous means that Japanese have no experience living near non-Japanese, and are not familiar with dealing with such people.

I’ve tried to remind my students that in the first half of the 20th century, Japan was the head of a colonial empire that spanned much of Asia and the Pacific Islands. Millions of people from throughout the empire lived on the Japanese mainland, held Japanese citizenship, and voted in Japanese elections. One student later acknowledged that his grandmother told him that as a child many of her friends were Korean.

Notions of Japanese identity in this era justified Japan’s dominance by emphasizing ties between Japan and its Asian neighbors. One government propaganda slogan professed Japanese unity with its Asian brothers and sisters as “do-so, do-shu” (Same origin, same race). The idea of Japan as a homogeneous nation is a postwar idea to reunite a defeated nation after the collapse of its empire.

These facts of Japanese history are absent from students’ narratives. Instead, they act as if nothing happened in Japan between the Meiji Restoration in the 1860s and the Tokyo Olympics in 1964—100 years of solitude on Fantasy Island. It’s as if Gabriel García Márquez and Mr. Roarke were both Japanese and had 127 million love children.

But somehow their fantastical islands have a few million non-fantastical people, and there are other people whose islands became part of the fantasy more recently—and many of whom are unhappy about this. And many people who pass as fantasy people are, in fact, of non-fantastical ancestry. And let’s not forget the hundreds of thousands of fantastical return migrants, who also brought their slightly less fantastical Latin American family members.

Students express concerns over the challenges of integrating immigrants, refugees, and other foreigners into Japanese society. Those are valid concerns, but their solution is to close the door and to isolate Japan from the rest of the world. Is that a solution? Japan does have a neighbor that is much more isolated and that is largely closed to foreigners—North Korea. But is that the model they want to follow?

In an attempt to get students to rethink the issues, I read Dr. Seuss’s classic story Green Eggs and Ham, which challenges readers to get past their dislike of the unfamiliar. Green eggs and ham are delicious, after all.

Japan’s economic success has come from being embedded in the global economy, and continued success in the 21st century requires accepting not only people’s money, but the people themselves. We’re not scary. We’re green eggs and ham. Try us, you might like us.

Refusing Refugees

by Tomoya Yamaguchi

On my opinion, Japan should not receive refugees from other countries right now. Today, a lot of countries have conflicts politically and they are so serious situation. According to it, the number of refugees has been increased automatically and they are suffering from those situations where the refugees lose family and house.

As above written, refugees are generated by conflicts. In Africa, there are a lot of refugees, and they hope that they can be alive while they feel peace of mind. The United States of America has received a lot of refugees from other countries and the government forces them to live in the U.S. The government gives them many rights. For example the government looks for their apartment, job and gives them the opportunity that they can be educated. The government saves many refugees from serious situation. In 2011 UNHCR reported that refugees who crossed borders were generated at 15. 2million. The U.S. received 264,800 refugees. Germany was the largest receiving country in developed countries and Germany received 571, 700 refugees. As to the U.S., the country has been made by immigrants, many races, and refugees.

About Japan, however it was not a nation of immigrants and multicultural intrinsically. In fact, a lot of people arrived at Japan from Korean peninsula but the era was mainly from 3c to 7c. The situation was not same to today’s Japan. Today’s situation in Japan is so complicated and the ideology of Japanese is so-called homogeneous nation. In my English class, members of the opposite side, which supported to receive refugees, said that Japan would need to get labors, so Japan ought to receive refugees. However this purpose in receiving refugees has likelihoods that hierarchy of labor and discrimination are generated in Japan. Moreover, a lot of countries insist that Japan should contribute to international society and receive refugees as one of the developed country. However Japan has not prepared for receiving refugees yet and if Japan receives them in this volatile situation, both of Japanese people and refugees will not be able to adapt to the situation. Basically, even if politicians in Japan vow to receive refugees as their manifest, Japanese people and other politicians will deny it. I think that it’s because many Japanese have a stereotype including me. I insisted that Japan would not be able to receive refugees and the government should not do that. However I think to receive refugees is not something bad. If Japan prepare for policies about receiving refugees, I think that Japan can make a success about it gradually. Today, the Japanese government educates a little about refugees in elementary schools and Japanese has an ideology that Japanese is so-called “Japanese”. According to it, I insist that it is not “now” that Japan should receive them. It’s because it will cause serious disorder in Japan.

Against the Japanese policy on refugees

by Ryota Takatsuka

We learned about the situation of Japanese acceptance of refugees. According to the readings and materials which the professor gave to us, Japan accepts less than 1% of applicants. Although Japan has the third biggest economy in the world, Japan accepts by far fewer refugees than other developed countries. We have debate about question “Whether Japan should accept more refugees or not”. My answer is “Yes”. There are two reasons why I answered at the debate.

The first reason is that refugee can cover the shortage of labor especially in field that seek labor. Now, Japan is about to face aging society and decline of birth rate, so in some field, lack of young labor will cause vanish of job. Agriculture is famous example of this. Although Japanese self-sufficiency rate is lower than any other developed country, the number of young people who choose agriculture to work is decreasing year and year. This is why the age average of farmer is getting higher and agriculture is in danger to be disappeared in the near future. However, refugees can solve this kind of problem, because they come to Japan seeking job to live. I mean increasing number of worker promote people including Japanese young people to work in various kind of work such as agriculture. The more people come in Japan, the competition of job hunting will more hard and tough. Due to this people will be supposed to expand their eye to the industries which have not been gotten attention. This situation can help various kind of industry develop and solve Japanese current problem that lack of labor because of aging society and declining of young people.

The second reason is fundamentally, Japan is responsible for guaranteeing human rights of people all over the world by the Japanese constitution. Accepting refugee and supporting them in language and job hunting are duty of Japanese government. If Japanese government keep rejecting accept much more refugees like other country do, Japanese constitution has no power to guarantee the human rights against even Japanese people.

I feel strange that fact that Japan accepts fewer refugees than other countries. The trend of the world is globalization. Japan has to catch up with this trend by accepting refugee and admit the multiculturalism in society. The tie between other nations will be more tight and Japan start being flexible against diversity. Following this, Japan can find benefit in accepting foreign community such as immigrants and refugee in terms.

Reconsideration of the Japanese Policy about Refugees

by Ryuhei Sugiyama

Today japan has a very strict rule about accepting refugees. According to the Ministry of Justice, there were only 21 people who were admitted as refugees in 2011, nevertheless 1867 people applied refugees screenings, and most of them who rejected their applications made a protest to the judgments (Ministry of Justice, 2012). In other words, most of the people who cannot be refugees are not guaranteed their safe lives in Japan. Compared with the U.S., about 90-thousand people are admitted as refuges each year (Refugee Assistance Headquarters, 2008). In this way, the number of reception of refugees in Japan is one of the lowest among the developed countries. This is because the strict rule of Japan toward people who pursued aid from Japan.

Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act is the standard to judge whether the person is admitted as refugee or not. This act is very severe and it has some problems. Frist, the standard has a lack of balance. Japanese government asks for people to present many documents. However, most of them run away for their lives from their countries, so they cannot have any documents to present their states. In addition, there are lacks of systems of interpreting, thus people who want to do the application for refugee states cannot get enough information. Second, people whose applications are denied are ordered to get away from Japan. They cannot get any protections or legal status if their applications are denied, and are treated as illegal residents. Therefore, the government deports them. If they refuse to leave Japan, they will be imprisoned.

In this way, Japan copes with people who want to be refugees very seriously. However, is this treatment of Japan humanitarian? These people ask Japan for help because there is no place for them to return. If they return to their countries, they will get political, economic, or sometimes physical abuses from their governments. International society has an obligation to protect human rights of all of people around the world. Japan is a member of international society, and has a big influence as one of the developed countries. Therefore, Japan also has an obligation to protect people who ask for help. It is clear that Japan abandons this obligation, and the treatment is inhumane. At this point, Japan should admit more refugees and the act that refuses their helps should be revised.


The number of people who were admitted as refugees in 2011. The Ministry of Justice. Retrieved May 29, 2013 from

The Reception of Refugees in Japan. Refugee Assistance Headquarters. Retrieved May 29, 2013 from

Refugees are people too

by Mei Satoi

According to UNCHR (United Nation High Commissioner for Refugee), a refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution. The present acceptable situation of refugee in Japan is very less. On the other hand, other developed countries accept a lot of refugees. 2,545 people applied for refugee recognition in Japan in 2012. It is the best number for the past fifteen years. However, in fact, Japan recognized only 18 refugees. It is very few. When people cannot be recognized as refugee in Japan, they do not have the right to reside in Japan and cannot receive public service like medical care.

I think that Japan should accept more refugees. In addition, the support for refugees would be more settled. I agree with that refugee is also human like Japanese. Human needs help each other. If one human needs support, other should give a hand. Refugees have different background. However, do not judge them by their nationality, race, and culture, Japanese have to protect their human rights. Some Japanese worry about worsen relationship with foreign countries, became less working places, and lose Japanese culture by accepting refugees. However, I believe that Japan can approach to other states as state which can protect human security. In addition, Japanese would be able to understand refugee’s situation by having communication with refugee. Japanese often think that refugee is not our problem. It is only other countries’ problem. So, I think that Japanese can get chance to understand and feel foreign problem and crisis by communication with people have real experience. It would promote Japan’s degree of international contribution.

In conclusion, Japan should accept refugees to protect their humanity. Of course, Japan has to prepare to accept refugees. In fact, it is very important for refugees and Japanese society. As, refugees face to behavior suitable for the occasion, they need understanding of Japanese language and culture. So, to set education places for refugees is needed. In addition, it is important for refugee to avoid isolation. So, giving communication place is also needed. Maybe, Japanese citizen also participate in that places. Following that Japanese get understandings how and why refugees had to come Japan. In fact, Japan has support system for refugees. However, Japan accepts so little refugees. As, a lot Japanese citizen do not accept refugees. They have tried to make country without people who have different race, language, and culture. To realize nation which citizen can recognize differences each other, Japanese citizen try to have generous viewpoint to refugee.

Japan’s Refugee Policy: Its Problems and Solutions

by Kentaro Sakamoto

Japan has been known for accepting few refugees. In 2012, 18 people, only 0.56 % of the asylum seekers who applied for refugee status in Japan, were officially accepted as refugees (Zenkoku Nanmin Bengodan, 2013). There were also 112 people who were not able to get refugee status but permitted to stay in Japan on humanitarian grounds. However, even if you combine these two groups of people, it is only 4.07 % of the asylum seekers who demanded refugee status in 2012 (Ibid). The average number of refugees accepted per year in Japan from 2000 to 2012 is only 28 (Amnesty International, 2013). In contrast, other developed countries accept a lot more refugees than Japan does. For example, the U.S. accepted 16,742 refugees in 2008, Canada accepted 9,648, Germany had 7, 291, Britain had 4,752, Italy had 1,785 and the Netherlands had 515, while Japan only accepted 57 in the same year (Sekai to Nihon no nanmin nintei su, n.d.). Yet 2008 is the year that Japan had accepted more refugees than any other year between 2000 and 2012.

There are mainly four reasons why Japan does not accept many refugees. First, the Japanese government wants to have a strict screening process on deciding who can become a refugee and who cannot. The government is afraid of the possibility of people abusing the system as a method to stay in Japan or get financial aid from the government (Amnesty International, 2012). Second, the government is afraid of accepting refugees from certain countries such as China and Turkey for fear of relationships between Japan and those countries being deteriorated. This is the reason why Kurds from Turkey have never been admitted as refugee yet, despite the fact that many Kurds are demanding refugee status in Japan. For example, in 2011, 234 people from Turkey applied for refugee status and all of them were Kurds, but not even a single person was able to become an official refugee (Zenkoku Nanmin Bengodan, 2012). Thirdly, the number of people who demand refugee status in Japan is not big due to the first and second reasons written above. In 2012, the number of applicants seeking for refugee status was 2545 (Zenkoku Nanmin Bengodan, 2013), which is not even bigger than the number of refugees accepted in the U.S, Germany and Britain in 2008, according to the data shown in the first paragraph. The system that requires people to actually be in Japan to apply for the status also reduces the number of applicants. Moreover, since applicants are not allowed to work during the screening process which can take up to several years, people hesitate to come to Japan as asylum seekers. Fourth, the cultural and language barriers of Japan are quit big, since many people still believe that Japan is an ethnically homogenous nation. Also, the fact that many people cannot speak English makes it harder for some asylum seekers to adapt themselves to Japan.

Despite all these reasons that are limiting Japan from accepting more refugees, I believe that Japan should accept more of them. Refugees are human, and all humans certainly have human rights. An international trend to protect human rights is being more and more promoted, and responsible states in the international society are expected to protect not only the human rights of their own people but the rights of people from other states/regions too. If Japan wants to become the leader of Asia, it must start from protecting human rights more and appeal to the world that Japan is a nation that can contribute to create a better world. Accepting refugees is the first step for this. Currently in Japan, because of the system forbidding asylum seekers to work during the screening process, many of them are working illegally with low wages, and some of them are even treated inhumanely in their jobs. Accepting more official refugees and modifying the screening system will protect them from falling into this situation which can violate their rights. Moreover, accepting refugees can be a solution to the declining working population in primary industries, since many of the native Japanese do not want to work in these fields. It can also be a solution to the national pension system that is facing problems because of the increase of old people and the decrease of young people, as most of the asylum seekers are from the younger working generation. Accepting refugees is not merely a way to improve the lives of people who were persecuted in their original countries, but also a way to solve the difficult problems that Japan is facing now.


Amnesty International. (2012). Nihon no nanmin: Nanmin nintei seido ranyousha o ippanka suruna [Refugees in Japan: Do not generalize the misusers of the refugee admitting system]. Amnesty International. Retrieved May 30, 2013 from

Amnesty International. (2013). Nihon no nanmin: Nihon ni kurasu nanmin no kiso A to Z [Refugees of Japan: The basic knowledge of refugees living in Japan from A to Z]. Amnesty International. Retrieved May 30, 2013 from

Sekai to Nihon no nanmin nintei su [Numbers of refugees accepted in Japan and the world]. (n.d.). Rafiq Website. Retrieved May 30, 2013 from

Zenkoku Nanmin Bengodan. (2012). Nanmin nintei shinsei su [Number of applicants for refugee status]. Zenkoku Nanmin Bengodan [Japan Lawyers Network for Refugees]. Retrieved May 30, 2013 from

Zenkoku Nanmin Bengodan. (2013). 2012 nen no Nihon ni okeru nanmin ninteisha su tou ni kansuru seimei [A statement about the number of refugees accepted in Japan in 2012]. Zenkoku Nanmin Bengodan [Japan Lawyers Network for Refugees] . Retrieved May 30, 2013 from

The situation of refugees in Japan

by Kim Jina

In the rush of globalization, Japan consists of less than 2 percent of foreigners (they are mostly Korean and Chinese). By contrast Japan consists of more than 98 percent of Japanese. Like a reflection of this, the average annual number of recognized refugees in Japan is very small. It is less than 1 percent. According to a report researched by the Immigration Bureau of Japan, about 2,500 asylum seekers came to Japan in 2012 and only 18 of them were accepted as refugees with legal status. It is lower than 1 percent. On the other hand, the United States, Canada and even South Korea have higher acceptance rate than Japan, 53 %, 44.6% and 11.7% respectively. The irony is that even though Japan has a major economic power, Japan has the lowest refugee acceptance rate. Japan is supposed to make more contributions to international society than other countries which have less economic power. Japan should admit more refugees so that Japan could serve as an example of how to cope with the progress of accepting refugees to other Asian countries and even international society.

Refugees including asylum seekers desperately need help from international society. Most of them are forced to leave their home countries or they have no choice but to flee their home countries. They lose their home, job, family and even some documents or something as an evidence of that they are in serious trouble. They are inevitably coming to other countries with almost nothing. At first, helping them to find a job and house as well as providing financial aids might be the best way to support refugees when they come to new countries. However, before supporting them, the legal resident status should be given to them, so that they are able to receive health insurance service, find a job and go to school.

Of course, it would be difficult to give every asylum seekers came to Japan the legal refugee status, but it is possible to provide them more opportunities to have legal status. Even if they are granted legal refugee status, most of them are struggling to find a job. There are only few people who have legal refugee status in Japan. Nevertheless, most of them are in unfair conditions. However, Japan has good example of how to support refugees. Uniqlo, one of the major apparel companies in Japan, provides refugee Khadiza Begum an opportunity to work at Uniqlo through a Uniqlo program. To admit more refugees in Japan, the Japanese government should encourage major companies to provide refugees more chance to work like Uniqlo. In addition, Japanese people should try to change the way they think about refugees. However, the most important thing to accept more refugees in Japan is that the Japanese government should make the immigration policy easier to get legal status. With the efforts mentioned above, it is expected that the number of refugees in Japan could be increased.

Japan and Refugees

by Ryoma Kagawa

Today, there are a great number of refugees in the world because of some factors such as conflicts, religion, and their political thoughts. While developing countries receive many of them, developed countries arrange for them to evacuate from their home countries as well. Among the developed countries, the U.S., France, and Germany accept more refugees than Japan does. In fact, the number of refugees which Japan has received is very tiny; according to the Ministry of Justice (2012), 1,867 people sought asylum, and 21 were accepted in 2011, which is the source of the criticism of Japan. It has been argued for a long time whether Japan should accept more refugees or not. In my opinion, Japan should do it, and there is a reason for it.

The biggest reason is that the acceptance of refugees is a matter of human rights. All people have the rights to live human lives, and so do refugees. I think that not accepting refugees means the denial of their human rights. Practically, however, it may be difficult for a country to receive refugees who are forced to escape from their homelands by the government for political reasons when their homelands are its friendly countries. The acceptance of refugees has the possibility to deteriorate the relationships between both of the countries. Actually, a Kurdish man living in Japan seeks asylum many times, yet it may be difficult because Japan has a good relationship with Turkey (Ito, 2012). To receive refugees allows a country to gain the prestige from the international society, but might lead it to the loss of trust from its friendly countries.

Still, it does not mean that Japan should be strict about the acceptance of refugees. If it is the concern for Japan that the relationships will go sour, I believe that Japan does not need to officially recognize refugees and grant them asylum. Actually, the Ministry of Justice (2012) also reports that it accepted 248 people of all the asylum seekers in 2011 to keep staying in Japan from the humanitarian point of view, although they had no certifications to prove them refugees. In such a way, Japan can accept refugees without officially recognizing them so that the relationships with other countries do not deteriorate; I believe that Japan should establish laws to increase the number of such people and to grant them more rights.

Refugees have human rights as well as non-refugees, so it is nonsense that, in spite of hard experiences in the homelands and refuge in Japan, they gain no asylum like insurances. Thus, in order to secure their human rights, Japan should be more open to refugees.


Ito, M. (2012, May 26). Desperate Kurd plays final asylum card. The Japan Times News. Retrieved May 30, 2013, from

Ministry of Justice. (2012). Heisei 23nen ni okeru nanminninteishasuto ni tsuite [On the number of refugees recognized by Japan in 2011]. Ministry of Justice. Retrieved May 30, 2013, from

Receiving of Refugees and Refugee Resettlement in Japan

by Kanami Hirokawa

It is said that the number of refugees is 43.3 million in the world now and many refugees are driven away from their living places. Although many of them are staying at their home country or the neighboring country, there are also refugees who come to the developed countries such as the US and Canada in order to look for their safe and stable life. This is refugee resettlement. Since 2010, Japan also began to the program of refugee resettlement as the first country of the Asian country. In 2010, 27 refugees of Myanmar who live in refugee camp of Thailand came to Japan. This is a new approach for Japan.

At first, why does not Japan receive many refugees? About 1.6 thousand refugees came to Japan in order to be recognized as refugees in 2008. However, the refugees who were recognized as refugees by the Minister of Justice are only 56 refugees. This number shows that many refugees can not be recognized as refugees and be allowed to come to Japan. Compared with other developed countries such as the US and France, the number of refugees being received is very few. The cause that the refugees in Japan are a small number is the system on the refugees and entry into a country. In Japan receiving entry permit to Japan is difficult in the eyes of the system of Japan. In the present day, refugees who came to Japan in order to be recognized as refugees are accommodated in an accommodation temporarily and they are treated like illegal immigrants. The food they receive is a poor Japanese food and they can not eat well because they do not adapt to Japanese food. They suffer in the accommodation until the result of the procedure comes out.

Next, Myanmarese refugees who came to Japan in 2010 learned a lot about the way in Japan in order to know about Japanese life and culture and to live comfortably. They learned Japanese language, culture and custom. Moreover, they were taught the necessary things to live without being in trouble such as the way of shopping and ATM because they lived in refugee camp and do not know these ways. They learned about many things for six months and they began to live and work by themselves.

However, refugees face many problems and difficulties in their lives in Japan. They face the wall of culture, language, discrimination and so on. In particular, in Japan foreigners tend to be recognized as strangers. Many Japanese still think that people living in Japan can speak Japanese and have black hair and eyes. Therefore, refugees who can not speak Japanese well are seen as the objects of the discrimination. Even if they can get the entry permit, their lives is not easy.

At last, Although Japan began to the approach of the refugee resettlement since 2010, Japan also contributes much money to United Nations High Commissioners for Refugees (UNHCR). The contribution of Japan is the second to the US. In Japan many Japanese do not know the existence of refugees in the world, but Japanese government has an effort to decreasing number of refugees. Therefore, Japan will receive more refugees in the future. Japan is not friendly country for refugees in the present state of affairs of Japan. In order to achieve receiving more number of refugees to Japan, changing the mind of Japanese people and being improved the system of the entry permit are also needed. Japan has many points to be improved about refugees.


Daisanngokuteizyu [Refugee Resettlement]. (2012). Seihu Kouhou Onrainn. Retrieved May 28, 2013 from

Nannminn Mondai Toha [What is Refugees?]. (2011). Gaimusyo. Retrieved May 28, 2013 from

Sekai no Nannmin[Refugees in the World]. (2010). AAR Japan. Retrieved May 28, 2013 from