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Society Survey: non-urban Japanese have limited interactions with foreign residents

thomas

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14 Mar 2002
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A recent survey highlights that Japanese residents outside the major cities have limited interaction with foreigners in their communities. This underscores the importance of Japan's efforts to enhance social integration. The survey, conducted by a research institute at Taisho University, took place from October to November. It focused on Japanese residents in 59 cities, towns, and villages across Japan, where foreigners constitute 5 per cent or more of the population. The survey excluded the 23 wards in central Tokyo, and Japan's twenty designated major cities.


Of the 1,194 who gave valid responses, 83.8 per cent said they do not have regular exchanges with the foreigners who live alongside them. Among the 16.2 per cent who said they do, 39.7 per cent said they are colleagues with non-Japanese people, 32.5 per cent said they are neighbours with them, and 21.6 per cent said they have foreign friends. Asked whether they want a higher percentage of foreigners in their community, 54.5 per cent stated they do not, with many citing concerns about increased friction or deterioration of the social order. Japan has been opening up to more foreign workers to combat the slide in its working-age and overall population. As of the end of October, the number of foreign workers in Japan stood at a record high of 2.04 million, according to the labour ministry. Professor Yuko Tsukasaki, who led the research, said as Japan will increasingly rely on foreigners for labour, it must make itself a place where they can live comfortably and build long careers.


Lack of opportunity, perhaps?


 
I'm not surprised as most of the foreigners are indeed concentrated in big cities, and especially in the Kantō and Kansai regions (much less in cities like Sendai or Kagoshima).

As usual the Japanese do not make any distinction between "foreigners". Are we talking about third generation Koreans brought up in Japan speaking Japanese as their mother tongue and being indistinguishable from most Japanese? (I have a friend who is in this category.) Or about tourists who can't speak a word of Japanese?

When they ask in a survey whether people would like to live next to foreigners, how can they give an answer without knowing what kind of foreigner we are talking about? The survey would have been more interesting if they had asked several questions regarding the various possibilities. For example distinguishing between foreigners who can speak Japanese and those who can't. Foreigners who were born and raised in Japan and those who weren't. Foreigners who look Japanese, like the Koreans and Chinese (who are the biggest group of foreigners in Japan), and others. And dividing the others by ethnic groups. I'm pretty sure that the percentages would be different for South Asians, Middle Easterners, Europeans/Westerners, Africans, and so on. The answers would be different for each ethnicity because Japanese people are just like all of the people in the world with their own preferences, but also prejudices. Like everywhere else, some people are more open-minded than others. A really interesting survey would have been to compare the results for ethnic group preferences between big cities and the countryside, and even more so between people who have personally met people of a particular ethnic group and those who haven't.
 
Do any of you have experience living as 外国人 in rural Japan? I have always wondered what it's like. Here in Denmark, most immigrants live in urban areas where integration is a mixed bag (the young ones who go to school are integrated well and have Danish friends whereas their parents often have very little contact with Danes except in relation to their children (day care, school, etc)). In rural areas, however, they are often included as there aren't generally many people around and everyone knows everyone. 'Oh, you mean Muhammad over on King's Road? Yeah, he's my mechanic, too"

Many years ago, I used to read a blog written by a pair of young, Dutch people who moved to a tiny town way out in the Japanese country side. The girl spoke only rudimentary Japanese but quickly became part of the community because she joined in all the local activities, among others a committee of sorts where they planned festivals and stuff? The young man, however, who spoke Japanese rather well and had lived in Japan for a few years never really felt as if he belonged. Being more reserved, he would jokingly lament how easy it was for his bubbly girlfriend to connect with people she could barely communicate with.
I always wondered if their experience was a rarity.
 
Do any of you have experience living as 外国人 in rural Japan? I have always wondered what it's like. Here in Denmark, most immigrants live in urban areas where integration is a mixed bag (the young ones who go to school are integrated well and have Danish friends whereas their parents often have very little contact with Danes except in relation to their children (day care, school, etc)). In rural areas, however, they are often included as there aren't generally many people around and everyone knows everyone. 'Oh, you mean Muhammad over on King's Road? Yeah, he's my mechanic, too"

Many years ago, I used to read a blog written by a pair of young, Dutch people who moved to a tiny town way out in the Japanese country side. The girl spoke only rudimentary Japanese but quickly became part of the community because she joined in all the local activities, among others a committee of sorts where they planned festivals and stuff? The young man, however, who spoke Japanese rather well and had lived in Japan for a few years never really felt as if he belonged. Being more reserved, he would jokingly lament how easy it was for his bubbly girlfriend to connect with people she could barely communicate with.
I always wondered if their experience was a rarity.
I only lived in Tokyo so I can't really speak to that. But I would guess the experience you wrote about are probably representative examples. Maybe the guy's more so than the girl's. Even Japanese people sometimes feel isolated and like they don't belong.
 
Anecdotally (living in Japan for 20 years, spending time on forums that include many British people living in rural Japan, and sometimes visiting my in-laws in semi-rural Japan), I don't detect any attitude problem with rural Japanese people towards non-Japanese people. I go with Thomas's view of 'lack of opportunity'.
 
I have only lived in Tokyo but every time I travelled to rural Japan I felt that people were much more friendly and keener on chatting with me. On the other hand even Japanese people say that Tokyoites are rather cold and distant, so it may be unrelated to the fact that I'm a foreigner.
 
I have only lived in Tokyo but every time I travelled to rural Japan I felt that people were much more friendly and keener on chatting with me. On the other hand even Japanese people say that Tokyoites are rather cold and distant, so it may be unrelated to the fact that I'm a foreigner.

I found out that it is pretty rare to meet real "Tokyoites" (江戸っ子 edokko). The majority of Tokyo residents hail from elsewhere. I agree that people in the country are more curious but also shyer to chat with foreigners. I have always been surprised about Osaka, where the rules of etiquette and social distancing seem quite contrary to those of the rest of Japan. :LOL:
 
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