Demographics of Japan

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Demographics of Japan
Population126,317,000[1] (2019) (11th)
Japanese birth and death rates since 1950. The drop in 1966 was due to it being a "hinoe uma" year which is viewed as a bad omen by the Japanese Zodiac.[2][needs update]

The demographic features of the population of Japan include population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects regarding the population.


For information on historical demographic data in Japan prior to 1945 refer to:


Historical population[edit]

Historical population
1910 50,984,840—    
1915 54,935,755+7.7%
1920 55,963,053+1.9%
1925 59,736,822+6.7%
1930 64,450,005+7.9%
1935 69,254,148+7.5%
1940 73,075,071+5.5%
1945 71,998,104−1.5%
1950 83,199,637+15.6%
1955 89,275,529+7.3%
1960 93,418,501+4.6%
1965 98,274,961+5.2%
1970 103,720,060+5.5%
1975 111,939,643+7.9%
1980 117,060,396+4.6%
1985 121,048,923+3.4%
1990 123,611,167+2.1%
1995 125,570,246+1.6%
2000 126,925,843+1.1%
2005 127,767,994+0.7%
2010 128,057,352+0.2%
2015 127,094,745−0.8%
2019 126,317,000−0.6%
2019 estimate[1]

According to the World Bank, the population of Japan as of 2018 is at 126.5 million, including foreign residents.[3] The population of only Japanese nationals was 124.8 million in January 2019.[4]

Japan was the world's tenth-most populous country as of 2018. Total population had declined by 0.8 percent from the time of the census five years previously, the first time it had declined since the 1945 census.[5]

Since 2010, Japan has experienced net population loss due to falling birth rates and minimal immigration, despite having one of the highest life expectancies in the world, at 85.00 years as of 2016 (it stood at 81.25 as of 2006).[6] Using the annual estimate for October of each year, the population peaked in 2008 at 128,083,960 and had fallen 285,256 by October 2011.[7]

Based on 2012 data from the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, Japan's population will keep declining by about one million people every year in the coming decades, which would leave it with a population of around 70 million by 2060 and 42 million by early 22nd century if the current projections do not change.[8] More than 40% of the population is expected to be over the age of 65 in 2060.[9] In 2012 the population had for six consecutive years declined by 212,000, the largest drop on record since 1947 and also reflecting a record low of 1.03 million births.[10] In 2014 a new record of population decrease - 268,000 people - occurred;[11] as of 2013 more than 20 percent of the population of Japan were aged 65 and over.[12]

The world population-ranking of Japan dropped from 7th to 8th in 1990, to 9th in 1998, and to 10th in the early 21st century. In 2015 it dropped further to 11th place, according both to the UN[citation needed] and to the PRB.[citation needed] Over the period of 2010 to 2015, the population shrank by almost a million.[13]

Japanese population density map per prefecture as of 2009 per square kilometer


Japan collects census information every five years; the exercise is conducted by the Statistics Bureau of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Population density[edit]

Japan's population density was 336 people per square kilometer as of 2014 (874 people per square mile) according to World Development Indicators, it ranks 35th in a list of countries by population density, ranking directly above Philippines (347 per km2) and directly below Curacao (359 per km2). Between 1955 and 1989, land prices in the six largest cities increased 15,000% (+12% a year). Urban land prices generally increased 40% from 1980 to 1987; in the six largest cities, the price of land doubled over that period. For many families, this trend put housing in central cities out of reach.[14]

The result was lengthy commutes for many workers in the big cities, especially in Tokyo area where daily commutes of two hours each way are common.[14] In 1991, as the bubble economy started to collapse, land prices began a steep decline, and within a few years fell 60% below their peak.[15] After a decade of declining land prices, residents began moving back into central city areas (especially Tokyo's 23 wards), as evidenced by 2005 census figures. Despite nearly 70% of Japan being covered by forests,[16] parks in many major cities—especially Tokyo and Osaka—are smaller and scarcer than in major West European or North American cities; as of 2014, parkland per inhabitant in Tokyo is 5.78 square meters,[17] which is roughly half of the 11.5 square meters of Madrid.[18]

National and regional governments devote resources to making regional cities and rural areas more attractive by developing transportation networks, social services, industry, and educational institutions in attempts to decentralize settlement and improve the quality of life. Nevertheless, major cities, especially Tokyo, Yokohama, and Fukuoka, and to a lesser extent Kyoto, Osaka and Nagoya, remain attractive to young people seeking education and jobs.[14]

Urban distribution[edit]

Distribution of Population[19] by Regions (Blue shades) and Prefectures (Red: Most populous, Green: Less)
KANTO, KEIHANSHIN and TOKAI are three largest metropolitan areas which have about 2/3 of total population of Japan. Out of 47 prefectures, 13 are red and 34 are green.
The population of Japan has been decreasing since 2011. Only 8 prefectures had increased its population compare to 2010, due to internal migration to large cities.
External images
Views of the World
Japan Gridded Population Cartogram
Japan Gridded Population

Japan has a high population concentration in urban areas on the plains since 75% of Japan’s land area is made up of mountains,[20] and also Japan has a forest cover rate of 68.5% (the only other developed countries with such a high forest cover percentage are Finland and Sweden).[16] The 2010 census shows 90.7% of the total Japanese population live in cities.[21]

Japan is an urban society with about only 5% of the labor force working in agriculture. Many farmers supplement their income with part-time jobs in nearby towns and cities. About 80 million of the urban population is heavily concentrated on the Pacific shore of Honshu.[22]

Metropolitan Tokyo-Yokohama, with its population of 35 million residents, is the world's most populous city. Japan faces the same problems that confront urban industrialized societies throughout the world: overcrowded cities and congested highways.

Aging of Japan[edit]

Japan's population is aging faster than that of any other nation;[23] the population of those 65 years or older roughly doubled in 24 years, from 7.1% of the population in 1970 to 14.1% in 1994. The same increase took 61 years in Italy, 85 years in Sweden, and 115 years in France.[24] In 2014, 26% of Japan's population was estimated to be 65 years or older,[25] and the Health and Welfare Ministry has estimated that over-65s will account for 40% of the population by 2060;[26] the demographic shift in Japan's age profile has triggered concerns about the nation's economic future and the viability of its welfare state.[27]

Overview of the changing age distribution 1935–2010[25]
Year Total population
(census; in thousands)
Population by age (%)
0–14 15–64 65+
1935 69,254 36.9 58.5 4.7
1940 73,075 36.1 59.2 5.7
1945 71,998 36.8 58.1 5.1
1950 84,115 35.4 59.6 4.9
1955 90,077 33.4 61.2 5.3
1960 94,302 30.2 64.1 5.7
1965 99,209 25.7 68.0 6.3
1970 104,665 24.0 68.9 7.1
1975 111,940 24.3 67.7 7.9
1980 117,060 23.5 67.3 9.1
1985 121,049 21.5 68.2 10.3
1990 123,611 18.2 69.5 12.0
1995 125,570 15.9 69.4 14.5
2000 126,962 14.6 67.9 17.3
2005 127,768 13.7 65.8 20.1
2010 128,058 13.2 63.7 23.1
2015 127,095 12.6 60.7 26.6
2017[28] 126,714 12.3 59.9 27.8

Demographic statistics from the CIA World Factbook[edit]

The percentage of births to unmarried women in selected countries, 1980 and 2007.[29] As can be seen in the figure, Japan has not followed the trend of other industrialised countries of children born outside of marriage to the same degree.


The population consisted of 47,062,743 households, with 78.7% in urban areas (July 2000). High population density; 329.5 people per square kilometer for total area; 1,523 persons per square kilometer for habitable land. More than 50% of the population lives on 2% of the land. (July 1993).[14] According to research in 2018, the population to land density ratio has gradually increased, now at 127 million per 337 km2. Compared to the findings of July 1993 as well as in July 2000, the population density has greatly increased, from 50% of the population living on 2% of the land to 77%. However, as the years have progressed since the last recordings of the population, Japan’s population has decreased, raising concern about the future of Japan. There are many causes, such as the declining birthrates, as well as the ratio of men to women since the last measurements from the years of 2006 and 2010. According to the Japanese Health Ministry, the population is estimated to drop from its current state of 126.26 million to 86.74 million by the year 2060.[30]

Sex ratio[edit]

Japanese women wearing kimonos

(2006 est.)

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15–64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.73 male(s)/female
total population: 0.95 male(s)/female

(2010 est.)

at birth: 1.056 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.74 male(s)/female
total population: 0.95 male(s)/female


Adult prevalence rate

less than 0.1% (2009 est.)[31]

People living with HIV/AIDS

12,000 (2003 est.)
9,600 (2007 est.)


500 (2003 est.)
fewer than 100 (2009 est.)[31]

Ethnic groups[edit]

Japanese people in Shibuya, Tokyo

Naturalized Japanese citizens and native-born Japanese nationals with multi-ethnic background are all considered to be Japanese in the population census of Japan,[32] therefore no ethnicity census data is available.

Marital status[edit]

Over 15: Never married Male 61.8%, Female 58.2%.
16–24: Never married Male 31.8%, Female 23.7%.
25–29: Never married Male 69.3%, Female 54.0%.
30–34: Never married Male 42.9%, Female 26.6% (July 2000).

Vital statistics[edit]

Live births, birth and death rates and overall fertility rate in Japan from 1899 to present.[33][34][35]

Total fertility rate[edit]

Japan's total fertility rate (TFR) in 2012 was estimated at 1.41 children per woman, increasing slightly from 1.32 in the 2001–05 period. In 2012, the highest TFR was 1.90, in Okinawa, and the lowest was 1.09, in Tokyo. TFR by prefecture for 2000–05, as well as future estimates, have been released.[38]:page 30

Life expectancy[edit]

Sources: Our World In Data and the United Nations.


Years 1865 1870 1875 1880 1885 1890 1895 1900 1905 1910 1915 1920 1922 1927 1935 1945 1947 1948 1949 1950[39]
Life expectancy in Japan 36.4 36.6 36.8 37.0 37.3 37.7 38.1 38.6 39.2 40.0 40.9 42.0 42.6 45.7 48.2 30.5 51.7 56.8 57.7 59.2


Period Life expectancy in
Period Life expectancy in
1950–1955 62.8 1985–1990 78.5
1955–1960 66.4 1990–1995 79.4
1960–1965 69.2 1995–2000 80.5
1965–1970 71.4 2000–2005 81.8
1970–1975 73.3 2005–2010 82.7
1975–1980 75.4 2010–2015 83.3
1980–1985 77.0 2015-2020 84.4

Source: UN World Population Prospects[40]


Internal migration[edit]

Between 6 million and 7 million people moved their residences each year during the 1980s. About 50% of these moves were within the same prefecture; the others were relocations from one prefecture to another. During Japan's economic development in the twentieth century, and especially during the 1950s and 1960s, migration was characterized by urbanization as people from rural areas in increasing numbers moved to the larger metropolitan areas in search of better jobs and education. Out-migration from rural prefectures continued in the late 1980s, but more slowly than in previous decades.[14]

In the 1980s, government policy provided support for new urban development away from the large cities, particularly Tokyo, and assisted regional cities to attract young people to live and work there. Regional cities offered familiarity to those from nearby areas, lower costs of living, shorter commutes, and, in general, a more relaxed lifestyle than could be had in larger cities. Young people continued to move to large cities, however, to attend universities and find work, but some returned to regional cities (a pattern known as U-turn) or to their prefecture of origin (a pattern referred to as "J-turn").[14]

Government statistics show that in the 1980s significant numbers of people left the largest central cities (Tokyo and Osaka) to move to suburbs within their metropolitan areas. In 1988 more than 500,000 people left Tokyo, which experienced a net loss through migration of nearly 73,000 for the year. Osaka had a net loss of nearly 36,000 in the same year.[14]

With a decreasing total population, internal migration results in only 8 prefectures showing an increase in population; these are Okinawa(2.9%), Tokyo(2.7%), Aichi(1.0%), Saitama(1.0%), Kanagawa(0.9%), Fukuoka(0.6%), Shiga(0.2%), and Chiba(0.1%).[41]


About 663,300 Japanese were living abroad, approximately 75,000 of whom had permanent foreign residency, more than six times the number who had that status in 1975. More than 200,000 Japanese went abroad in 1990 for extended periods of study, research, or business assignments; as the government and private corporations have stressed internationalization, greater numbers of individuals have been directly affected, decreasing Japan's historical insularity. By the late 1980s, these problems, particularly the bullying of returnee children in schools, had become a major public issue both in Japan and in Japanese communities abroad.[14]

Cities with significant populations of Japanese nationals

Note: The above data shows the number of Japanese nationals living overseas, it was published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and relates to 2015.[42]


According to the Japanese immigration centre,[32] the number of foreign residents in Japan has steadily increased, and the number of foreign residents (excluding a small number of illegal immigrants and short-term visitors, such as foreign nationals staying less than 90 days in Japan),[43] exceeded 2.2 million people in 2008.[32]

In 2010, the number of foreigners in Japan was 2,134,151; this includes 209,373 Filipinos, many of whom are married to Japanese nationals,[44] 210,032 Brazilians, the majority possessing some degree of Japanese ancestry,[44] 687,156 Chinese and 565,989 Koreans. Chinese, Filipinos, Koreans, and Brazilians account for about 69.5% of foreign residents in Japan.[45]

The current issue of the shrinking workforce in Japan alongside its aging population has resulted in a recent need to attract foreign labour to the country. Reforms which took effect in 2015 relax visa requirements for "Highly Skilled Foreign Professionals" and create a new type of residence status with an unlimited period of stay.

The number of naturalizations peaked in 2008 at 16,000, declining to over 9,000 in the most recent year for which data are available.[46] Most of the decline is accounted for by a steep reduction in the number of Japan-born Koreans taking Japanese citizenship. Historically the bulk of those taking Japanese citizenship have not been foreign-born immigrants but rather Japanese-born descendants of Koreans and Taiwanese who lost their citizenship in the Japanese Empire in 1947 as part of the American Occupation policy for Japan.

Japanese statistical authorities do not collect information on ethnicity, only nationality; as a result, both native and naturalized Japanese citizens are counted in a single group.[32] Japanese society is linguistically, ethnically and culturally homogeneous,[47][48] it is composed of 98.1% ethnic Japanese.[49] Although official statistics show near homogeneity, one analysis describe the population as “multi-ethnic”, although unofficial statistics still show that ethnic minorities are small compared with many other countries.[50][need quotation to verify] There is an increase of foreign residents, but they are not Japanese nationals and most temporarily live in Japan for a few months or years.

In 2015 the Japanese government under prime minister Shinzō Abe announced that its policy of restricting immigration would not change despite the current declining population.[51][52] In the long term, its plan is to improve technology to address the labour shortage, while increasing Japanese fertility rates from the current level of 1.4 to 1.8, eventually stabilizing the population at approximately 100 million. [53]


The Japanese society of Yamato people is linguistically homogeneous with small populations of Koreans (0.9 million), Chinese/Taiwanese (0.65 million), Filipino (306,000 some being Japanese Filipino; children of Japanese and Filipino parentage).[54] Brazilians (300,000, many of whom are ethnically Japanese) as well as Peruvians and Argentineans of both Latin American and Japanese descent. Japan has indigenous minority groups such as the Ainu and Ryukyuans, who generally speak Japanese.

Japanese citizenship is conferred jus sanguinis, and monolingual Japanese-speaking minorities often reside in Japan for generations under permanent residency status without acquiring citizenship in their country of birth, although legally they are allowed to do so; this is because Japanese law does not recognise dual citizenship after the age of adulthood, and so people becoming naturalised Japanese citizens must relinquish citizenship of other countries when they reach the age of 20. Some ethnic Koreans and Chinese and their descendants (who may speak only Japanese and may never have even visited the country whose nationality they hold) do not wish to abandon this other citizenship.[citation needed]

In addition, people taking Japanese citizenship must take a name using the Japanese character sets hiragana, katakana, and/or kanji. Names using Western alphabet, Korean alphabet, Arabic characters, etc. are not acceptable as legal names. Chinese characters are usually legally acceptable as nearly all Chinese characters are recognized as valid by the Japanese government. Transliterations of non-Japanese names using katakana (e.g. スミス "Sumisu" for "Smith") are also legally acceptable.

However, some naturalizing foreigners feel that becoming a Japanese citizen should mean that they have a Japanese name and that they should abandon their foreign name, and some foreign residents do not wish to do this—although most Special Permanent Resident Koreans and Chinese already use Japanese names. Nonetheless, some 10,000 Zainichi Koreans naturalize every year. Approximately 98.6% of the population are Japanese citizens, and 99% of the population speak Japanese as their first language. Non-ethnic Japanese in the past, and to an extent in the present, also live in small numbers in the Japanese archipelago.[50]



Japanese people enjoy a high standard of living, and nearly 90% of the population consider themselves part of the middle class.[14] However, many studies on happiness and satisfaction with life tend to find that Japanese people average relatively low levels of life satisfaction and happiness when compared with most of the highly developed world; the levels have remained consistent if not declining slightly over the last half century.[55][56][57][58] Japanese have been surveyed to be relatively lacking in financial satisfaction.[59]

The suicide rates per 100,000 in Japan in 2009 were 29.2 for men and 10.5 for women.[60] In 2010, 32,000 Japanese committed suicide, which translates to an average of 88 Japanese suicides a day in 2010.[61]


Discrimination against ethnic minorities[edit]

Three native Japanese minority groups can be identified; the largest are the hisabetsu buraku or "discriminated communities", also known as the burakumin. These descendants of premodern outcast hereditary occupational groups, such as butchers, leatherworkers, funeral directors, and certain entertainers, may be considered a Japanese analog of India's Dalits. Discrimination against these occupational groups arose historically because of Buddhist prohibitions against killing and Shinto notions of pollution, as well as governmental attempts at social control.[14]

During the Edo period, such people were required to live in special buraku and, like the rest of the population, were bound by sumptuary laws based on the inheritance of social class; the Meiji government abolished most derogatory names applied to these discriminated communities in 1871, but the new laws had little effect on the social discrimination faced by the former outcasts and their descendants. The laws, however, did eliminate the economic monopoly they had over certain occupations;[14] the buraku continued to be treated as social outcasts and some casual interactions with the majority caste were perceived taboo until the era after World War II.

Estimates of their number range from 2 to 4 million (about 2% to 3% of the national population). Although members of these discriminated communities are physically indistinguishable from other Japanese, they often live in urban ghettoes or in the traditional special hamlets in rural areas, and membership can be surmised from the location of the family home, occupation, dialect, or mannerisms. Checks on family background designed to ferret out buraku were commonly performed as part of marriage arrangements and employment applications,[14] but have been illegal since 1985 in Osaka.

Past and current discrimination has resulted in lower educational attainment and socioeconomic status among hisabetsu buraku than among the majority of Japanese. Movements with objectives ranging from "liberation" to encouraging integration have tried to change this situation,[14] with some success. Nadamoto Masahisa of the Buraku History Institute estimates that as of 1998, between 60 and 80% of burakumin marry a non-burakumin.[62]


One of the largest minority groups among Japanese citizens is the Ryukyuan people,[63] they are primarily distinguished from their use of several distinct Ryukyuan languages though use of Ryukyuan is dying out. The Ryukyuan people and language originated in the Ryukyu Islands, which are in Okinawa prefecture.


Japanese Ainu group in 1904

The third largest minority group among Japanese citizens is the Ainu, whose language is an isolate. Historically, the Ainu were an indigenous hunting and gathering population who occupied most of northern Honshū as late as the Nara period (A.D. 710–94). As Japanese settlement expanded, the Ainu were pushed northward,[14] by the Tokugawa shogunate, the Ainu were pushed into the island of Hokkaido.[64]

Characterized as remnants of a primitive circumpolar culture, the fewer than 20,000 Ainu in 1990 were considered racially distinct and thus not fully Japanese. Disease and a low birth rate had severely diminished their numbers over the past two centuries, and intermarriage had brought about an almost completely mixed population.[14]

Although no longer in daily use, the Ainu language is preserved in epics, songs, and stories transmitted orally over succeeding generations. Distinctive rhythmic music and dances and some Ainu festivals and crafts are preserved, but mainly in order to take advantage of tourism.[14]


Hāfu is a term used for people who are biracial and ethnically half Japanese. Of the 1 million children born in Japan in 2013, 2.2% had one or more non-Japanese parent.[70] According to the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, one in forty-nine babies born in Japan today are born into families with one non-Japanese parent.[65] Most intermarriages in Japan are between Japanese men and women from other Asian countries, including China, the Philippines and South Korea.[66] Southeast Asia too, also has significant populations of people with half-Japanese ancestry, particularly in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

In the 1940s, biracial Japanese children (Ainoko), specifically Amerasian children, encountered social problems such as poverty, perception of impurity and discrimination due to negative treatment in Japan.[67] In the 21st century, discrimination against hāfu occurs based on how different their identity, behavior and appearance is from a typical Japanese person.

Foreign residents[edit]

Transition of numbers of registered foreigners in Japan from five major countries[needs update]
Age and Sex Distribution of Major Foreigners in Japan.

In 2005, there were 1,555,505 foreign residents in Japan, representing 1.22% of the Japanese population.[68] Foreign Army personnel, of which there were up to 430,000 from the SCAP (post-occupation, United States Forces Japan) and 40,000 BCOF in the immediate post-war years, have not been at any time included in Japanese foreign resident statistics.[69] Most foreign residents in Japan come from Brazil or from other Asian countries, particularly from China, South Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam and Nepal.[70][71]

A number of long-term resident Koreans in Japan today retain familial links with the descendants of Koreans,[72] that either immigrated voluntarily or were forcibly relocated during the Japanese Occupation of the Korea. Within this group, a number hold Special Permanent Resident status, granted under the terms of the Normalisation Treaty (22. June 1965) between South Korea and Japan.[73] In many cases special residents, despite being born in Japan and speaking Japanese, have chosen not to take advantage of the mostly automatic granting of citizenship to special resident applicants.[74]

Beginning in 1947 the Japanese government started to repatriate Korean nationals, who had nominally been granted Japanese citizenship during the years of military occupation; when the Treaty of San Francisco came into force many ethnic Koreans lost their Japanese citizenship from April 28, 1952 and with it the right to welfare grants, to hold a government job of any kind or to attend Japanese schools.[69] In the following year the government contrived, with the help of the Red Cross, a scheme to "repatriate" Korean residents, who mainly were from the Southern Provinces, to their "home" of North Korea.[75] Between 1959 and 1984 93,430 people used this route. 6,737 were Japanese or Chinese dependents. Most of these departures – 78,276 – occurred before 1962.[76]

Foreign-born population by citizenship in 2016
Source:Japan Statistics Bureau[77]

All non-Japanese without special residential status (people whose residential roots go back to before WWII) are required by law to register with the government and carry alien registration cards. From the early 1980s, a civil disobedience movement encouraged refusal of the fingerprinting that accompanied registration every five years.[14]

Opponents of fingerprinting argued that it was discriminatory because the only Japanese who were fingerprinted were criminals; the courts upheld fingerprinting, but the law was changed so that fingerprinting was done once rather than with each renewal of the registration,[14] which until a law reform in 1989 was usually required every six months for anybody from the age of 16. Those refusing fingerprinting were denied re-entry permits, thus depriving them of freedom of movement.

Of these foreign residents below, the new wave started 2014 comes to Japan as students or trainees; these foreigners are registered under student visa or trainee visa which gives them the student residency status, Most of these new foreigners are under this visa. Almost all of these foreign students and trainees will return to their home country after 3–4 years (one valid period), few students extend their visa. Vietnamese makes the largest increase, however Burmese, Cambodians, Filipinos and Chinese are also increasing.

Asian migrant wives of Japanese men have also contributed to the foreign-born population in the country. Many young single Japanese male farmers choose foreign wives, mainly from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, China and South Korea, due to a lack of interest from Japanese women living a farming life.[78] Migrant wives often travel as mail-order brides as a result of arranged marriages with Japanese men.[79] Additionally, Japanese men in urban parts of the country have also begun marrying foreign Asian women.

Country 2018 2017[80] 2015[81] 2014[82] 2012[83] 2011 2010 2005 2000 1990 Main Articles
China China 741,656 711,486 665,847[84] 654,777[84] 652,555[84] 674,879 687,156 519,561 335,575 137,499 Chinese people in Japan
South Korea South Korea 452,701 452,953 457,772 501,230 530,046 545,401 565,989 598,687 635,269 681,838 Koreans in Japan
 Vietnam 291,494 232,562 146,956 99,865 52,364 44,690 41,781 28,932 16,908 6,316 Vietnamese people in Japan
 Philippines 266,803 251,934 229,595 217,585 209,974 209,376 210,181 187,261 144,871 38,925 Filipinos in Japan
 Brazil 196,781 185,967 173,437 175,410 190,581 210,032 230,552 302,080 254,394 14,258 Brazilians in Japan
   Nepal 85,321 74,300 54,775 42,346 24,069 20,383 17,525 6,953 3,649 399 Nepalis in Japan
Taiwan Taiwan 58,456 54,358 48,723 40,197 22,773 Taiwanese people in Japan [jp]
 United States 56,834 54,918 52,271 51,256 48,357 49,815 50,667 49,390 44,856 34,900 Americans in Japan
 Indonesia 51,881 46,350 35,910 30,210 25,530 24,660 24,895 25,097 19,346 2,781 Indonesians in Japan
 Thailand 51,003 48,952 45,379 43,081 40,130 42,750 41,279 37,703 29,289 5,542 Thais in Japan [jp]
 Peru 48,266 47,861 47,721 47,978 49,248 52,842 54,636 57,728 46,171 4,121 Peruvian migration to Japan
 India 33,271 30,048 26,244 24,524 21,653 21,501 22,497 16,988 10,064 2,926 Indians in Japan
North Korea North Korea 30,181 31,674 33,939 Koreans in Japan
 Sri Lanka 25,074 20,716 13,152 10,741 8,427 9,303 9,097 9,013 5,655 1,064
 Myanmar 24,471 20,346 13,737 10,252 8,045 8,692 8,577 5,342 4,851 894 Burmese people in Japan
 United Kingdom 17,041 16,498 15,826 15,262 14,652 15,496 16,044 17,494 16,525 9,272 Britons in Japan
 Pakistan 15,583 14,312 12,708 11,802 10,597 10,849 10,299 8,789 7,498 1,875 Pakistanis in Japan
 Bangladesh 14,948 13,033 10,835 9,641 8,622 9,413 10,175 11,015 7,176 2,205 Bangladeshis in Japan
 France 13,248 12,273 10,672 9,641 8,455 8,423 9,060 7,337 5,371 2,881 French people in Japan
 Cambodia 11,210 9,598 6,111 4,090 2,862 2,770 2,683 2,263 1,761 1,148
 Australia 10,386 9,981 9,843 9,350 8,888 9,166 9,756 11,277 9,188 3,073 Australians in Japan
 Canada 10,374 10,085 9,538 9,286 9,006 9,484 9,995 12,022 10,088 4,172
 Mongolia 10,057 8,364 6,590 5,796 4,837 4,774 4,949 3,762 1,209 23 Mongolians in Japan
 Malaysia 10,003 9,394 8,738 8,288 7,848 8,136 8,364 7,910 8,386 4,309
 Russia 8,862 8,500 8,092 7,859 7,295 7,566 7,814 7,110 4,893 340[85] Russians in Japan
 Germany 7,043 6,755 6,336 5,864 5,223 5,303 5,971 5,356 4,295 3,410 Germans in Japan [jp]
 Bolivia 5,858 5,657 5,412 5,333 5,283 5,567 5,720 6,139 3,915 238
 Turkey 5,393 5,167 4,157 3,654 2,528 2,613 2,547 2,275 1,424 190 Turks in JapanKurds in Japan
 Italy 4,327 4,019 3,536 3,267 2,629 2,642 2,731 2,083 1,579 890
 Iran 4,069 3,988 3,996 3,976 3,996 4,725 4,841 5,227 6,167 988 Iranians in Japan
Uzbekistan Uzbekistan 3,584 2,269 1,503 1,329 938
 New Zealand 3,317 3,217 3,152 3,119 3,109 3,146 3,250 3,824 3,264 967
 Spain 3,217 2,852 2,495 2,309 1,822 1,883 1,907 1,585 1,338 827
 Afghanistan 3,039 2,873 2,639 2,154 1,609 1,355 1,148 593 430 Afghans in Japan [jp]
 Singapore 2,974 2,763 2,501 2,366 2,135 2,440 2,512 2,283 1,940 1,042
 Nigeria 2,964 2,845 2,638 2,518 2,377 2,730 2,729 2,389 1,741 140 Nigerians in Japan
 Argentina 2,825 2,710 2,630 2,651 2,722 2,970 3,181 3,834 3,072 1,704
 Laos 2,785 2,730 2,592 2,556 2,521 2,584 2,639 2,393 1,677 864
 Mexico 2,744 2,393 2,141 2,033 1,935 1,909 1,956 1,825 1,740 691
 Romania 2,318 2,410 2,408 2,245 2,185 2,281 2,409 3,574 2,449 34 Romanians in Japan [jp]
 Colombia 2,405 2,366 2,268 2,244 2,253 2,505 2,606 2,902 2,496 373
 Ghana 2,305 2,235 2,005 1,915 1,729 1,891 1,883 1,824 1,657 518 Ghanaians in Japan
Total Foreign Residents 2,637,251 2,471,458 2,232,189 2,121,831 2,033,656 2,078,508 2,134,151 2,011,555 1,686,444 984,455

Foreign residents as of 2015[edit]

There was an increase of 110,358 foreign residents from 2014 to 2015. Vietnamese made the largest proportion of these new foreign residents, whilst Nepalese, Filipino, Chinese and Taiwanese are also significant in numbers. Together these countries makes up 91,126 or 82.6% of all new residents from 2014 to 2015. However, the majority of these immigrants will only remain in Japan for a maximum of five years, as many of them have entered the country in order to complete trainee programmes. Once they complete their programmes, they will be required to return to their home countries.[86]

As of December 2014 there were 2,121,831 foreigners residing in Japan, 677,019 of whom were long-term residents in Japan, according to national demographics figures; the majority of long-term residents were from Asia, totalling 478,953. Chinese made up the largest portion of them with 215,155, followed by Filipinos with 115,857, and Koreans with 65,711. Thai, Vietnamese, and Taiwanese long-term residents totaled 47,956, and those from other Asian countries totaled 34,274; the Korean figures do not include zainichi Koreans with tokubetsu eijusha ("special permanent resident") visas, of whom there were 354,503 (of a total of 358,409 of all nationalities with such visas). The total number of permanent residents had declined over the previous 5 years due to high cost of living.[82]

Foreign residents as of 2018[edit]

In 2018, the number of resident foreigners was 2.22 million in Japan. This is an all-time high and 1.76% of the population. In 2018, net immigration rose for the sixth straight year with 165,000. More than half of all resident foreigners (1.15 million) are in their 20s and 30s. The number of foreign workers was 1.46 million in 2018, 29.7% are in the manufacturing sector. 389,000 are from Vietnam and 316,000 are from China.[87]

On April 1 2019, Japan's revised immigration law was enacted; the revision clarifies and better protects the rights of foreign workers. Japan formally accepts foreign blue-collar workers; this helps reduce labour shortage in certain sectors of the economy. The reform changes the status of foreign workers to regular employees and they can obtain permanent residence status; the reform includes a new visa status called tokutei gino (特定技能, "designated skills"). In order to qualify, applicants must pass a language and skills test (level N4 or higher of the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test). In the old "Technical Trainee programme" a foreign employee was tied to their employer; this caused numerous cases of exploitation. The revision gives foreign workers more freedom to leave and change their employer.[88]

Foreign residents on short term employment contracts[edit]

A significant number of foreign residents of Japan are employed on a short term contractual basis under programs administered by the Japanese government. Well known programs include:

  • The JET Programme employing up to 5,000 foreign university graduates as native language teachers in Japanese schools and as international support staff in local government offices.
  • The Technical Intern Training Program employing in excess of 200,000 mainly manual laborers in variety of industries including construction, ship building, manufacturing, agriculture, retail and food processing.

In the light of current demographic trends Japan is likely to experience a decrease in tax revenue without a corresponding decrease in welfare expenses for an increasingly elderly population.[89] Given growing manpower shortages, immigrant workers continue to play an important role taking low skilled and manual labour jobs. A recent growth in blue collar employment using documented short term contractual labour from developing countries has also contributed to the rise in the resident foreign population;[90] the government administered Technical Intern Training Program, first established in 1993, provided over 190,000 short term contracted workers in 2015. However, it has been claimed that many of these workers often work at reduced pay and are required to undertake significant amounts of overtime in order to make up for labor shortages; as trainees, labor standards law and minimum wage legislation has on occasion been ignored by unscrupulous employers.[91] The Japanese government has begun to examine this problem and has sought to both strengthen the vocational training aspect of the work program oversight.


Foreign residents were recorded only in an alien registration system separate from the koseki (family registry) and jūminhyō (resident registry) systems in which Japanese citizens were registered until a new registration system was enacted in July 2012. Since then, all residents are recorded by municipal offices in the jūminhyō system;[92] the koseki system continues for Japanese citizens, while foreigners are recorded in a separate residency management system administered by immigration offices which combines the previous immigration status and local alien registration systems.[93]

Foreigner-reporting website and hotline[edit]

The Japanese Ministry of Justice maintains a website and hotline for "receiving report on [sic] illegal stay foreigner." The criteria for reporting include "feeling anxious about a foreigner", and anonymous submissions are permitted. Japanese immigration authorities work in unison with police to investigate those reported, and human rights groups such as Amnesty International have argued that those reported do not receive proper legal protection.

The Daiyo Kangoku system allows police to detain suspects without charges, access to legal counsel or telephone calls for up to 23 days. In October 2006, the foreigner reporting hotline's operating hours were extended to include Saturday, Sunday and national holidays.

Fingerprinting foreigners when entering Japan[edit]

As of November 20, 2007, all foreigners entering Japan must be biometrically registered (photograph and fingerprints) on arrival; this includes people living in Japan on visas as well as permanent residents, but excludes people with special permanent resident permission, diplomats, and those under 16.[94][95]


Shinto and Buddhism are Japan's two major religions, they have co-existed for more than a thousand years. However, most Japanese people generally do not exclusively identify themselves as adherents of one religion, but rather incorporate various elements in a syncretic fashion.[96] There are small Christian and other minorities as well, with the Christian population dating to as early as the 1500s, as a result of European missionary work before sakoku was implemented from 1635–1853.

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External links[edit]