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Famous for its resistance to immigration, Japan opens its doors (nikkei.com)
189 points by phront 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 160 comments

The article doesn't mention, but Japan also took steps to make immigration easier for skilled workers with the Highly-Skilled Foreign Professional visa [1] based on this point system [2]. Can even qualify for permanent residency in as little as one year if you score 80+ points.

[1] http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/newimmiact_3/en/

[2] http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/newimmiact_3/en/pdf/171110_leaflet...

Pulling out the hacker part:

  40 points for > 10 million yen salary ($91,000)

  10 for a bachelors
  20 for a masters
  30 for a phd

  20 for 10 years experience
  15 for 7 years experience
  10 for 5 years experience
  5 for 3 years experience

  15 for <29
  10 for 30-34
  5 for 35-39

  15 for a patent
  15 for 3 academic papers
  15 for 3 academic grant
And bonuses for language proficiency, working for small-medium companies that spend on R and D (startups?) and holding a foreign qualification.

With the right salary ($91K/year):

24 year old, with bachelors, and 3 years work experience? you are in.

40 year old, with bachelors, and 10 years work experience? you are in.

Remarkably open. Far more so than the US.

Looking at Glassdoor, 10 million yen is an exceptional salary, the normal spread is more like 5-7.

Wow! That throws much of the western world out of the water. I'm wondering if there is any requirement for continued residency. For example, in US if you don't live 6 months out of a year in US then you risk your green card getting cancelled.

Can be away for up to a year at a time, or up to five years if you apply for a re-entry permit. Unlike the US, there is no requirement to maintain continuous residency.

However, just like US, having permanent residency subjects you to worldwide taxation which may not be ideal for everyone.

And it appears that permanent residency for tax purposes and the VISA, are unrelated. So if you’re in Japan for more than 5 years you maybe taxed on your world wide income?


If anyone has more information, I’d be interesting it reading it as it’s pretty unclear to me.

> So if you’re in Japan for more than 5 years you maybe taxed on your world wide income?

Correct [1], even if you're on a regular work visa. "Permanent resident for tax purposes" != "Permanent resident as in visa"

Interestingly, as of 2017, you're taxed on worldwide investment income like selling stock (with some exceptions [2]) even if you're there for < 5 years.

[1] http://taxsummaries.pwc.com/uk/taxsummaries/wwts.nsf/ID/Japa...

[2] https://www.pwc.com/jp/en/taxnews-international-assignment/a...

Most developed countries run a similar points system for immigration.

The USA is unique in the fact that they don't. Trump has made noises that he wants to change the system to a points system.

The problem is that the points requirements are too high for the type of young entrepreneurial people Japan wants to attract, and Japan itself is not attractive for the high rollers of the professional or scientific world that would qualify. In the 5+ years since it was rolled out, the number of successful applicants is less than 5000, most of whom were apparently Chinese nationals already in Japan.


One reason the number of applicants is so low is that the regular visas are also just fine (and still have some benefits over the highly-skilled ones), so a lot of people don't get them even if they qualify.

Am I reading this wrong? It looks like you get 40 points for having a salary of 10M yen. That's not very high for tech jobs. That plus having a few years of experience, a bachelors, and being under 40 gets you past the 70 point bar at least.

A tech job making 10M yen in Japan is a very different experience than a tech job in the US making 100k+ a year.

I don't know too much about employment in Japan, would love it if you could elaborate on this.

The average programmer salary in Japan is half that of the US, approximately. Their economy is dramatically smaller per capita than the US (the US GDP per capita is 58% higher), and then on top of that engineers are not paid nearly so well as in the US within that economic potential.

It's a lot more rare to make $100,000+ per year as a programmer in Japan. Normal circumstances generally will not get you there.

You need to make 10M JPY in your job before coming to Japan.

According to the forms, it's the salary from the "principal accepting organization" that matters (i.e. the Japanese salary).

This refers to salary you earn/will earn in Japan. If one has the funds and the desire, can even start own company/branch office in Japan and pay oneself salary.

The caveat is that most software salaries would pay closer to 5M yen than to 10M.

Too late to edit my original post now, but in case it's not clear, one certainly can work in Japan even with a smaller salary. It's just that if you want perks like ability to bring family/apply for permanent residency early/etc., the HSFP visa is handy.

Which clause are you referring to ? When I applied to the visa last year, I had to justify my salary, at that time in the UK, with proof. Checking my application, I got 40 points for having > 10M JPY in the 35-40 year range.

Note 2 on this:


"Checking my application, I got 40 points for having > 10M JPY in the 35-40 year range."

Were you paid that by a Japanese company? The clarification on Note 2 seems to imply that they'll consider any income from a Japanese company (i.e. in the case of transfers).

The company I was working for before had no link whatsoever with Japan. But you're right that the wording there is unambiguously referring to the sponsoring company's salary.

I applied a bit more than one year ago, I wonder if they changed that section then.

I mean, to the extent that the English translation of a Japanese bureaucratic document is unambiguous about anything...

It wouldn't surprise me much to find out that the rules are different from what's written.

Hmm interesting.but it looks like they are only interested in young doctors and researchers. Not in professional workers, at least when you use the Excel, or is there an other way to calculate the points?

You can switch between sheets/tabs in the Excel doc. There are three eligible categories: researchers, specialized/technical (like software), and business managers.

Oh thanks, opened it on mobile. Will check out again.

Around 2 years ago, I was reached by a Rakuten recruiter. I think, I should've given more consideration to the proposal than a straight refusal.

Rakuten is not the best you can aim for in Japan, at least if you are willing to live in Tokyo. It is a decent first experience, especially if you are young, but it is still very stiff compared to international companies, and salaries are low. I would advise looking at startups (disclaimer: I work and hire at one) or international companies like Google, Indeed, Nvidia, Intel, Pivotal, etc. Indeed at least is actively hiring for foreign talent in Tokyo.

I know this is going to be anecdotal, but curious about your experiences with local tech talent. Do you come across enough people familiar with data structures/algorithms, or, instead, more people who have taken proficiency exams like IT Passport?

I guess by local talent you mean Japanese ? It is hard to attract them as a small company, even today. I have some anecdotal feedback on why this would be the case, but I don't know how prevalent it is.

Otherwise, there are plenty of foreign engineers who are already in Japan, and that you can attract through various perks. I would say the issues are not unlike what I have seen in Europe: resume are generally not discriminant, except at the extremes, and you need to spend a lot of time per candidate. I actually do not care so much about data structure/ algos: of course I expect people to know the basics such as walking a tree, or why you want to use a hashmap instead of a list, but we are generally looking for the typical T-shape, and ensure people, especially more senior ones, are deep in one area.

Maybe the most challenging issue is that you see more diversity in terms of culture than Europe (and even the US dare I say), so you need to make sure you have a decent process in place to judge people as objectively as possible.


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Not surprised, this is what happens when you "close" off immigration, aging population, have a decrease in new births, restrict most immigrant workers/immigrants to temporary visas/temporary work terms despite length of stay and have a politically conservative mentality towards immigrants.

You either invest into more technologies that allow for less labour input or you basically have to somehow increase labour input.

Moreover, Japan's mentality against foreign trainees/interns have led to criticisms from U.S. State Department's Trafficking in Persons because they are essentially being used as unofficial farm workers despite advertising it as a technical (technical as in dealing with machines) training or internship program without real oversight into working conditions and overwork without pay: https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/Economy/Abuses-ramp...

They are still closed for 99% of people who would like to immmigrate there.

They only need highly skilled profesionals, not masses for cheap.

Best part is Japan just doesn't care if other countries see it as racist nation - they still get going strong. And im 100% sure if anyone if going to find a solution to ever growing needs of capitalism without immigration it would be them.

Half of Russian workforce have higher education, and uninterrupted employment history from high school to crematorium chamber. Most had advanced degrees is what West calls STEM. With most highschoolers having better math skills than first year math major students in the West.

According to economic theorists, Russia must be steamrolling every other high-tech economy out there, but you see the reality is different.

Fixation on "skilled professionals" is a biggest blunder of the West. Western higher education borders being worthless in its majority, yet all and every takes such pride in it as to deny immigration based on this "class attribute" which is higher education.

A guy who can till fields, and have few grams of grey matter to know how to dose fertilizers is freaking valuable for any economy.

Well, Japan's spiral of depopulation means they actually do need masses of people, and they're importing them too via all sorts of dodgy trainee visas etc to staff convenience stores, hotel front desks, construction sites, lettuce farms etc. It's just politically impossible to support permanent immigration for anybody but the 1%.

They don't need people.

The GDP of Japan might benefit, but that doesn't mean benefit for typical Japanese people. Wages would be pushed down. There would be cultural conflict. Japan's unique culture would die.

Japan is not in a permanent spiral of depopulation. There exist families who have plenty of children. These children will tend to do as their parents did. After a few generations of decline, the population will rebound.

> Japan's unique culture would die.

Not commenting on your other points, but think you're misguided with this. Culture is not something that stays the same and needs to be preserved; it lives and changes with people. UK today isn't the same it was 30 years ago, and neither is Japan. Trying to set a culture in stone will lead to some quite undesirable undertones.

The tricky thing about depopulation is that it's uneven and has a major time lag. As a simple example, the average Japanese farmer is 67 (!), young Japanese won't do their jobs at any price, and no, you can't just replace them with robots. How do you fix this without immigration or importing all your produce from China?

Japanese culture in 2018 is completely different from the one in 1918, which was again completely different from the one in 1818.

Is the culture currently in an ideal state that needs to be frozen in time? Is immigration a greater threat to Japan than the past experiences of colonialism and nuclear war? If anything, immigration seems ridiculously manageable compared to those.

Are they heavily banking on robots making up for demographics?

At least for labor supply they have a huge untapped resource - women.

Based on what I read a while ago women are already adding to the workforce at a faster rate. I hope that doesn't become a trend though, the last thing we need is Western accepted norm of 2 working adults and nobody to take care of children.

I wonder what percentage of these immigrants are ethnically east/southeast Asian, or even ethnically Japanese. I imagine a large portion of the Peruvian and Brazilian immigrants shown in the chart have Japanese ancestry (I believe Japanese ancestry makes immigration from those countries easier -- to the extent that one point there was a black market in being adopted as an adult by Japanese people -- and there is a large, old Japanese emigrant community in both countries).

It's a somewhat crass question. But ethnicity, not just nationality, seems to matter a lot in Japan.

TFA has a figure showing that just over half is China + Korea + Vietnam.

Brazil + Peru are about 11%, it would indeed be interesting to know the breakdown there.

Amused by the line "No party has embraced xenophobia", used here to mean, apparently, that all parties agree on policies which would be sufficient to get you branded as xenophobes in the west. Or rather, to mean that there's no shouting match over the issue.

Can't say about Peru, but the second and third generation Japanese community here in Brazil is massive and stories of some of them going to work/live at Japan are common.

Any anecdata about how open this is to neighbours of non-Japanese descent? For example if there are Japanese schools (are there?) do they admit lots of others, and do such students (or half- or quater-Japanese ones) get treated as insiders? I knew there was a huge community but know very little about it.

Inside our country?

Don't know about japanese exclusive schools, Liberdade¹ is the biggest japanese community outside of Japan, but I don't think that there's any restrictions about students or anything like that in the schools of the district, Brazil has an immense amount of diversity, japanese brazilians are mostly treated the same as any other brazilians and are for the most part integrated in our country general culture.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberdade_(district_of_São_Pau...

Permanent immigration is still closed off for the vast majority, except for IT workers and the articles quotes companies that hired mostly Chinese/Indian engineers for those positions. Every other career is limited to 5-10 years stay in Japan with restrictions on staying with an employer and difficulties in bringing a spouse and how much that spouse can work once there - it's much more of a temporary thing as described in the article versus paths available to immigrants to the USA. The employers describe the immigrants in entry level jobs in the same way one hears USA farmers describing migrant farmworkers in comparison to the native population here - harder working and more dependable than natives, the similarity is striking.

> Every other career is limited to 5-10 years stay in Japan with restrictions on staying with an employer and difficulties in bringing a spouse and how much that spouse can work once there - it's much more of a temporary thing as described in the article versus paths available to immigrants to the USA.

I know people in Tokyo with working visas who are architects, waiters, dish washers, cooks, English teachers, academics, programmers, International school teachers, translators, and business people. All have working (not spousal/relative visas) and none of them have a visa tied to an employer. I have never heard of a visa in Japan tied to an employer (and none of my working visas ever were), with exception of the intra-company transfers.

I also think the path to permanent residency is relatively straight forward for all groups. Stay on a working visa 10+ years with no hiccups or long periods of unemployment, then apply. I have known plenty of non-IT workers to get it.

That figure of 10 years for a probably successful permanent residency application is out of date. It's apparently more like 5 years these days.

If you have a highskilled visa with 80 points, it is 1 year (however, it takes 10 months after application to get it).

High-skilled visas are not connected to an employer and there is no lottery system.beats the hell out of US policies...

FWIW I got it in less than a month.

I find High Skilled visa to be more useful than a PR. Your parents/Spouse parents can stay with you for longer time ( provided you have a kid less than 7(?) year old)

Processing time for highskilled visa is 5 days guaranteed. It is a refreshing change compared to US h1b lottery.

Interesting. I know a guy that got it in 6 but he was married to a Japanese, so I wasn’t sure if that figured in somehow.

My understanding is only based on hearsay. Anybody for whom this matters should probably consult an immigration lawyer.

That's weird that the article gets those basic facts wrong because it talks about the abuse of the employer thing and recent reforms for it and the lack of a path for permanent status. I was wondering why some of the people they interviewed wanted to have their spouses move there or invested so much in learning Japanese based on the facts listed in the article. It makes more sense with what you wrote.

Sorry, to clarify: I don't mean to dispute the article. But I think the article is focusing on a specific government trainee program that's been spun up to bring constructions workers for the Olympics.

I just think you were mistaken about the "every other [non-IT] career" part. There is plenty of immigration outside of the discussed trainee program and outside IT, so I just wanted to highlight that. Because otherwise it sounds like Japan has some kind of totally crazy locked down immigration system, but that is really not the case.

> But ethnicity, not just nationality, seems to matter a lot in Japan

The correct modern terminology for that is racism.

Something most people don't know a lot about, because as a culture Japanese tend to be very outwardly polite so a lot of racism is very subtle and can't be spotted by someone who's just visiting.

Every time this pops up, I feel compelled to point out that in the 8 years I've lived in Japan (over a 10 year period), I haven't found this to be true.

There is racism in Japan, just like everywhere. When I lived in Canada, I saw a sales manager where I was working throwing how CVs with Indian names. I asked him what he was doing. "There's no point in hiring someone whose name I can't even pronounce", was the reply. In the UK I couldn't get on a bus without somebody complaining about how dark people were taking over the country. Racism is everywhere.

It's a good point that in Japan you will almost never run into racism in polite company -- because, as you say, it is considered impolite. However many expats who live here complain about racism. What's going on?

IMHO it's not racism, it's culturalism. In my experience, if you speak Japanese well and you know how to act as a Japanese person, you will see almost no racism. However, if you are a visible minority (as I am) people often expect that you are ignorant of Japanese culture. They put on the "you are a guest" routine, which is fine except that it wears thin when it is your home. One or two gestures and a word or two of fluent Japanese almost always snaps them out of it.

Just to illustrate the difference, I once went to Takayama with my wife (who is Japanese). We stayed at a traditional ryokan (inn). Takayama has a very famous festival and fairly large old town, so it is popular with tourists. Because my wife changed her surname to mine, the woman running the ryokan assumed she was not from Japan (although she is very obviously of Japanese ethnicity). It took quite a while for the woman to twig that my wife was, in fact, Japanese and lived in Japan. It was the first time my wife experienced that difference and it surprised her quite a bit.

I have experienced some racism in Japan, but I really don't think that it's all that much different than anywhere else. Sometimes I think that people don't see the racism where they live -- often because they are not a visible minority. When they become a visible minority for the first time, it's a shock. When I went to University the CS department was composed mostly of foreign students from China or India and most of my friends were from there. It was the first time that I really noticed the racism in Canada.

I've run out of time, but at least in my experience, it is relatively easy to live in Japan if you decide to be Japanese. They don't do melting pot here. If you want to hold on to your own culture and to act like you did in your home country, you're going to have troubles being accepted. But if you decide to accept Japanese culture completely, I don't think you will run into any problems. The if part is hard, though, and I've seen many people run into the brick wall that is Japanese culture.

>> it's not racism, it's culturalism

20 years a gaijin here. Pretty much agree with your observations.

I would argue that Japanese themselves are subjected to immense pressures to conform to social norms. More so than foreigners, but its the same pressure in both cases.

I think that foreigners get along fine in Japan if they can accept this fact. If not, they are likely to feel constantly rejected and some, out of ignorance may deem it racism.

> IMHO it's not racism, it's culturalism.

On the contrary, it's an institutionalized xenophobia/Racism deeply embedded in the national Japanese psyche. take for example these (recent) cases of blatand racism.

[1] http://www.debito.org/?p=15013

[2] http://www.debito.org/?p=14950

[3] http://www.debito.org/?p=14981

[4] http://www.debito.org/?p=14954

[5] http://www.debito.org/?p=14989

also this

"Japan racism survey reveals one in three foreigners experience discrimination"


Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Never set foot in Japan myself but your overall view falls in line with those of almost every foreigner in Japan I've ever followed. Something I find that's less discussed, probably because I only frequent English speaking sites, is specifically other Asians in Japan and I'm wondering if someone here can shed some light on that. The impression I have from reading random accounts is Koreans and Chinese (perhaps all of Mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong?) are expected to conduct themselves like any other Japanese and fully integrate, whereas Caucasian gaijin (or any Westernized people as your wife's anecdote seems to imply) are comparatively given more leeway (expected to do things their own way, but as a corollary never thought of as fully Japanese)?

The model I have in my head is that the average Japanese who doesn't know your deal will put you in one of two categories:

A) You are a temporary visitor. A tourist on vacation or business trip.

B) You are a full fledged member of Japanese society.

So the more "foreign" you seem, the more likely you are to be considered "A". I'm particularly interested in Southeast Asians: are they expected to be more Japanese/Asian or "other"? I guess the temporal nature of their visas helps cement them as the latter.

I have a few acquaintances who are from different places in south east Asia. As far as I can tell it's the same for them as for me. I think the main problems happen when you look close enough to ethnic Japanese that you might be Japanese. If you pair that with flawless Japanese language skill, then people will assume you are Japanese. This caused a problem for a friend of mine who was Korean, but spoke Japanese without an accent. Sometimes his acceptance of the culture didn't match the expectations placed on him. But I suppose it's hard to complain -- people treating you exactly as they would treat anybody else.

Another acquaintance is dark skinned (I can't remember where he's from) and has similar Japanese ability. I think he's has a softer landing. Even I get it pretty easy sometimes and my Japanese ability (both language and culture) is pretty middling. There is a kind of role in society where you can be the "friendly gaikokujin". Everybody wants to talk to you and learn about foreign places. They want to know how cultures are different in other places. If they feel like they can treat you as a Japanese person, you get a kind of celebrity treatment. I think this is probably only the case in the country side, where I live. In the big cities, they see enough foreigners that it isn't so special.

Most problems I've seen come from people using their "Super Gaijin Powers" (can't remember where I heard that first -- I didn't make it up). Basically if you look different, you can often ignore societal rules with no apparent penalty. You do whatever you want. You dress however you want. You say whatever you want. Nobody will complain. But there are huge unseen penalties and when those penalties become apparent, people get very angry.

A good example of this that I saw often when I was working as an assistant language teacher at the high school was foreigners not going to work parties. At the end of special events (and randomly through the year) there are parties where you go and eat and drink (often a lot). Some of my colleagues just refused to go because they said that they couldn't speak to anyone, didn't drink, didn't like the food, it was too expensive, etc, etc. I would tell them, "You have to go. If you don't go, you won't get along with anyone." They would reply, "Nobody cares if I go. I just tell them I'm not going and nobody says a thing." One or two years later: "Everybody is so unfriendly. Nobody talks to me. They all avoid me. They never listen to my ideas. They pretend that they don't speak English, even though I know they do. They are all two faced bastards. I can't wait to get out of here". It's so frustratingly predictable...

But, anyway to the point: If you look Japanese enough and speak Japanese well, then you probably won't get away with abusing your gaijin super powers -- so in the long run it might be easier. Even for me, I had bit of a health problem and had to cut out drinking for a few months. It happened to coincide with drinking event -- which I attended but where I drank tea. One of the other teachers was so upset that he lodged a formal complaint against me (it's on my permanent record!) I later apologised profusely and went out drinking with him and we were the best of friends after that. There is no way that he would have complained if he didn't consider me "close enough" to Japanese.

Interesting. I know I've read accounts by, say, ethnic Koreans claiming that even when raised in Japan the ethnic difference caused native ethnic Japanese to treat them differently.

Maybe I'm unduly influenced by a small number of such anecdotes.

>> The if part is hard, though, and I've seen many people run into the brick wall that is Japanese culture.

True. But the knee-jerk reaction by Westerners is to call it racism, which it isn't, just like the majority of things called racist.

I'm an Indian of American decent who knows Japanese and this has been my experience as well. My SO looks Japanese, but isn't ethnically Japanese, yet she gets immediately talked to in Japanese whereas I get the guest routine. I don't mind, and a simple answer in Japanese snaps them out of it, but it is tiring. Being brown skinned probably doesn't help.

I've thought about bringing my parents over but Japan just doesn't do cultural diversity, and I'm not sure my parents are ready for being Japanese in Japan.

Well, a lot of the problems people in the USA have with certain groups has to do with those same cultural reasons.

The problem is that the USA has never had anything like a single homogenous culture but some groups like to pretend that it has.

The way that Japanese treat outsiders is so far from the popular Western ideal of what 'racism' means that I'd argue the term barely applies.

'Racism' is a loaded term that has little meaning in most situations because it entirely depends on context.

Sure, if someone is calling a black guy the n-world, well then yes, we can safely use that term.

But if we consider that the vast majority of the world is inherently ethnocentric, then term 'racism' as a hard pejorative can only effectively be used in New World / Western / Anglosphere contexts, as elsewhere it would have an entirely different meaning.

The paradox of 'diversity' is that culture and ethnicity are the root basis of differentiation in this world, and without it, there literally is no 'diversity' - and yet, any general ideal which recognizes ethnicity is deemed 'racist' (in the pejorative sense), usually by New World / Western / Anglosphere types who generally lack perspective, in my view.

So, yes, Chinese treatment of non-Han types may be 'racist' in the ugliest sense, but it requires far more nuance than this simple term can imply.

The very essence of 'diverse' ideals should be founded upon respecting the fact that other groups have a different view of the world (and have different histories) than 'we' do; instead, we all to often end up with ideals of 'diversity' which amount to 'diversity of skin colour and last name' and utter conformity on all other levels.

The way the Japanese treat outsiders needs a whole other term of it's own, really.

The difference is that in the West we generally do not use ethnicity or race as a criteria to deny people things as official policy. Affirmative action, for example, just makes it more likely for certain people to get picked out of a general qualifying pool, but it doesn't disqualify non-preferred people out of hand.

Even if it doesn't disqualify those people, it does disadvantage them individually.

The problem with not having affirmative action is that disadvantaged groups, even if on a level playing field on paper, have had their wealth actively destroyed while the advantaged groups have accumulated lots of it. The civil rights movement made people equal on paper, but nonwhites still had to deal with the shit hand they were dealt for generations. (And even legally advantaged groups have subgroups that have not done well, like Appalachian whites, but even so they were eligible for things like GI Bill benefits that nonwhites did not.)

Affirmative action is a clumsy policy to fix the legacy of such issues, but more targeted ones like substantially increasing education and social funding for disadvantaged groups, or reparations, are politically beyond the pale.

When is race used to deny people things in Japan?

Koreans in Japan had their citizenship revoked in 1952 and have issues receiving promotions and access to pensions: http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CERD/Shared%20Documents...

Oh yea, I agree that this discrimination existed for sure, and continues a little bit today (though obviously has improved a lot).

I guess I was more asserting it doesn’t happen to white people.

Huh? How about trying to rent property. Landlords overwhelmingly deny non-Nihojin non-salarymen.

Being a foreigner is the issue there, not being a different race or ethnicity. You are just as likely to be denied by a landlord for being a part time worker as well even if you are Japanese.

The first time I’ve experienced anything close to discrimination here was when looking for a house. Despite the kind real estate agent trying his best on the phone, he couldn’t convince the landlord’s wife to even show us the house. She kept saying she couldn’t trust me and my wife to stay quiet and orderly, that she didn’t want to deal with “cultural differences”.

Here, more often than not, you are dealing with scared and uncomfortable people who don’t know how to deal with you.

> Being a foreigner is the issue there, not being a different race or ethnicity.

A convenient cover premise when the population is extraordinarily homogeneous: most of the foreigners are going to be another ethnicity and or race.

Yeah, weird.

Also, Yu Darvish got plenty of shit in his country before he became an elite pitcher in NPB - his father is Iranian. It wasn't just being a foreigner, Yu was full blooded Japanese, born there and everything.

> Yu was full blooded Japanese

I suspect "full blooded Japanese" means Yamato on both sides to them.

While I don't doubt there are landlords out there that would deny foreigners an apartment, my experience is that:

- It is not "overwhelmingly." I would guess a very small number of landlords consider anything other than the tenet's potential to make rent every month and how long they will stay.

- Even in the aforementioned cases, it is not racial and has more to do with perception of foreigners (that we can't sort garbage, that we don't speak Japanese, and so on). I imagine this hypothetically "racist" landlord would probably also deny an American that was ethnically Japanese.

But most cases of a foreigner getting denied a lease are just simple economics. Landlords in Japan are, on the whole, very risk adverse. They want tenets with stable jobs and guarantors. Often, foreigners don't have those things. Just like foreigners, Japanese have to provide proof of a stable job and have a guarantor when renting. Landlords also want tenets that are likely to stay put so they don't have to go through the hassle of filling the apartment. If you're on a 1 year working holiday visa, that puts a natural limit on how long you can stay.

Landlords often have a choice of tenets and I think they generally behave in their own economic self-interest. Ask a typical Japanese landlord to choose between a foreigner employed at Sony with his manager as a guarantor and a Japanese student that graduates in 1 year guaranteed by his parents. My money is they pick the foreigner.

(I live in Japan, anecdata, etc.)

FWIW, my landlord switched from requiring a guarantor to going through an insurance that acts as one. So that moves the risk assessment to the insurance company, which may or may not have less bias. I hear this kind of setup is getting more common.

Anyways, having been on the recipient end of "landlords deny foreigner", I can attest that it's overwhelmingly economics driven, and not racism.

From what I’ve read, they way they treat ethnic Koreans living in Japan sounds racist to me.

Takashi Miike is ethnic Korean. Many of his films address issues faced by ethnic Chinese and Koreans in Japan. The Triad Society, Young Thugs and Dead or Alive series, for example. For the most part, they're quite violent.

>The way the Japanese treat outsiders needs a whole other term of it's own, really.

It’s called xenophobia, of which their various forms of racism are just articulations thereof.

Though 'xenophobia' is a considerably better term than 'racism', I still don't think the world aptly captures the situation.

The Japanese do not generally hate, fear or disdain outsiders (though surely this exists, and has been the case historically) so much as they just think of themselves as different.

'Xenophobia' and 'racism' imply a degree of antagonism, derision, hatred etc., which isn't necessarily the case.

I'm English Canadian, I've lived around the world, I now live in Montreal Quebec where I'm an 'ethnic minority' among French Quebecers. There are many new immigrants to Quebec, and almost none of them want to speak French. They all want to speak English. I can assure you that 'Quebec' culture is quite different from the rest of North America, and if this situation continues, 'The Quebecois' will disappear and North America will be 'less diverse'. It's a paradox because the Quebecois are politically 'far left of centre' generally by North American standards, and are instinctively 'anti racist', 'pro migrant' in the political/intellectual sense, but they're also proud of their identity and culture, and the demographic issue looms large and real here as a real and tangible existential issue.

Terms like racism and xenophobia are useful, but are often poorly applied and cause misunderstanding.

I find it funny that most of Western sentiment about Japan is very boolean: it's either "Japan is a mythical, enchanting land you must visit, great food and lovely people" or "Japan has a rapidly aging population, things are tough, and they are also racist." Why not accept that it's a huge country with 120M people and a multitude of experiences?

I'm a westerner, I lived in Japan for a year. I'd say it's both those things. The racism westerners experience is very different & much better than the 3K's type racism [1] other foreigners are subject to in Japan.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirty,_dangerous_and_demeaning

Japan is like any place and has good (eg safety) and bad (eg sexism). if I'm praising Japan on safety that doesn't mean I don't know it's bad parts. It's just I shouldn't have to bring them up if they aren't on topic.

The problem from my pov is people get defensive when someone says "Japan is great. it's so much safer than the US it makes the US feel like a 3rd world country" which is true IMO and it's said to emphasize how the US (and many other countries) take for granted the amount of crime. And sadly instead of getting the intended message which is "the level of crime you live with in the USA is something to be fixed" instead they resort to pointing out the bad parts of Japan so they can ignore the harsh conclusion.

A boolean opinion would be saying whether Japan is "good" or "bad" as a whole. I was commenting specifically on the racism issue. They have amazing technological advancements, but have a major problem as a culture with racism. The racism isn't scattered here and there, it's a societal issue.

> The racism isn't scattered here and there, it's a societal issue.

I guess one can say that generalizing something so dire about an entire population would also, perhaps unwittingly, be racist.

> I guess one can say that generalizing something so dire about an entire population would also, perhaps unwittingly, be racist.

Would it be racist to say that slavery in the pre-Civil War United States south was a societal issue? Or to say that racism in Nazi Germany against Jews was a societal issue? I don't think so. (I give these example to demonstrate that there is some line a society can cross where you'd hopefully agree it's an issue.)

I don't know whether the claims are true or not about Japan, but I don't think it's inherently racist against the Japanese to claim that xenophobia or racism are societal issue there.

To believe that all such accusations are inherently racist is to believe in a form of moral relativism in which no society can ever be justifiably called racist.

I think generalizing to a population shouldn't be racist. However, judging a Japanese individual based on expected stereotypes even without the said person showing it should be termed racist

>> Why not accept that it's a huge country with 120M people and a multitude of experiences?

It is both a place worth visiting and also full of what we would call racism. The overly-politically correct crowd in America would be (and often are) shocked at what passes for acceptable race-related behavior in Japan.

This modern terminology is useful for distilling a vast amount of moral judgement into a single term in order to dismiss an entire class of heterogeneous social structures, some of which are horrible, some of which are fine, into being classified into the set of 'morally evil.'

>> The correct modern terminology for that is racism.

Yes, Westerners call it this. And in our eyes, it is. Japanese don't particularly buy that brand of shame, though.

The whole idea that racism / ethnicism is bad is a very Western stance. In the rest of the world, discrimination based on race and country of origin is pretty normal.

What's your value judgment of racism? Do you think it is good, neutral, bad, necessarily bad, or other, and why?

The system described here appears to be quite a bit more selective and limited than that found in the US. Permission to live and work in Japan is temporary in the vast majority of cases.

> ... discussions have centered around issues such as how many temporary workers should be allowed in and for how many years, rather than the longer-term question of whether Japan needs permanent immigration

> One of the biggest difficulties has to do with restrictions on allowing family members to accompany workers -- a move designed to prevent permanent immigration.

> The government's program requires trainees to stay with the same employer for three years ... Trainees are discouraged from going back to their country before finishing the three-year term or from having a child, and they cannot bring their spouse on the visa.

Even with a more open system for legally accepting immigrants, Japan has an extraordinarily closed system for culturally accepting immigrants. An immigrant to Japan is considered an outsider to much more of an extent than other countries.

Of course you have had your experience and I have had mine, but while we're trading opinions, I have found the Japanese, on the whole, to be among the warmest and most welcoming people I have ever met.

Yes, people in Tokyo tend to be a little curt, but no more so than people in other great metropolises like New York, Paris, or London.

I have also never experienced the permanent "outsider" stigma. I feel often the complaints boil down to people not liking that they are spoken to in English when being seated at a restaurant. Well, as someone who has quite a few friends working at restaurants, it honestly just an artifact of people trying to do their jobs efficiently, not some elaborate scheme to ostracize white people.

The kind of xenophobia you'll be facing is pretty tame compared to most other parts of the world though. Especially if you're a skilled worker from a developed country.

Japanese are indifferent and non-confrontational. If you don't care about what people think and don't try to integrate too hard, life isn't bad.

Compared to where?

Most of the world is China, India and Africa.

The rest of the developed world is vastly better than Japan when it comes to treating immigrants better.

Here in the US, there are quite a few folks who are openly hostile towards immigrants.

In my experience there is a lot of hostility to undocumented immigrants (a.k.a illegal immigrants) but very little to people to immigrate legitimately.


US population: ~60% white non-hispanic, 20% hispanic, 14% black, 6% Asian

Japan: 98.5% ethnic Japanese

Immigrants in the US + their US born children = 27% of the population, roughly 86 million people, or equal to 3/4 the size of Japan's entire population. Such hostility.

I'm unclear how these numbers prove there isn't hostility towards immigrants in the US?

The experience of being a westerner in China is much worse than in Japan IME. I can’t speak for India or the continent of Africa, but in the latter case I’d guess that it varies widely by country.

I've enjoyed my time in China much more than Japan as a "westerner," and I'm Japanese-American.

I'm Japanese-American.

I suspect that’s the key right there. From friends who are the same, I get the impression that in Japan if you’re of Japanese descent the expectations had of you are very different than the typical gaikokujin.

And it is a lifelong stigmatization as well. You will never be one of them, no matter how hard you try.

You can never ever become Chinese either. Nor Indian. Nor Nigerian. Nor Russian. Never mind Kuwaiti. The exception here is the west, both in terminology used for people originating elsewhere, and in actual beliefs.

[You, personally, may possibly have one exception on this list, roughly if you come from the edge of one of these, but never more.]

I don't think the issue is about "becoming" any of those nationalities you mentioned. You might not be considered Indian or Nigerian or Kuwaitian in those countries, but you sure as hell won't be ostracized or receive disapproving looks. That is speaking generally since every country has racist/xenophobic people.

Blackface is quite common in Japan. Example: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-42561815

They have more work to do on their attitude towards foreigners than opening up more immigration channels.

Blackface isn't necessarily racist.

Is the blackfaced actor used to make fun of black people? Probably racist. But that would also be the case if it were a black actor doing the same (it might just be more difficult to hire one for that).

Is it used to create tension between the obviously fake costume and the effort put into pretending that it is real? Probably not racist. I can imagine a show deriving great hilarity from casting everyone in a role they are not the least bit suited to and then trying to make it work anyway.

> Blackface isn't necessarily racist.

I remember the controversy of blackface being used in Tropic Thunder. I think you’re right that the intention behind it matters.

Plenty of Russians aren't Russian. As long as you speak Russian and don't look obviously non-white you can pass for one pretty easily.

As an extreme and over the top example: Stalin wasn't Russian.

Russia I know least about (in my list) so I could be wrong there. Maybe it's more like the West than I imagined. But Georgia is kind-of what I meant by "if you come from the edge of".

Are there people from Japan, or Somalia, who many Russians (and the newspapers) would unthinkingly refer to as Russian? (Not a rhetorical question!)

You are not wrong. There is confusion about the word "Russian". There are Russian nationality and Russian ethnicity. These are different words in Russian language but one in English and often confused (native Russian speakers add to that by misusing word "nationality", which, in Russian, means "ethnicity"). One can become a Russian national through immigration but one cannot become an ethnic Russian, obviously. Newspapers would not refer to anyone as ethnic Russian (русский) and use only nationality (россиянин) even for ethnic Russians. As for Stalin, he wanted to call himself (ethnic) Russian and it so happened nobody could object at the time.

How so? The west is well-known for treating ethnic minorities as the "other". I don't think your opinion is very common among them.

There's no utopia. That's all that's "well-known".

I guess my criteria (for the above) are something like this: an awful lot of British people, and 100% of newspapers, will describe the sprinter Sir Mo Farah as being British, and only get to his place of birth on page two. This pretty much doesn't happen elsewhere.

Although a reverse thing does happen, in which (for example) 2nd- and 3rd-generation british indians are not only welcome to almost all the privileges of Indian citizenship, but (if they become famous) are cheered in India. There is a lot of fawning over Priti Patel in the Indian newspapers, but obviously none at all in Ugandan newspapers.

The state sanctioned Chinese language literally does not have a word for "ethnicnically foreign permanent resident/citizen of China"

That would sound a little more convincing if you hadn't taken six words to define the concept in English.

"American" is the term in the US because it's not tied to ethnicity. "Chinese" is tied to ethnicity.

English speakers may think of "Chinese" as an ethnicity, but it's different in Chinese. The default term is 中国人, which literally means "person from the middle country", which is quite obviously about nationality. If you want to talk about ethnicity, you'd use 汉人 for Han Chinese, 蒙古人 for Mongols and so on for any of the hundreds of Chinese ethnicities.

“American” suffices over here. You need additional qualifiers to distinguish native-born from naturalized.

More than lifelong, in some cases, if you're Korean.

You will never be one of them, no matter how hard you try.

I would not even try, I'm not Japanese. I can like their culture, work there, respect their laws and all, but Japanese I am not and will never be.

Anyone here know how much a typical (I know its hard to qualify a 'typical' programmer) gets paid in Japan compared to the US?

Peanuts. Japans labor market structure is based on the army/military mode of operation.

Imagine your skilled with a riffle because.. you like to shoot stuff out on the farm. Sign up for the army and you will be shipped to bootcamp where they teach you how to shoot "correctly", polish your shoes and make your bed and most importantly chain of command.

Note: commanding office says jump, you say how high.

You have your platoon where everyone entered at the same time, your all buddies, get shat on by the peps one year ahead of you and everyone progress at the same pace.

Note: skill as a good shot has no relevance to your rank and pay.

After you have put in time you can advanced in rank and thus pay. Get married / kids theres additional benefits.

Note: your rank and pay are directly related to years of service.

Unlike the army, you will not get any medals, heroics of jumping on a grenade to save the team are frowned upon. Its better to hold a meeting with the team, to clarify what the grenade is, check all possible outcomes, investigate every tiny detail by which time everyone is dead. Key point is everyone, the dead part is largely irrelevant.

After some time, your buddies seem to like you and your leading the platoon. Congratulations you have now advanced your career to the fast track lane. Moving slightly faster than your peers as they are "workers" and not management.

Note: fast track has nothing to do with your shooting skill.

.. and so on and so on.

source: lived and worked Tokyo for 10+ years.

Its better to hold a meeting with the team, to clarify what the grenade is, check all possible outcomes, investigate every tiny detail by which time everyone is dead. Key point is everyone

This was also my experience working for a US subsidiary of a Japanese multinational.

They do things very very deliberately. Which in some fields is a good thing. But that doesn't work all that well when competing against companies that "move fast and break things". Or even against companies that operate at a non-glacial pace.

Occasionally I would have loved to scream: "JUST MAKE A FUCKING DECISION!" But that's not generally part of their culture.

To be fair, there were also maverick groups within the company that did move fast and were able to compete quite successfully. But they were the exception.

Yup, there are exceptional engineering talent in these mega corps, rare but it does exist. Usually the talent gets filtered by Division X progression. Eventually the best end up in Division 1, which is good but it takes a long time for this process to do its magic... but thats ok you`ve signed up for 30 years of service.

Thats the theory, sometimes it works in practice, sometimes other shit screws it all up.

This is a really funny comment.

But it's entirely from an individualists perspective.

Maybe your 'shooting skill' at the end of the day is not as important as your life-long commitment to the cause?

You know the African proverb: "If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go as a group"

Well, building a nation is 'going far' and can't be done on the basis of individuals all competing to out-do each other.

When it comes to 99% of things, surely some are a little better than others, some work harder than others, but really, 'we're all a commodity' in the long run. Even those who are spectacularly talented require legions of supporting people.

I'd also argue that they are not putting completely morons in charge, and that in the end, probably the better hands are getting promoted ultimately.

Also recognize that even the most nimble and entrepreneurial organizations are inherently pyramid-ish, and it gets really narrow at the top. There's not a lot of room for promotion - and that it might be considered selfish and bombastic to be demanding 'special recognition' for your efforts, if everyone is 'putting in effort'.

Consider that it (was) also a Japanese trait to not lay people off: this was shameful. Instead, your dignity was respected on some level, and you got to do a 'nothing job' all day at least to keep up appearances and keep your salary.

This is not so much an authoritarian structure as it is communitarian one.

Japan is a tiny island with few natural resources and yet somehow is one of the wealthiest and most advanced nations on earth, I suggest that these types of social structures are exactly why this is ... which comes at the cost of individual aspiration.

Wow!!! Can’t believe it’s so hierarchical.

In corporate Japan, its even numbered too. Software Division 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Platoon, Company, Battalion 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 etc.

Of course the goal is to get into Division 1, as its the most prestigious.

It's pretty terrible. Here are some personal data points in rough USD equivalency:

- Lead developer for social mobile game company in 2010 - $3,500/mo

- Brief stint at another game company in 2012 for a few months - $4,200/mo

- (Remote work for non-JP companies)

- Lead infrastructure and technical leader for mobile game company in 2016 - $6,000/mo - although I was arguably able to push that high (that is considered relatively high here) due to both the technical and Japanese speaking experience I built up over the years.

The rule of thumb is typically: (age * 100) + 500~1000 "you must be a creative thinking foreigner" bonus

Non-game industries are slightly better paying, however, here is the catch: The entire IT industry has organically standardized on 10am-7pm work hours. Depending on your company and how much you are willing to not play the overtime game, there are expectations of up to an extra 45 hours per month of unpaid OT, so if you don't hold your ground you could be coming home on the last train.

The actual experiences were great. Loved the people I worked with, learned a lot. However, if you are coming from somewhere that pays US-level salaries, prepare to be surprised at your offer.

Having just finished a job search last year, starting wages in Tokyo range from $1600/month to $3500 WITH extensive (80+ hours) of "expected" (mandatory) unpaid overtime. But the $3500 is very theoretical. If you're not fluent in Japanese and don't have a reputation in the industry, you're looking at the low-end unless you're quite lucky.

Generally, your wage will start out low at any company since you're expected to stay forever and your loyalty eventually earns you a living wage after ~10 years.

People I know at big international companies make between $80k and $150k. People I know at Japanese companies and startups make between $40k and $80k. This is based on a very small sample size of people in Tokyo...

If we are talking total comp, this is somewhat the range I have observed as well. There are Japanese companies where you can expect 80k+ with only a few years of relevant experience. If you have some specialties in demand and are good at it (e.g. Machine Learning/Deep Learning), you can get more.

In international companies, as purely a software engineer, you can go above 150k total comp.

If you want to make more, you want to go toward sales/marketing/etc. In that aspect, it is a bit like Europe where staying technical locks you very quickly. A good sales/marketing person can make 200k+, but that would of course require excellent Japanese skills.

[edit] Source: I am managing a machine learning group in a startup in Tokyo and manage the hiring of my team.

You can't make a apples to apples comparison because the legal systems are different (employees have more protections in Japan) but in a typical Japanese software development position (not a place like Google Japan) you can expect salaries at 60-70% of what you might see in the US.

I actually don't think it's the salaries that are the problem- I think it's harder to fit into the culture of a Japanese firm than the lower salaries.

Check Fujistu, NEC, Hitachi and some game companies, As long as you are a programmer, I believe the median is around 6 million yen(56 grand), with highest no more than 10 million(9 grand).

"It will also be possible for trainees to extend their stay for up to 10 years."

Basically a way to cut wages forever.

People are divided into two kinds: useful and useless. Wooing the first type is the reasonable thing to do.

coretx 9 months ago [flagged]

So it seems not even a nuke can kill Japanese fascism.

Ideological and nationalistic flamewar aren't allowed here. We ban accounts that do this, so please (re-)read https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and don't do it again.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17274714 and marked it off-topic.

Noted. I should have known that my hyperbolic rhetoric would incite a undesired emotional response instead of a civil and rational discussion or debate. Flame-wars, and especially not offensive flame-wars are not my intent nor where they but I see why it appears as such thus please accept my apology for what it is worth. Also: Thank you for taking the effort to point it out and correct me.

No worries. A lot of this boils down to understanding internet forum dynamics and avoiding the things that usually don't work.

Unrelated, dang, how could someone get a hold of you? I have questions for you about your 'lumen' project.


Why is that a bad thing? Every single race or culture has a right to want to preserve itself. Maybe you have some personal issues you need to work out before you go off projecting self hatred onto other cultures.

cup 9 months ago [flagged]

What is a race?


You've managed to break at least half a dozen of the site guidelines with your recent comments. That's not cool, and we ban accounts that do this. So we'd appreciate it if you'd please read them and follow them when posting here:


>Every single race has a right to want to preserve itself and it's culture.

"Japanese" isn't a race, and culture isn't a function of racial identity.

If these things were true, then American culture would belong only to one race, and it clearly doesn't.

Japanese is a race.

No, "Asian" is a race, "Japanese" is a nationality, which doesn't necessarily require one be Asian.

Ainu is a race, as are Yamato and Ryukyuan. Asian is a much bigger race, then we have nationalities. Sometimes Japanese is used to mean Yamato.

Also, see Han (ethnicity) and Chinese (nationality), where outside of China the latter is often used to mean the former.

Fair enough, and I'm sure that when Japanese nationalists talk about Japanese as a race, they probably mean Yamato, but that doesn't make it accurate to describe "Japanese" as a singular ethnic or racial identity.

It isn’t accurate but nor is it exactly wrong. The word is very contextual. Most nationalities can be construed into races, and many things we considered race today arose from nationalities a long time ago (in the long run they blend together).

Aren't there specific ethnic groups indigenous to Japan, that one might refer to collectively as the 'Japanese' regardless of nationality ?

dzonga 9 months ago [flagged]

reverse centuries of gains and progress, because you wanted to be homogenous country. it might take up to a generation to reverse the damage that has been done. social aspects and orders have been lost e.g veggie men - no desire to breed. what most people forget is foreigners bring new ideas and vibrancy.

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