The New York Times Says Japan Needs Immigrants. The Japanese Politely Disagree
[Recently by Jared
Will America Take Up The New White Man`s Burden?]
Japan`s post-World War II forty-year economic growth
surge without immigration has always been an
embarrassment to the immigration enthusiasts. In 1990,
the then-Designated Enthusiast Economist Julian Simon
was reduced to admitting: "How Japan gets along I
don`t know. But we may have to recognize that some
countries are sui generis."
here for Peter Brimelow`s answer: technological
More recently, Japan`s growth has slowed, although it
still compares reasonably to Western Europe. But
immigration enthusiasts are coming up with a new
argument: with its falling birth rate and aging
population, Japan will soon run out of workers.
The United Nations, which is
staffed largely with Third-Worlders, loves to
publish reports about how the West is withering away and
can save itself only with immigration from, of course,
the Third-World. Japan is another rich country the UN
wants to help repopulate. If current trends continue, it
says, there will be only 90 million Japanese by 2050.
The Japanese government says the correct figure is about
103 million, but no one doubts the long-term trend is
down. There will be fewer Japanese and more old people.
The New York Times recently carried a
typically condescending article telling us that the
question is "whether this country remains an
economic powerhouse or its population shrivels and the
slow fade of the Japanese economy turns into a rout."
UN study, the Times claimed Japan needs 17
million new immigrants by 2050 in order to "restore
demographic equilibrium." The Japanese, suggested
the article, will have to get over their dislike of
foreigners and become multicultural – just like America!
Japan Needs, but Resists, Immigration," By HOWARD W.
FRENCH, July 24, 2003]
Does Japan face a crisis? The
current population is 126.6 million, the highest it
has ever been, and is still slowly rising—about a tenth
of a percent last year. In 2002 there were 1,152,000
births, so the Japanese are not exactly vanishing.
Still, the average Japanese woman is now having only an
estimated 1.3 children in her lifetime, so barring more
births or immigration the population will eventually
The average Japanese reaction: "So what?"
Japan is about the size of
California but with the equivalent of nearly half
the population of the United States
crammed into it. A drop from today`s 127 million to
100 million or even 75 million would make for a more
And even 75 million would be more than the current
populations of Britain or France. The
Swedes don`t sit around feeling sorry for themselves
because there are only nine million of them.
The alleged problem is not simply in the numbers, but
in the age distribution—the prospect of lots of old
people having to depend on a
small labor force for their pensions. But this is
not so daunting for Japan as for
some other countries. Japanese have the quaint idea
that the primary social support organization is the
family. Their retirement programs are not as generous as
in Europe, and require a smaller work force. For
decades, Japanese have had high savings rates for just
this reason: they look to their own resources. Although
we Americans fancy ourselves "rugged individualists," we
are more dependent than Japanese on
Moreover, Japanese are healthier and live longer than
we do, and more every year are working past retirement
age. Japanese companies have begun to institutionalize a
system of immediately rehiring their retired employees
as contract workers at fewer hours and lower salaries.
The company benefits from their experience and the
employees stay active and in the workforce.
And there are many other things Japanese can do if
labor really gets tight. Even with falling birth rates,
more Japanese women stay home with children than
in the West, and some of them could work. The
agriculture and retail distribution sectors are still
notoriously overmanned and could be
rationalized. As a long-term measure, the government
subsidize child-bearing as some
European governments do. This has not been
very effective in Europe, but Japanese are more
group-oriented than Europeans, and might respond to a
serious more-babies-for-the-fatherland campaign.
Most Japanese are determined to find solutions that
do not involve importing foreigners because they are
deeply attached to their ancient, subtle culture. They
believe that only native-born Japanese can understand or
This conviction goes back centuries. In 1635, the
passed laws forbidding overseas travel, and cut off
virtually all contact with the outside world. Japan
might have stayed locked up tight as an oyster if
Commodore Matthew Perry had not forcibly opened it
1853. The Japanese remain convinced they are a
unique, homogenous people with an island-nation
mentality, unfathomable to outsiders.
Some years ago in Tokyo I recall leafing through a
book whose title would be translated as "The Japanese
Brain." It claimed the brains of Japanese process
sounds and language
differently from those of Europeans. I also recall a
serious work on evolution called "From the Fossil
Apes to the Japanese."
This almost biological sense of uniqueness has many
consequences. Before the Second World War,
Japan ruled Korea and
Taiwan, and brought over a number of colonial
subjects to work in Japan. Today, the second- and
third-generation descendents of these workers—who speak
fluent Japanese and are physically indistinguishable
not Japanese citizens. They are snubbed socially and
have a hard time getting jobs. (This population must be
borne in mind when considering the official count of
immigrants at one percent of the population: one third
to a half of those are Asians who were born in Japan,
and speak Japanese as their first language.)
Japanese do not dislike foreigners—they sell
cars and cameras to them very cheerfully—but they
prefer familiar company. Apartment ads often say
"no foreigners," and silence may settle on the
neighborhood bar if outlanders walk in.
Public bath houses on the northern island of Hokkaido
were in the news last year because they
wouldn`t let in foreigners. There was a stink about
discrimination, and pro forma pledges of reform. The
fact is, when Japanese take their clothes off for a
soak, they`d rather be among their own kind.
So far as I know, it has never been reported in the
press, but many of Japan`s legal houses of prostitution
are off-limits to non-Japanese, too. Maybe disappointed
customers are too embarrassed to protest, but "soap
lands," as they are called, have bouncers—often
dressed in tuxedos—who make sure the girls do not have
to grapple with
Japanese who visit the United States are appalled by
what they find here: ethnic politics, bilingual
ballot papers in Chinese,
racial preferences, interpreters in
foreign criminal gangs, etc. They wonder if millions
of aging American whites can really count on blacks and
browns to pay for their retirement. They have seen
diversity in action, and they want none of it.
Of course, the profit motive ensures they are getting
some of it. As in all rich countries, there are
menial jobs natives
“don`t want.” Even with a limping economy, Japan is
paradise compared to the rest of Asia. Millions would
love to come, and
just like Mexicans, they are willing to pay
traffickers to get them into a country that works.
Construction companies put illegal Africans and
Middle-Easterners on the job at night and less obtrusive
Asians during the day. The police are always breaking up
sweatshops and fining employers.
Chinese networks that sprang up to handle the
human traffic have branched out. Japan, which for
generations considered itself the safest place on earth,
is in the middle of a
crime wave. From 1998 to 2002, robbery was up 104
percent, car theft 75 percent, purse snatching 48
percent, and burglary 42 percent. A general index of six
serious crimes was up 75 percent. Japanese now even have
surveillance cameras and neighborhood crime watches.
The politically incorrect Japanese are not shy about
who`s to blame. The media
routinely run stories like "Number of Foreigners
Arrested Jumps 13 Percent." In an interview earlier
this year, Deputy Director of the National Police Agency
Shinichiro Kuwahara said:
"Chinese criminals are making a fool of the Japanese
criminal-judicial system. Even if they get arrested,
they only get suspended sentences for the first offense
and get deported. Then they come back with a
forged passport and commit the same crime. Even if
they get convicted, they can endure one or two years in
prison, and in the meantime the money is transferred and
their relatives build gorgeous houses with it."[Crime
Rattles Japanese Calm, Attracting Politicians` Notice,
September 6, 2003, New York Times, By Norimitsu
American newspapers are notoriously too squeamish to
describe crime suspects as black or Hispanic. But
the Japanese media routinely report that the robber
"looked Iranian or Iraqi" or "spoke broken
Japanese with a Chinese accent."
Japan is a tightly-run country that does not yet have
broad underworld of legal and semi-legal aliens into
foreigners can disappear. If the authorities wanted
to, they could clean up the immigrant problem. But
deporting illegal aliens is (as usual) a matter of
balancing growing public anger with industry`s
demand for cheap labor.
Nor is Japan entirely free of the let`s-all-hold
sentimentality of Western liberals. Lefty academics
write earnest editorials about globalization, and the
need for Japanese to open their hearts to foreigners.
There are even a few fledgling
advocacy groups for immigrants that try to make sure
illegals get their wages before they are deported.
But perhaps the recent episode to best capture the
Japanese mood was Mitsuo Fukumura`s brush earlier this
year with globalization. Mr. Fukumura is the mayor of a
city on the island of Kyushu, close to South Korea. He
preaches closer ties with Korea, and wanted to
capitalize on what he thought was the goodwill generated
by the joint Japanese-Korean-sponsored Soccer World cup
of 2002. He proposed that Korean tourists be allowed
into Japan without visas if they come through Kyushu.
The result was a huge
anti-Korean, anti-foreigner backlash, with
protestors swamping the local government. Not only do
Mr. Fukumara`s constituents not want more Koreans, many
of them don`t want any foreigners in Kyushu.
Mr. Fukumura`s "Gateway to Asia" plan sank without a
Although such sentiments have been run out of
respectable society in America, the Japanese actually
like their country the way it is. They intend to keep
Japan for the Japanese.
the editor of
was born in Japan and speaks fluent Japanese. He is the
Shadows of the Rising Sun: A Critical View of the