The uniqueness of Japan is truly breathtaking. For a country to retain such a rich culture and uniformity, in a world of globalisation and Internet crossing borders, is remarkable. My stance remains neutral on whether such uniqueness is for better or worse. By ‘remarkable’, I purely speak to Japan’s observable difference. I believe that the homogeneity of Japan does not equate to potential harm, should Japan remain present in the global context.
My question is this. How long can a relatively homogenous society, sustain itself, with predominantly just itself in the domestic mix?
Japan has an aging population, with close to 127 million people in total according to World O Meters (WOM 2019). Emphasis on a career-oriented lifestyle has shaped values. Social class and ideology seem to differ little throughout the country compared to one such at the United States.
Those in governance have called for oneness, with former communication minister Taro Aso preaching for ‘one culture, one civilisation, one race’ (cited in York 2018). Such consistency is expressed through dress, body language, verbal communication, belief systems, persona and tradition within the population.
Japan is one of the only advanced countries in the modern world to have not received a large influx of migrants in the post-war period. The collective society comprises of only 2% of foreign working or studying residents (Okada 2018). This trend can be historically traced back to the Sakoku years. Japanese nationals were forbidden to leave their country, and few foreigners were accepted strictly for business purposes only. However, 2018 saw the highest amount of foreigners yet to live in Japan, a total of 2,497,000 (Osumi 2019). Although a record for the island nation, it ranks low compared to international statistics.
Last year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed of plans to introduce new visa categories in an effort to reform the system. These plans remain just that at the current time, lacking specific direction. Nevertheless, the absence of subsequent action does not detract from this announcement’s importance, given the country’s history and current state .
Interest from Abe in reforming the immigration system may very well be due to the fact that he recognises the aging population. 1/3 of Japan’s population will be over 65 years old by the year 2040 (See-Yan 2019). However, productivity and innovation are not always positively correlated. Hungary, for example, throughout recent years has experienced negative population growth and around 2% GDP growth per capita (Black Pigeon Speaks 2017).
The United Nations has publicly called upon Japan to take in more refugees. Abe’s move could therefore be strategical, with hopes for the nation to be viewed as yielding to external pressure and societal expectation. However, the economy remains strong despite the already decreasing labor force. Last year,
Some thriving export industries of Japan include automobiles, electrical machinery, computers, iron and mineral fuels. The first ever hotel run by robots was opened in Japan, shortly followed by robot run cafes in Tokyo. Low skilled human labor jobs such as administration, security, and cleaning are being and will be easily replaced.
US$738.2 billion worth of goods was exported around the globe by Japan (Workman 2019). There appears to be no demanding event calling for migration to assist the economy, or to richen the culture.
Japan is beginning to collaborate with other foreign markets. Specialisation rather than a focus on inland ability is essential. A Japanese company affiliated with Honda Motor Corporation recently merged with an Israeli technology entrepreneur in an aim to boost artificial intelligence production (Nichols 2019). The government supports such drive for technological innovation, stressing the need for Japan to remain present in alliances with foreign markets. This is essential as competitive technological industries arise within the United States and China.
I don’t believe that Japan’s homogeneity equates to a potential disservice, on the condition that it remain open to drawing inspiration from and working with other markets. I believe that Japan will be used as an example in the international political field as something to inspire to, both in terms of artificial intelligence and migration. It has largely gained global respect and admiration rather than condemnation.
However, Japan’s circumstance is very unique. I believe other countries would struggle to adopt the same model, as they would be forging for themselves an unnatural version of the pure form itself.
Black Pigeon Speaks 2017, Why Japan Refuses Immigration and Multiculturalism, online video, 3 January, viewed 25 April 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3BYCK-3jPc
Nichols, G 2019, ‘AI as a job saver? Why Japan’s auto industry is embracing industry 4.0’, ZD Net, 19 April, viewed 25 April 2019, https://www.zdnet.com
Okada, Y 2018, ‘Japan’s foreign population hitting a record high’, Mizuho Economic Outlook & Analysis, 25 July, pp. 2-9.
Osumi, M 2019, ‘Number of foreign residents in Japan rose 6.6% in 2018, while number of overstayers grew almost twice as much, government data shows’, The Japan Times, 22 March, viewed 25 April 2019, https://www.japantimes.co.jp
See-Yan, L 2019, ‘Ageing Japan defies demographics’, The Star Online, 6 April, viewed 25 April 2019, https://www.thestar.com.my
Workman, D 2019, ‘Japan’s Top 10 Exports’, World’s Top Exports, 1 February, viewed 29 April 2019, http://www.worldstopexports.co
World O Meters 2019, WOM, Delaware, viewed 1 May 2019, https://www.worldometers.info
York, G 2018, ‘‘One, culture, one race:’ Foreigners need not apply’, The Globe and Mail, 26 April, viewed 25 April 2019, https://www.theglobeandmail.com