October 29, 2003
The New York Times Says Japan
Needs Immigrants. The Japanese Politely Disagree
by Jared Taylor: 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." [Click here for Peter Brimelow’s answer: technological innovation.]
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." Quoting a 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! ["Insular
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 shrink.
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 comfortable
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 government handouts.
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 could directly
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
But open the country to Turks and
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 maintain it.
This conviction goes back centuries. In 1635, the Shogunate
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 in 1853.
The Japanese remain convinced they are a unique, homogenous
people with an island-nation mentality, unfathomable
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
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 from Japanese—are 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
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
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 uncouth foreigners.
Japanese who visit the United States are appalled by
what they find here: ethnic politics, bilingual education,
papers in Chinese, racial preferences,
interpreters in hospitals and courtrooms,
riots, 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
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.
The mostly 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
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
"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
Many 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
a broad underworld
of legal and semi-legal aliens into which 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
Nor is Japan entirely free of the let's-all-hold hands
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
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
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
Jared Taylor (email him), the editor of American Renaissance, was born in Japan and speaks fluent Japanese. He
is the author of Shadows
of the Rising Sun: A Critical View of the Japanese Miracle.