Nike Flex Fury 2 Running Shoes Men Grey/Navy/Dark Grey/Black Farruq Fahlevi, left, and Muhamad Irvan Gustian, both from Indonesia, work on a farm harvesting cabbages in Ibaraki Prefecture. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)
Cover Story

Famous for its resistance to immigration, Japan opens its doors

Number of foreign workers doubles in five years as nation faces labor crisis

Nike Rosherun Roshe Run Black Sail Anthracite,Jordan 23 Pearl Statement 684744-100 White/White,Nike Solarsoft Mule Woven PRM Sport Turquoise Light British (555347-323),. Along with a group of Japanese colleagues, they will spend the day moving heavy wooden pilings and pouring concrete for the foundation of a seven-story condominium block. 

It is demanding work, Nike Zoom Kobe 3 III Prelude Pack Misery Black Purple Kumquat,Jordan AJ Woven 619356-010 Black/White/Infrared 23/White,Adidas Swift Run Grey Heather Blue White Black Sz 10.5 CG4108,.

"I've chosen the construction industry because the work involves lots of communication and helps improve my Japanese," Hoang said, in fluent Japanese. He eventually wants to work as a translator in Japan, and hopes that his fiancee will be able to join him there one day.

His employer, adidas Originals Mens Matchcourt RX Shoes (11 M- Select SZ/Color.,Jordan Flight Knit 642240-687 Gym Red/Black/White,Adidas Crazy 8 ADV (ASW),, said trainees like Hoang are indispensable for his company of 32. "Foreign trainees learn faster than Japanese," Maeda said. "They are more serious, more hardworking, and take fewer days off. They are keen to learn and work hard for money. adidas PureBoost DPR Men 's Trace Khaki/Talc/Black S82013,Jordan Stay Cool Compression FW Sleeveless 642352-010 Black,adidas Originals PW Tennis HU Men 's Scarlet/White/White DA9615,. Like other industries in a rapidly aging Japan, the construction business is desperate for labor. Adidas Mens Originals Superstar Casual Sneaker Black-Chalk White/Gold G61070,Kobe Player 645149-361 Light Green Spark/White/Cyber,MEN 'S SHOES SNEAKERS ADIDAS ORIGINALS NEW YORK [CQ2213],. As baby boomers retire, the labor shortage -- in construction and in the wider economy -- is bound to become more acute.

Asics Onitsuka Tiger Gel Lyte V Casual Shoes Women Red/White Vietnamese trainee Dang Ngoc Hoang works at a building site in Tokyo. With Japan's construction workforce rapidly aging, new sources of labor are needed. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)

The demand for construction workers is intensifying before the 2020 Olympics, adidas Alphabounce CK M Ash Blue Collegiate Navy Men Running Shoe Sneaker CQ0407,NFL Chicago Bears Elite Jersey (Brandon Marshall) 468885-464 Marine,Adidas Originals Mens Stan Smith Rainbow Polka Dots Shoes SIze 10.5 us S77367,, the program has boomed in recent years -- and is one reason that the number of foreign workers in Japan has nearly quadrupled over the last decade.

adidas Ultra BOOST Uncaged Men 's Running Shoes - BB3899 Red Color,NFL Cincinnati Bengals Limited Jersey (A.J. Green) 479202-828 Brilliant Orange/White/Black,ADIDAS ORIGINALS ZX 700 Sneaker Blue Men 's Shoes Retro Gym Shoe NEW by9267,, Japan is in the midst of a quiet revolution when it comes to immigrant workers. Adidas Duramo X GTX Mens Running Shoe Trainer Sneaker Sports Footwear Nvy/Blk/Bl,NFL Green Bay Packers Game Jersey (Eddie Lacy) 468953-349 Fir,adidas Originals EQT Basketball ADV men lifestyle shoes NEW carbon white CQ2994,.

Without fanfare, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has steadily loosened Japan's once tightly controlled visa policy, resulting in an almost doubling of the number of foreign workers in Japan to 1.28 million over the last five years. In its latest move, Abe's government is expected to create a new class of  five-year work permits for unskilled workers in hopes of attracting more than 500,000 new overseas workers by 2025. The new guidelines, to be finalized in June, will ease language requirements for foreign workers in construction, Adidas Duramo 8 M [BB4657] Men Running Shoes White/White,NFL New York Giants Game Jersey (Lawrence Taylor) 468962-417 Rush Blue,Adidas Samba Black Mens Lace Up Trainers All Sizes New,.

Puma Carson Runner Casual Shoes Women Grey/Pink

Immigration remains a politically charged issue in Japan, 1711 adidas NEO ClooudFoam Swift Racer Men 's Training Running Shoes BB9939,NFL San Francisco 49ers Game Jersey (Patrick Willis) 479400-103 White,Mens ADIDAS GAZELLE PK Blue White Trainers BB5246,. "My government has no intention of adopting a so-called immigration policy," Abe said in February.

Yet the total number of foreign residents in Japan has grown 20% in the last three years, reaching 2.6 million in 2017, or 2% of the total population. In Tokyo, one in eight residents who came of age this year were foreigners.

"Anyone wandering around Japan, from Hokkaido to Tokyo to Okinawa, knows that there is growing diversity in schools and the workplace," said Jeff Kingston, a professor at Temple University Japan. "Adidas Men Trainers Advantage CL Mid White Men 's Shoes Leisure NEW BB9894,NFL Super Bowl Limited Jersey 659365-060 Anthracite,Adidas Response + M (BB2982) Running Shoes Athletic Sneakers Boots Black,."

Nike Air Presto Running Shoes Women Black Foreign workers have become a part of everyday life in Japan, yet public debate on immigration remains limited. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)

While foreign workers are now part of everyday life in Japan -- making ready-to-eat foods in convenience stores, growing fruits and vegetables on farms and sorting packages for delivery companies -- public debate has been limited.Shoes Online - Flb W "Ice Blue",Nike "With Us" (NFL Steelers) 749547-010 Black,Shoes Online - 5 Retro BG "Flight Suit",. As a result, Abe's position -- despite its apparent contradictions -- has faced no strong pushback from the public or politicians yet.

Many Japanese look at the deep divisions in the West over immigration and conclude that a more open policy should be avoided. Yet the steady relaxation of migration rules has not led to the social fissures seen elsewhere.

"Shoes Online - "TSUGI Shinsei",Nike 5" Racing 642153-496 Blue Force,Adidas Football adizero 5-Star 5.0 Uncaged Cleats Running White Ftw / Running White / Platinum G10j8,, like all other countries, does have racist problems, but hate crime and hate speech are relatively Adidas Baseball PowerAlley 3 Cleats Core Black / Running White / Collegiate Royal X72p92,Nike Ace Logo 576605-101 White/Black/Obsidian,Adidas Originals Tubular Radial Shoes Core Black M40n74,," Kingston said.

With Japan facing its tightest labor market in decades, the business community would like Abe to go further. The unemployment rate stands at 2.5%, the lowest level in 25 years. There are now 1.59 jobs for every job seeker, the highest ratio since 1974.

Under Armour Speedform Fortis Running Shoes Women Pink/Grey

Given Japan's demographics -- it is the world's oldest advanced economy -- the labor shortage is only going to intensify. The nation's working-age population, defined as those aged between 15 and 64, is expected to decrease more than 40% to 45 million over the next 50 years. By contrast, those aged 75 or older, dubbed the "super-elderly," are projected to make up more than a quarter of the population.

Cabbages and car parts

Adidas Running adistar Raven Boost Shoes MULTI Y16o56,Nike Attack 1.3 549747-702 Volt,Adidas Originals ZX Flux Shoes Core Black P97c52,, and 60% are 65 or older. Most of their children have left for the city in search of better-paying office work.

Adidas Jerseys Cornhuskers Iced Out Replica Jersey Multi L14u64,Nike Carbon Legend Logo (NFL Saints) 667939-010 Black,Adidas Short Sleeve Tops Net Print Tee Medium Grey Heather L67z44,, the government's trainee program has allowed them to hold on to their livelihoods.

Among them is Kota Hirohara, 56, who raises cabbages on his small farm. On a recent May day, two Indonesian trainees were harvesting Hirohara's cabbages by hand with large nakiri, or vegetable knives. Hirohara says his farm is not big enough to need an expensive cabbage harvesting machine.

Nike Womens Air Max 1 PRM Metallic Luster Armory Navy Rugged Orange Indonesian trainees harvest cabbages at a farm in Ibaraki Prefecture. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)

The two men, Muhamad Irvan Gustian and Farruq Fahlevi, both 21, can pick as many as 4,000 cabbages during their eight-hour workday. They also weed the fields, Adidas Tights Kanoi Tights Black J43r33,Nike College Fly (Stanford) 00030416X-SF1 Maroon,Men's Allen-Edmonds Neumok Brown Leather Oxfords (Blue Leather),, where the temperature can reach 40 C in summer.

Men's Blundstone BL1451 Rustic Black Boots (Rustic Black) - MT57,Nike Diamond Quest Hypervent (Alabama) 00029520X-AL1 Varsity Crimson,Men's Calvin Klein Agusto Oxfords (Bark Diamond Perf) - DT832S14,. He speaks basic Japanese, which he picked up watching anime series such as "One Piece" and "Detective Conan."

Men's Clarks Jink Desert Beeswax Leather Boots (Beeswax Leather),Nike Dri-FIT CJ Logo 637869-100 White/Black/Dark Grey Heather,Men's Cole Haan ZeroGrand Stitch Out Chukka Sneakers (Cloudburst,," he said. "I want to do more work." He says he wants to run a big farm in Indonesia one day, perhaps growing rice or coffee.

Men's Donald J Pliner Hanley Sneakers (Brown) - CK255N16X,Nike Dri-FIT Sprint Crew 642796-496 Blue Force/Dark Obsidian,Men's Dunham REVdusk Brown Oxfords (Black) - ZC331Q33S,.

Nike Womens Air Max+ 2010 Black Wineberry White A Vietnamese worker checks autoparts at a Shigeru plant in Gunma Prefecture. (Photo by Ken Kobyashi)

The workers at Shigeru make instrument panels used in the Outback, Impreza and other models. The company hires Japanese part-timers in response to changes in demand, but Masayoshi Tabata, general manager, says foreign trainees are more dependable. "Part-timers quit when they find better-paying jobs. Trainees stay for three years."

Men's Florsheim Castellano Bike Ox Black Oxfords (Black) - UX738,Nike Elevated Peach Bowl Bound Legend (Mississippi) 00033325X-MP3 Dark Grey Heather,Men's Giorgio Brutini 17576 Black Boots (Black) - KZ276U51R,.

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.

Men's HUF Dylan Dark Charcoal Sneakers (Dark Charcoal) - UA038C6,Nike FB Woodland 641161-677 Team Red/Dark Grey Heather,UK Outlet Hurley Diamond Cut Triangle bikini top for Women,.

International pressure and media reports led to a law change in November 2017, allowing only certified organizations to participate in the trainee program. Criminal penalties were introduced for mistreatment of workers while a new government agency has been given a legal mandate to conduct random inspections. A whistleblower system has also been created that allows cases of abuse to be reported via email, a telephone hotline or a dedicated website. Most trainees have smartphones with them and have Wi-Fi access in their dormitories.

Fast-track system for tech workers

UK Outlet Nike high side loop Training for Women,Nike Fly XL 2.0 (LSU) 00029517X-LS1 Purple,UK Outlet Nike Air Zoom Structure 19 Sneaker for Women,.

Nike Womens Free 5.0 TR Fit 4 Printed Black Hyper Cobalt Mango Antarctica Internet company Rakuten, based in Tokyo, has been actively recruiting foreign talent. (Photo by Yasunori Okamura)

2015 Nike Air Max Women's Shoe Pink/Blue No.2814,Nike Futura Tiger 652818-412 University Blue/Dark Grey Heather,Merrell Women's Sylva Mid Buckle Waterproof Boot No.1671,. technology companies like Google and Uber in the emerging fields of autonomous driving, artificial intelligence, ride-sharing and the internet of things. In these new fields, the flow of ideas -- and people -- is vital.

"It is impossible for Japanese to create a very competitive technology-based company unless we globalize internally,Nike Air Jordan 6 Women's Shoe White/Red No.2376,Nike Hypercool Dri-FIT 3/4-Sleeve (MLB Reds) 00030455X-RB1 University Red,Nike Free 3.0 V5 Women's Running Shoe Black/Silver No.2216,, CEO of Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten, at an in-house seminar last year.

At Rakuten's Japanese headquarters in a Tokyo suburb, a quarter of its roughly 6,000 employees are foreigners. The company hires about 400 engineers every year, of which 70% are non-Japanese, mainly Indians and Chinese.

Rakuten's push for global talent began in 2009, Scarpa Women's Mojito Bi-Colour Shoes No.1632,Nike KO Chain Fleece Full-Zip (West Virginia) 00030600X-WV1 College Navy,Womens Air Force 1 Low Black- Hyper Pink/Cement!,.

Nike Womens Roshe One Print Brigade Blue Obsidian Wolf Grey Foreign students attend a job fair in Tokyo. Japanese companies, including e-commerce player Rakuten, are increasingly looking for international talent. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)

Mikitani's revelation came during a lunch session with Indian engineers. Womens Jordan XI Low GS PRM HC White White-Pure Platinum,Nike KO Warp Full-Zip (NFL Panthers) 606724-010 Black/Tidal Blue/Tidal Blue,Women Adidas Originals Midiru Court Mid 2.0 W Trainers - Rubber - Black 1 - Blaze Pink S13 - Bluebird - 4747310vl,.

Amit Agrawal, a 35-year-old engineer from India, is one of those who were hired by Rakuten.

"Most Japanese companies don't accept non-Japanese speakers. Rakuten is one of the companies that accept non-Japanese-speaking people," said Agrawal, who works in a massive open room that is almost entirely filled by foreign workers. Women Ash Joke Trainers - Rubber - Black - 7744315im,Nike Legend Speed (MLB Yankees) 00030439X-YN1 Navy,Women Bensimon Tennis Elastique F Trainers - Rubber - Marro - 4372498sg,, via a loyalty point system.

"Rakuten is basically an e-commerce company, but we are moving into other businesses also. I wanted to work in the latest technologies," Women Buffalo Bolino Trainers - Rubber - Garda Suede Blanc Et Navy - 2206523fb,Nike Miler UV 519698-671 Bright Crimson/Bright Crimson,Women Cloud Nice Trainers - Rubber - Blue - 9603178yw,.

Family ties

But IT workers are an exception. Most others, even skilled workers, face significant hurdles to settling in Japan.

Nike Zoom Kobe 5 V X LA Lakers Home Marliezl Abud, left, and a fellow Philippine worker talk to an elderly woman at a care center in Tokyo. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)

One of the biggest difficulties has to do with restrictions on allowing family members to accompany workers -- a move designed to prevent permanent immigration. Though they are starting to loosen for a small number of the most skilled workers, such restrictions may limit Japan's allure as a destination for people with sought-after training. 

Among those whose skills are in great demand is Marliezl Abud, Women Coolway Morganlis Trainers - Rubber - Black - 7215902vp,Nike Player (Kentucky) 00030316X-KE1 Game Royal,Women Dockers Brodinne Trainers - Rubber - Schwarz - 5324217ap,, Care Port Itabashi.  

Women Esprit Sophy Perf 025 Trainers - Rubber - Black 001 - 2640605ar,Nike Premier Federer 646559-010 Black/Black,Women Georgia Rose Yara Ballet Pumps - Rubber - Black - 9445590pf,, it entered economic partnership agreements with the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam that would allow up to 900 caregivers a year to come work in the country for up to four or five years each. 

UK Outlet Nike SB (France) Jersey for Men

Abud was able to come to Japan through this program, but the hurdles were high. Only those with a four-year-college degree and a Philippine qualification as a caregiver were accepted. Women Geox D Yuki A D4455a Loafers - Rubber - Bordeaux - 1573759pk,Nike Pro Combat Hypercool 2.0 Fitted Short-Sleeve Top 449841-634 Deep Burgundy/Hyper Punch/Hyper Punch,Women Ikks Bottine Talon Ankle Boots - Synthetics - Black - 6474595pf,.  

She sends most of her salary to her parents and sisters back in the Philippines. Her younger sister has a daughter who is going on to private school, and Abud's earnings contribute to her niece's education.

Abud felt a crushing homesickness at first. But after she had passed the local exam, Women Kaporal Vickana Trainers - Rubber - Rose Etoile - 3827179cc,Nike Pro Combat Hyperwarm Fitted Athlete 624876-634 Deep Burgundy/Gym Red/Gym Red,Women Latinas Solola Trainers - Rubber - Negro - 8047078ui,. She likes the shopping, too.

But she and her husband see possible obstacles ahead for their lives in Japan. Her visa allows her husband to work only up to 28 hours a week, which could pose problems if they start a family.

"I want to have a child next year," Women Le Temps Des Cerises New Heritage Trainers - Rubber - Light Grey - 469090bo,Nike Rally Sphere Stripe 621049-677 Gym Red/Gym Red,Women Mustang Shoes Egrim Trainers - Rubber - Gris - 3678051rm,."

Women Nike Wmns Nike Air Max Thea Prm Trainers - Rubber - Black Black-anthracite - 169733ov,

Subscribe to get unlimited access to all articles.

Women No Box Galia Trainers - Rubber - Snake Black - 4533971mm,Nike Air Odyssay Black Dark Magnet Grey (652989-001),Women Palladium Us Pampa Hi W Trainers - Rubber - White - 3548825ha,
NAR site on phone, device, tablet

Women Pikolinos Lisboa 767-9980 Lace-up Shoes - Rubber - Olmo-edf S-olmo - 2566622ic,

Subscribe to get unlimited access to all articles.

3 months for $9

Women Rieker Hulla Z8760 Trainers - Rubber - Schwarz - 2726139hh,Nike Air Vortex Retro Medium Grey Sail Anthracite (543216-010),Women Shellys London Svatek Trainers - Rubber - Grey - 9621484lw,
NAR site on phone, device, tablet

Your trial period has expired

You need a subscription to...

Women Startas Original Trainers - Rubber - Black - 7032524xb,Nike Classic Cortez Shark Low SP Big Tooth White Black,Women Terry De Havilland Zia Sandals - Leather - Silver Black Grey - 9353432yo,

Your full access to the Nikkei Asian Review has expired

You need a subscription to:

Women Vans Authentic W Trainers - Rubber - Digi Floral Multi True White - 3466835vc,Nike Flyknit Air Max Total Orange Black Fireberry,Women Victoria Safari Tejido Print Animal Trainers - Rubber - Negro - 2690047jf,
New Balance 574 Leopard Green Black Red White Womens Casual Shoes,Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit White Black Grey,Nike Air Max 90 Womens Mesh Trainers Black Atomic Red Wolf Grey Charcoal,
  • Nike Derrick Rose Men Coupon_1623
  • Clarks Originals Trigenic Flex Men CG52561
  • Eminence KAPPA PRO 15 8ohm 15" 500watt Speaker
  • Nike Train Speed 4 AMP Ohio State Sz 10 Brand New Buckeyes Reflectiver Upper
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Men's Varick - Grey - Trousers
  • Men's/Women's Nike Air Huarache Run Print Running Shoes Black/White 725076-002
  • Adidas Originals Women shoes blue White O54x7308
  • Nike Dual Fusion Trail N7 Running Shoes Dark Turquoise Hyper Punch Black Metallic Silver For Women
  • UK - Women'S Converse All Star Canvas Sneakers-Size: 6 H98x3624
  • OnePiece Women's Jumpsuits B0185NKX0K
  • 2017 Nike Com Shoes Women's Nike Air Max 2015 Black/White/Light Aqua/Hot Lava Shoes Canada TWW7303997
  • Genuine Air Jordan 9 For The Love Of The Game
  • 2017 Nike Air Jordan Men's Jordan Cp3.Viii Ae White/Black/Gym Red/White Shoes Canada CRT910318
  • Cheap Air Jordan 4 Premium Black Grey f
  • Nike Mens Shoes / Volt Neo Turquoise Electric Green Black Shoes Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit FD86621581r
  • Men's - Creative Recreation Geno Grey Multi Shoes
  • Air Force 1 HI SP Tisci Vachetta Tan Black - C59w1251 nike shoes
  • Men's NIKE HYPERVENOM PHANTOM 3 DF FG Polarized Blue/Chlorine Blue/Tart/White
  • Nike Air Max Lebron 10 X Low Sonic Yellow Grey
  • Adidas Mens Shoes / Solar Red Power Red Shoes Adidas Ultra Boost JE39Je15