Today at the Evermay Estate in Washington, DC, four members of the U.S.-Japan Network for the Future held a panel discussion on immigration in Japan. The panelists included: Cohort 2’s Erin Chung (Associate Professor of East Asian Politics at Johns Hopkins University); Cohort 3’s Michael Strausz (Associate Professor at Texas Christian University) and Nathaniel Smith (Assistant Professor of East Asian Studies at the University of Arizona); and Cohort 4’s Michael Sharpe (Associate Professor at York College of the City University of New York). The scholars analyzed whether a nation can bring in immigrants for economic growth while maintaining national unity. Advisory Committee member Ezra Vogel, Research Professor of the Social Sciences Emeritus at Harvard University, moderated the discussion.
The event was part of the kick-off for the 5th cohort of the U.S.-Japan Network for the Future, and showcased the ongoing connections between members of the Network across cohorts and disciplines.
The panel agreed that, despite the gradual assimilation of foreigners into Japanese society, anti-foreign sentiment among right wing groups is currently on the rise. Japanese immigration policy greatly lags behind realities in Japanese society, where tourists and immigrants have become more commonplace.
Dr. Chung posited that Japan is not “becoming” a country of immigration; it already is one. While neither Japan’s government nor its citizens acknowledge these immigrants as an integrated part of society, Japan has been home to many immigrant groups since the colonial period. Dr. Strausz shared research that showed candidates have a political incentive to avoid the topic immigration entirely.
However, Dr. Sharpe argued that by catering to the needs of its immigrants and increasing diversity in its workforce, Japan can attract more migrants. Dr. Sharpe noted that despite government rhetoric against immigration, Japan is moving in the direction of other liberal democracies— albeit slowly—by taking in refugees and expanding foreigners’ rights.