Japan is considered one of the most peaceful modern countries on the planet. It’s funny given its long history of war and conflict spanning its entire history until the end of World War II. In the 8 decades since World War II–it’s now 2020 as of this writing–Japan has established itself as bastion for all things video games, Anime and Manga. It has an open door policy for tourism and business as its shares its unique, storied cultural history with the rest of the world. It’s a far contrast from a country that at one time closed its boarders the outside world for almost 100 years. Speaking of. Shades of Japan’s past isolationist policy is ever present and obvious in its immigration and refugee policies. Japan is known to have the strictest immigration and refugee policies of any developed nation for a reason.
I recently watched an editorial on NHK Japan about a family originally from East Africa–I believe they were from Ethiopia originally–that for reasons I can never understand decided to move to Japan…as refugees. It made absolutely no sense to me given what they went through. For SEVEN YEARS, the couple’s daughter was not legally considered the father’s even though she was born in Japan. The reason? Their marriage was not legally recognized in Japan. The reason for that is because the father did not yet have Refugee status and so his marriage was not yet legally recognized in Japan. Thus, legally his daughter was not his daughter as far as Japan was concerned. Only her mother was her legal parent.
Think about how that must feel for a father who helped create and raise a child to know the government did not recognize you as her father. What made the situation feel even more complicated to me is at the time the editorial was filmed, the mother was pregnant with their second child. It made no sense to me for them to even think about having another child knowing not only does the Japanese government not legally recognize you as the father of your first child but if your current status is revoked, you will be deported immediately. By the end of the editorial, they finally did get legal recognition from the Japanese government.
Japan is not the U.S. They don’t play around when it comes to immigration and deportation. The Japanese government announced last week they executed a foreign death row inmate for the very first time it its history. It’s unheard of because they prefer to deport foreign-born persons who commit capital crimes even if they become a citizen. They rarely use the death penalty on their own death row inmates too and in fact, they don’t even tell those on Death Row when they will be executed. The day of is when they find out.
Getting back on topic. The irony of Japan’s strict immigration policies is they have an aging workforce and a declining birthrate. The U.S. has the same problems but has always used Immigration to replentish its population. Not so in Japan, which faces an economic crisis due to its aging population and workforce that can’t replentish itself. Japan doesn’t have any drastic population control policies like China’s controversial One Child policy. It’s simply paying the price for having a closed door policy is all. I’m not saying Japan should have an open door policy but it feels pretty hypocritical to me with how much Japan markets itself as a tourist destination.
This past summer, Japan announced they were basically giving away vacant homes for free to anyone who wants one. What they conveniently left out is they will not fast-track immigration for foreigners who might want to take advantage of the offer. The vacant houses mostly belonged to people who moved away on that note. I won’t pretend to know Japan’s immigration process–and my apologies for misleading folks into thinking I do–but the little I have researched so far is like their gun permit application process: Meaninglessly drawn out and complicated on purpose to discourage people from actually trying. That’s my impression anyway.
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