According to research by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (MOFA), 1.18 million Japanese were living overseas in 2011. The most popular place to settle down is the United States, followed by China and Australia. The latter two are new entries; the top three in 1996 were the United States, Brazil and Britain. Asia is certainly becoming more popular and now provides a home for 30 percent of Japan’s expats, up from 15 percent at the beginning of the 1990s.
Eight other Asian countries have made it onto the top 20 list: Thailand, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. As for cities, Shanghai has rocketed from 23rd in 1996 (5,161 Japanese residents) to second, an 11-fold increase, while other popular Asian cities include Bangkok at number 5, Singapore at number 7 and Hong Kong at number 9. Many Japanese expats are the children of parents whose work has taken them overseas. Most go to school in Asia, and the region overtook the United States in 2005 as the main educator of Japanese children living abroad.
What about foreigners living in Japan? Where do they come from? MOFA statistics once again prove enlightening. As of 2011, Japan was home to 1.67 million foreigners, not including Koreans with “special permanent resident” permits or vacationers on “short-stay” visas. This number has grown by 850,000 in the 15 years since 1996, with Asians accounting for 770,000 of these new residents. People of Asian origin now make up 75 percent of Japan’s foreign population, up from 58 percent.
A closer look reveals that the number of Chinese residents has grown threefold to around 670,000. Next up are Filipinos followed by South Koreans, North Koreans, Vietnamese, Thais, Indonesians, Indians and Nepalese.