Humanitarian Issues of Immigration in Japan: From Historical Background to Current Policies


Japan has historically maintained extended periods of isolationist policies and continues to uphold some of the strictest immigration laws in the world today. The country has also long had a tumultuous relationship with non-ethnic Japanese residents, including Taiwanese and Korean nationals who were first forced to become Japanese citizens under imperialist rule, only to be deprived of their statuses after Japan formally lost its colonies. More recently, foreign nationals seeking employment and residency have been effectively disallowed from acquiring long-term working visas, while many others have unsuccessfully sought asylum, with tragic consequences. 

Listen to Dr. Sara Park and Dr. Yoko Demelius discuss the historical background and current developments that have shaped the current state of immigration policies in Japan. While difficulties faced by the diverse group of non-ethnic Japanese immigrants and residents vary, the researchers make clear that they are treated with a persistent and pervasive lack of humanitarian consideration by the Japanese state.

Dr. Yoko Demelius is a senior researcher at the Centre for East Asian Studies at the University of Turku. Dr. Sara Park is a university lecturer at the Department of Cultures in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Helsinki.

The film mentioned in the episode is “We are Humans!” (2022) directed by Ko Chan-yoo.

The Nordic Asia Podcast is a collaboration sharing expertise on Asia across the Nordic region, brought to you by the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS) based at the University of Copenhagen, along with our academic partners: the Centre for East Asian Studies at the University of Turku, and Asianettverket at the University of Oslo.

We aim to produce timely, topical and well-edited discussions of new research and developments about Asia.

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Satoko Naito

Satoko Naito is a docent of Japanese studies at the Centre for East Asian Studies, University of Turku, Finland. Research interests include Japanese literature, cultural history, and gender studies.

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