What was life like in Japan in the 1970s

Country Profiles Migration: Data - History - Politics

Gabriele Vogt

To person

Prof. Dr. Gabriele Vogt is Professor of Japanese Studies at the Asia-Africa Institute at the University of Hamburg. Her research interests lie in the field of social science research on Japan and include, in addition to the topic of international migration to Japan, Japan's demographic change and topics of political participation.
[email protected]

Immigration from the areas of today's Korea and China to Japan can already be archaeologically proven for the prehistory and early history of Japan.

A first wave of immigration documented in Japanese sources [1] dates back to the 6th century; as a result, among other things, Buddhism and the Chinese epoch system were imported to Japan. [2] With Spanish and Portuguese missionaries from the middle of the 16th century, not only occidental ideas but also new types of weapons reached Japan. After initial cooperation between some local princes and the newcomers, they were soon expelled from the country in the wake of civil war-like unrest. [3]




Capital: Tokyo
National language: Japanese
Area (2011): 377,955 km²
Population (2011): 127,799,000 people *
Population density (2011): national average 343 inhabitants per km²; in Tokyo 6,016 inhabitants per km²
Population growth (2011): -1.6% (negative growth since 2005)
Foreign population (2011): 2,078,480 people (1.63%) **
Working population (7/2012): 62,770,000 people; Quota: 59.2% (men: 70.8%; women: 48.3%)
Unemployment rate (7/2012): 4,3%
Religions (2007): Shintoism (105 million), Buddhism (89 million), Christianity (2 million), other (9 million) ***

Unless otherwise indicated, the data given here refer to the 2012 statistical yearbook of the Japanese Ministry of the Interior (MIAC 2012).
* The last nationwide census from October 1, 2010 showed a total population of 128,057,352 people (MIAC 2011).
** MOY 2012a.
*** U.S. Department of State 2010. Many Japanese reject the exclusivity of religion; therefore the sum of the followers of the religions mentioned results in a number greater than the population of Japan.

Phase of completion

This finally began Japan's phase of closure in the 17th century, [4] which under the newly established military rule of the shoguns almost sealed off the country from foreign influences for two and a half centuries. The only loophole was Dejima, an artificially raised island in Nagasaki Bay, where Dutch and British traders were allowed to dock. There was also a lively trade in China and Southeast Asia, which reached Japan's southernmost main island, Kyūshū, through the eye of the needle in the Ryūkyū Kingdom. [6] Immigration to Japan, even just walking on Japanese soil, was forbidden to non-Japanese by the death penalty during this period.

Opening phase

Japan's so-called opening was enforced by the American commodore Matthew C. Perry, who entered the port of Edo, today's Tokyo, in 1853. [7] With diplomacy and the threat of military force, he not only achieved the conclusion of a bilateral trade agreement, but also triggered internal political upheavals in Japan that led to the overthrow of the shogunate system and the re-establishment of an imperial system of rule. This new system of rule, the so-called Meiji-Staat (1867–1912), [8] was concerned with extensive economic openness towards the USA and the states of Europe in particular. This should go hand in hand with technical progress and industrialization as well as the modernization of numerous areas of society, for example the legal system [9] and the educational system. The central building block of these modernization efforts were the foreign missions of a young, educated elite in the country [10] as well as the employment of foreign academics and business people in Japan. [11]

"Old comer"

In the further course of its modernization efforts, Japan became the target of immigration from China and Korea. The Chinese, as the largest minority in Japan, were replaced by the Korean in 1917 - a consequence of the colonization of Korea in 1910 and the relative freedom of movement between the regions that came with it. From 1939 the war mobilization of the Korean population began and Japanese companies were given the right to bring Koreans to Japan as workers. As of 1941, forced laborers were recruited from Chinese territories in a similar manner, totaling about 42,000 people. In 1938, the proportion of Korean residents on the main Japanese islands of the total population was already 1% (approx. 800,000 people) and rose to 2% by the end of the war in 1945. At the end of the war, 31,000 Chinese forced laborers and 28,000 immigrants from Japan's colony of Taiwan were also living in Japan. The specialist literature today speaks of the Korean or Chinese immigrants who have lived in Japan since the war and their descendants as "old-comers". [12]


Despite this immigration, Japan was considered a country of emigration in the first half of the 20th century. Between 1885 and 1942, around 800,000 Japanese emigrated, mainly for economic reasons. The United States, as well as numerous countries in the Asia-Pacific region, were among the target countries for this emigration. After the entry into force of the so-called Gentlemen’s Agreement By 1908, which limited immigration from Asia to the USA, the countries of Latin America, above all Brazil and Peru, gained popularity among Japanese emigrants. About 190,000 Japanese emigrated to Brazil within three decades; Through further immigration and family formation, the Japanese community there increased to 1.2 million people by 1988. The emigration to Manchuria and the new colonial areas of Korea and Taiwan - around one million Japanese settlers lived in the colonial areas at the end of the war - served more political than economic interests, specifically the manifestation of newly created state borders through settlement policy. [13]


Size of immigrant population License: cc by-nc-nd / 3.0 / de / (bpb)
In 1955 there were 641,482 foreigners registered in Japan (0.71% of the total population) - the majority of them Koreans who lost their colonial Japanese citizenship after the end of the war. Finally, in the 1970s, the return of second- or third-generation Japanese to Japan from northeast China began, and with it a belated wave of repatriation after the end of Japanese imperialism. Likewise, three more flows of so-called "newcomers" to Japan began. These included, first, female migration from Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and the Philippines; many of these women worked in the "entertainers" category in the sex industry. Second - in the course of the internationalization of the Japanese economy - business people from the USA and the countries of Western Europe, as well as, thirdly, Indochina refugees. [14] But the "new-comer" migration of the 1970s barely increased the immigrant population. In 1985 their number was only 850,612 people (0.70% of the total population). Only in the following decade was there a noticeable increase in Japan's immigrant population for the first time, which lasted in a weaker but steady form until 2008.