Posted on December 31, 2021

Xenophobia Spills Into Japan’s Covid-Era Debate on Immigration

Isabel Reynolds, Bloomberg, December 26, 2021

From a ban on new foreign arrivals to a campaign against efforts to let non-citizens vote, a series of developments in Japan is raising new concerns about xenophobia in Asia’s second-largest economy.

Lawmakers in the Tokyo suburb of Musashino overruled the local mayor Wednesday and rejected a bill that would’ve allowed residents of other nationalities to vote on some issues. The decision came after several prominent Liberal Democratic Party legislators launched a campaign against the plan, with former Vice Foreign Minister Masahisa Sato warning on Twitter that “80,000 Chinese people” could move to the city and influence its politics.

Last month, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government initiated new border controls that ban new entries by foreigners due to concerns about the omicron variant of Covid-19. Separately, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo issued an unusual warning Dec. 6 about suspected racial profiling of foreigners by local police — an allegation the government has denied.


“It’s not only in Japan that the pandemic fanned xenophobic sentiments, but this is a country with a long-standing tradition of insular nationalist conservatism,” said Koichi Nakano, a professor of political science at Sophia University. {snip}