According to a recent survey conducted by The Cabinet Office, with the results having been released on Friday January 17, the vast majority of Japanese citizens believe the nation needs to create a more welcoming atmosphere for foreign residents. This is an interesting take as the country becomes more open to globalization, and likely the first time such an overwhelming amount of people feel this way.
Seventy-four percent of respondents said the country needs to enhance living conditions for foreign residents, pointing to a need to strengthen points of contact for consulting on matters related to daily life, such as residence status procedures, medical treatment, child care and legal protection to ensure safe working environments, as well as multilingual support and disaster preparedness.
Officials said performing the survey became necessary after an amendment to the immigration law took effect in April 2019, opening the door for more than 345,000 foreign laborers to enter the country over a five-year period to mitigate depopulation and ease concerns about the future of the world’s third-biggest economy.
As a resident of Japan, I completely agree. While the country has come a long way in the previous thirty years, there are still a lot of areas for improvement. Overall, however, I feel as if most people are trying very hard to become more accommodating, and a government mandate to increase hospitality to foreign residents would provide the much needed motivation and momentum to push the entire country in the direction required.
There are a lot of nuanced arguments to be made on the opposite side however. The main is that this is Japan, and therefore if you are living in the country then you should learn the language - reading, writing, and speaking - fluently. The problem is Japanese is such a difficult language for people to learn, this is a fairly insurmountable barrier for some people. So while I understand and am sympathetic to this argument, I also feel as if Japan could do better in maximizing its ability to help foreign residents acclimate to Japanese society much easier and quicker.
Overall, this is a multi-faceted issue in need of multiple efforts. The first step towards fixing a problem is identifying one exists, and having agreement from the country that a solution is necessary. This is where we are today, and hopefully things will only get better from here on out.