“The truth is that without foreigners, Japanese society cannot function,” says researcher.

In Japan, legal adulthood begins at 20, when a person is officially considered to be a seijin (literally “complete person”). Even though most modern Japanese youths are still in college or technical schools when they hit the big 2-0, it’s still a culturally significant milestone, and every community even holds a coming of age ceremony, called a seijinshiki, on the first Monday after New Year’s Day.

Coinciding with this year’s event, the results of a statistical survey were released showing that roughly 83,400 residents of Tokyo’s 23 central wards will be turning 20 in 2018. Of them, roughly one in eight is foreign-born. Researchers credit this to a rapid increase in the number of foreigners attending college and language schools in Tokyo, as well as those participating in technical internships and training programs.

Foreigners make up more than 20 percent of the new adults in six of Tokyo’s 23 wards. Shinjuku Ward has the largest concentration of newly adult foreigners, where roughly 1,700 such individuals compose 45.7 percent of the ward’s new seijin. This is likely a function of the numerous internationally minded educational institutions and companies located in the district (which, incidentally, is also where you’ll find SoraNews24 headquarters). Toshima Ward has the second highest density with 38.3 percent of its new seijin being foreigners, many of whom hail from Chinese-speaking territories and find housing or work on the east side of the Ikebukuro neighborhood. Third on the list is Nakano Ward, at 27 percent, which boasts easy access to the opportunities of downtown Tokyo via the Chuo rail line while offering more affordable housing than more central wards.

The data also showed that Tokyo’s 104,800 foreign students are 1.7 times the figure from five years ago, while its 6,600 technical interns represent a growth of 3.4 times for the same period. In response to the growing number of foreign residents turning 20 in Japan, some Tokyo communities have begun distributing coming of age ceremony pamphlets printed in foreign languages, or providing pronunciation guides for the Japanese-language flyers’ kanji characters, to promote greater inclusivity at the cultural event. At last Monday’s festivities, Bunkyo Ward counted 300 foreign seijin among the participants, double the amount from five years ago.

In commenting on the increasing proportion of foreign-born new seijin, Toshihiro Menju, a spokesperson for the Japan Center for International Exchange, said that their importance to Japanese society will continue to grow as the country’s declining birthrate produces fewer and fewer young people of Japanese ancestry. “The truth is that without foreigners, Japanese society cannot function, and we must work towards creating institutions so that Japanese natives and foreign-born residents can support that society hand-in-hand.”

Source: NHK News Web via Jin
Top image: Pakutaso