Last time I talked about some of the challenges Japan is facing as its population falls due to a combination of the normal aging that most industrialized nations face combined with sudden changes in Japan’s society, zero net immigration and, uh, these things. Japan isn’t the only place with a falling population — countries like Ireland, Germany, Italy and Russia also have populations that are declining, but the effects aren’t noticed as much there due to immigration (8% of people in Germany are foreigners, compared with under 1.5% for Japan). Finding a way to get foreigners to move here permanently has proven a challenge for the government so far. A pilot program to bring nurses over from Indonesia met with some success, but since Japanese law currently requires foreign nurses to have nearly perfect linguistic and kanji skills, most of the nurses ended up returning home. Japan has been doing a few things right, however, removing some of the frustrations gaijin here face, like the unpopular alien registration card and the “reentry stamp,” a $70 official passport stamp that had to be obtained if you wanted to leave Japan then return. It’s quite easy to get Japanese citizenship, and sumo wrestlers from Hawaii or Mongolia who want to run their own sumo stable one day usually become naturalized citizens, as do gaijin tarento (foreign TV stars) like Bobby Ologun from Nigeria. I’m often asked by J-List customers if I’ve gotten my Japanese citizenship yet, and I tell them no, I’m quite happy with the 永住権 eijuu-ken (permanent residence status) I’ve got now.
Bulgarian sumo wrestler Koto-oshu also took Japanese citizenship.