How Anti-Assimilationist Beliefs Are Shaping the Context of Reception of Immigrants in Japan

Charlie V. Morgan, Ohio University [About | Email]

Jie Zhang, Waseda University, Timothy Cichanowicz, University of Kansas, Howard T. Welser, Ohio University

Volume 23, Issue 1 (Article 1 in 2023). First published in ejcjs on 17 April 2023.

Abstract

Using data from a random national sample of 4,134 Japanese citizens in 2013, we examine the relationship between Japanese anti-immigrant attitudes and the context of reception of immigrants in Japan. There was strong evidence for the empirical existence of different dimensions of assimilation, namely cultural, structural, and psychological. Japanese citizens were the least forgiving of immigrants’ psychological assimilation, based on our hypothesis of Japanese identity (nihonjinron). More specifically, to be considered Japanese, immigrants had to feel Japanese, have been born in Japan, and have Japanese ancestors. Younger and more educated citizens have more pro-assimilationist attitudes towards immigrants’ psychological assimilation. Our findings differed from previous studies that identified cultural threats as the key to understanding Japanese opposition to immigrants. Our analysis indicated that identity is the crucial factor when separating culture and identity based on a theoretical framework of assimilation. We suggest that a better way to conceptualise anti-immigrant attitudes in Japan is to separate these attitudes into three distinct categories: culture, economy, and identity. Understanding what drives Japanese citizens’ views toward immigrants will be critical to understanding what an ageing and shrinking Japan will look like and what role immigrants will play in that future.

Keywords: Immigration, assimilation, the context of reception, Japan, opinion polls.

Introduction

Due to low birth rates, Japan's population is shrinking faster than that of any other industrialised nation. In recent decades, Japan has adopted various measures to increase the fertility rate (births per woman), which has declined from 2.16 in 1971 to 1.36 in 2019 (World Bank, ‘Fertility Rates’). The Japanese government’s response to the declining fertility rate as a solution to Japan’s population crisis is a topic worthy of study (Boling 2008; Date and Shimizutani 2007; Yamaura 2020).
Our study focuses on a second, more achievable solution: more immigrants. Many Japanese politicians have recognised the need for increased immigration, as evidenced by the passage of amendments to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act (ICRRA) in 2018, which is the most significant immigration expansion since Japan first welcomed Japanese Brazilians and Japanese Peruvians. Japanese Brazilians and Japanese Peruvians started coming to Japan in 1989 following the passage of the ICRRA, which allowed them to become long-term residents. The 2018 policy has not drastically changed the immigration profiles in Japan, but slightly increased the numbers.

Are Japanese citizens supportive of immigration? In general, they are reluctant to bring in new immigrants, although there are signs that the public is becoming more receptive (Pew Research Center 2018). This context of reception reflects how welcoming Japanese society is to immigrants. Assimilation is a joint effort between immigrants and the host society; both sides must play their part. That is why the context of reception matters (Portes and Rumbaut 2014), and assessing pro- or anti-immigrant attitudes in Japan is one way to measure it.

Our study seeks to fill a research gap lamented more than once in the extant literature: ‘Despite this growth in immigration, the scholarly literature on Japanese public opinion toward immigration is fairly thin’ (Kage et al. 2022:219; see also Green 2017 for a similar claim). Most surveys examining public opinion toward immigrants have focused on cultural and economic factors to explain anti-immigrant sentiments, with cultural factors being identified as the dominant influence in explaining these trends. Although citizens may often oppose immigration, some citizens will also support immigration or only partially oppose it. Kage et al. (2022) found that 60% of citizens favoured more immigrants for cultural or economic reasons. It is possible—and, in fact, likely—that some Japanese will see the need for immigrants to practice their own cultural traditions while also acknowledging the need for immigrants to fill labour shortages or perform less desirable jobs. Indeed, evidence suggests that favourable public opinion led to the relaxation of immigration restrictions in late 2018, which signaled a significant shift in immigration policy (Kage et al. 2022).

Many of these studies on public attitudes have combined identity with cultural factors, thereby conflating what we argue are two distinct concepts of why citizens oppose immigrants’ integration into Japanese society. The basis of our distinction between factors is informed by a framework of assimilation theory initially formulated by Gordon (1964) and later modified by Rumbaut (2015), which identified three distinct aspects of assimilation: cultural assimilation (i.e., acculturation), structural assimilation (i.e., socio-economic integration), and psychological assimilation (i.e., identity). For our part, we are interested in how Japanese citizens' attitudes toward immigrants' assimilation shape the contexts of reception along three main axes: cultural, structural, and psychological.

We employ regression analyses to explore the factors influencing public opinions about immigrants assimilating into Japanese society, using data from the 2013 ‘Public Opinion Poll on Internationalization and Citizens' Political Participation,’ a randomised national sampling of 4,134 Japanese citizens geared specifically to understanding their attitudes toward immigrants (see Tanabe 2013). Not only is our survey a randomised national sampling, but it also has variables that allow us to use factor analyses to measure the three axes of assimilation (i.e., cultural, structural, and psychological) and thus explore anti-assimilationist opinions among Japanese citizens. Who is opposed to increased immigration? How receptive to immigrants are the Japanese? We will break down our answers to these questions according to gender, age, income, and several other variables.

Understanding what drives Japanese citizens' views toward immigrants will be critical to understanding what an ageing and shrinking Japan will look like—and what role immigrants will play in that future. Understanding how the Japanese feel about assimilating immigrants into their society will also help policymakers develop policies that can address each type of assimilation and thus optimise the context of reception for what may be a large number of immigrants coming to Japan in coming decades. Moving forward, we will explore theoretical concepts that relate to this study, namely, the context of reception and assimilation. We will then explore the history of immigration in Japan as well as previous studies on Japanese opinions towards immigrants. Finally, we elucidate our research design, present results from our survey data, and discuss these results within the context of the existing literature.

Background Literature

Japanese citizens’ acceptance of immigrants in Japan is an essential aspect of those immigrants’ ability to integrate into society; this is often referred to as the ‘context of reception.’ Portes and Rumbaut (2014) refer to the context of reception as a vital component of the immigrants’ successful assimilation into a foreign culture. We use survey data to examine how citizens' views about immigrants also reflect the context of reception, which can also be theorised and measured at the individual level. The assimilation of immigrants can be viewed as a two-sided coin, with immigrants on one side and the host society on the other. Among the various contexts of reception, we focus on the host society's reception and acceptance of immigrants.

Assimilation Theory

The theoretical underpinning for this research project is assimilation. Integration and assimilation can be used interchangeably (see Waters and Pineau 2015). We have chosen assimilation because it breaks down incorporation into distinct, clear, and easy-to-understand aspects. For the purposes of this study, it works well as a framework. Integration, although ideal for other purposes, tends to be broader and can refer to many different processes of incorporation. Milton Gordon (1964) established the classic model of assimilation by breaking down the process into seven types: cultural, structural, marital, identificational, attitude receptional (prejudice), behaviour receptional (discrimination), and civic. Assimilation as a policy is problematic, especially when incentivised, compulsory, seen as necessary, or used as a theory to predict integration paths. However, for our research, assimilation is merely a framework; we do not entertain assumptions that immigrants must assimilate. Rather, we are interested in understanding how Japanese citizens think about immigrants assimilating.

This theoretical discussion does not pretend to be exhaustive. We have chosen to use Rumbaut's (2015) three assimilation aspect (i.e., cultural, structural, and psychological) adapted from Gordon's original framework. This approach is elegant, straightforward, and easy to understand. The first aspect (cultural) refers to cultural elements such as language, cultural traditions, food, and even ways of thinking. Culture can have subtractive or additive qualities: the former involves giving up some elements of a cultural repertoire, whereas the latter consists of preserving and adding culture to create a more complex repertoire. The second aspect (structural) includes intimate relationships, friendships, social cliques, and societal institutions. These institutional elements refer to various interactions within groups such as education, occupations, neighbourhoods, and political oranisations. Finally, the psychological aspect refers to how closely immigrants and their children identify as nationals of the host country. Context matters for all three types of assimilation. Nationality matters. Gender matters. Social class matters. We will use Japanese citizens' opinions directly to measure their views on the cultural, structural, and psychological aspects of assimilation. These opinions will collectively represent one way to measure the context of reception for immigrants in Japan.

Of the three types of assimilation (i.e., cultural, structural, and psychological), we hypothesise that Japanese citizens will be most receptive to immigrants being incorporated into structural components of society, especially when it comes to universities and menial jobs; both institutions have struggled because of Japan's ageing and shrinking population. Fewer students and fewer empty jobs are predicted to translate into Japanese acceptance of immigrants structurally assimilating in Japan.

H1: Japanese citizens will be most receptive to immigrants structurally assimilating into Japanese society (compared to cultural and psychological assimilation).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we hypothesise that Japanese citizens will be least receptive to immigrants being incorporated psychologically, precisely when it comes to being identified as Japanese. Japan sees itself as a homogeneous society that can accept immigrants to fulfill vital needs such as lower-skilled jobs and professional job needs, yet the government considers these immigrants as temporary residents and not potential future citizens.

H2: Japanese citizens will be least receptive to immigrants psychologically assimilating into Japanese society (compared to cultural and structural assimilation).

Immigration to Japan

In the early 1980s, many politicians recognised the need for more immigrants, evidenced by the 1989 the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act (ICRRA), which allowed Japanese Brazilians and Japanese Peruvians to become long-term residents. ICRRA supported desirable types of immigration (e.g., highly skilled migrants) while restricting undesirable types (e.g., unskilled migrants). Notably, Japan welcomed nikkeijin migration (Brazilians and Peruvians with Japanese ancestry) to maintain Japan's cultural and ethnic homogeneity while filling the country's vital job needs, especially those designated as 3K (kitanai—dirty, kiken—dangerous, and kitsui—difficult).

Japan’s economy has long been dependent on immigrants, yet the retention of archaic policies inhibits steady immigrant flows and undermines Japan’s own economic and social well-being (Oishi 2012). In response, many scholars have argued that Japan needs to increase the number of foreigners entering Japan to bolster its economy and population, hypothesising that Japan will suffer an economic decline without this increase (Papademetriou and Hamilton 2000). In 2018, Japan passed amendments to the ICRRA with two categories of migrants: temporary and permanent. The temporary migrants comprise low-skilled immigrants, foreign trainees (e.g., healthcare industry), and international students. The permanent migrants include those who fit within the non-mutually exclusive categories of Brazilians and Peruvians of Japanese descent, refugees, marriage migrants, and foreign spouses. Due to its limit of 350,000 migrants over five years, one could argue that this change has not drastically altered the types of immigrants nor the number of immigrants in Japan. 

Contemporary Opinions About Immigrants in Japan

The twentieth and twenty-first centuries have been characterised by mass migration, and Japan is no exception; the number of registered foreign nationals there has doubled in the past twenty years (Hamada 2013). As Japan lets in more immigrants, it is vital to understand the Japanese public's perception of these new migrants.

Cultural and economic factors are viewed as the two dominant factors used to explain the Japanese public's perception of immigrants in Japan (Kage et al. 2022; Kobayashi et al. 2014; Richey 2010). Green (2017) posits: ‘there are two main schools of thought attempting to explain public opinion toward [immigration]: economic threat and cultural threat’ (373). We agree with this assessment but find that scholars often conflate culture with identity or subsume identity as a component of culture (Davison and Peng 2021; Strausz 2019). According to assimilation theory (Gordon 1964; Rumbaut 2019), culture and identity are two separate constructs; Rumbaut reduced Gordon's types into three aspects: cultural (acculturation), structural (integration, which includes economic factors), and psychological (identity). Therefore, we introduced assimilation as a framework to unpack culture and identity. It is important to consider public opinion about these three types of assimilation because it may influence whether immigrants can successfully integrate into the receiving country and is a valuable indicator of how open the government is to immigration and diversity (Migration Data Portal). What follows is an explanation of how cultural, economic, and psychological factors influence anti-immigrant sentiments among Japanese people.

First, cultural factors are commonly seen as the most important predictors of anti-immigrant sentiments in Japan (Green 2017). Strausz (2019) states: ‘In sum, a wide variety of public opinion research has long supported the argument that cultural, rather than economic, concerns are the primary driver to anti-immigrant sentiment’ (153). Immigrants may be seen as a cultural threat, stoking anti-immigrant attitudes among citizens of the receiving country—and the greater the number of immigrants, the greater the perceived threat (Waters and Pineau 2015). Cultural threats are often centred around language, religion, traditions, and beliefs. On a positive note, contact theory posits that if people interact with immigrants, they are less likely to view them as a threat—and the more meaningful the contact, the less negative the citizens’ views of immigrants (Green 2017; Kage et al. 2022). Contact theory can also be thought of on a social distance scale, with acquaintances on one end of the spectrum and marriage on the other. To this end, we will test the following hypothesis:

H3: Based on contact theory, we expect people who interact with immigrants will have less anti-assimilationist attitudes towards immigrants' cultural assimilation.

Second, scholars also use economic factors to explain anti-immigrant sentiments (Zhang 2018). Kage et al. (2022) group these economic factors under the labour market competition hypothesis, whereas Green (2017) and Richey (2010) label them as an economic threat. Either way, citizens view immigrants as a threat to the economy by lowering domestic wages, competing with natives for jobs, and consuming welfare funds or other valuable resources (Davison and Peng 2021); indeed, unemployed Japanese express particularly strong negative sentiments toward foreign residents (Zhang 2018). However, economic factors play a minor role compared to cultural factors (Hainmuellar and Hopkins 2014). Perhaps this is because the Japanese see immigrants as foreign labourers who will only be in Japan for a short time (Strausz 2019. In contrast, a shortage of workers in Japan and the low unemployment rate among Japanese people may contribute to pro-immigrant opinions related to the economy.

H4: Based on economic threat or labour market competition, we expect people with higher salaries will have less anti-assimilationist attitudes towards immigrants' structural assimilation.

Finally, psychological factors—especially identity—are arguably just as important as cultural and economic factors (Hainmuellar and Hopkins 2014; Hainmuellar and Hopkins 2015; Richey 2010). Identity is often associated with nihonjinron or what Dale (1986) described as ‘discussions of Japanese identity’ (119). As Burgess elaborated: ‘The nationalistic ideologies of race that developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries formed the basis for the contemporary discourse on national identity known today as nihonjinron’ (2012:3). Nihonjinron makes psychological assimilation or the adoption of a Japanese identity by foreigners extremely problematic: ‘The dominant elite conception of national identity suggests that large numbers of immigrants would undermine and fundamentally alter what it means to be Japanese’ (Strausz 2019:3). Studies have found that younger and more educated people are more tolerant of immigrants (Hainmuellar and Hiscox 2007; Hainmuellar and Hopkins 2014; Kage et al. 2022:216). Due to the visibility of mixed-race Japanese celebrities like Naomi Osaka and Rui Hachimura, we expect younger and more educated citizens to be less concerned with nihonjinron and thus more accepting of immigrants who adopt Japanese identities. Our last hypothesis is as follows:

H5: Based on nihonjinron (discussions of Japanese identity), we expect younger and more educated citizens to have pro-assimilationist attitudes towards immigrants' psychological assimilation.

Overall, we are interested in how Japanese citizens' attitudes toward immigrants' assimilation shape the contexts of reception along three main axes—cultural, structural, and psychological—which, we argue, significantly predict Japanese attitudes toward immigrants. We acknowledge that there is some overlap between these three constructs, yet we contend that separating them offers a clearer overall picture of pro-immigrant attitudes that can inform public policies addressing key issues surrounding increased immigration to Japan.

Methods

This study uses a random sample from a nationwide survey, the Public Opinion Poll on Internationalization and Citizens' Political Participation, of 4,134 Japanese citizens who live in Japan. Tanabe Shunsuke, a professor at Waseda University, conducted this survey in 2013 (see Tanabe (2013) for the design and implementation of this survey). Tanabe and his team targeted residents of thirty regions throughout Japan, visiting municipal offices and randomly selecting 250 people from each region. They then mailed a survey to each person and asked them to return the questionnaire by mail (i.e., a mail-out, mail-back, self-completion method). Approximately 43% of the respondents completed and returned the surveys, yielding a total of 4,134 respondents. Respondents’ ages ranged from 20 to 81 years (average 54) and were equally split between males and females (47.3% male and 52.7% female). Approximately 70% were married; 11% were widowed or divorced and 17% were single. Approximately 40% have a college degree (technical or university), whereas only 12% did not complete high school. Most respondents earned between USD 30,000 to 60,000 annually (household income).

Dependent Variables

We focused on questions that asked respondents how they felt about foreigners living in Japan. We separated these questions into three categories based on Rumbaut's (2015) assimilation typology—cultural, structural, and psychological—using a principal component analysis to determine which questions aligned with each assimilation type. Table 1 shows the variables for each assimilation type and the percentage of Japanese citizens who agreed or disagreed with each statement. Respondents were asked to respond to each question with one of the following five choices: strongly agree, agree, neither agree nor disagree, disagree, or strongly disagree. In Table 1, we combined the two agree and the two disagree responses to simplify interpretation. Also, we slightly altered some of the questions by changing them from negative to positive, or vice versa, so that the agree responses indicate more receptive views of immigrants. Responses of agree or strongly agree indicate a favourable or receptive view of immigrants. We also included a question that measures overall attitudes toward assimilation as a baseline reference, finding that 53.5% of Japanese citizens do not think foreigners need to assimilate to live in Japan.

Table 1. Types of Assimilation

In conducting the factor analysis, we identified two types of cultural assimilation (Japanese vs. foreign); the former type relates to Japanese culture and is manifested by speaking Japanese and liking Japan. Based on our conceptualisation of assimilation, learning the language of the host society is not only a good measure of acculturation, but one of the most commonly used measures of whether immigrants are assimilating into the host society. Whether immigrants like Japan or not is also an indicator of their cultural assimilation. While this variable is related to psychological assimilation, it is possible to like Japan without feeling like you are Japanese. The flip side of Japanese culture is the foreigners' culture—specifically, whether it harms Japanese culture and whether foreigners have a right to preserve their traditions. Japanese are more accepting of foreign culture (47.6% and 38.9%, respectively) compared to self-cultural protectionism (20.4% and 11.6%). Broadly, the Japanese are more tolerant of foreigners keeping their own culture if they also speak Japanese and like Japan. This conclusion aligns with those of scholars who posit that Japanese citizens tend to agree with a multicultural policy that does not threaten their view that Japan has a unique culture (Burgess 2021; Zhang 2018).

We also found that Japanese citizens’ perceptions of structural assimilation divide into beneficial and harmful aspects. Beneficial elements are associated with foreigners boosting the economy and deserving various rights. Japanese are more receptive to foreigners’ right to public housing and government jobs compared to their right to welfare (48.7% and 39.9%, respectively, compared to 32.3%). The aspects of structural assimilation perceived as harmful include stealing jobs and using too much welfare. Japanese are more likely to think that foreigners abuse welfare (44.8%) than steal jobs (32.4%); this prioritisation of concerns may be due to low unemployment and the need for more workers in Japan's shrinking and ageing population. In general, the Japanese recognise the need for foreign workers but do not necessarily think that immigrants boost the economy.

Psychological assimilation primarily relates to issues of identity. According to our survey results, to be seen as Japanese, Japanese citizens think that foreigners must: feel Japanese (12.6%), be born in Japan (36.3%), and have Japanese ancestors (40.9%). Notably, foreigners have control over only one of these dimensions. Japanese are most forgiving of not having ancestors and not being born in Japan and are least receptive to immigrants who do not feel Japanese. These opinions help explain why the Japanese favoured Brazilians and Peruvians of Japanese descent as migrant workers in the 1990s and 2000s.

We acknowledge the existence of other indicators relating to cultural, structural, and psychological assimilation. We are nonetheless limited to the questions in this survey, which we believe is one of the first to ask Japanese citizens about their views on a wide range of cultural, structural, and psychological factors relating to foreigners. Thus, it offers us an opportunity to examine the contexts of reception by using a framework of assimilation. Also, given that this data was collected from a random sample of Japanese citizens, we can be confident that it accurately represents how they feel about foreigners concerning the questions asked.

Independent Variables

We grouped our independent variables into three analytic categories: (1) demographics; (2) values (i.e., patriotism, civic-mindedness, and life satisfaction); and (3) preferences and contact with foreigners. With the exception of civic-minded, all of the independent variables are the same variables used by all the authors of Tanabe’s (2013) book Japanese Perceptions of Foreigners. The variable groupings reflect the likely causal priority of demographic attributes in shaping their values, which are considered most likely to shape Japanese citizens’ views of foreigners through social interaction. Categories 2 and 3 are more proximate causal influences on acceptance.

We recognise that it is not possible to impose a strict temporal and causal priority on answers to many survey items, like those that measure values and dimensions of assimilation.  However, we argue that it reasonable to define assimilation beliefs as the result of social interaction, and in a sense, a set of beliefs that offer a solution or explanation of the intersecting dimensions of a citizen’s experience in his or her life. Therefore, while a person could argue that ‘overall life satisfaction’ is an ultimate outcome and could not be a cause of an assimilation belief, we would argue instead that when a person is asked to consider his or her attitudes towards questions of assimilation, that his or her level of life satisfaction will shape the response to those questions.

The demographic indicators include age (in years), sex (male = 0; female = 1) and two dummy indicators of marital status (single/never married = 0; married = 1, with divorced or widowed as the reference group). Education is an ordered interval based on the years accumulated at the highest level of education completed: 9 (completed middle school), 12 (high school), 14 (junior or technical college), and 16 (university). Occupation comprises a set of dummy indicators for full time, part time, self-employed, or employment in a family business, with all other occupations as the reference category. Income is an eight-level ordinal measure based on approximate incomes reported from USD 0 to more than USD 150,000. Identifying with the dominant political party (Liberal Democratic Party) is a dummy variable. Life satisfaction is measured on a scale of 1–4, with 1 representing dissatisfaction with life and 4 representing satisfaction with life. 

We constructed two indices related to values. The first represents a patriotic sense of Japanese nationalism, and the second represents the value of civic-mindedness that integrates immigrants in voting, law, and citizenship. These values are a framework in which citizens understand their sense of Japanese citizenship and the prospects for immigrants to engage in civic activities. Patriotism was constructed through a principal component analysis by the scholar responsible for creating this survey; it comprises the following statements:

1)    I feel proud to be Japanese.
2)    It is natural for the national flag (hinomaru) and the national anthem (kimigayo) to be taught in schools.
3)    We must reassess post-war education and teach children the spirit of patriotism and their duties as Japanese nationals.

Participants were asked to respond to each statement with one of the following five choices: 1 (strongly agree); 2 (agree); 3 (neither agree nor disagree); 4 (disagree); and 5 (strongly disagree). Higher feelings of patriotism have been correlated with lower acceptance of foreigners (Tanabe 2013; Hamada 2013).

This variable was inspired by Gordon’s (1964) notion of civic assimilation, which is defined as the absence of value and power conflicts. We suspect that how Japanese citizens feel about giving rights to foreigners will determine their acceptance of immigrants in Japan. The civic-mindedness measure is derived from several combined variables based on a principal component analysis of the following questions:

1)    Immigrants should have the right to vote in local elections.
2)    How important is it for immigrants to respect public policies and Japanese laws to be considered Japanese?
3)    How important is it to have Japanese citizenship to be considered Japanese?

Responses to the first question indicate participants’ level of agreement or disagreement: 1 (strongly agree); 2 (agree); 3 (neither agree nor disagree); 4 (disagree); and 5 (strongly disagree). The second question evaluates the level of importance respondents ascribe to the issues: 1 (very important); 2 (important); 3 (not very important); and 4 (not important at all). We recoded the last two statements to a five-point scale to mirror the first statement. We then recoded each question so that the highest number would represent the most favourable opinion of whether immigrants should have the right to vote, do not need to respect Japanese laws to be considered Japanese, and do not need to be Japanese citizens to be considered Japanese.

Figure 1 Support for Foreign Residents in Area

The third bank of independent variables represents Japanese citizens’ preferences for—and contact with—foreigners. We first looked at whether the respondents supported or opposed an increase of foreigners from a range of countries to their region (see Figure 1). This question is crucial because not all foreigners are perceived equally, as indicated by country-specific support or opposition shown in Figure 1. Moreover, a clear ranking order is evident in the survey. For example, the Japanese are more likely to support an increase of Americans (77.4%, if we combine strongly support and support) compared to Chinese (21.8%). These drastic differences in opinions about foreigners of various nationalities are vital as we examine the multiple assimilation types. We grouped countries based on their similar favourability for ease of interpretation in our regression models: Americans and Germans, Koreans and Chinese, and Filipinos and Japanese Brazilians as the reference group. The last variables include hate speech, discrimination, and contact with foreigners. We measured hate speech based on the following question: ‘Should the government create a law to prevent hate speech against foreigners and other designated groups?’ The responses were on a scale of 1–5, with 5 representing maximum agreement. The discrimination variable, which is similar to hate speech, is based on the following question: ‘The fault of discrimination lies with the people being discriminated against, with higher numbers representing disagreement with this statement. Finally, contact theory posits that exposure to immigrants will determine the extent to which people will accept immigrants. To measure this, we added the following three questions related to exposure with foreigners: traveled overseas (no = 0, yes = 1), contact with foreigners (1 = not at all, 2 = not often, 3 = sometimes, 4 = often), and live by foreigners (1 = no foreigners, 2 = some foreigners, 3 = a lot of foreigners).

Analytic Approach

For the initial exploration of potential regression models, we used a single instance of the dataset, replacing missing values with imputed values using mean imputation through chained equations (see van Buren 2018; van Buuren and Groothuis-Oudshoom 2010). Once the set of variables for all regressions was finalised, we created a subset of those variables and standardised it using the ‘standardise’ function of the robustHD package (Alfons 2012); then, all cases with missing values had the imputed standardised value replaced with ‘N.A.’ This method uses means and S.D. rather than the ‘robust’ alternative, which uses medians.

This dataset was used to initiate the mice package's final model imputation process through chained equations using predictive mean matching. After generating 40 imputed datasets, we ran the six regression models and used miceAdds to pool and average model statistics across all 40 imputed datasets. The tables report those averaged model statistics, including beta and standard deviation, along with normative significance levels.

We performed a sensitivity check and ran all models on three imputed final model datasets, finding minor variations in coefficients, S.D., and marginally significant changes within the 40 datasets. Given such variations, we determined that it was necessary to use imputation and pooled results to ensure that we reported the results least influenced by missing observations in the dataset. Overall, the dataset has low levels of missing values; specifically, within our model variables, the range of missing cases was similarly low (0.0% to 4.3%; median = 2.1%). For reasons articulated extensively in van Buren (2018), we view multiple imputation as the most conservative and least biased solution to low levels of missingness. Our regression analysis is oriented towards discovery of patterns within sets of substantively important predictors and then comparing estimated coefficients across the different types of assimilation. Our focus is not upon maximising model fit for any one type of assimilation, nor is our focus on optimising measurement of those types of assimilation as latent factors. While such analyses certainly hold merit in future research, they are not easily compatible with our multiple imputation solution to missing values from observed variables.

Findings

Descriptive Statistics

Before we present the regression analyses, we will give the reader a general overview of the survey questions' results. Each type of assimilation measures Japanese citizens' attitudes toward immigrants. More specifically, every kind of assimilation measures native Japanese acceptance or receptiveness of immigrants. We have translated these attitudes into mean scores to represent receptiveness toward immigrants. On a scale of 1–5, 5 illustrates the most open-minded, whereas 1 illustrates the most closed-minded. Thus, scores above 3 indicate greater acceptance, whereas scores below 3 indicate less acceptance (See Table 2).

Table 2. Mean Scores of Assimilation

Most of the mean scores in Table 2 are near the middle (i.e., 3) and indicate a neutral receptivity toward immigrants. Overall assimilation is the highest at 3.5; three of the remaining five types of assimilation fall below 3. Perhaps it is easier to express acceptance of foreigners when the question is broader and more ambiguous. After all, what does assimilation mean? How do the Japanese think about assimilation (dōka)? We argue that examining the different types of assimilation offers a better gauge of anti- or pro-assimilationist beliefs. If the mean scores for these different assimilation types were all the same, we could assume that the distinctions between assimilation types are empirically meaningless. In Table 2, we see that this is not the case; the distinctions between the various assimilation types identified in this data are meaningful.

Separating the two types of cultural assimilation, Japanese culture (2.12) and foreign culture (3.25), makes sense conceptually and empirically. These numbers represent the average mean for Japanese culture, which we created by combining the statements after conducting a principal component analysis to determine whether these statements measure these components of culture. The two statements that make up Japanese culture are similar (2.33 and 1.91), just as the two statements that make up foreign culture are similar (3.33 and 3.17). These mean scores show that Japanese citizens are more receptive to immigrants preserving their own cultural traditions compared to immigrants who do not speak Japanese and do not like Japan. We are not aware of other studies that have conceptualised cultural assimilation in these terms—at least, not from the host society's perspective. Nevertheless, this randomised national survey data points to the likelihood of two types of cultural assimilation.

Unsurprisingly, native Japanese are slightly more receptive to beneficial dimensions (3.12) compared to harmful dimensions (2.85) of structural assimilation. Among the positive dimensions, we see a range of acceptance from ‘most receptive’ to foreigners having the right to public housing (3.36) and ‘least receptive’ to their having the right to government jobs (2.82). Japanese citizens are neutral regarding foreigners stealing jobs (3.02) and more concerned about foreigners using too much welfare (2.82). We suspect that the statements about foreigners boosting the economy and foreigners stealing jobs have higher means because of Japan’s low unemployment rate and the public's general recognition that immigrants will be necessary to fill labour shortages with Japan's shrinking and ageing population; whereas concern about welfare may be the result of the Japanese welfare system which is quite generous toward migrants.

We hypothesised that Japanese citizens would be more receptive to immigrants structurally assimilating. Except for foreign culture (3.25), structural assimilation (3.12 for beneficial and 2.85 for harmful dimensions) scored higher than Japanese culture (2.12) and psychological assimilation (2.47), generally confirming our hypothesis. Scholars have argued that Japan is growing more accepting of multiculturalism (Kage et al. 2022), which may explain why Japan has relatively pro-assimilationist attitudes towards foreigners retaining their homeland cultures and do not perceive them as harmful to Japan, so long as they speak Japanese and like Japan (Japanese culture).

Psychological assimilation uses a series of statements that relate to whether Japanese citizens will accept immigrants as Japanese (from least to most receptive): foreigners must feel Japanese (2.00), must be born in Japan (2.65), and have Japanese ancestors (2.75). In other words, most Japanese think foreigners need all three of these characteristics to identify as Japanese, setting a high hurdle for foreigners’ acceptance as Japanese citizens and highlighting the decisive role of a host society’s receptiveness or willingness to assimilate foreigners. We hypothesised that the Japanese would have the strongest anti-assimilationist attitudes toward psychological assimilation (2.47), which was true except for Japanese culture (2.12). Notice how these two types of assimilation both center around the Japanese seeing themselves as a homogeneous society that is unique and monocultural.

Table 3 explores the various assimilation types using our independent variables. As in the previous table, the means are on a five-point scale (1–5), with 3 representing the middle point. Any mean above 3 represents a pro-assimilationist attitude toward immigrants regarding that type of assimilation. For example, younger people (20–29) are more receptive to overall assimilation than any other age group. Younger age categories are consistently more open-minded than their elders. Moreover, younger people are more accepting of all the different assimilation types. We find this same trend among educated Japanese: the more educated they are, the more accepting of immigrants they appear to be. This confirms our fifth hypothesis (i.e., that younger and more educated citizens will have less anti-assimilationist attitudes towards immigrants). We will see whether this same trend holds when we control for all other variables in our regression models. We will also use the regression to see whether this trend is detectable for all types of assimilation, or just psychological assimilation (as we hypothesised).

Table 3. Types of Assimilation by Independent Variables (means)

Females are slightly more receptive than males, depending on the type of assimilation. Marital status reveals that single people are more receptive than married people, with divorced or widowed people the least open-minded or accepting of immigrant assimilation. Occupational trends are much less clear-cut, but in general, full-time workers, students, and unemployed people searching for work exhibit more positive attitudes about immigrants assimilating. Annual income trends are also less distinct and vary depending on the type of assimilation—but overall, wealthier people are more receptive, as our fourth hypothesis predicted. Respondents identifying with the Liberal Democratic Party are less receptive than those identifying with the Democratic Party, which corroborates findings that people with conservative political ideologies are more likely to oppose immigration (Hainmuellar and Hiscox 2007). Finally, the data confirm that more patriotic Japanese citizens are more likely to oppose immigration.

The following three variables focus on exposure to immigrants: travel overseas, meeting foreigners, and living near to foreigners. Invoking contact theory, our third hypothesis predicts that those with more contact with immigrants will have less anti-assimilationist attitudes towards immigrants. In other words, native Japanese exposed to immigrants would be more accepting of immigrants not conforming unnecessarily to cultural norms, perhaps because they can understand the value of those immigrants' own culture. Also as expected, we see more pro-assimilationist attitudes among Japanese who have more contact with immigrants (see Table 3). Interestingly, this trend also appears to apply to all other types of assimilation.
Table 3 provides empirical evidence for the existence of different assimilation dimensions. Therefore, we contend that any discussion of immigrants' assimilation from the receiving society's perspective would benefit from examining cultural, structural, and psychological assimilation. Yet despite these descriptive statistics, will these trends persist once we control for the other variables? We will examine these results through a series of regression analyses.
 
Regression Analysis

We created regression models for each type of assimilation—overall assimilation, cultural (Japanese and foreign), structural (beneficial and harmful), and psychological—to explore Japanese pro-assimilation attitudes toward foreign residents. As shown in Table 2, we coded each dependent variable with higher values representing more pro-assimilationist attitudes. We will not present the overall assimilation results in the interest of brevity. Suffice it to say, the results show that overall assimilation is indeed perceived differently compared to the other types of assimilation (see Table 7 for a comparison of regression models, including overall assimilation).

Japanese Opinions About Cultural Assimilation

One of our most important findings is that there are two elements of cultural assimilation: the foreigner's culture and the host country's culture (i.e., Japan). This distinction represents a conceptual difference, which has been confirmed with a factorial analysis. These two types of cultural assimilation were created—first, based on a conceptual difference that we noticed, and second, through a factorial analysis to confirm this difference. We did not set out to construct two types of cultural assimilation; we merely recognised their existence. Political pundits often talk about cultural assimilation relating to the host society, focusing on immigrants' need to learn the local language and appreciate local cultural traditions. On the other hand, academics who study the host society's culture also research how immigrants hold onto parts of their own culture while assimilating into a new society. This is referred to as ‘selective acculturation,’ which is evident when immigrants transmit cultural values to their children (see Portes and Rumbaut 2001). Even though these two types are interconnected, we contend that they are two distinct conceptualisations of cultural assimilation.

Table 4. Regression of Cultural Assimilation (Controlling for Sociodemographic Characteristics)

These two types of cultural assimilation are different from each other and are also distinct from overall assimilation. Setting aside conceptual distinctions, differences are evident at an empirical level (see Table 4); these entail four key distinctions: 1) the statistical significance of variables, 2) the direction of influence, 3) the impact of the variables, and 4) the overall fit of the model.

First, the statistical significance of the variables differs for both types of cultural assimilation. For example: the Liberal Democratic Party, patriotism, and overseas travel are significant for Japanese cultural assimilation but not for foreign cultural assimilation. On the other hand, age, self-employment, increased numbers of Americans and Germans, and hate speech are significant only for foreign culture.

Second, note that the direction of influence—whether positive or negative—differs in 12 of the variables shown for both cultural models. Third, the impacts of the variables—most notably those that are significant—differ when comparing the standardised coefficients: civic-mindedness (0.277 vs. 0.160), the increase of Koreans and Chinese (-0.097 vs. -0.041), discrimination (0.066 vs. -0.049), and how often respondents meet foreigners (0.040 vs. 0.054).

Fourth and finally, the models' overall fit is much greater for Japanese cultural assimilation than for foreign cultural assimilation, as evidenced by the adjusted R2 values of 0.16 and 0.04, respectively. We contend that Japanese culture and foreign culture are two different assimilation types, from both conceptual and empirical perspectives. Therefore, it is crucial to consider both types when addressing cultural assimilation, especially because cultural assimilation is often the first step of assimilation for immigrants (Gordon 1964).

We hypothesised that Japanese citizens who have more contact with immigrants would have less anti-assimilationist attitudes towards immigrants. We found contradictory support for this hypothesis. First, those who have not traveled abroad are more likely to have pro-assimilationist attitudes toward Japanese culture, even though contact theory would predict the opposite effect. However, those who meet foreigners are receptive to both types of cultural assimilation. Curiously, living close to foreigners was not a significant factor in respondents’ attitudes toward cultural assimilation. One interpretation of this finding may be that living in close proximity to foreigners has positive and negative aspects; for example, understanding and appreciating different cultural traditions among immigrants may be counterbalanced with foreigners who may not understand social norms such as the nuances of Japanese trash collection. Moreover, the contact may be superficial; more substantive connection—on an equal basis—is necessary for meaningful contact (Green 2017).

Japanese Opinions About Structural Assimilation

As did cultural assimilation, structural assimilation also diverged into two types, both conceptually and empirically. One type focuses on beneficial elements of structural assimilation—that is, addressing how immigrants benefit society (boosting the economy) and various rights that immigrants should have (i.e., public housing, welfare, and government jobs). These benefits contrast with harmful ways immigrants affect society, such as stealing jobs and abusing welfare. Conceptually, it is easy to reason that some people see immigrants' structural assimilation as a net positive to the host society. On the other hand, others see immigrants' structural assimilation as hurting native workers and negatively affecting the economy. These differences are theoretical and contribute to how we view various aspects of assimilation.

Table 5. Regression of Structural Assimilation (Controlling for Sociodemographic Characteristics)

These conceptual differences were also borne out by the data.  Among Japanese, the understanding of the beneficial and harmful aspects of structural assimilation also varies from person to person, as evidenced by our regression analysis of both types (see Table 5). Both dependent variables were driven in different directions by patriotism; increases in the number of Americans, Germans, Chinese and Koreans; discrimination; and life satisfaction. In other words, these variables were all significant, albeit in different directions—positive in one and negative in the other category of structural assimilation. Civic-mindedness had the most significant impact on beneficial cultural assimilation, whereas an increase in the number of Koreans and Chinese immigrants had the most notable effect on harmful cultural assimilation. Moreover, according to the adjusted R2, we can explain 39% of the beneficial aspect's variance and only 11% for the harmful aspect; each is important because citizens' opinions matter when trying to attract immigrants to work in Japan. The government sees immigrants as a solution to the shrinking and ageing population crisis; thus, they must convince citizens that immigrants are beneficial. In practical terms, the Government of Japan needs to show how encouraging working age immigrants can increase economic productivity, expand the tax base, and help provide for the social programs that the ageing population of Japan will increasingly depend upon.

We hypothesised that Japanese citizens with higher salaries would have less anti-assimilationist attitudes towards immigrants' structural assimilation; however, we did not find any evidence that higher income mitigates perception of economic threats. Even education—often associated with high income—was not a factor in explaining economic threat perception. We see that those who support an increase in immigrants (regardless of which countries they come from) are more likely to see immigrants as beneficial, whereas those who oppose any increase in immigrants see them as harmful. Citron et al. (1997) echoed this finding: ‘personal economic circumstances bear little or no relationship to restrictive attitudes on immigration (49).

Japanese Opinions About Psychological Assimilation

Identity—a key component of psychological assimilation—is a complex subject, especially in a such a homogeneous country as Japan. Psychological assimilation itself—likely the most challenging aspect of assimilation—requires the cooperation of immigrants and the host society. Those who do not see the need for immigrants to psychologically assimilate (i.e., foreigners must feel Japanese, be born in Japan, and have Japanese ancestors) recognise the difficulty of foreigners becoming, in any sense, Japanese. Because this is one aspect that immigrants have little control over, assimilation in this sense is dependent on Japanese citizens' willingness to accept foreigners despite not being born in Japan or having Japanese ancestors.

Table 6. Regression of Psychological Assimilation (Controlling for Sociodemographic Characteristics)

According to Table 6, we can describe the type of citizen most likely to have pro-assimilationist attitudes toward immigrants concerning psychological assimilation: they are younger, more educated, do not work part-time, not a member of the LDP party, less patriotic, less civic-minded, support increased immigration, and are not opposed to discrimination. These factors reflect the complicated nature of psychological assimilation, for example the fact that those with pro-assimilationist attitudes also think that ‘the fault of discrimination lies with the people being discriminated against’. We hypothesised that younger and more educated citizens would have more pro-assimilationist attitudes towards immigrants' psychological assimilation, and this prediction proved correct. This also means that younger and more educated citizens are less likely to believe that Japanese are unique, as argued by those espousing nihonjinron. Perhaps this has to do with social media facilitating interactions between these citizens and foreigners across the globe. It may also have to do with the prominence of famous athletes, like Naomi Osaka and Rui Hachimura, who are mixed race and yet identify as Japanese.

Discussion of Cultural, Structural, and Psychological Assimilation

How are we to make sense of the three significant types of assimilation (cultural, structural, and psychological), as well as their sub-components? Table 7 summarises the estimated coefficients, levels of significance, and direction of impact for all six regression models, as reported in Tables 4–6, enabling us to compare variables across types and recognise essential similarities and differences.   

Table 7. Impacts of Statistically Significant Variables by Assimilation Type

As shown in Table 7, there are numerous differences. First, the order of impact across the various types of assimilation differs drastically. Second, there are few variables where the direction of impact is the same; in most cases, the direction of impact fluctuates dramatically. Third, even when similar variables are significant, their levels of statistical significance differ. Finally, the levels of fit, as shown by the Adjusted R2, vary from 0.04 to 0.39. We acknowledge that most of this analysis is descriptive and exploratory; insofar as our variables address different types of assimilation, we can be confident in our findings given our randomised national sample of Japanese citizens. In any case, more studies are needed that examine how host societies view the assimilation of immigrants—especially regarding culture, structure, and identity.

We will now point out three similarities from Table 7. First, the variable discrimination is one of only two variables that factor in all assimilation types; its prompt reads: ‘The fault of discrimination lies with the people being discriminated against.’ Respondents agreed with this statement for some kinds of assimilation but disagreed for others. It is not surprising to see discrimination with such a broad level of impact when we recall that Gordon (1964) considered the absence of discrimination to be one of the final stages of assimilation. Furthermore, the absence of discrimination is a type of assimilation that places the onus on the host society rather than the immigrants.

Second, the variable Korean/Chinese, which asks the respondents whether they support an increase in the number of Korean or Chinese foreigners into their regions, is the only other variable that is significant in all models; this finding aligns with previous studies (Kage et al. 2022). Such strong feelings toward these two ethnic groups harken to historical conflicts (often unresolved) and also reflect a perceived racial hierarchy among Japanese citizens. This hierarchy poses an interesting quandary, as Japan is most likely to attract immigrants from China and Korea. Moreover, Koreans and Chinese immigrants will likely have an easier time assimilating given their shared writing system and similar phenotype.

Third, civic-mindedness evinces the greatest impact in four regression analyses and encompasses topics such as foreigners voting in local elections, respecting Japanese laws, and becoming Japanese citizens. Again, it is worth noting that Gordon's (1964) final stage of assimilation is civic assimilation, which he defines as the absence of value and power conflicts. One manifestation of this finding is that, in the case of three of the assimilation types (foreign cultural, Japanese cultural, and beneficial structural), Japanese citizens are in favour of immigrants voting in local elections, yet do not think it is important for immigrants to respect public policies and Japanese laws or have Japanese citizenship to be considered Japanese. The opposite is true for psychological assimilation.

Conclusion

In response to the paucity of research into Japanese public opinion toward immigration (Kage et al. 2022), we have explored Japanese citizens' perceptions of immigrants living in Japan using a randomised national sampling of Japanese citizens from 2013. We were specifically interested in how they view the assimilation processes of foreigners residing in Japan. To accomplish this goal, we adopted a three-fold framework distinguishing cultural, structural, and psychological assimilation (Rumbaut 2015). Japanese citizens' attitudes toward immigrants' assimilation into Japanese society can be viewed as a proxy for the contexts of reception—in other words, to what degree immigrants will feel accepted.

We found that roughly half of the Japanese citizens surveyed are receptive to immigrants living in Japan without the need to assimilate (i.e., overall assimilation). However, this finding needed to be unpacked, because when we looked more closely at the various dimensions of assimilation, we found that the Japanese public was much less receptive of some than others. For example, the Japanese are more receptive to cultural assimilation than structural assimilation, reflecting concerns about how immigrants impact Japanese society's overall structure. This did not support our hypothesis that Japanese citizens would be most receptive to immigrants’ structural assimilation. The data indicated two types of cultural assimilation and two types of structural assimilation. When defining cultural assimilation, there is a clear distinction between foreigners' culture and the host society's culture. According to our research, many Japanese show an open attitude toward foreign cultures, yet there are still many respondents who believe that foreigners should speak Japanese and behave like Japanese. We also see a clear distinction between the two types of structural assimilation: The Japanese public is more receptive of the notion that foreigners will boost the economy, and respond positively when asked about various rights that immigrants should have (see Nagayoshi 2013 for a discussion of these rights). Conversely, when asked about harmful dimensions, such as immigrants ‘stealing jobs,’ they are more likely to believe that immigrants harm the Japanese economy.

Japanese citizens were least accommodating of immigrants' psychological assimilation. More specifically, to be considered Japanese, respondents opined that immigrants must feel Japanese, have been born in Japan, and have Japanese ancestors. This confirmed our hypothesis that Japanese citizens have relatively more pro-assimilationist attitudes for structural (i.e., economic) and cultural elements and more anti-assimilationist attitudes for psychological factors (i.e., identity issues). Strong feelings about identity align with the extensive body of literature examining Japan’s preoccupation with the homogeneous and unique nature of their society. Many works have captured these ideas about nihonjinron, which implies that to be Japanese is to be different from—or even superior to—other racial and ethnic groups.

How do we explain why our findings differ from those of previous studies (e.g., Green 2017; Kage et al. 2022; Strausz 2019) that have identified cultural threats—rather than economic concerns—as the key to understanding Japanese opposition to immigrants? A careful read of these studies reveals that identity is often subsumed under—or conflated with—what they identify as cultural issues, which we contend has led to such results. When we differentiate culture and identity based on a theoretical framework of assimilation, it is clear that identity—not culture—is the main issue. Hainmuellar and Hiscox (2007) make this point clear: ‘Anti-immigration sentiments appear to be far more powerfully associated with cultural values that have more to do with conceptions of national identity than they do with concerns about personal, economic circumstances’ (437). We are not refuting findings on the importance of cultural threats; we are merely suggesting that a better approach when conceptualising anti-immigrant attitudes in Japan is to separate these attitudes into three distinct categories: culture, economy, and identity. 

Our study did not confirm our hypotheses relating to contact theory and economic threat. Indeed, we found that contact theory had little or no power to explain pro- or anti-assimilationist attitudes regarding cultural issues. Given the small number of foreigners in Japan (roughly 2% of the population), it is likely that most contact between foreigners and Japanese citizens has been neither meaningful nor prolonged—thus failing to satisfy the prerequisites for contact theory. Furthermore, we found that perceptions of economic threat could not explain pro- or anti-assimilationist attitudes regarding economic issues. Scholars have repeatedly failed to find evidence that perceived economic threat or labour market competition explain anti-immigrant sentiments—one study even characterised the approach as a ‘zombie theory’ (Hainmuellar and Hopkins 2014:241). This may be due to racial and ethnic differences among immigrants, whose country of origin has been found to affect public opinion (Hainmuellar and Hopkins 2015). Our data reveal that the Japanese perceive a racial hierarchy among immigrants’ various nationalities. Japanese are remarkably receptive to increased immigration from America and Germany (77.7% and 71.7%, respectively), whereas increased immigration from China and Korea would be welcomed by only 21.8% and 30.9%, respectively—likely due to historical conflicts and ongoing political tensions. Filipinos (48.9%) and Japanese Brazilians (60.2%) fall somewhere in the middle. At first, this finding appears to contradict Portes and Rumbaut's (2001) observation that, in the U.S., ‘race is a paramount criterion of social acceptance’ (47). However, this is likely because the Japanese have different views of race and often consider Chinese and Koreans as belonging to other races. As Lie (2001) points out: ‘most contemporary Japanese equate ethnicity with race’ (85).

In summary, we found strong evidence for the empirical existence of three discrete dimensions of assimilation—cultural, structural, and psychological—and any future discussion of immigrants’ assimilation or context of reception will be enriched by considering this three-fold framework. We do not recommend assimilation theory as a policy or recommendation; we merely consider it to be a useful framework to understand public opinion polls about immigrants—especially in Japan. Notwithstanding our findings, there is a need further to explore other variables that may explain differences in various aspects of assimilation. Our analysis was limited to the questions used in the 2013 survey, and although we are confident that they did indeed identify cultural, structural, and psychological components of assimilation, we also acknowledge that further questions may elicit responses that paint an even more vivid picture of assimilation in Japan. How the host society views immigrants' assimilation is particularly important because, as Gordon asserts, ‘It takes two to tango’—and two to assimilate.

Understanding what drives Japanese citizens' opinions toward immigrants will be critical to understanding what Japan will look like and what role immigrants will play in Japan’s future. Opposition to immigrants in Japan is a barrier to admittance and incorporation into Japanese society that also affects how successful Japan will be in attracting the immigrants it so desperately needs—whether skilled, unskilled, or student. This research will inform policymakers who recognise immigration as an answer to Japan's ageing and shrinking population. Understanding how Japanese citizens feel about how immigrants’ assimilation into their society will also help policymakers to develop policies that can address each type of assimilation (i.e., culture, economy, and identity), which will ultimately cultivate a better context of reception for what may be a historic wave of immigrants to Japan in the coming decades.

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About the Authors

Charlie V. Morgan holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California, Irvine, and teaches on ethnic relations and research methodology at Ohio University. His research includes race and ethnic relations, international migration, and Japanese society.

Jie Zhang (Ph.D., Waseda University, 2016) is currently a researcher at the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, Waseda University. Her research interests include international migration, labor markets, qualitative and quantitative social research. She focuses on the intersection of identity and belonging among immigrants in Japan, and investigates how they navigate the challenges of adapting to a new culture and society. Her current project, "Gender Comparison of Newcomer Chinese High-skilled Workers in Japanese Enterprises," aims to explore gender differences among Chinese immigrants in Japanese workplaces.

Timothy Cichanowicz is a political science PhD student at the University of Kansas. His research interests examine how nationalism and identity affect mass foreign policy preferences, trade, foreign direct investment, and immigration. He is currently working on projects examining how nationalist disputes affect foreign policy attitudes and how Japanese multinational corporations are responding to political risk in China. The former utilizes a survey experiment and the latter the construction of a new time-series cross-sectional database which has been accepted for presentation at conferences such as ISA and APSA.

Howard T. Welser (Ph.D., University of Washington, 2006) is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Ohio University.  He studies how the structure of social interaction can generate collective outcomes, drawing especially on data from social media systems while addressing issues of inequality and social change.  His work appears in a wide range of journals:  Telematics and Informatics, Social Science Research, Information Communication and Society, Small Group Research, Rural Sociology; as well as edited volumes and conference proceedings:  iConference, HICSS, WWW, and ICWSM.

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