Nigerians began coming to Japan in the 1960s mainly as students. The IMF-induced economic hardship (known as Structural Adjustment Program)that Nigeria faced from the late 1980s and the hardening of immigration rules in Western Europe and North America, saw an increase in the number of Nigerians coming to Japan, not as students but as immigrants. According to a 2005 news report, the majority of these immigrants "toil at a wide variety of occupations: as construction workers; painters; in auto junkyards; and in the service sector. But as many speak English, they find work in entertainment areas. Some come to Japan following the footsteps of other relatives, who send them money for their journey." There is currently no concrete figure on the number of Nigerians living in Japan, although some studies suggest they number in the thousands. Most, unsurprisingly, are based in Tokyo, but there are also Nigerians all over Japan. There are a number of organisations for Nigerian immigrants in Japan. The Nigerian Union in Japan, the oldest one, was founded in 1990, and restarted twice, most recently in 2010. The Imo State Union, founded in 2002, replaced it to become the largest and most active, and has formally applied for non-profit status under Japanese law.
Some Nigerian migrants during the 1980s found work in factories. Later, after the end of the Japanese asset price bubble reduced opportunities for such work, they shfited into the night-life industry in Tokyo's entertainment districts such as Kabukichō or Roppongi, a line of employment with a high level of public visibility. Many of the bars in these areas were previously owned by Chinese or Koreans, but during a police crackdown in 2002, closed down; Nigerians took advantage of the resulting business vacuum to open their own bars, and hired their countrymen as workers. Typically, Nigerians can be seen on the street as touts and bouncers for bars.
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