Chinese people in Japan

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Chinese people in Japan
Nakaima Hirokazu 1-1.jpg
WBC2006 Sadaharu Oh.jpg
Renho 1-3.jpg
Takeshi Kaneshiro2.jpg
Megumi Han (潘 めぐみ) at Anime Expo 2013.jpg
Total population
0.53% of the Japanese population (2010)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, and other major cities
Japanese, Mandarin, Hoochew, Hokkien, Cantonese, and English
Related ethnic groups
Overseas Chinese
Chinese people in Japan
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 日本華僑
Simplified Chinese 日本华侨
Japanese name
Kanji 華僑
Alternate Japanese name
Kanji 在日中国人

Chinese people in Japan consist of migrants from the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China, and the previous imperial dynasties to Japan and their descendants. They have a history going back for centuries.

Population and distribution[edit]

Most Chinese people, or descendants of Chinese immigrants, who are living in Japan reside in major cities such as Osaka, Yokohama, and Tokyo, although there are increasingly also significant populations in other areas as government immigration policies increasingly attract workers to 'training programs', universities seek increasing numbers of international students and Chinese people see business opportunities. Japan's first recognised Chinatown was in Nagasaki, developing in the 1680s when economic prerogatives meant that the Shogunal government needed to restrict and control trade to a greater extent than previously. Before this, there had been a large number of Chinese communities in the west of the country, made up of pirates, merchants and also people who fitted in to both categories. In the 19th century, the well-known Chinatowns of Yokohama and Kobe developed, and they are still thriving today, although the majority of Chinese people in Japan live outside Chinatowns in the regular community. The communities are served by Chinese schools that teach the Chinese language, and increasingly Japanese people also study Chinese in both public schools and private academies.

The Chinese community has undergone a dramatic change since the PRC allowed more freedom of movement of its citizens, but it should be noted that citizens of Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong nationality are not counted in these figures. A study that was conducted in 1995 estimated that the Chinese population of Japan numbered 150,000, among whom between 50,000 to 100,000 could speak Chinese.[2] In 2000, Japanese governmental statistics revealed that there were 335,575 Chinese people in Japan.[3] Current demographic statistics reveal that these numbers have reached over 600, 000 legal immigrants, although there is probably also a significant population, although of unknown number, of illegal immigrants. A significant number of Chinese people take Japanese citizenship each year and therefore disappear from these figures. As Japanese citizenship, like France, does not not record ethnicity, ones a person has naturalised, they are simply Japanese, so the category of Chinese-Japanese does not exist in the same was as it would in a country which recognises ethnicity. Therefore, the numbers of Japanese people who are of Chinese descent is unclear, and will probably never be known.


Pre-modern era[edit]

The original immigrants to the Japanese isles probably came from the south, but around 2300 years ago, increasing numbers came from what is now China and Korea. These were not all nameless, a Chinese legend of uncertain provenance states that Xu Fu, a Qin Dynasty court sorcerer, was sent by Qin Shi Huang to Penglai Mountain (Mount Fuji) in 219 BC to retrieve an elixir of life. Xu could not find any elixir of life and was reluctant to return to China because he knew he would be sentenced to death, Xu instead stayed in Japan.[4] Other immigrants are also thought to include major population movements such as that of the Hata clan.

However, Japan's first verifiable Chinese visitor was the Buddhist missionary Hui Shen, whose 499 AD visit to an island east of China known as Fusang, typically identified with modern-day Japan, was described in the 7th-century Liang Shu. Chinese people are also known to have settled in Okinawa during the Sanzan period at the invitation of the Ryukyuan kings; these were high level royal advisors who lived in the village of Kumemura, for example, claim to all be descended from Chinese immigrants.[5]

Modern era[edit]

Kanteibyou Temple in Yokohama Chinatown

During the Meiji and Taisho eras, it is estimated that up to 100 000 Chinese students came to study in Japan. Japan was both closer to China culturally and in distance than the American and European alternatives. It was also much cheaper.[6] In 1906 alone, more than six thousand Chinese students were in Japan. Most of them resided in the district of Kanda in Tokyo.[7]


The term shin-kakyō refers to people of Chinese descent who immigrated to Japan from Taiwan and Mainland China.


Foreign students[edit]

Sun Yat-sen (far right) with Japanese friends in Tokyo, 1900.

Many famous Chinese intellectuals have studied in Japan, among them Sun Yat-sen, Lu Xun, and Zhou Enlai.


The Industrial 'training scheme' used to bring Chinese workers to Japan has been criticized by lawyers as exploitation, after several deaths.[8]

Long-term residents and their descendants[edit]


Many Japanese war orphans left behind in China after World War II have migrated to Japan with the assistance of the Japanese government, bringing along their Chinese spouses and children.



Chinese restaurants in Japan serve a fairly distinct style of Chinese cuisine. Though in the past Chinese cuisine would have been primarily available in Chinatowns such as those in port cities of Kobe, Nagasaki, or Yokohama, Japanese-style Chinese cuisine is now commonly available all over Japan. As Japanese restaurants often specialise in just one sort of dish, cuisine is focused primarily on dishes found within three distinct types of restaurants: ramen restaurants, dim sum houses, and standard Chinese-style restaurants.


As of 2008 there are five Chinese day schools in Japan:[9] two in Yokohama and one each in Kobe, Osaka, and Tokyo.[10] Three are oriented towards the Republic of China on Taiwan while two are oriented towards Mainland China.[9] In Japanese the PRC-oriented schools are called tairiku-kei, and the ROC-oriented schools are taiwan-kei.[11] The Taiwan-oriented schools teach Traditional Chinese and Bopomofo while the Mainland-oriented schools teach Simplified Chinese and Hanyu Pinyin. The Taiwan-oriented schools, by 2008, also began teaching Simplified Chinese.[9]

As of 1995 most teachers at these schools are ethnic Chinese persons who were born in Japan. By that year there were increasing numbers of Japanese families sending their children to Chinese schools. Other students at Chinese schools are Japanese with mixed Chinese-Japanese parentage, Japanese children with Chinese parents, and returnees from abroad.[12]

Sun Yat-sen established the Yokohama Chinese School in 1898. In 1952 it split into the Mainland-aligned Yokohama Yamate Chinese School and the Taiwan-aligned Yokohama Overseas Chinese School. The Kobe Chinese School is also oriented towards Mainland China.[9] The Osaka Chinese School is located in Naniwa-ku, Osaka.[13] There is also the Tokyo Chinese School.


The Chūnichi Shinpo, a biweekly paper, is published in Chinese and Japanese. The Chūbun and Zhongwen Dabao, both weekly newspapers, and about 28 other Chinese newspapers are published in Tokyo. In addition the Kansai Kabun Jihō, published in Chinese and Japanese, is based in the Osaka area.[10]


Ethnic relations[edit]

During his time in office, former Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara publicly used controversial terms such as sangokujin to refer to Taiwanese staying illegally in Japan, and implied that they might engage in rioting and looting in the aftermath of a disaster.[14]

I referred to the "many sangokujin who entered Japan illegally." I thought some people would not know that word so I paraphrased it and used gaikokujin, or foreigners. But it was a newspaper holiday so the news agencies consciously picked up the sangokujin part, causing the problem.
... After World War II, when Japan lost, the Chinese of Taiwanese origin and people from the Korean Peninsula persecuted, robbed and sometimes beat up Japanese. It's at that time the word was used, so it was not derogatory. Rather we were afraid of them.
... There's no need for an apology. I was surprised that there was a big reaction to my speech. In order not to cause any misunderstanding, I decided I will no longer use that word. It is regrettable that the word was interpreted in the way it was.[15]

Notable individuals[edit]

This is a list of Chinese expatriates in Japan and Japanese citizens of Chinese descent.

Chiang Kai-shek, a politician and general

Early 20th[edit]

Late 20th[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ 国籍(出身地)別在留資格(在留目的)別外国人登録者, Independent Administrative Institution The National Statistics Center
  2. ^ Maher 1995
  3. ^ Refsing, Kirsten (November 2003), MacKerras, Colin MacKerras, ed., Ethnicity in Asia, United Kingdom: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-25816-2
  4. ^ CRI Editors (2005-02-18), Why did Xu Fu go to Japan?, China Radio International, retrieved 2006-10-25 
  5. ^ Kerr 2000, p. 76
  6. ^ Jansen, M. (1970) The Japanese and Sun Yat Sen. Stamford University Press
  7. ^ Kreiner 2004, pp. 240–242
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b c d Co, Emily. "School bridges China-Japan gap" (Archive). The Japan Times. December 23, 2008. Modified January 30, 2015. Retrieved on March 8, 2015.
  10. ^ a b Gottlieb, Nanette. "Japan: Language Planning and Policy in Transition." In: Kaplan, Robert B. and Richard B. Baldauf. Language Planning and Policy in Asia: Japan, Nepal, Taiwan and Chinese characters (Language planning and policy). Multilingual Matters, 2008. ISBN 1847690955, 9781847690951. Start: 102. CITED: p. 133.
  11. ^ Arisawa, Shino (有澤 知乃; Tokyo Gakugei University International Student Exchange Center (留学生センター)). "(A Research Note)Music Education at Overseas Chinese Schools in Japan : The Cases of Yokohama Yamate Chinese School and Yokohama Overseas Chinese School" ((研究ノート)中華学校における音楽教育 : 横浜山手中華学校と横浜中華学院を事例として; Archive). Bulletin of Tokyo Gakugei University Humanities and Social Sciences II (東京学芸大学紀要. 人文社会科学系. II). 66, 205-215, 2015-01-30. Tokyo Gakugei University. See profile at CiNii. See profile at ETopia, Tokyo Gakugei University Repository (東京学芸大学リポジトリ). English abstract available. CITED: p. 215 (English abstract).
  12. ^ Maher, p. 131. See Table 2. also: "A surprising trend in recent years is for some Japanese parents to send their children to Chinese schools" and "The overwhelming majority of teachers in Chinese schools are Japan-born Chinese residents (e.g. Yokohama Yamate 25 teachers: 19 Japan-born Chinese, 4 Japan- born Japanese, 2 mainland China-born)."
  13. ^ Fujikata, Satoru. "Japanese parents see value of Chinese, Indian schools" (Archive). Asahi Shimbun. August 30, 2011. Retrieved on March 8, 2015.
  14. ^ Larimer, Tim (2000-04-24), "Rabble Rouser", Time Asia, retrieved 2006-10-25 
  15. ^ "'There's No Need For an Apology': Tokyo's boisterous governor is back in the headlines," TIME Asia, April 24, 2000.


  • Kerr, George H (2000). Okinawa: the History of an Island People. Boston: Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 0-8048-2087-2.  See page 76.
  • Kreiner, Josef; Ulrich Mohwald, Hans-Dieter Olschleger (January 2004), Modern Japanese Society, Brill Academic Publishers, pp. 240–242, ISBN 90-04-10516-6 
  • Maher, John C. (1995), "The Kakyo: Chinese in Japan", Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 16 (1–2): 125–138  External link in |title= (help); - (published online 14 September 2010)
  • Refsing, Kirsten (November 2003), MacKerras, Colin MacKerras, ed., Ethnicity in Asia, United Kingdom: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-25816-2 
  • Soderberg, Marie; Reader, Ian (March 2000), Japanese Influences and Presences in Asia, United Kingdom: Routledge, ISBN 0-7007-1110-4 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]