Ethnic groups of Japan

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Among the several native ethnic groups of Japan, the predominant group are the Yamato Japanese, who trace their origins back to the Yayoi period and have held political dominance since the Asuka period. Other historical ethnic groups have included the Ainu, the Ryukyuan people, the Emishi, and the Hayato; some of whom were dispersed or absorbed by other groups. Ethnic groups that inhabited the Japanese islands during prehistory include the Jomon people and lesser-known Paleolithic groups. In more recent history, a number of immigrants from other countries have made their home in Japan. According to census statistics in 2018, 97.8% of the population of Japan are Japanese, with the remainder being foreign nationals residing in Japan.[1] The number of foreign workers has been increased dramatically in recent years, due to the aging population and the lack of labor force. A news article in 2018 states that approximately 1 out of 10 young people residing in Tokyo are foreign nationals.[2]


Citizenship of foreigners in Japan in 2000.
Source: Japan Statistics Bureau[3]

About 2.3% of Japan's total legal resident population are foreign citizens. Of these, according to 2020 data from the Japanese government, the principal groups are as follows.[4][5][6]

Nationality Number Percentage of
 China 778,112 32.3% 0.73%
South KoreaNorth Korea South Korea + North Korea[note 1] 454,122 17.7% 0.40%
 Vietnam 448,053 15.5% 0.28%
 Philippines 279,660 13.0% 0.23%
 Brazil 208,538 7.5% 0.17%
   Nepal 95,982 3.3% 0.07%
 Indonesia 66,832 2.1% 0.04%
 Taiwan 55,872 2.2% 0.05%
 United States 55,761 2.1% 0.04%
 Thailand 53,379 1.9% 0.04%
 Peru 48,256 1.8% 0.04%
 India 38,558 1.3% 0.03%
 Myanmar 35,049 1.0% 0.02%
 Sri Lanka 29,290 0.9% 0.02%
 Pakistan 19,103 0.7% 0.02%
 Bangladesh 17,463 0.6% 0.02%
 United Kingdom 16,891 0.7% 0.02%
 Cambodia 16,659 0.5% 0.01%
 Mongolia 13,504 0.5% 0.01%
 France 12,264 0.5% 0.01%
Others 635,787 23.6% 0.50%
Total (as of 2020) 2,887,116 100% 2.3%

The above statistics do not include the approximately 30,000 U.S. military stationed in Japan, nor do they account for illegal immigrants. The statistics also do not take into account minority groups who are Japanese citizens such as the Ainu (an aboriginal people primarily living in Hokkaido), the Ryukyuans (from the Ryukyu Islands south of mainland Japan), naturalized citizens from backgrounds including but not limited to Korean and Chinese, and citizen descendants of immigrants. The total legal resident population of 2012 is estimated at 127.6 million.

Notion of ethnic homogeneity in Japan[edit]

After the demise of the multi-ethnic Empire of Japan in 1945, successive governments had forged a single Japanese identity by advocating monoculturalism and denying the existence of more than one ethnic group in Japan.[7] It was not until 2019 when the Japanese parliament passed an act to recognize the Ainu people to be indigenous.[8][9] However, the notion of ethnic homogeneity was so ingrained in Japan, to which the former Prime Minister Taro Aso (1940-), in 2020, notably claimed in an election campaign speech that “No other country but this one has lasted for as long as 2,000 years with one language, one ethnic group and one dynasty”.[7]

Pioneering remarks about ethnic rights was first made by Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo on 20 May 2008, who stated at the parliament, "We acknowledge the Ainu to be an ethnic minority as it has maintained a unique cultural identity and having a unique language and religion."[10]

Native Japanese people[edit]


The Ainu people (also Aynu) are an indigenous people native to Hokkaido and northeastern Honshu, as well as the nearby Russian Sakhalin and Kuril Islands (both formerly part of the Japanese Empire), and Kamchatka Peninsula. They possess a language distinct from modern Japanese. They traditionally practiced tattooing and followed religious beliefs that are considered animism.[citation needed]

Ōbeikei (Bonin) Islanders[edit]

The Ōbeikei Islanders are an ethnic group native to the Bonin Islands (also called the Ogasawara Islands), part of Tokyo Prefecture. They are descendants of Westerners, Polynesians, and Kanaks who settled Hahajima and Chichijima in the 18th century. They speak a dialect of English, called Bonin English, and have traditionally practiced Christianity. Legal status of Bonin Islanders passed back and forth between the United States and Japan over the years and, during and after World War II, many Bonin Islanders were forced to leave their homes. Some emigrated to the United States, finding it easier to assimilate into an English-speaking Western culture than a Japanese-speaking Asian one. Today, roughly 200 Bonin Islanders remain in Japan, some still bearing the surnames of the original 18th-century settlers.


The Yamato people are the dominant native ethnic group of Japan and because of their numbers, the term Yamato is often used interchangeably with the term Japanese. However, other ethnic groups native to Japan, who are genetically distinct from the Yamato, do exist.


The Ryukyuan people (also Lewchewan) are an indigenous people native to the Ryukyu Islands. There are different subgroups of the Ryukyuan ethnic group, the Okinawan, Amami, Miyako, Yaeyama and Yonaguni peoples. Their languages comprise the Ryukyuan languages,[11] one of the two branches of the Japonic language family (the other being Japanese and its dialects).[12] The Ryukyuans have a distinct culture with some matriarchal elements, native religion, and cuisine which had fairly late (12th century) introduction of rice.

East Asian[edit]


Chinese people in Japan are the largest foreign minorities in Japan. They comprise 0.64% of Japan's population. Chinese people are mostly concentrated in the Osaka, Tokyo and Yokohama areas.


Koreans in Japan are the fifth largest ethnic minorities in the country. Most of them arrived in the early 20th century.

As of 2012, there are 530,421 Koreans in Japan who are not Japanese citizens.[13]




A small number of Nivkh people resettled in Hokkaido when Japan evacuated southern Sakhalin at the end of World War II.

South Asian[edit]

South Asians in Japan live mostly in Tokyo.[14]





Sri Lankans[edit]

Southeast Asian[edit]


Filipinos in Japan formed a population of 202,592 individuals at year-end 2007, making them Japan's third-largest foreign community along with Brazilians, according to the statistics of the Ministry of Justice. In 2006, Japanese/Filipino marriages were the most frequent of all international marriages in Japan.[15] As of March 12, 2011, the Filipino population of Japan was 305,972.[16] As of April 1, 2020, the number of Filipinos in Japan is estimated at 325,000.[17]



448,053 Vietnamese people were living in Japan by the end of 2020.


West Asian[edit]










West African[edit]



North American[edit]


South American[edit]


There is a significant community of Brazilians in Japan, which is home to the second largest Brazilian community outside of Brazil. They also constitute the largest number of Portuguese speakers in Asia, even greater than those of formerly Portuguese East Timor, Macao and Goa combined. Likewise, Brazil maintains its status as home to the largest Japanese community outside of Japan.


Like Brazilians in Japan, there are Peruvians in Japan, some of them lived in Peru when the country opened their doors for foreign workers. Alberto Fujimori is one example of Peruvian Japanese.


  1. ^ Japan recognizes the Republic of Korea (South Korea) as the government of the entire Korean Peninsula, and for this reason doesn't consider passports issued by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) to be valid. Instead, Japan uses the term "Chōsen" to refer to all ethnic Koreans in Japan who hold neither Japanese nor South Korean citizenship.


  1. ^ "国籍・地域別 在留資格(在留目的)別 在留外国人". 独立行政法人統計センター. Retrieved 2019-07-29.
  2. ^ "外国人最多の249万人、東京は20代の1割 人口動態調査". Nikkei News. 11 July 2018. Retrieved 2019-07-29.
  3. ^ Japan Statistics Bureau Archived December 25, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, accessed December 8, 2007
  4. ^ "国籍・地域別 在留資格(在留目的)別 在留外国人". 独立行政法人統計センター. Retrieved 2019-07-29.
  5. ^ "Disturbing trend: Japanese protesters use Nazism to attack Chinese, Koreans". AJW by The Asahi Shimbun. Archived from the original on October 13, 2014. Retrieved October 13, 2014.
  6. ^ "在留外国人統計(旧登録外国人統計) 在留外国人統計 月次 2020年12月 | ファイル | 統計データを探す". 政府統計の総合窓口 (in Japanese). Retrieved 2022-05-28.
  7. ^ a b Oguma, Eiji (February 5, 2020). "「麻生発言」で考えた…なぜ「日本は単一民族の国」と思いたがるのか?". Mainichi Shimbun. Archived from the original on 2021-10-17.
  8. ^ Emiko Jozuka (April 20, 2019). "Japan's Ainu will finally be recognized as indigenous people". CNN. Archived from the original on April 22, 2019. Retrieved April 22, 2019.
  9. ^ Komai, Eléonore (2021). "The Ainu and Indigenous politics in Japan: negotiating agency, institutional stability, and change". Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Politics: 1–24. doi:10.1017/rep.2021.16. ISSN 2056-6085. S2CID 237755856.
  10. ^ Fukuda, Yasuo (May 20, 2008). "衆議院議員鈴木宗男君提出先住民族の定義及びアイヌ民族の先住民族としての権利確立に向けた政府の取り組みに関する第三回質問に対する答弁書". Japanese Diet. アイヌの人々が「先住民族」かどうか結論を下せる状況にはないが、アイヌの人々は、いわゆる和人との関係において、日本列島北部周辺、取り分け北海道に先住していたことは歴史的事実であり、また、独自の言語及び宗教を有し、文化の独自性を保持していること等から、少数民族であると認識している。
  11. ^ Masami Ito (12 May 2009). "Between a rock and a hard place". The Japan Times. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  12. ^ Minahan, James B. (2014), Ethnic Groups of North, East, and Central Asia: An Encyclopedia, ABC-CLIO, pp. 231–233, ISBN 978-1-61069-018-8
  13. ^ Statistics at the Immigration Bureau of Japan (2012). Retrieved on 11 June 2012
  14. ^ Obe, Mitsuru. "Chinatowns and Little Indias take shape in Tokyo". Nikkei. Nikkei. Retrieved 3 July 2020.
  15. ^ "THIS FOREIGN LAND Inevitably, newcomers play growing role". Japan Times. Japan. January 2008.
  16. ^ "Embassy taps help of Pinoy groups in Japan". Japan: ABS-CBN News. March 12, 2011.
  17. ^ "2 Filipinos in Japan may be COVID-19 positive, says PH Embassy". April 2020.