Was there a foreigner population drain from Japan in 2020? If so, where?

In this post, we do a deep dive into population migration data to see whether the resident foreigner population of Japan grew or shrank in 2020 amidst the immigration shutdown and if so, where?

The short answer to this question is “No.” In 2020, the number of foreigners living in Japan grew for the eighth consecutive year, despite the immigration lockdown. As of June 2020, there were 2,885,904 foreigners in Japan with resident status. This number represents about 2.3% of the total population of Japan. In contrast, the population of Japanese citizens stood at 123,333,000 on August 1, 2020, a year-on-year drop of 0.44%, the eleventh consecutive year of decline.

The longer answer to the lead question is that there was a resident foreigner population decline due to migration outside Japan but it was concentrated in certain prefectures.

Notably, Chiba, Tokyo and Aichi prefectures had the highest net population gains in foreign residents moving from overseas.

Kyoto and Hokkaido had the highest net population loss in foreign residents moving (back) to a foreign country. In total, 12 prefectures had a net loss due to outbound immigration to a foreign country.

Please see the data and detailed analysis below.

Where do most foreigners live in Japan?

The majority of resident foreigners in Japan (about 84%) are from Asian countries, mainly China, South Korea, and Viet Nam.

Tokyo has the largest number of foreign residents, followed by Aichi, Osaka, Kanagawa, and Saitama, and these five prefectures alone account for 53.2% of the total.

About 32% of all resident foreigners live in just three areas: Tokyo, Nagoya prefecture, and Osaka. Toyota’s global headquarters is located in Aichi prefecture and it is also home to many auto parts manufacturers who employ foreign workers.

About 16.9% of all foreigners in Japan live in the Tokyo 23 Wards. After the 2011 mega-earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters, the foreign population of Tokyo fell temporarily but started to increase again in 2014 and has grown every year since then. Foreigners comprised 2.44% of Tokyo’s population in 2000 and 3.98% in 2019.

As of January 1, 2020, the following were the prefectures with the highest population of foreigners (Ministry of Internal Affairs, 2020):

Prefecture Foreigner Population
Tokyo 13,834,925
Kanagawa 9,209,442
Osaka 8,849,635
Aichi 7,575,530
Saitama 7,390,054
Chiba 6,319,772
Hyōgo 5,549,568
Hokkaido 5,267,762
Fukuoka 5,129,841
Shizuoka 3,808,556

The data below is based on the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications’s Basic Resident Register Population Migration Report for 2020.

Our analysis is based on population movement of foreigners from outside to Japan and from Japan to foreign countries. It does not include data on foreigners moving within a prefecture or between prefectures.

Japan had a net gain in its resident foreigner population in 2020

In 2020, more foreigners moved to Japan than the number who left.

  • 213,320 foreigners entered the country.
  • 142,127 foreigners left the country.
  • Net gain of 71,193 people.

The data above only includes people in the Basic Resident Register, which means that tourists and people on short-term visas are excluded.

Population gain was concentrated in certain cities and prefectures

Net resident foreign population gain (and loss) was concentrated in certain prefectures and cities.

The table below shows the net change in the number of resident foreigners who moved from a city or prefecture to a foreign country. Remember that it does not include the number of foreigners who moved within the prefecture (or city) or who moved to another prefecture or city!

Click on the links to see For Rent listings in that city or prefecture.

City or Prefecture Number of Foreigners Moving to Japan from Overseas Number of Foreigners Moving Overseas from Japan Net Change
Hokkaido 3,725 5,777 -2052
Aomori 629 519 110
Iwate 751 565 186
Miyagi 891 1,580 -689
Akita 285 339 -54
Yamagata 525 563 -38
Fukushima 1,391 1,009 382
Ibaraki 9,847 3,481 6366
Tochigi 4,376 1,688 2688
Gunma 4,862 2,023 2839
Saitama 12,341 5,962 6379
Chiba 19,009 5,648 13361
Tokyo 40,207 29,103 11104
Kanagawa 13,844 9,908 3936
Niigata 1,482 1,779 -297
Toyama 1,769 1,004 765
Ishikawa 1,746 1,491 255
Fukui 1,420 1,161 259
Yamanashi 1,566 805 761
Nagano 3,022 3,265 -243
Gifu 4,658 2,437 2221
Shizuoka 5,508 4,422 1086
Aichi 19,114 12,318 6796
Mie 3,954 2,698 1256
Shiga 2,449 1,744 705
Kyoto 1,988 4,449 -2461
Osaka 9,044 9,072 -28
Hyogo 7,057 4,269 2788
Nara 995 637 358
Wakayama 578 319 259
Tottori 519 321 198
Shimane 639 695 -56
Okayama 3,698 1,680 2018
Hiroshima 6,462 3,556 2906
Yamaguchi 1,549 1,123 426
Tokushima 912 415 497
Kagawa 1,712 930 782
Ehime 1,815 1,380 435
Kochi 505 433 72
Fukuoka 7,905 4,066 3839
Saga 724 499 225
Nagasaki 1,020 1,122 -102
Kumamoto 2,153 1,435 718
Oita 1,068 1,386 -318
Miyazaki 682 548 134
Kagoshima 1,216 761 455
Okinawa 1,708 1,742 -34

Which prefectures or cities had the most number of foreigners moving in from overseas?

The table ranks the Top 10 cities or prefectures with the highest number of foreigners moving-in from outside Japan. Tokyo, unsurprisingly, comes in number one. Aichi (the center of automotive manufacturing in Japan) was second. Chiba, Kanagawa, and Saitama, the three prefectures surrounding Tokyo, round out the Top 5.

Rank City or Prefecture Number of Foreigners Moving in from Overseas
1 Tokyo 40,207
2 Aichi 19,114
3 Chiba 19,009
4 Kanagawa 13,844
5 Saitama 12,341
6 Ibaraki 9,847
7 Osaka 9,044
8 Fukuoka 7,905
9 Hyogo 7,057
10 Hiroshima 6,462

Which cities or prefectures had the greatest net gain?

Nationwide, Chiba prefecture had the greatest net population gain of resident foreigners moving in from overseas, beating out Tokyo by over 2,000 people.

Rank City or Prefecture Number of Foreigners Moving to Japan from Overseas Number of Foreigners Moving Overseas from Japan Net Change
1 Chiba 19,009 5,648 13,361
2 Tokyo 40,207 29,103 11,104
3 Aichi 19,114 12,318 6,796
4 Saitama 12,341 5,962 6,379
5 Ibaraki 9,847 3,481 6,366
6 Kanagawa 13,844 9,908 3,936
7 Fukuoka 7,905 4,066 3,839
8 Hiroshima 6,462 3,556 2,906
9 Gunma 4,862 2,023 2,839
10 Hyogo 7,057 4,269 2,788

Which prefectures had the greatest net loss?

Twelve prefectures had a net loss in their resident foreign population.

Kyoto and Hokkaido each had a net negative change of over 2,000 resident foreigners. Osaka prefecture had the smallest net loss, at 28 people.

Rank City or Prefecture Number of Foreigners Moving to Japan from Overseas Number of Foreigners Moving Overseas from Japan Net Change
1 Kyoto 1,988 4,449 -2,461
2 Hokkaido 3,725 5,777 -2,052
3 Miyagi 891 1,580 -689
4 Oita 1,068 1,386 -318
5 Niigata 1,482 1,779 -297
6 Nagano 3,022 3,265 -243
7 Nagasaki 1,020 1,122 -102
8 Shimane 639 695 -56
9 Akita 285 339 -54
10 Yamagata 525 563 -38
11 Okinawa 1,708 1,742 -34
12 Osaka 9,044 9,072 -28

Detailed data for Tokyo 23 Wards

Although the 23 Wards of Tokyo had a net population gain in foreign residents, there were a few wards that had significant losses in the foreigner population.

Area Number of Foreigners Moving to Japan from Overseas Number of Foreigners Moving Overseas from Japan Net Change
Tokyo 40,207 29,103 11,104
Tokyo (Western Cities) 40,121 29,042 11,079
Tokyo 23 Wards 34,793 23,816 10,977
Shinjuku Ward 5,075 2,314 2,761
Ota Ward 1,422 2,239 -817
Minato Ward 2,366 1,772 594
Setagaya Ward 1,444 1,367 77
Edogawa Ward 2,706 1,356 1,350
Toshima ward 2,884 1,318 1,566
Nerima Ward 1,344 1,255 89
Nakano Ward 1,785 1,249 536
Itabashi Ward 1,844 1,217 627
Suginami Ward 1,266 1,154 112
Koto Ward 1,898 1,148 750
Shibuya Ward 1,148 990 158
Bunkyo Ward 989 925 64
Adachi Ward 445 814 -369
Meguro Ward 797 684 113
Shinagawa Ward 835 664 171
Kita Ward 1,667 652 1,015
Katsushika Ward 1,243 646 597
Arakawa Ward 5 484 -479
Chuo Ward 917 465 452
Taito Ward 1,323 457 866
Sumida Ward 914 418 496
Chiyoda Ward 476 228 248
Tokyo Other Administrative Districts 86 61 25

Sources:


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