In this article, we take a look at population data to see which parts of Tokyo, specifically and Japan, in general, have the highest population of foreigners and where the population of foreigners is growing the fastest.
What is the population of foreigners in Japan?
In 2016, there were 2,382,822 registered foreigners living in Japan. This was a 6.7% year-on-year increase, and the highest number ever recorded by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ 2016 Registered Foreigner Survey [In Japanese]).
Japan’s population is 126,740,000, so foreigners comprise about 1.88% of the total.
Where do foreigners live in Japan by prefecture?
The majority of foreigners in Japan live in the greater Tokyo area, which consists of Tokyo and the surrounding prefectures of Kanagawa, Saitama, and Chiba. In 2016, there were 978,172 registered foreigners living in greater Tokyo, or about 41% of the total.
If we look at individual prefectures, Tokyo still leads the pack with a population of 500,874 (21.0% of the total), followed by Aichi (where Nagoya is located), with a population of 224,424 (9.4%), and Osaka with a population of 217,656 (9.1%).
Please see the chart below for a breakdown of registered foreigner population by prefecture.
What regions in Japan have the highest rate of growth in the foreigner population?
In 2016, Tokyo saw a net 8.2% increase in the population of foreigners. The surrounding prefectures of Kanagawa, Saitama, and Chiba all recorded increases, as well.
However, it was the outlying regions that saw double-digit growth in the population of foreigners, albeit from a much smaller base.
These prefectures had the highest rate of year-on-year growth:
# 1 Saga Prefecture
In 2016, the population of registered foreigners in Saga grew 13.0%, to 5,203.
#2 Okinawa Prefecture
In 2016, the population of registered foreigners in Okinawa grew 10.5%, to 14,285.
Okinawa prefecture is made up of more than 150 islands in the East China Sea between Taiwan and Japan’s mainland. It’s known for its tropical climate, white-sand beaches and coral reefs!
#3 Miyazaki Prefecture
In 2016, the population of registered foreigners in Miyazaki grew 10.5%, to 5,100.
Miyazaki prefecture is located on the southeastern coast of Kyushu. It is known for beautiful mountainous and coastal scenery and mild climate.
Where do foreigners live in Tokyo by ward?
The majority of foreigners living in Japan live in Tokyo’s 23 Wards.
Some stereotypes would have us believe that foreigners are concentrated in Tokyo’s central wards (Chiyoda, Minato, Chuo, Shibuya, and Shinjuku). These wards are indeed where Tokyo’s business, political, and entertainment hubs are located. It’s also true that the popular high-end ex-pat areas (such as Roppongi, Ebisu Hiro, Aoyama, Azabu, and Iidabashi) are concentrated in the center of the city.
Looking at the data, however, what we see is that the population of foreigners in the city is far more dispersed.
Some points that stand out:
- Registered foreigners comprise about 4% of the population of the 23 Wards.
- 10% of the total population of foreigners living in the 23 Wards lives in Shinjuku. Foreigners make up 11% of the total population of the ward, the highest ratio of any of the 23 Wards. The main reason for this is the high concentration of Korean nationals living in Shin Okubo (known as Tokyo’s Korea Town).
- Setagaya, the most populous ward with a population of 919,000 (about 10% of the total population of the 23 Wards) only has 1.8% of the registered foreigner population.
- Except for Shinjuku and Minato, the Top 10 wards by population of foreigners are all outside the center of the city.
- About 80% of the foreigner population lives outside the central five wards of Chiyoda, Minato, Chuo, Shibuya, and Shinjuku.
What is the breakdown of foreigners in Japan by nationality?
It’s also useful to understand the nationality breakdown of foreigners living in Japan because it can give us some insight as to why some areas have concentrations of foreigners from certain countries. For example, as we pointed out above, one reason for the high percentage of Shinjuku’s foreigner population is because Korea Town is centered around Shin Okubo.