Where foreigners in Japan are moving in 2020 — Ranking by Prefecture

Tokyo’s resident foreigner population shrunk by 4.2% from January to August this year, but Japan’s immigration lockdown was not the only cause. To be sure, tens of thousands of people with residency visas have been stranded overseas as a result of coronavirus border controls.

But a closer look at the data gives us some insight into what’s going on with foreigners currently residing in Japan.

First, we’ll go over some basic data on Japan’s resident foreigner population. Then we will look at where resident foreigners have been moving to and from inside Japan. The short answer, however, is here:

Top 5 prefectures / cities foreigners are moving out of:

  1. Tokyo
  2. Aichi
  3. Chiba
  4. Fukuoka
  5. Hiroshima

Top 5 prefectures foreigners are moving to:

  1. Saitama
  2. Kanagawa
  3. Gunma
  4. Shizuoka
  5. Fukui

For detailed data, please keep reading!

How many foreigners live in Japan?

As of December 2019, there were 2,933,137 foreigners in Japan with resident status. The majority of resident foreigners in Japan (2,461,731 or about 84%) are from Asian countries, mainly China, South Korea, and Viet Nam.

Where do most foreigners live in Japan?

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.

Tokyo’s foreigner population in 2020 by month

The resident foreigner population of Tokyo has fallen by about 4.2% in the first eight months of the year. Source: Tokyo Metropolitan Government (in Japanese), with the decline starting in March (when Japan implemented strict border controls to fight the coronavirus).

Foreigner Population of Tokyo by Month — January to August 2020
Month Population v. previous month % Change
Jan 577,329 -1084
Feb 579,086 1,757 0.30%
Mar 577,576 -1,510 -0.26%
Apr 570,165 -7,411 -1.28%
May 566,455 -3,710 -0.65%
Jun 563,421 -3,034 -0.54%
Jul 558,988 -4,433 -0.79%
Aug 552,905 -6,083 -1.09%

There are number of reasons for the steady month to month drop in population. The main cause, of course, is that immigration came to a virtual standstill starting in March.

Foreigners have been moving out of Tokyo to other parts of Japan

A smaller cause of the steady decrease has been that foreigners are moving out of Tokyo to other parts of Japan. This movement is not unique to the resident foreigner population. We can also see the same pattern in the overall Japanese population.

In this article, however, we focus just on analyzing where resident foreigners are moving in Japan, specifically on what prefectures they are moving to and from.

Where resident foreigners are moving to and from in Japan – Jan to Sept 2020

The analysis below is based on data from Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs on migration of people between prefectures. It does not include people moving within a prefecture or city (for example, people moving from one ward to another in Tokyo). The numbers represent the net population gain or loss by month for January to September 2020.

Click on the links in the Prefecture column to see properties currently available to rent!

Source: Japan Ministry of Internal Affairs

Prefecture Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Jan to Sept Net Gain or Loss
Hokkaido 91 100 31 110 -9 4 26 -1 8 360
Aomori 40 -14 19 18 1 -7 8 12 -4 73
Iwate 46 16 -56 15 -1 -4 -4 -32 11 -9
Miyagi 64 33 -173 59 0 2 -46 -27 -60 -148
Akita 12 18 75 52 -1 6 -2 19 3 182
Yamagata 35 19 55 49 11 6 -2 -18 11 166
Fukushima -41 -21 -73 -22 -2 12 -20 -28 -34 -229
Ibaraki -93 -410 -553 -273 80 93 130 105 153 -768
Tochigi -256 -102 49 362 57 96 22 -33 -15 180
Gunma 201 55 453 580 97 87 93 94 69 1729
Saitama 586 871 920 748 331 333 322 426 296 4833
Chiba -876 -569 -82 -620 83 191 248 240 162 -1223
Tokyo 140 53 -1,703 -2,517 -560 -427 -378 -503 -554 -6449
Kanagawa 380 516 1,583 947 246 134 31 117 239 4193
Niigata 75 30 18 148 -8 -7 -25 12 10 253
Toyama -73 -4 -7 -26 -10 2 5 -35 8 -140
Ishikawa 12 -62 -68 87 12 -47 -21 3 -15 -99
Fukui 150 93 35 95 141 102 52 50 3 721
Yamanashi -98 -81 34 -20 38 33 70 14 26 16
Nagano -39 56 -72 210 40 20 -13 38 6 246
Gifu -35 -102 97 2 -29 -66 14 -77 -72 -268
Shizuoka 172 178 272 381 -117 -82 -59 -97 82 730
Aichi -737 -699 -896 -1,166 -253 -343 -220 -111 -161 -4586
Mie 57 -23 -20 38 29 34 -36 -18 20 81
Shiga 33 39 138 164 8 -7 -11 5 51 420
Kyoto 87 -4 -14 5 -38 -78 -38 -60 16 -124
Osaka -274 -199 543 129 7 26 6 74 119 431
Hyogo -95 95 378 107 75 128 -57 -78 -47 506
Nara 31 87 71 62 16 21 6 22 -31 285
Wakayama 20 31 33 36 5 21 14 4 0 164
Tottori 26 -24 13 4 13 3 -3 -12 -3 17
Shimane 26 37 109 73 -28 -2 9 -10 -10 204
Okayama -31 -44 -225 -86 8 1 -12 4 -43 -428
Hiroshima -157 -226 -302 -41 -70 -19 -46 18 -15 -858
Yamaguchi 35 7 29 -54 -56 -42 -10 -31 22 -100
Tokushima -40 -47 -30 105 11 -14 8 -19 -8 -34
Kagawa 55 51 -10 48 5 9 -2 2 -10 148
Ehime -17 24 -22 69 -1 17 -13 10 9 76
Kochi 24 14 -18 1 -22 14 -7 15 23 44
Fukuoka -99 -46 -428 -50 -118 -132 -14 -7 -89 -983
Saga 62 -33 39 7 8 -24 5 -23 -3 38
Nagasaki -21 -14 -133 -13 -5 -39 -9 -35 -73 -342
Kumamoto 99 -53 19 58 13 12 -4 -20 -25 99
Oita 63 39 39 40 1 -11 -14 8 -36 129
Miyazaki 63 116 13 29 -19 -18 -23 7 -12 156
Kagoshima 99 125 27 55 15 6 -1 -22 0 304
Okinawa 198 74 -207 -5 -4 -44 21 -2 -27 4

In graphical form, the data looks like this:

Ranking by net population gain

And here is the table, if we rank the prefectures by net population gain due to movement between prefectures:

Prefecture Net Population Gain/Loss – Jan to Sept 2020
Saitama 4833
Kanagawa 4193
Gunma 1729
Shizuoka 730
Fukui 721
Hyogo 506
Osaka 431
Shiga 420
Hokkaido 360
Kagoshima 304
Nara 285
Niigata 253
Nagano 246
Shimane 204
Akita 182
Tochigi 180
Yamagata 166
Wakayama 164
Miyazaki 156
Kagawa 148
Oita 129
Kumamoto 99
Mie 81
Ehime 76
Aomori 73
Kochi 44
Saga 38
Tottori 17
Yamanashi 16
Okinawa 4
Iwate -9
Tokushima -34
Ishikawa -99
Yamaguchi -100
Kyoto -124
Toyama -140
Miyagi -148
Fukushima -229
Gifu -268
Nagasaki -342
Okayama -428
Ibaraki -768
Hiroshima -858
Fukuoka -983
Chiba -1223
Aichi -4586
Tokyo -6449

Top 3 prefectures by foreigner population gain from inbound migration

Saitama, Kanagawa and Gunma, the top three prefectures in terms of net foreigner population gain by inbound migration from other prefectures never experienced a net loss in any month this year. Population movement peaked in March, notably in Kanagawa.

Top 3 prefectures by net foreigner population loss from outbound migration

Tokyo saw a sharp drop in resident foreigner population in March and April due to outbound migration; this has since continued but to a much lesser extent. In the first nine months of 2020, Tokyo’s resident foreigner population decreased by 6,449 people due to outbound migration.

Chiba has had a net population loss due to outbound migration over the first nine months of the year, but started net population growth by month starting in May.


Sources: Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Ministry of Internal Affairs

Lead photo: iStock