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Opinion
Noah Smith

Japan Begins Experiment of Opening to Immigration

As the population ages and shrinks, the country is making it easier for foreigners to work and become citizens.

She’s not all Japanese, but she was Miss Universe Japan 2015.

She’s not all Japanese, but she was Miss Universe Japan 2015.

Photographer: Bloomberg

While in Tokyo earlier this month, I couldn’t help but notice how the city has changed. Where once it was rare to hear any language other than Japanese spoken on the street, now it happens constantly. Most of this is due to the huge tourism boom -- more than 30 million people now visit Japan every year.

But obscured by that vast influx of guests is a longer-term trend. Tokyo is becoming a much more ethnically diverse city. I encountered black store clerks from the Netherlands and Africa, Chinese waiters at traditional Japanese restaurants, South Asian students staffing convenience stores, a white waitress at Starbucks, a Korean restaurant run by Southeast Asians.