Ethnic groups of Japan

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, the Hayato, and others; 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 2.2% of Japan's total legal resident population are foreign citizens. Of these, according to 2018 data from the Japanese government, the principal groups are as follows.[4][5]

Nationality Number Percentage of
 China 813,675 32.3% 0.73%
South KoreaNorth Korea South Korea + Chōsen[note 1] 479,198 17.7% 0.40%
 Vietnam 330,835 12.3% 0.28%
 Philippines 325,000 (2020)[6] 13.0% 0.23%
 Brazil 201,865 7.5% 0.17%
   Nepal 88,951 3.3% 0.07%
 Taiwan 60,684 2.2% 0.05%
 United States 57,500 2.1% 0.04%
 Indonesia 56,346 2.1% 0.04%
 Thailand 52,323 1.9% 0.04%
 Peru 48,362 1.8% 0.04%
 India 35,419 1.3% 0.03%
 Myanmar 26,456 1.0% 0.02%
 Sri Lanka 25,410 0.9% 0.02%
 United Kingdom 17,943 0.7% 0.02%
 Pakistan 16,198 0.7% 0.02%
 Bangladesh 15,476 0.6% 0.02%
 France 13,355 0.5% 0.01%
 Cambodia 12,174 0.5% 0.01%
Others 635,787 23.6% 0.50%
Total (as of 2018) 2,731,093 100% 2.2%

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.

Native Japanese people


The Ainu (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 an alphabet and language distinct from modern Japanese, as they do not use kanji but the katakana alphabet. They traditionally practiced tattooing and followed religious beliefs that are considered animism.[7]

Ōbeikei (Bonin) Islanders

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 Ryukyuans (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,[8] one of the two branches of the Japonic language family (the other being Japanese and its dialects).[9] 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


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.[10]




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

South Asian

South Asians in Japan live mostly in Tokyo.[11]





Southeast Asian


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.[12] As of March 12, 2011, the Filipino population of Japan was 305,972.[13] As of April 1, 2020, the number of Filipinos in Japan is estimated at 325,000.[14]



More than 300,000 Vietnamese people are living in Japan by October 2018.


European and Central Asian





North African and Middle Eastern





Sub-Saharan African



North American


South American


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. 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. ^ https://globalnation.inquirer.net/186453/fwd-2-filipinos-in-japan-suspected-positive-for-covid-19
  7. ^ citation needed
  8. ^ Masami Ito (12 May 2009). "Between a rock and a hard place". The Japan Times. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  9. ^ 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
  10. ^ Statics at the Immigration Bureau of Japan (2012). Retrieved on 11 June 2012
  11. ^ Obe, Mitsuru. "Chinatowns and Little Indias take shape in Tokyo". Nikkei. Nikkei. Retrieved 3 July 2020.
  12. ^ "THIS FOREIGN LAND Inevitably, newcomers play growing role". Japan Times. Japan. January 2008.
  13. ^ "Embassy taps help of Pinoy groups in Japan". Japan: ABS-CBN News. March 12, 2011.
  14. ^ https://globalnation.inquirer.net/186453/fwd-2-filipinos-in-japan-suspected-positive-for-covid-19

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