Japan’s ageing population


I teach English conversation classes in a Japanese university though I’m not actually a university teacher. I teach in, though not for, a university.

Once a day we have a free-talk class in which we discuss topics such as ‘What’s the coldest place you’ve ever been?’ or ‘If you could be an animal for a day, which animal would you choose to be?’ Occasionally I throw in a harder question like, ‘Japan has an ageing population. What is the solution?’ The students invariably say, ‘Allow more foreigners in’. I don’t know if they say this because I’m a foreigner and they think it will please me or because they believe it. However, I always reply that that approach won’t solve Japan’s problems. They ask why. I take a deep breath, settle myself in my chair and say something along the following lines:

‘The reason it’s not a good idea to expect foreigners to solve Japan’s demographic decline is that you start with a country that is 98% Japanese and a century later it’s 50% Japanese and 50% the children of immigrants. It doesn’t take many generations of the Japanese having just one child while immigrants have three to alter Japan forever. Old Japan and new Japan will look like two different countries separated by a huge break with tradition.

Maybe foreigners won’t have more children than the Japanese but that still wouldn’t keep their numbers down. Why? Because foreigners also get old, get pensions and then die and you will need to replace them with more immigrants. Therefore whether foreigners outbreed the Japanese or not the result is the same: a decreasing number of Japanese and an increasing number of foreigners.

This is not a big problem if you think of Japan as just a piece of land. If so you can fill it with Chinese, Nigerians, Scots or even robots and the economy will probably be fine. However, if Japan to you means not just the land but the Japanese people themselves and their culture, then mass immigration is a stupid way to solve an economic problem.

If, despite being warned, you decide mass immigration is the way to go you will find that the first generation of foreigners will be thankful to have escaped their crappy, corrupt countries. However, the children and grandchildren of these immigrants won’t be nearly so grateful. If they are from a low-performing ethnic group they will complain that they aren’t equally represented as bankers, brain surgeons, lawyers and judges. They will assume this is because Japan is ‘institutionally racist’.

If, on the other hand the foreigners come from a high-performing ethnic group that outperforms the Japanese, some Japanese are likely to complain that all the good jobs are being taken by foreigners. Historically this is not a good situation. The Ashkenazi Jews were high performers in 1930’s Germany and look what happened to them. Even today in Malasia the native Bumiputra need affirmative action programs to help them compete with the high-flying Chinese and Indian migrants.

The least likely scenario is that all ethnic groups perform equally well. This is not a mystery if you know a little about human bio-diversity but if you believe that all ethnic groups are equal at all things then you will assume the different achievement levels are due to discrimination. The resentful, under-performing minorities will protest and demonstrate and they will be supported by Japanese Social Justice Warriors.

Despite government assurances that the immigrants will soon integrate and will become indistinguishable from the native Japanese, after a generation or two of mass immigration you will notice that your country has changed. There will be lots of different restaurants. That’s good. But there will also be more mosques, more churches, more statues of foreign people you have never heard of, more strange languages spoken in the street and more run-down inner-city areas where immigrants congregate and the Japanese try to avoid. There will be less trust and you will notice that old Japanese people look lost. It will no longer feel like your people’s country.

If you voice the opinion that your country has changed, the children of foreigners may respond, ‘What do you mean your country? It’s my country just as much as yours. I was born here, just like you. Just because Japan used to be full of shrines, noodle restaurants and short, dark people doesn’t mean it always has to be that way. After all, your ancestors were immigrants, too, or do you believe they grew out of the soil?’

The Robin Hoods among the Japanese will take the immigrants’ side in this and in every other argument. They may even claim that the natives need to adapt to the immigrants’ way of doing things. After all, they had to adapt to your way of life so, fair’s fair, you should try and adapt to theirs.

To ease the process of change from monoculture to multiculture the Japanese government will instruct all schools to ‘push’ multiculturalism to their pupils and students. Only teachers on board with the stupid idea that ‘diversity is our strength’ will be hired. The old reactionary teachers will slowly be pensioned off and replaced by enthusiastic true believers. School text books will be full of happy people of all races smiling and working together.

But, you say, isn’t diversity necessary for a culture to thrive? Doesn’t a culture with no diversity stagnate? Possibly. But what you need is a diversity, not of religion, culture or skin colour, but of skills and Japan already possesses that. To build a house you need a scaffolder, a carpenter, a roofer, a bricklayer, a plumber and a plasterer. Why would hiring a Nigerian bricklayer, a Peruvian carpenter and an Indian scaffolder make a better, more diverse house?

In history classes the children will learn that the Japanese were brutal and exploitative while other peoples were always peaceable, innocent victims. The Social Sciences will become such an unwelcoming place for dissenters that most will avoid jobs in academia and the media, especially NHK.

Any Japanese person daringt to suggest that they preferred things as they were will be called a bigot. Anyone who says he feels like a stranger in his own town will be advised to go and live somewhere else if he doesn’t like it. Any Japanese person less than enthusiastic about being part of a shrinking minority in his own town will be called a closed-minded and hateful. Even suggesting that Japan has perhaps had enough immigration for the time being will get you labelled as a racist.

So there you have it. Learn from the West’s mistakes. Instead of importing lots of low IQ immigrants to do jobs that won’t be here much longer due to automation, I recommend Japanese people either start having more children or somehow manage their shrinking population. People could save more during their working lives so they didn’t have to rely on state pensions. The family could step up and look after their elderly, just like they used to before the welfare state. You could also ask the elderly Japanese what they want. Would they rather see their country slowly filling up with immigrants or would they prefer to take a cut in their pensions? The elderly could work until they are 70. After all, many old people like to feel useful. And don’t tell me that there will be no jobs for the young if the elderly work longer. Five minutes ago you couldn’t wait to give those jobs to immigrants!

If you want to eat food from different countries it isn’t necessary to invite millions of immigrants here to cook and serve it to you. Instead just invite a few foreign cooks to come here and teach the Japanese how to make fried rice, kimchi, pizza, falafel, moussaka and curry. They don’t even have to come here. They could teach it on TV or via Skype.

But you think that only real Indians, with real Indian DNA and who grew up in Calcutta can give you the genuine, authentic curry taste and atmosphere needed in an Indian restaurant? Okay then, invite in a thousand cooks and waiters from ten different countries. Put 50 of each into every decent-sized city in Japan and more in Tokyo. Let’s say you’ll need 10,000 foreign cooks and waiters. That means 10,000 fewer jobs for Japanese restaurant staff. Unless, of course, the Japanese are planning to eat six meals a day.

At the annual film awards expect plenty of complaining if immigrant actors and movies don’t garner as many awards as the Japanese. This will happen regardless of how rubbish their movies are. If they represent 10% of your population they will expect to win at least 10% of the film awards for any given year. However, they won’t complain about monopolizing the sports awards.

Sports! Assuming you get your immigrants from countries with higher testosterone levels than Japan – which is practically everywhere – Japan should do better at many sports. They only problem is that the Japanese national football team will look like the 2002 World Cup winning French football team:

Just two Europeans in the French national team.

The Japanese women’s sprint relay team will look like the British team:


Whether this will be a source of pride for you depends on what makes you proud. A word of warning though. Testosterone is the male hormone that builds muscle and as well as making you good at sports it also makes you more aggressive. Blacks have more testosterone on average than whites, and whites have more testosterone than the Japanese. Therefore, expect a little extra nervousness when walking the streets of Tokyo since levels of violent crime will almost certainly rise.

Finally, I personally think Japan would be better with fewer people since it is already overcrowded. A natural drop from 126 million to say, 80 million, might be a good thing if well managed. Sure, GDP would fall but so would the population so there would be fewer people to share the reduced GDP among. Bangladesh has a larger GDP than New Zealand but where would you rather live? And just imagine all the extra space! Land and house prices would fall and in a less crowded environment people might feel less like rats in a cage and revert to normal mating patterns and start to have children again.

Okay, so that’s my opinion. Now, what do you think?’

My students look at me in stunned silence. Twenty seconds go by.

‘Okay, a change of topic! Momoka, what animal would you like to be for a day?’


3 thoughts on “Japan’s ageing population”

  1. Excellent article. Regarding your reference to New Zealand, I’d like recommend this talk, by Theodore Dalrymple https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=RWWiTbGTXzI if you don’t have much time I suggest starting at about four minutes in; the NZ bit is at around eight mins.

    He says something about a doubling of the population… the key point I think, is that we should seriously examine the controversial idea of quality vs quantity in human populations. Did someone say eugenics?

    I think from now on, when the population issue, in the UK, comes up, I’m going to recommend that we aim at getting it down to forty million in, say, fifty years. That’s more a deliberately provocative statement than a thought out strategy.

    After all, how many people are opposed to punishing crime? Probably quite a few in theory, many less in practice, when it affects them personally. And yet the crime rate has increased dramatically; we don’t regard crime/criminals as good quality and yet it’s a huge proportion of increased population (perhaps not in Japan) it is apparently a typical western trend.

  2. Looking forward to reading this article. I finally managed to visit Japan for the first time a couple of years ago, and it was a fascinating experience: I had 6 days in Tokyo. I wanted to visit places outside the capital but 6 days just wasn’t enough. I stayed in the spacious hotel in the docklands area where it’s a bit cheaper, next to the monorail. You might be able to work out where that it, I can’t remember the name of the place right now. I think they’ve turned it into a Hilton hotel now, although it wasn’t when I was there. I was a bit sad that I had to go by myself because it’s usually nicer to go with other people: I asked other members of my family whether they wanted to go, but no-one was interested. Anyway, sorry to waffle on when I haven’t actually read this blog post yet.

  3. Despite having spent half of the last 14 years in Japan I know very little about it. I could tell you various details about the stretch of road between the various flats I have lived in and the universities where I have worked but almost nothing about the nightlife, the hotels, the language, the history or anything else. However, I can tell you that the people, and especially the young people, are great: thoughtful in both meanings of the word, clever, quiet, shy, fun and not at all self-important.

    When I used to travel for pleasure I always found it sad to see a young woman visiting the same sites as my friends and me. Practically everyone accuses me for sexism and double standards for this: why would it be sadder for a girl to travel alone than for a man? I never was able to justify this feeling adequately in my head but think it’s because I believe that relationships and the company of others is far more important to women than to men, and especially to young women. Nowadays I have extended that feeling I had about women on their own to myself; now I almost never go sightseeing alone. To me it feels like eating alone or going to the cinema alone: not as enjoyable as with others. At present I have 93,000 air miles accumulated over years of travelling to and from Japan. That’s enough for a First Class return trip to almost anywhere in the world. Those air miles will expire in two days unless I book a flight to somewhere. Despite having the next 3 months off I find there is nowhere I want to go – alone. Therefore let the damned air miles expire.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s