Cross-Border Marriages on the Raise in Japan

Has Japan started shedding its obsession with homogeneous racial society? If data from government records and the news reports can be taken into account, there are indications towards growing number of cross-border marriages. Government data released recently says that one in every twenty-nine babies born in Japan in 2014 had at least one foreign parent.

The population data compiled by the Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry reveals that out of the 1.02 million babies born in 2014, approximately 35,000 babies had at least one non-Japanese parent. Discussions are going at one side about the declining interest of Japanese youngsters on the institution of the family. The Government is trying to encourage reproduction in the country at a time when Japanese population recorded a negative growth by losing almost one million people in the last five years. The Declining population has its great impact on industrial growth. Japan is a country, which almost entirely depend on its manpower and technology. An Increasing number of interracial marriages hints growing number of foreigners in Japan.

Traditional Japanese society has a conservative attitude towards cross-border marriages. Japanese people judge cross-border marriages as either “Marriage up” or “marriage down”. This is what I could understand from the discussions with local friends so far. This “Marriage up” and “Marriage down” things and attitude is highly prejudiced. Japanese society looks down some countries while they place high regard for some countries.  If I elaborate more on this subject, it would not do any good to the readers. Common sense may please be applied to guess about “Marriage up” and “Marriage down” or just Google.

A surrealistic short story “Missing Heels” written by Yoko Tawada says the story of a Japanese woman who traveled to a European country to live with the husband she has yet to meet face to face. Though the story is about the mail-order bride, it reveals pretty well the preferences that Japanese women who seek interracial marriage keep while searching for their life partner. The story also tells us about the upward mobility of women when seeking partners from other countries. Economic equations are changing now and China and South Korea have also achieved to some extent the status of developed countries or, at least, a considerable percentage of the population can afford rich lifestyles materialistically.

A working paper named “Brides for Sale: Cross-Border Marriages and Female Immigration” submitted to Harvard Business School by Daiji Kawaguchi and Soohyung Lee also studies the increasing cross-border marriages and migration of brides from developing countries in the East Asia to the developed countries such as Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, and Korea.  Their study reveals the fact that a large number of women migrate as brides from developing countries to developed countries in East Asia, a phenomenon the researchers say did not exist in the early 1990s. They also found that foreign brides currently comprise 4 to 35 percent of newlyweds in these developed Asian countries. This paper argues that two factors account for this rapid increase in “bride importation”: the rapid growth of women’s educational attainment and a cultural norm that leads to a low net surplus of marriage for educated women in their homeland.

Apart from the above stated “Intentional Migration by marriage or for marriage”, cross-border marriages happen at workplaces, where foreigners work with Japanese nationals. In such workplaces, Japanese and foreigners get chances to know each other well similar to the love marriages between two Japanese nationals. I know many foreigners married to Japanese and leading happy life either in Japan or in another country.

The percentage of babies of cross-border parents in 2014 was 3.07 percent, which is close to the record high of 3.44 percent in 2008. With the percentage trending higher over the long term—1.7 percent in 1990 and 2.6 percent in 1995, it is predicted that the proportion could rise even higher if more foreigners come to Japan as guest workers through deregulation of work visa rules.

By nationality, Chinese nationals accounted for the largest number of foreign-born fathers of babies born in 2014. Koreans accounted for the second-largest and Americans the third-largest number of foreign-born fathers. Chinese nationals accounted for the largest group of mothers while Filipinos constituted the second largest group followed by Koreans. The study has included the second generation of Chinese and Koreans as well.

The trend indicates increasing business opportunities in sectors such as education. Japan has been witnessing a surge in the number of international schools and universities to cater the needs of international communities. Local governments in such prefectures as Shizuoka, Aichi and Mie take steps to ensure such children enroll in schools and provide special language training. International school is the choice when either of the parents is on a short term work visa status in Japan.

Author: Jayaprakash

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