Globally, the barriers to people moving across boarders are increasingly being lowered, and people from all over the world visit various countries and regions and interact with the people living there.
Japan is no exception, but when I visited Tokyo for the first time in 1995, I did not see many non-Japanese people. However, the number of non-Japanese in Japan has been increasing more and more every year, particularly in some tourist spots and shops, where most of the visitors are non-Japanese. According to statistics, in 1995, 3.3 million foreigners visited Japan and 1.3 million foreigners lived in Japan, whereas in 2017 that number grew to 29 million visitors and 2.6 million residents.
While this increase may be related to changes in government policy, relationships with other countries, and changes in income, I think that it also depends largely on the efforts of the local governments and the private companies that host non-Japanese people. As you walk around Japan, there are signs and other information available in multiple languages such as English, Korean, Chinese, etc. in department stores, electronics retailers, and restaurants. As for the Japanese “soul food” of ramen noodles, the number of restaurants with Halal ramen is increasing, and people of various nationalities are using chopsticks to eat it. I think that the efforts and attitudes of many Japanese people who want non-Japanese to enjoy Japan is one reason why so many foreigners visit Japan.
YKK Japan has been improving its workplaces so that foreign nationals and other diverse employees can work and live comfortably. For example, at YKK Rokko, a YKK Group company that runs a printing business, 19 out of 26 employees have disabilities. And many YKK businesses were designed to be barrier-free workplaces.
YKK Japan is in the process of building and managing a residential complex called Passive Town in Kurobe. Under YKK’s policy of strengthening our development capabilities, many technical personnel from our overseas companies have moved to Kurobe to study YKK technology. To enable these non-Japanese employees to live and work comfortably, in Area 3 of this complex, which was completed in 2017, there are fully furnished apartments, apartments with laundry and housekeeping services, and English speaking receptionists. In addition, both Passive Town and the Kurobe plant cafeteria have Halal certification and provide Halal and vegetarian meals.
Tadao Yoshida used to say “Become a local.” This means that expatriates should live with local people and contribute to the local society as a member of the community while at the same time gaining the understanding and support of the people around them. This support is crucial for people from a different culture. Instead of insisting on our own culture and lifestyle habits, I think we should expect cultural differences, and try to understand, respect, and reach out to those who are different from ourselves. This will lead to the development of our society and our organization.
Vice President – Corporate Development
YKK Corporation of America