Chinese people for the first time have come to constitute Japan's largest foreign community, partially thanks to the local government's admission in recent years of more Chinese with advanced degrees, Japanese officials said on Tuesday.
At the end of 2007, Chinese residents in Japan with legal status totaled 606,899, accounting for 28.2 percent of the foreign population, according to the Japanese Justice Ministry.
The Chinese have replaced the Koreans, who account for 27.6 percent of the foreign population, as the largest source of foreign citizens for the first time since the ministry started collecting data in 1959.
A Justice Ministry official said the government has not investigated the reason behind the growth of the Chinese population but that Japan has admitted increasing numbers of Chinese students and those with advanced degrees.
To Duan Yuezhong, chief editor of Tokyo-based Duan press, the news comes as no surprise.
During a telephone interview with China Daily yesterday, Duan put the actual toll of Chinese living in Japan above 800,000.
"The official figure doesn't cover the group of about 110,000 Chinese people that has gained Japanese citizenship and another group of at least 40,000 without legal status," he said.
The 50-year-old, who has lived in Japan since 1991, has witnessed the growth.
"There were merely more than 100,000 Chinese people living here upon my arrival. The group has expanded, however, at a speed of between 40,000 and 50,000 people a year. Now the Chinese community has turned into the largest foreign group in Japan's history."
The fast expanding existence of the Chinese population has exerted profound influence in Japanese society, said Duan.
Four companies run by entrepreneurs from the Chinese mainland have been listed in Japan, while more than 5,000 Chinese scholars are teaching or doing research in Japanese universities and institutions, according to the former reporter of Beijing Youth Daily, who has paid close attention to the local Chinese community.
Additionally, more than 6,000 Chinese students obtained doctoral degrees in Japan in the past 20 years.
"Our diligence has won us a good reputation here. However, one-sided judgment on the Chinese group is still not uncommon, as local media have continuously focused on the dark side."
The situation took a favorable turn recently when Japanese society witnessed the solidarity of the Chinese community's earthquake relief efforts and protection of the Olympic torch from Tibet separatists during its Japan leg.
The number of foreign residents in Japan rose to an all-time high of 2.15 million at the end of 2007, accounting for 1.7 percent of Japan's population.