Japanese migration to Indonesia

Large-scale Japanese migration to Indonesia dates back to the late 19th century, though there was limited trade contact between Japan and Indonesia as early as the 17th century.[2] As of October 2009, there were about 11,263 Japanese expatriates in Indonesia.[1] At the same time, there are also identifiable populations of descendants of early migrants, who may be referred to as Nikkei Indonesians or Indonesian Nikkei.[3][4]

Japanese people in Indonesia
Orang Jepang di Indonesia
Japan Indonesia
Kodomo mikoshi, Ennichisai, Blok M, Jakarta.jpg
Mikoshi Parade (Mikoshi Kids) festival in Blok M, South Jakarta, Indonesia.
Total population
19,612 Recorded From 38,135+ (2019) [1]
Regions with significant populations
Jakarta metropolitan area, Bali, Surabaya, Bandung, Semarang
Various languages of Indonesia, Japanese
Related ethnic groups
Japanese diaspora

The population figure quoted includes Japanese nationals only.

Migration historyEdit

Prior to the Tokugawa shogunate's establishment of their isolationist sakoku policy, the Dutch East India Company (VOC) were known to use Japanese mercenaries to enforce their rule in the Maluku Islands.[5] One of Indonesia's early residents of Japanese descent was Saartje Specx, the daughter of Dutch colonial governor Jacques Specx, who ruled Batavia (present-day Jakarta) from 1629 to 1632.[2] 1898 colonial government statistics showed 614 Japanese in the Dutch East Indies (166 men, 448 women).[6]

As the Japanese population grew, a Japanese consulate was established in Batavia in 1909, but for the first several years its population statistics were rather haphazard.[7] Their reports showed 782 registered Japanese migrants in Batavia in 1909 (with estimates that there were another 400 unregistered), and 278 (57 men, 221 women) in Medan in 1910.[8] Between ca. 1872 and 1940 large numbers of Japanese prostitutes (karayuki-san) worked in brothels of the archipelago.[9] Beginning in the late 1920s, Okinawan fishermen began to settle in north Sulawesi. There was a Japanese primary school at Manado, which by 1939 had 18 students.[10] In total, 6,349 Japanese people lived in Indonesia by 1938.[11] After the end of the 1942-1945 Japanese occupation of Indonesia, roughly 3,000 Imperial Japanese Army soldiers chose to remain in Indonesia and fight alongside local people against the Dutch colonists in the Indonesian National Revolution; roughly one-third were killed (among whom many are buried in the Kalibata Heroes Cemetery), while another one-third chose to remain in Indonesia after the fighting ended.[12][13]

In the 1970s, Japanese manufacturers, especially in the electronics sector, began to set up factories in Indonesia; this sparked the migration of a new wave of Japanese expatriates, mainly managers and technical staff connected to large Japanese corporations.[14] In the late 1990s, there was also migration in the opposite direction; many of the Nikkei Indonesians from Sulawesi began migrating to Japan to work in the seafood processing industry.[15] As of 2004, there were estimated to be about 1,200 of them living in the town of Ōarai, Ibaraki.[16] Furthermore, there was a large outflow of Japanese expatriates in 1998, due to the May riots and the associated political chaos.[17] However, a decade later, the Japanese still made up Jakarta's second-largest expatriate community, after the Koreans.[14]

Business and employmentEdit

The Japanese communities in the Dutch East Indies, like those in the rest of colonial Southeast Asia, remained prostitution-based as late as World War I.[18] The remnant of this prostitution business can be trace in Surabaya's Jalan Kembang Jepun, "the Street of the Japanese Flowers", located in the city's old Chinatown.[19] Prostitution was outlawed in the Dutch East Indies in 1912, but many Japanese women appear to have continued working in the trade clandestinely.[8] However, by the 1930s, the economic focus of the Japanese community had shifted largely towards agriculture, marine industries, and retailing of imported Japanese products.[11] More recent Japanese expatriates are typically investors connected with electronics manufacturing.[14]

Social integrationEdit

Early Japanese migrants to the Dutch East Indies were classified as "foreign orientals" by the Dutch government.[6] This status meant they were subject to restrictions on their freedom of movement, place of residence, and employment. However, in 1898, they were reclassified as "honorary Europeans", giving them formal legal equality with the colonisers and removing those restrictions.[18] Yet despite this formal equality, local peoples' image of the Japanese people in their midst was still not very positive.[6] During the World War II occupation of Indonesia, many Japanese officers took local women as concubines.[2] Children born from such relationships, growing up in the post-war period often found themselves the target bullying due to their ancestry, as well as suffering official discrimination under government policies which gave preference to pribumi in the hiring of civil servants.[20]

In Jakarta, Grand Wijaya Center and Blok M have clusters of businesses catering to Japanese expatriates, including restaurants, supermarkets selling imported food products, and the like; Blok M in particular is noted for its concentration of izakaya.[21]


759 Japanese living in Indonesia have the right of permanent residency; these consist primarily of Japanese women married to Indonesian men.[22] In Bali the number of Japanese residents registered with the Japanese Consulate in Denpasar has increased from 43 in 1987, to 595 in 1995, and further to 1,755 in 2006 and 2,225 in 2010. The consulate receives an annual average of about 100 cases of marriage registration, with over 90 percent of them involving Japanese women who marry local men. It processes between 10 and 12 applications for divorce per year.[23] Some met their husbands in the context of study abroad, either when the husband-to-be was studying in Japan, or when both were studying in an Anglophone country such as the United States or Australia.[24] Others came to Indonesia, especially Bali, as tourists, and met their husbands there. Japan is one of the largest sources of tourists in Bali, and many Japanese women married to Indonesian men are settled there; one scholar who studied the phenomenon in 1994 estimated four hundred resided there at the time.[25][26]

A large number of the tourists consist of young urban women; they see Bali not as an exotic destination, but rather a nostalgic one, evoking the past landscape of Japan and a return to their "real selves" which they feel are being stifled by life in Japanese cities. Among these, a few come first as tourists, especially to Kuta and Ubud, and then after repeat visits, marry a local man.[27] In some cases, these visits take the form of "romance tourism" or "female sex tourism", with women entering into relationships with male sex workers, known colloquially as "Kuta Cowboys".[28][29][30] They use Indonesian and Japanese, or less commonly English when communicating with their husbands, children, and grandchildren, but Indonesian far more commonly than other languages when communicating with other relatives.[31]


The Daily Jakarta Shimbun is Indonesia's only Japanese language newspaper. It was founded in 1998 by Yasuo Kusano, who was formerly the Mainichi Shimbun bureau chief in Jakarta from 1981 to 1986; he returned to Indonesia after the fall of Suharto, and, finding that many publications banned during the Suharto era were being revived, decided to found a newspaper to provide accurate, in-depth information about Indonesia's new democratisation to Japanese readers. Since then, its circulation has grown from 50 copies to more than 4,000.[17]

Portrayals in Indonesian popular culture centred on Japanese characters include Remy Sylado's 1990s novel Kembang Jepun. Set during World War II, it tells a story of a geisha and her Indonesian husband who participates in Supriyadi's anti-Japanese uprising. It was reprinted as a full-length book by Gramedia Pustaka Utama in 2003.[32][33] Another work with a similar theme is Lang Fang's 2007 novel Perempuan Kembang Jepun, from the same publisher, about a 1940s geisha who becomes the second wife of a Surabaya businessman.[34][35] The Indonesian martial arts film The Raid 2 depicts a Japanese crime syndicate in Jakarta.


Denpasar, Bali
Locations of Japanese international schools, day and supplementary, in Indonesia recognized by MEXT (gray dots represent closed schools)

Several Japanese international schools are in Indonesia. The Jakarta Japanese School is located in South Tangerang, Banten in Greater Jakarta.[36] In 2018 Cikarang Japanese Schhol (CJS) opened its doors in Deltamas, Cikarang.

The Bandung Japanese School (Indonesian: Sekolah Jepang Bandung; バンドン日本人学校) is in Bandung.[37] The Sekolah Jepang Surabaya (スラバヤ日本人学校) is located in Surabaya.[38]

The Japanese School of Bali is a supplementary school (hoshu jugyo ko or hoshuko) in Denpasar, Bali. The Makassar Japanese Language Class is a supplementary programme in Makassar, Sulawesi.[39]

The Medan Japanese School (メダン日本人学校), a day school, previously existed.[40] A hoshuko in Semarang also closed.[41]

Notable peopleEdit

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ a b MOFA 2009
  2. ^ a b c Harsanto, Damar (2008-04-13), "Shining Japan: From mercenaries and sex workers to entrepreneurs", The Jakarta Post, archived from the original on 2008-04-13, retrieved 2010-04-23
  3. ^ Meguro 2005, p. 49
  4. ^ Shin 2004, p. 83; the term "Indonesian Nikkei" is also used therein to refer to Japanese expatriates who have settled permanently in Japan
  5. ^ Worrell, Simon (2012-06-23), "The world's oldest clove tree", BBC News, retrieved 2012-06-23
  6. ^ a b c Shiraishi & Shiraishi 1993, p. 8
  7. ^ Murayama 1993, p. 89
  8. ^ a b Murayama 1993, p. 90
  9. ^ Yamazaki, Tomoko; Sandakan Bordell Nr. 8; München 2005; ISBN 3-89129-406-9
  10. ^ Meguro 2005, p. 65
  11. ^ a b Fukihara 2007, p. 27
  12. ^ Hatakeyama & Hosaka 2004, pp. 676–677
  13. ^ 秋篠宮ご夫妻、英雄墓地に献花 ジャカルタ, Sankei Shimbun (in Japanese), 2008-01-19, archived from the original on 2009-01-09, retrieved 2010-04-21
  14. ^ a b c "Changing Faces", The Jakarta Post, 2008-03-28, retrieved 2010-04-23
  15. ^ Meguro 2005, p. 50
  16. ^ Meguro 2005, p. 62
  17. ^ a b Hara, Chisato (2009-11-30), "'Jakarta Shimbun' a bridge to Indonesia", The Jakarta Post, archived from the original on 2015-01-21, retrieved 2010-04-23
  18. ^ a b Shiraishi & Shiraishi 1993, p. 9
  19. ^ Prihandono, Omar (2004-07-18), "Surabaya: All together now at Kya-Kya Kembang Jepun", The Jakarta Post, archived from the original on 2012-10-09, retrieved 2011-04-19
  20. ^ Fukihara 2007, p. 28
  21. ^ Hara, Chisato (2008-04-23), "Exploring 'izakaya' in Blok M", The Jakarta Post, archived from the original on April 23, 2008, retrieved 2010-04-23
  22. ^ Shin 2004, p. 83
  23. ^ Toyota & Thang 2012, p. 346
  24. ^ Shin 2004, p. 84
  25. ^ Suzuki 1997, p. 341
  26. ^ Yamashita 2003, pp. 87, 97
  27. ^ Yamashita 2003, p. 94
  28. ^ Toyota 2006, pp. 171–172, 178
  29. ^ "New Documentary Capture's Kuta Cowboys' Gigolo Lifestyles", The Jakarta Globe, 2010-04-26, archived from the original on 2010-04-28, retrieved 2010-04-26
  30. ^ "'Kuta Cowboys' strutting their stuff for lovelorn visitors", The Jakarta Post, 2002-05-05, retrieved 2010-04-26
  31. ^ Shin 2004, p. 87
  32. ^ Nugroho, Sidik (2009-06-29), "Wartawan dan Geisha Tertawan Cinta", Media Nusantara Citra OkeZone, retrieved 2011-04-20
  33. ^ Sylado 2003
  34. ^ Sulistiawan, Iwan (2007-02-20), "Lang Fang: Another figure in Indonesia's literature", The Jakarta Post, archived from the original on 2011-06-07, retrieved 2011-04-20
  35. ^ Fang 2006
  36. ^ Home Archived 2015-01-14 at the Wayback Machine. Jakarta Japanese School. Retrieved on January 15, 2015. "JL.Titihan Raya,Bintaro Jaya Sektor 9 Parigi-Pondok Aren,Tangerang Selatan 15227"
  37. ^ アクセス・お問い合わせ (in Japanese). Bandung Japanese School. Retrieved January 15, 2015. JL. Ciumbuleuit 199 Bandung 40142 INDONESIA
  38. ^ 連絡先 (in Japanese). Sekolah Jepang Surabaya. Retrieved January 15, 2015. Jl. Jetis Seraten, Kel. Ketintang, Kec. Gayungan, Surabaya60231, Indonesia
  39. ^ アジアの補習授業校一覧(平成25年4月15日現在) (in Japanese). Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Archived from the original on 2014-03-30. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  40. ^ 過去に指定・認定していた在外教育施設 (in Japanese). Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Archived from the original on 2015-01-15. Retrieved January 15, 2015.
  41. ^ アジアの補習授業校一覧 (in Japanese). National Education Center, Japan. October 29, 2000. Archived from the original on November 17, 2000. Retrieved April 16, 2015. スマラン 休 校 中
  42. ^ "Chef Harada San". Archived from the original on 2015-02-27. Retrieved 2015-02-27.
  43. ^ Chō 2005


Further readingEdit

  • Suzuki, Kazuyo (鈴木 一代; Faculty of Humanities (人間学部), Saitama Gakuen University). "Some Considerations concerning Language and Culture Acquisition of Japanese-Indonesian Children" (日本-インドネシア国際児の言語・文化習得についての一考察; Archive) Bulletin of Saitama Gakuen University Faculty of Humanities (埼玉学園大学紀要. 人間学部篇). 創刊号, 1–11, 2001–12. See profile at CiNii. English abstract available.
  • 栃窪宏男 [Tochikubo Hiroo] (1983), 二つの祖国を生きた・日系インドネシア人 [Living with two motherlands: Nikkei Indonesians], サイマル出版会 [Saimaru Shuppansha], ISBN 978-4-377-20609-8
  • Sylado, Remy (2003), Kembang Jepun, Gramedia Pustaka Utama, ISBN 978-979-22-0137-6, OCLC 66408790
  • Fang, Lan (2006), Perempuan Kembang Jepun, Gramedia Pustaka Utama, ISBN 978-979-22-2404-7, OCLC 79853543
  • Astuti, Meta Sekar Puji (2008), Apakah mereka mata-mata? Orang-orang Jepang di Indonesia, 1868- 1942 [Were they spies? Japanese people in Indonesia, 1868-1942], Yogyakarta: Ombak, ISBN 978-979-3472-83-6, OCLC 222248003
  • 内野好郎 [Uchino Yoshirō] (2008), インドネシアにおける日本人団体 [Japanese Organisations in Indonesia], in 小林英夫 [Kobayashi Hideo]; 柴田善雅 [Shibata Yoshimasa]; 吉田千之輔 [Yoshida Sennosuke] (eds.), 戦後アジアにおける日本人団体ー引揚げから企業進出まで [Japanese Organisations in Postwar Asia: From Evacuation to Corporate Entry], ゆまに書房 [Yumani Shobo], ISBN 978-4-8433-2749-4
  • Yoshida, Masanori (2010), "Cross-Cultural Marriage in the Global Age: Young Japanese Women in Indonesia", in Adachi, Nobuko (ed.), Japanese and Nikkei at Home and Abroad: Negotiating Identities in a Global World, Cambria Press, pp. 237–262, ISBN 978-1-60497-686-1

External linksEdit