Nigerians in Japan

Nigerians in Japan (在日ナイジェリア人, Zainichi Naijeriajin) form a significant immigrant community, with around 2800 living in the country, mostly belonging to the Nigerian Union in Japan which is divided into sub-unions based on states of origin. The vast majority of Nigerians arrived in Japan from the mid-1980s onwards.

Nigerians in Japan
Total population
2,797 (Dec 2016)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Tokyo, particularly Kabukichō
English (Nigerian English), Igbo, Yoruba and other languages of Nigeria; Japanese[2]

Migration historyEdit

Nigerians and other West African migrants began coming to Japan in the mid-1980s as migrant workers.[3] Legal migrants often enter via student visas, which allow them to work for a limited number of hours each week.[4] As of 2017 Japan has significantly eased restrictions on skilled immigrants gaining permanent right-to-remain visas, making them a logical follow-on from student visas.[5]

There are a number of organizations for Nigerian immigrants in Japan. The Nigerian Union in Japan, the oldest one, was founded in 1990. The Nigerian Union restarted twice, most recently in 2010. The Imo State Union, founded in 2002, replaced it to become the largest and most active, and has formally applied for non-profit status under Japanese law.[2]

Business and employmentEdit

Some Nigerian migrants during the 1980s found work in factories.[3] Later, after the end of the Japanese asset price bubble reduced opportunities for such work, they shifted into the night-life industry in Tokyo's entertainment districts such as Kabukichō or Roppongi, a line of employment with a high level of public visibility. Many of the bars in these areas were previously owned by Chinese or Koreans, but during a police crackdown in 2002, closed down; Nigerians took advantage of the resulting business vacuum to open their own bars, and hired their fellow countrymen as workers.[6] Typically, Nigerians can be seen on the street as bouncers for bars. Many of the migrants working in this industry are in training for or have completed qualifications for professional positions such as engineering in institutions in their home countries or in Japan, but were unable to find any other kind of work in Japan suited to their level of education.[7] There are many Nigerian organizations in Japan. Most are affiliated with the Houston, Texas USA-based Nigerian Union Diaspora (NUD), which is the umbrella Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) for the economic and political empowerment of the people of Nigerian descent outside Nigeria.

Interethnic relationsEdit

Nigerians have a very poor public image in Japan, with public reports of their activities often focused on crime and scams in bar districts to the exclusion of other aspects of the community. These incidents have become associated with a racist stereotype towards the Nigerian community by much of the Japanese population, inflaming tensions further.[8]

In the mediaEdit

From 2011-2016, American author Dreux Richard worked as The Japan Times' Special Correspondent covering the African community in Japan, publishing a series of feature articles on the Nigerian community in particular.[9] The Japan Times' stories included coverage of civic organizations, cultural groups, religious institutions, the red light districts, marriage and family life, and claims of an emerging 'integration gap' separating well-integrated African immigrants from those struggling after arriving in Japan. Richard's book, 'Every Human Intention: Japan in the New Century' (2021), includes a lengthy account of the community's experiences.[10]

Death of Gerald 'Sunny' OkaforEdit

In June of 2019, long-term Igbo-Nigerian resident of Japan Gerald 'Sunny' Okafor starved to death during a hunger strike at the Omura Immigration Detention Center in Nagasaki.[11] Although the government's investigation cleared the detention center of wrongdoing,[12] subsequent investigations[13] by journalists revealed severe administrative negligence by the detention center and Japan's immigration authorities, as well as a cover-up of this negligence carried out with the assistance of the Nigerian Embassy in Japan.[14]

Sweeping immigration reforms proposed by the Japanese government for 2021 are based primarily on the government's controversial investigation of Mr. Okafor's death.[15]

Notable peopleEdit


  1. ^ MOFA 2010, 基礎データ
  2. ^ a b Richard, Dreux (2011-07-19), "Japan's Nigerians pay price for prosperity: Facing apathy within and racism without, a disunited community struggles to thrive on society's periphery", The Japan Times, archived from the original on 2012-10-18, retrieved 2012-12-09
  3. ^ a b Kawada 2008, p. 172
  4. ^ Cybriwsky 2011, p. 138
  5. ^ It just got easier to become a permanent resident of Japan Business Insider. Chris Weller. 08/03/17. Retrieved: 17/05/18
  6. ^ a b Brasor, Philip (2007-02-18), "'Africans in Japan' . . . not from the quill of Ishihara, thank God", Japan Times, retrieved 2011-06-25
  7. ^ Cybriwsky 2011, p. 140
  8. ^ The other side of Tokyo's Nigerian community Japan Today. Dreux Richard. 02/08/11. Retrieved: 17/05/18
  9. ^ Times, The Japan. "Sincerely, Little Nigeria". Retrieved 2016-03-23.
  10. ^ "Every Human Intention by Dreux Richard: 9781101871119 | Books". Retrieved 2021-04-09.
  11. ^ Miyazaki, Ami (2019-06-28). "Nigerian man dies after hunger strike in Japan detention center". Reuters. Retrieved 2021-04-09.
  12. ^ "Nigerian man 'starved' to death in Japanese immigration detention". UPI. Retrieved 2021-04-09.
  13. ^ philipbrasor (2021-03-14). "Media Mix, March 14, 2021". Retrieved 2021-04-09.
  14. ^ Richard, Dreux (2021-02-23). Every Human Intention: Japan in the New Century. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1-101-87112-6.
  15. ^ Brasor, Philip (2021-03-13). "Immigration reform fails to resolve asylum contradictions". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2021-04-09.


Further readingEdit

  • 川田薫 [Kawada Kaoru] (2006), 在日ナイジェリア人のコミュニティの共同性の構築─イモ州同郷人団体がつなぐイボ民族の生活世界 [Structure of cooperation among Nigerians in Japan: Imo State migrant organisations and Ibo people's lives], 生活学論叢, 11, pp. 127–138
  • 川田薫 [Kawada Kaoru] (July 2007), 在日ナイジェリア人のコミュニティの形成――相互扶助を介した起業家の資本形成 [Community formation among Nigerians in Japan: Mutual assistance through entrepreneurial capital formation], Kantoh Sociological Association Annual Review (20)
  • Schans, Djamila (2009-05-23), "Lost in Translation? Marriages between African immigrants and Japanese women", IMISCOE conference on Interethnic Relations: Multidisciplinary Approaches (PDF), Lisbon, Portugal, retrieved 2011-06-25

External linksEdit