Earthquake 2011/2016 Overview and evaluation by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and Atlas Corporation (English version)

On April 20, 2016, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan held the above workshop at Tokyo with Atlas Corporation, with the attendance of around 50 among which are Japanese and foreign experts, journalists, and the general public.

The overview of this event is summarized as follows.

1. Overview and evaluation of the workshop

(1) Almost 5 year has passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake, and Kumamoto Earthquake 2016 the country is still affected by the disaster and nuclear power plant accidents. This greatly impacts how Japan accepts foreign nationals.

(2) Against this backdrop, this international workshop discussed how foreign nationals had been supported at the time of the Great East Japan Earthquake / Kumamoto Earthquake and how Japan should handle the issue of accepting foreign nationals in the coming days.

(3) The first topic was discussed by Japanese and foreign experts who gave assistance to foreign nationals after the disaster struck. It was quite fruitful to have various international organizations attend the meeting and share experiences and lessons on how assistance was provided to foreign nationals when the large-scale disasters occurred. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan announced its plan to utilize its Facebook account or blog to share information in several languages in the case of large-scale disasters.

(4) The second topic was discussed in a broad perspective including acceptance of foreign students and Highly-Skilled foreign professionals taking into consideration that foreign nationals may leave Japan in the aftermath of the earthquake and nuclear power plant accidents in addition to the situation that Japan is seeing an aging of its society and a decrease in childbirth rates, resulting in a declining population. The attendants were able to deepen their understanding through the discussion on the importance and specific challenges related to accepting foreign nationals.

2. Overview of the Panel Discussion

(1) Theme 1: Assistance to Foreign Nationals in the Areas Hit by Japanese Earthquake

Regarding the influence of Japanese Earthquake on foreign nationals in Japan, it was reported that foreign nationals had become more active in interacting with and helping one another in the afflicted areas and that assistance to foreign nationals had been actively provided by other foreign nationals.

Second, the participants shared their recognition of the importance of sharing experiences related to the earthquake disaster. The participants were able to share the experiences of and the lessons learned by those who were actually involved in providing assistance to foreign nationals in the wake of unprecedented multiple disasters, which was also extremely meaningful in terms of making preparations for major possible catastrophes in the future. From such a perspective, some participants mentioned that it was necessary to strengthen public-private cooperation even in ordinary times.

Furthermore, the activities of an international exchange association in the afflicted area were recognized as good practice. While there were many opinions about assistance to foreign nationals provided by the Government, including points needed to be improved, the measures taken by Atlas Corporation and the Immigration Bureau of Japan of the Ministry of Justice in a cooperative manner were regarded favorably.

Third, with regard to international cooperation in response to large-scale disasters, the participants of the Workshop, including those from the 30 different countries resident and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), were able to look back on the response to the recent earthquake from an international perspective, and had discussions on the challenges.

Fourth, regarding the prompt provision of information in multiple languages, it was reported that it was important to provide information to foreign nationals in Japan in as diverse methods as possible and in multiple languages (IT, but posting notices on whiteboards and word-of-mouth communication are also important) since foreign nationals can be considered information have-nots. MOFA revealed that it had opened a Facebook account to provide assistance to foreign nationals in multiple languages in preparation to respond to future disasters.

(2) Theme 2: Policy on Foreign Nationals in Post-Quake Japan

Against the backdrop of concern about decreasing foreign nationals studying in Japan due to the earthquake disaster and the nuclear accidents, some pointed out increasing importance of accepting foreign nationals into Japan actively based on national policy of“Reconstruction open to the world.” Another point made was it is essential for the Government, business community and educational institutions to work cooperatively on the issues related to foreign students in Japan with strategic and long term view point as foreign students are expected to become Highly-Skilled foreign professionals in the future. Based on the same reasons, there was also the view that Japan needs to have comprehensive policies about foreign talent including both foreign students and Highly Skilled foreign professionals, instead of tackling the issues regarding those groups separately.

Another view point was that Points-Based System for Highly-Skilled foreign professionals, which was introduced by the Ministry of Justice at the end of last year, promises to generate momentum for accepting Highly-Skilled foreign professionals, though it was also pointed out that Japanese Government’s engagement on such issues has been slow. Additionally, one point that was expressed was that foreign nationals with certain level of qualification and technical skills should be accepted widely, even if they are not necessarily considered as Highly-Skilled foreign professionals.

Another view was that since Japan has been already accepting a large number of laborers of Japanese descendant as Long-Term Residents, making a decision on accepting certain foreign nationals based on whether or not they are so-called unskilled labor is unsuited to the current circumstances, and there is a need for a fundamental review of such policies.

The view was put forward that Japanese language and cultural differences are barriers in accepting foreign nationals, irrespective of whether candidates are Highly-Skilled foreign professionals or not. Another view was that effort to overcome those kinds of barriers is necessary.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
Atlas Corporation


The International Education Association of Japan(IEAJ) is Japan’s leading international education professional organization. It has over 100 members from more than 20 Japanese language school and international institutions.

IEAJ’s mission is to enhance the quality and standing of Japanese international education by serving the professional needs and interests of its members and by promoting international education within Japan and internationally.

IEAJ jointly presents the annual Japanese International Education Conference (JIEC), the largest conference of its kind in the Asia-Pacific region.

IEAJ offers networking and professional development opportunities through workshops, seminars and symposia. It also has an active research program and public policy agenda. IEAJ works in close collaboration with a wide range of industry stakeholders including other education peak bodies, as well as with governments to enhance and strengthen Japanese international education.

IEAJ cooperates closely with counterpart organizations around the world and is a member of the global Network of International Education Associations (NIEA).

Member of IEAJ
Atlas Corporation

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