Japan calls for greater immigrant respect

Japan’s Crown Prince Naruhito said Wednesday it was important for Japanese and foreigners to live with mutual respect as the nation gradually takes in more outsiders.

The prince spoke ahead of a visit to Brazil to mark 100 years since the first settlement there by Japanese. Tables have now turned with more than 300 000 Brazilians of Japanese descent living in the Asian economic powerhouse.

“I think it is important to create an environment in which foreigners living in Japan and Japanese live together by paying respect to one another,” Naruhito said.

Naruhito said that foreign residents trying to adapt to Japan may be “struggling due to differences in culture and language.”

“I heard that not a small number of children are unable to catch up with class in school or to get education,” he said.

The number of foreign residents in Japan rose to an all-time high as of last year as the nation seeks more workers to help cope with a rapidly ageing population.

The 48-year-old heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne will make the 12-day trip alone although the Brazilian government invited his wife Crown Princess Masako to come along with him.

Masako, 44, has been suffering from stress for years as she adjusts to life as part of the world’s oldest monarchy. She is not going as the trip is long and includes numerous events.

“I would like to seek people’s understanding although we feel sorry for Brazilian and Japanese-Brazilian people who wanted both of us to come,” Naruhito said.

The prince did not give a clear-cut answer when asked what foreign trips Masako would be able to make.

The princess, a former diplomat educated at Harvard and Oxford, may be able to go abroad if it would “help her recover,” he said.

Nearly 800 Japanese set sail on the “Kasato Maru” ship from Kobe in search of better lives and arrived at Brazil’s Santos Port in June 1908 only to find a gruelling life working on farmland.

Brazil is now home to more than 1,2-million people of Japanese descent, or “Nikkeis,” making it the foreign country with the largest community of Japanese-origin people.