The changing face of Japan: labour shortage opens doors to immigrant workers

Japan – once one of the world’s most homogenous societies – is starting to unwind its traditional opposition to large-scale immigration

One by one, Mohammad and Munadi thread scallop shells on to thin metal rods, breaking the monotony with quiet chatter in their native Javanese. The shells will soon be used to cultivate oysters, a speciality in this region of western Japan.

Neither of the men, crouching on the floor of a shed overlooking Japan’s Inland Sea, had even seen an oyster before they came to Akitsu, a tiny port town in eastern Hiroshima prefecture, in April this year.

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