Nigerians in Japan
Total population
3,672 (in December, 2022)[1][2]
Regions with significant populations
Tokyo, particularly Kabukichō
English (Nigerian English), Igbo, Yoruba and other languages of Nigeria; Japanese[3]

Nigerians in Japan (在日ナイジェリア人, Zainichi Naijeriajin) form a significant immigrant community. There are around 3,700 Nigerians living in the country. They mostly belong 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.

Migration history

Nigerians and other West African migrants began coming to Japan in the mid-1980s as migrant workers.[4] Legal migrants often enter via student visas, which allow them to work for a limited number of hours each week.[5] 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.[6]

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.[3]

Business and employment

Some Nigerian migrants during the 1980s found work in factories.[4] 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.[7] 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.[8] 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.

In the media

From 2011 to 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' Okafor

In June 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 by journalists revealed severe administrative negligence[13] 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 people

Further information: Category:Japanese people of Nigerian descent


  1. ^ "【在留外国人統計(旧登録外国人統計)統計表】 | 出入国在留管理庁".
  2. ^ "在留外国人統計(旧登録外国人統計) 在留外国人統計 月次 2022年12月 | ファイル | 統計データを探す".
  3. ^ 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
  4. ^ a b Kawada 2008, p. 172
  5. ^ Cybriwsky 2011, p. 138
  6. ^ It just got easier to become a permanent resident of Japan Business Insider. Chris Weller. 08/03/17. Retrieved: 17/05/18
  7. ^ a b Brasor, Philip (2007-02-18), "'Africans in Japan' . . . not from the quill of Ishihara, thank God", Japan Times, retrieved 2011-06-25
  8. ^ Cybriwsky 2011, p. 140
  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. ^ "How the media failed Japan's most vulnerable immigrants". Japan Today. 22 February 2022. Retrieved 2022-02-22.
  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 reading