Japanese people in France (French: Japonais en France, Japanese: 在フランス日本人 Zai Furansu Nihonjin) are French residents and citizens of Japanese ancestry, including both those who have settled in France permanently and those born in the country, along with a significant community of short-term expatriates who spend at most a few years in the country before moving on.
Japanese settlement in France, in contrast to that in Brazil or in the United States, has always consisted of individual sojourners coming to the country for cultural or intellectual reasons rather than economic ones, with little collective mobilisation by the government. Indeed, Japanese leaders of the Meiji period saw France as a symbol of modern civilization, and endeavoured to prevent "men whose respectability and civility they doubted" from settling there.
Before World War I
The flow of individual Japanese expatriates to France began as early as the 1870s. For the most part, they came to France for a few years to experience the intellectual and cultural life there, and then return to Japan; their experiences in France are seen as a form of "cultural capital" which boosts their status back in their home country.
Between the wars
The Japanese expatriate community of the inter-war period is portrayed in Riichi Yokomitsu's novel Ryoshu. The arrival of Japanese expatriates continued at a trickle until the 1930s, when the onset of World War II brought it to a halt.
After World War II
The post-war Japanese migrants to France largely continued to fit into the mold of highly educated individuals; they consisted of journalists, high officials, scholars, and professionals. 73.6% hold university degrees. The number of students, however, has decreased somewhat as compared to the years between World War I and World War II.
Japanese expatriates in France largely possess mastery of the French language.
There are several Buddhist temples in France which serve the Japanese community. Most are affiliated with the Zen branch of Mahayana Buddhism.
Japanese in France generally "adapt to the French urban landscape", and for the most part avoid public expressions of ethnic identity which might emphasise their separateness from the French. However, elements of Japanese culture have also been added to the French landscape, notably in Paris, where sushi bars and Japanese restaurants are commonly found.
At the turn of the 20th century, the French idea of Japonisme initially played a large role in the French treatment of the Japanese expatriates in their midst: they were seen as representatives of an artistic but vacuous culture, exotic, self-absorbed, and non-political. However, Japan's increasing military aggression in Asia leading up to World War II shattered this image, and increased French suspicion of all Asians, including the Japanese.
Japanese in France in the 1990s and 2000s are considered almost "invisible", in contrast to the far more controversial stream of migrants from North Africa.
The French often feel hostility towards Japan as an economic competitor; however, this hostility does not show up in their treatment of Japanese residents of their country. Yatabe's 2001 survey found that 42.5% of Japanese in France feel the French have a favourable attitude towards them, 31.7% indifferent, and only 25.8% feel they are met with hostility. 42.0% of the French people he surveyed feel favourably towards international marriage with Japanese people, 29.1% indifferent, and 24.3% opposed; the number of those opposed is more than double that regarding intermarriage with Americans or people of any European nation, but below that regarding intermarriage with people of any other non-Western country, and notably less than half the number opposed to intermarriage with Algerians. In contrast, however, 52.4% of Japanese in France surveyed feel "unfavourable" or "highly unfavourable" towards the idea of intermarriage with French people.
A little under half of the Japanese in France live in Paris, according to 1996 data from the Japanese embassy. The Japanese in Paris live in a variety of areas, with the largest concentrations in the 15th and 16th arrondissements. Unlike other communities of expatriates from Asia, such as the Chinese, social life for the Japanese tends to centre around their company, rather than their neighbourhood of residence. A number of Japanese businesses and restaurants are concentrated in the Opéra District; however, it is largely a commercial neighbourhood, and few Japanese actually live there. Increasingly, many of the restaurants in the area serving Japanese cuisine are run by immigrants from Cambodia, Thailand, or Vietnam, and target a French customer base.
Institut Culturel Franco-Japonais – École Japonaise de Paris, a Japanese international school serving elementary and junior high school levels, is located in Montigny-le-Bretonneux. In addition there were two now-defunct Japanese boarding high schools in France, including the Lycée Seijo in Alsace, before its 2005 closure, and the Lycée Konan near Tours, before its 2013 closure.
There are also part-time Japanese educational programmes in Paris, Boulogne-Billancourt, and St.Germain en Laye in the Paris metropolitan area, as well as Bordeaux, Colmar, Grenoble, La Madeleine (near Lille), Labège (near Toulouse), Lyon, Meistratzheim, Marseille, St. Cyr sur Loire, Valbonne (near Nice), and Villeurbanne.