Pakistanis in Japan (在日パキスタン人, Zainichi Pakisutanjin) form the country's third-largest community of immigrants from a Muslim-majority country, trailing only the Indonesian community and Bangladeshi community. As of 2011, official statistics showed 10,849 registered foreigners of Pakistani origin living in the country, up from 7,498 in 2000. There were a further estimated 3,414 illegal immigrants from Pakistan in Japan as of 2000.
As early as 1950, only three years after the independence of Pakistan in 1947 which created the Pakistani state, there were recorded to be four Pakistanis living in Japan. However, Pakistani migration to Japan would not grow to a large scale until the 1980s. The later Pakistani migrants in Japan largely come from a muhajir background; their family history of migration made them consider working overseas as a "natural choice" when they found opportunities at home to be too limited. While Pakistanis saw North America as a good destination to settle down and start a business, Japanese employment agencies commonly advertised in Karachi newspapers in the 1980s, when Japan offered some of the highest wages in the world for unskilled labour; it came to be preferred as a destination by single male migrants, who came without their families. The wages they earned could reach as high as twenty times what they made in Pakistan. Another attraction of Japan over other traditional migration destinations, particularly the Middle East, was the social freedom it offered to migrants; some young Pakistanis came not so much out of economic motives, but instead out of a desire to find freedom which seemed unattainable at home or in other Muslim countries.
Pakistani citizens once enjoyed the privilege of short-term visa-free entry to Japan, but when controversy arose in Japanese society over illegal foreign workers, the Japanese government revoked this privilege. With little chance of acquiring a work visa or even permission to enter the country, Pakistanis paid as much as ¥300,000 to people smugglers in the late 1980s and early 1990s to enter the country. According to Japanese government statistics, the number of Pakistanis illegally residing in Japan peaked in 1992 at 8,056 individuals and declined after that. However, Pakistani sources suggest that as late as 1999, the total population of Pakistanis was 25,000 and still included a significant amount of illegal immigrants. Some Pakistanis were able to obtain legal resident status by finding Japanese spouses.
However, in the tightened security environment following the September 11 attacks in the United States, many were deported; the population shrunk to around 10,000 legal immigrants. In January 2010, two children born in Japan to a Pakistani father and a Filipina mother were ordered to be deported along with their parents because the latter lacked proper visas when they came to Japan 20 years earlier.
According to 2008 Japanese government figures, 19.9% of registered Pakistanis lived in Saitama, 17.8% in Tokyo, 12.3% in Kanagawa, 10.4% in Aichi, 8.98% in Chiba, 7.59% in Gunma, 6.02% in Ibaraki, 4.44% in Tochigi, 4.21% in Toyama, 3.27% in Shizuoka, and the remaining 4.98% in other prefectures of Japan. Only an estimated 200 Pakistanis hold Japanese citizenship.
Many Pakistanis in Japan run used car export businesses. This trend was believed to have begun in the late 1970s, when one Pakistani working in Japan sent a car back to his homeland. The potential for doing business in used cars also attracted more Pakistanis to come to Japan in the 1990s.
Though many migrants come from a middle-class family background in Pakistan, because they often work at so-called Dirty, Dangerous and Demeaning (3D/3K) jobs, and because of their portrayal in the Japanese media, even their co-workers tended to misperceive their background and level of education.
Many Japanese wives of Pakistani migrants have converted to Islam, and in fact form the largest group of native Japanese converts to Islam. They often send their children to mosques so that they can learn about their ancestral religion and study the Arabic language.
In 2001, an incident of Qur'an desecration in Toyama, where about 150 Pakistanis lived, sparked protests from the community. At least one Qur'an was taken from a makeshift prayer room used by Pakistanis, with allegations that six others had also been stolen; someone later left torn Qur'an pages at a Pakistani-owned used car dealership. Hundreds of Pakistani Muslims marched in Tokyo, and nine representatives from the Pakistani Association of Japan met with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to deliver a letter of protest.
In 1989, the Islamic Center in Japan requested publishers, newspapers, magazines and broadcast stations not to translate or reproduce the novel The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie which it called an "anti-Islamic" work that "contains filthy remarks and ridicules fundamental beliefs of Islam". A leader of the Japanese association of Pakistanis joined the condemnations of Rushdie, saying he deserved to die because of the book. Subsequently, the Japanese translator Hitoshi Igarashi was found slain at a university northeast of Tokyo on 12 July 1991.
Japan has some Urdu-language media aimed at Pakistanis, such as the freely distributed Pak Shimbun, as well as other Japanese-language publications targeted towards Muslims at large.Hussain Shah, professional boxer who represented Pakistan at the Olympics and moved to Japan to become a boxing coach afterwards
Shah Hussain Shah, son of Hussain Shah, judoka