As with other countries, there are many foreigners living and working in Japan, each contributing to society in different ways. The total number of foreign workers (counting me) has been up quite a bit in recent years, to more than 300,000, and while this might sound like a lot, it's still tiny compared to other countries. While most of us might think of gaijin as English teachers or foreign employees of a company based overseas, the real picture of who is working where in Japan is more complex. There are foreigners from America or Europe doing web design at Japanese companies, "working holiday" travelers from Canada or Australia,
and even people from India employed by studios like Soft on Demand. One large group of workers in Japan are the nikkeijin from countries like Peru and Brazil, who have an inside track to getting a work visa for Japan if they can prove Japanese ancestry. These people work largely in manufacturing, like the large Sanyo plant in our prefecture or the Toyota plants near Nagoya, and if you drive a Japanese car there's a good change someone from South America helped make it. Incidentally, I'm asked about my visa status a lot by readers. I came to Japan on an "cultural" work visa which I'd set up ahead of time with an English school that hired me. After a certain number of years renewing a normal work visa, the authorities will consider granting you "permanent resident" status, which I got after being here for about six years. My nationality is still good old USA.