Nationality Revealed through Behavior: Serious Polarization Among Warabi City Foreigners | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Nationality Revealed through Behavior: Serious Polarization Among Warabi City Foreigners

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on LINE

In a worn-out apartment in a residential area near Warabi Station (Saitama), Muslims are steadily being drawn in. “The truth is this room is a mosque.” In mid-December last year, Tarek Mahmud, a Bangladeshi, who was attending prayers at this mosque, confessed in fluent Japanese.

“Every Friday, Muslims gather here. Nearly 90% of them are Bangladeshi. In recent years, the number of Bangladeshis living in Warabi has continued to increase, but on the other hand, many also express a desire to return to their homeland. Despite the rising cost of living, wages are not increasing, and as foreigners, they are required to pay into the pension system, making life quite challenging.”

Exterior view of a mosque in Warabi City

Warabi City has a foreign population of approximately 8,500 people, accounting for 11.3% of the total population. In recent years, there has been a noticeable increase in Bangladeshi and Vietnamese residents, each forming their own communities. With a significant presence of Kurdish people as well, the area has even given rise to the term “Warabistan.” In this increasingly diverse environment, one wonders what the foreign residents think. Let’s explore their situation.

When visiting real estate agencies in Warabi City, one may notice many that do not accept foreign clients. When asked why, the response often relates to past incidents of non-payment of rent by foreign tenants, which made landlords wary. This seems to be a downside of the rapid increase in the foreign population. Nevertheless, there are indeed real estate agencies in Warabi City that are willing to mediate for foreign clients.

“In the past few years, rental prices in Warabi have increased by over 10%. For a single-person household, the average monthly rent is around 70,000 to 80,000 yen. About 10-20% of our clients are foreigners. We’ve noticed an increase in people of Turkish and Asian descent. Warabi has one of the highest land price appreciation rates in the prefecture, and despite the rent not being cheap, there’s been a significant rise in the foreign population. We don’t have a clear answer as to why this is happening.”

A slogan calling for harmonious coexistence is posted at JR Warabi Station.

When you exit the east exit of Warabi Station, you’ll immediately see an internet cafe. This place gained significant media attention around 2008 as an internet cafe where you could register your residence. It was possible to register your address and even have mail delivered there, and it was feasible to live there for around 60,000 yen per month. However, according to the staff, “the residency registration service was abolished about 2-3 years ago.”

Around 7 p.m., as people were heading home, they gathered at the supermarket in front of the station. Foreign nationals stood out among them. When I approached and spoke to them, many of them were Vietnamese. One Vietnamese person, who said they worked for a trading company, expressed their thoughts deeply.

“The rent may be high, but there are many Vietnamese food stores and restaurants, making it easy to live here. There are plenty of Vietnamese people, and information exchange is active. That’s why new Vietnamese residents quickly adapt to the city.”

It was interesting to hear the phrase from Japanese residents of Warabi that “you can tell someone’s nationality by their behavior.” For example, Kurds gather in groups in front of the station, Vietnamese tend to gather at chain restaurants, and Chinese individuals are often seen acting independently. While this is purely anecdotal observation, it serves as evidence that foreigners have become thoroughly integrated into the community.

When I approached a Kurdish person in the food and beverage industry who was on their way home, they explained their reasons for living in Warabi like this:

“I believe that Warabi City and Toda City are good areas in terms of children’s education. There are usually 4 to 5 foreign students in each class, and the teachers are accustomed to it. They don’t treat foreigners differently in a positive way. There aren’t many places like that. The only thing that might be lacking is a mosque. While there is one near the station, it belongs to a different sect, so we have to go to the Yoyogi Uehara Mosque in Tokyo every Friday.”

Warabi City Board of Education offers “special Japanese language support classes” for foreign children

When visiting language schools in the city, it was observed that many students were of Chinese or Vietnamese descent. Regarding the students’ career paths, a male staff member commented:

“The foreign residents around here tend to have a high level of Japanese proficiency. There’s an impression that people with strong Japanese reading skills tend to gather here. The proportion of students aspiring for further education rather than immediate employment has been increasing year by year. This suggests that they are settling down in Warabi. The mindset of the students is changing.”

While conducting interviews in Warabi, I encountered people from a wide range of countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Pakistan, China, Kurdistan, Nepal, Vietnam, Brazil, and the UK, among others. What was striking was the extent of segregation that has taken place.

Individuals of African and Middle Eastern descent are often found working in construction sites and similar labor-intensive jobs. On the other hand, Asian individuals can be seen working in foreign-affiliated companies, IT-related roles, consulting, and even in major Japanese electronics retailers. This indicates that the working patterns of foreigners have diversified beyond traditional factory work, encompassing not only day labor and self-employment but also various other forms of employment.

A scene near Warabi Station. Signs in foreign languages are conspicuous.

Frank Cherjee, a Nigerian who moved to Japan in response to the economic crisis in his home country and has been working at a construction site, said,

“I came to this town because of work, but Warr is not as crowded as Tokyo and is easy to live in. I feel a sense of nostalgia here. It’s a very comfortable place.”

A Bangladeshi man who works at a major electronics retailer outside of the prefecture used this expression.

Even though we do the same job at the same workplace, the treatment is inevitably different from Japanese workers. I often feel confused. Living in Warabi allows me to consult with my colleagues about various things and rely on them when my family encounters troubles. The city has a system in place to accept foreigners, so it’s easier to access services compared to other municipalities. Of course, there are financial and future uncertainties, so I’m not sure if I’ll continue living in Warabi indefinitely.”


According to officials from the Citizen Collaboration Division of the Civilian Life Department of Warabi City, the city implemented the “Warabi Multicultural Coexistence Guidelines” in fiscal year 2022 (Reiwa 4) and is promoting multilingualism within the city hall to facilitate smooth daily and social life for local residents. The “Foreign Resident Comprehensive Consultation Desk,” which provides support for consultations related to daily life and administrative procedures, accommodates up to 85 languages.

Warabi, where multiculturalism intersects, continues to explore the path towards coexistence.

  • Interview and text Shimei Kurita

    Born in 1987. He covers a wide range of topics, including sports, economics, incidents, and overseas affairs. He is the author of "Surviving the COVID-19 crisis: Taxi Industry Survival. Aim for Koshien! The Insatiable Challenge of a Preparatory School Baseball Club" and many other composition books.

  • PHOTO Shimei Kurita, Kyodo News

Photo Gallery4 total

Photo Selection

Check out the best photos for you.

Related Articles