There are 1 million or so foreign residents in Japan (excluding over 600,000 Koreans). Many Taiwanese emigrated to Japan searching for higher living standards and jobs, most of them making their homes in the Kansai plain, with secondary Taiwanese communities in northern Kyushu and Tokyo. Chinese residents or zainichi chugokujin are also resident in Japan and can have great difficulties in being considered legal citizens of Japan. The Far Easterner Slavs, living in their compact communities in Karafuto and Hokkaido, also contribute to the pluriethnicity in Japan as do Filipino and other Asian expatriate communities in Tokyo. Other foreign workers were attracted to Japan in the economic boom of the 1980s and came from China, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Iran.
The plight of foreign workers in Japan is such that they are hired to do the jobs no one else wants to do, the so-called 3-K jobs: kitsui (difficult or hard), kiken (dangerous), and kitanai (dirty). All too often they are at the mercy of employers who have anything but their best interests at heart. As a foreigner even if you are naturalised you have no recourse against discrimination. Instances are know of being excluded even from entering certain shops and restaurants.
Foreign workers have been viewed as a potential danger to Japanese society and associated with criminal activities. The public is quite willing to inform the police of any suspicious activties, yet at the same time businesses will employ them at low rates of pay. Read Wolfgang Herbert's book called Foreign Workers and Law Enforcement in Japan for more details.
Europeans living in Japan have similar acceptance problems, but less so. Marutei Tsurunen, for example, a naturalized Japanese citizen born in Finland, who in July 2001 became the first Westerner to be a Japanese lawmaker representing the Democratic Party in the House of Councillors (upper house of the Japanese Parliament).
These include Brazilians and Americans who are descendants of Japanese migrants who had sought opportunity in South and North America earlier in the 20th century. Although ethnically Japanese, they can be distinguished as returnees from the way they dress or act. Japanese schoolchildren sometimes shun classmates if they have been abroad and acquired foreign ways.
Western fashions are, however, adopted by mainstream Japanese society. So being a returnee is no longer that much of as stigma. Those concerned with retaining Japanese culture will still make such fun of women wearing high heel shoes and their is concern about the fast food hamburger culture taking over traditional food tastes and customs.