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What Countries Do the Foreigners Living in Sapporo Come From?

In our series of original reports on real estate in Sapporo we share some basic population statistics for Sapporo (and foreigners living in Sapporo), and in this post we supply some data about which countries have the largest populations of foreigners living in Sapporo.

Foreigners in Sapporo

Sapporo is a proper Japanese city. In this post we will share data about foreigners living in Sapporo, but we should start by saying that over 99% of the population of Sapporo is Japanese. Sapporo is a relatively big city (the fifth largest city in Japan), but it is not especially famous worldwide, nor is it known for being particularly cosmopolitan. While there are a lot of foreigners living in Sapporo, they are not a large percentage.

With that said, as we show in our article about the yearly totals for foreigners living in Sapporo, the population of foreigners in Sapporo is increasing (even as the overall population of Sapporo has declined in recent years). The Sapporo story is primarily about the Japanese, but foreigners are becoming a bigger element in that story.

Population of Foreigners in Sapporo, by Country

While we cover the total number of foreigners in Sapporo in a different post, here we show from which countries those foreigners are coming from, and the percentages of international residents in Sapporo by country.

Country of OriginForeigners Living in Sapporo% of the Foreign Population
Korea II2751.7%
Great Britain2241.4%
Sri Lanka1140.7%
Source: City of Sapporo, Japan

This table presents data for Sapporo’s foreign residents (not the overall population). For more complete data, see our report on the Sapporo population stats.

Sapporo’s International Population by Year

While for the last 20 years or so the population of Sapporo had generally been increasing, there has been a mild decline in population in recent years. However, as the total number of people living in Sapporo has decreased since 2021, in those same years the percentage of foreigners living in Sapporo has increased.

Year Foreigners% of Foreigners
2023 15,9600.8%
2022 13,0950.7%
2021 14,0100.7%
2020 14,6560.7%
2019 13,4130.7%
2018 12,1830.6%
2017 11,1110.6%
2016 10,1900.5%
2015 9,4670.5%
2014 9,1560.5%
2013 9,1090.5%
Source: Data calculated by Find Hokkaido Agents, based on previous reports

From 2013 to 2023, the percentage of foreigners reported to be living in Sapporo increased from 0.5% to approximately 0.8%. While those numbers remain a small percentage of the local population, that is a big increase overall, with approximately 60% more foreigners in Sapporo as of 2023 (and the percentage is growing).

The Covid years temporarily pushed down the raw numbers of people from foreign countries moving to Sapporo (from a high of 14,656 people in 2020, to a recent-year low of 13,095 in 2022), but that trend has reversed and Sapporo has set a new record high of 15,960 foreigners living in Sapporo as of 2023.

Interestingly, the percentage of foreigners in Niseko’s had also been increasing for years (currently at 4% of the total population), but the Covid pandemic had a significant impact there as well, reversing a trend of year over year increases in foreign residents in Niseko (which had been as high as approximately 7%, pre-pandemic). As of 2022, foreigners living in Niseko were still below pre-covid numbers, but we may very well see rising international interest in Niseko as the Covid event becomes increasingly less relevant.

We have detailed reporting on Niskeo’s population by year and foreigners living in Niseko in other reports.

The Chinese in Sapporo

As we look at the numbers above for which countries send the most foreign people to Sapporo, China dominates that list.

Japan is geographically close to China, and like many places around the world, the Chinese diaspora has come to this city to live, to study, and often to buy Sapporo real estate and set up businesses in this city. At 31% of the foreigners, the Chinese are the largest foreign population in Sapporo. We know from our work with clients that not only China, but countries such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore also provide some of the populations of foreign residents living in Sapporo.

While the Niseko Story has had a lot of European influence and in-migration, as the statistics for Sapporo’s population indicate, it is Asian countries that have contributed the most human capital to Sapporo in recent years.

Westerners and Europeans in Sapporo

As the statistics we present above indicate, Asians move to Sapporo more than another other ethnicity, but there are significant numbers of Westerners and Europeans in Sapporo as well. Americans make up the largest non-Asian population in Sapporo. And the data shows some presence of Russians, people from Great Brittan, the French, as well as Australians and their neighbors from New Zealand.

While they are a lower percentage of the foreigners, with non-Asian faces the Westerns can be easier to recognize; there are easily visible communities active on the streets and train stations. The Maruyama neighborhood in Chuo-ku has a reputation for Westerners. And online you can find a number of international groups, including the Hokkaido Multicultural Support Center. The international school in Sapporo teaches in English and also supports Westerners and other residents that can take schooling in English.

Sapporo Real Estate and Foreign Buyers

While doing business in Sapporo can be challenging if you don’t speak Japanese, there are opportunities to find help for real estate and other professional services in your native language, including English.

In our client work, we often make introductions to real estate professionals in Sapporo that speak English (and other languages). We have helped many foreigners find an apartment in Sapporo or to buy a home in Sapporo. We have also made a number of referrals to Sapporo immigration lawyers and tax accountants in Sapporo.

We make a lot of referrals. Contact us, we’re happy to help, and our services are always free to you.

We work for you, not the real estate companies.

We provide person-to-person introductions to prescreened agents that help you sell, buy, lease, or rent property in Hokkaido. We search our custom database to connect you to real estate professionals that speak your language, address your needs and are available now to help you find what you want.

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For More Information:

— Our overall reporting on the Population of Sapporo by Year
— Specific data on The Population of Foreigners in Sapporo
— Our complete guide for Buying a House in Sapporo
— Some estimate for the Cost to Buy a House in Sapporo
— Our report on How to Rent an Apartment in Sapporo and Move-In Costs for Sapporo Apartments
— Some details on Short-Term Apartments in Sapporo
— Recent data on the Population of Niseko and Foreign Populations Living in Niseko
— The Population of Otaru
International Schools in Sapporo
— Find Lawyers in Hokkaido
— Our Taxes in Japan page
Buying Property in Hokkaido as a Foreigner

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