Japan has in recent years seen an influx of immigrants from Turkey, with ethnic Middle Eastern restaurants, confectionery stores and places of worship sprouting up around the burgeoning community.

Many ethnic Kurds have settled in Saitama Prefecture, near Tokyo, while Turks hailing from the area along their homeland's Black Sea coast have chosen Nagoya in central Japan to live. Many work in the demolition industry and have become an important part of a Japanese society that needs as much foreign labor as possible.

This October, Turkey will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its founding on the Anatolian Peninsula in the wake of World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

Women dance at "Newroz," a New Year festival held by Kurds living in Japan, in March 2023 in Saitama. (Kyodo)

"Please try homemade Kurdish lamb," cried a Kurdish woman, 29, living in the Saitama city of Kawaguchi, at an event held in Tokyo for refugees and immigrants in late May.

The woman, who refrained from using her real name, and her associates have hosted gatherings in the Tokyo metropolitan area to serve food from her homeland since last November. She came to Japan seven years ago.

Since the 1990s, Kurds have created a community around Kawaguchi and the neighboring city of Warabi, allowing them to escape persecution by the Turkish government. Many have applied for refugee status.

A booth selling Kurdish homemade cuisine prepared by Kurds and others in Japan is set up at a refugee and immigrant event in Tokyo's Nerima ward in May 2023. (Kyodo) 

A large number of them are given temporary "provisional release" after being held in immigration detention centers. They are not permitted to work legally while out of detention, and few succeed at acquiring refugee status.

Even so, roughly 2,000 Kurds live in Saitama, many of whom work for the more than 100 demolition companies in the area. In recent years, the number of Kurdish restaurants locally has surged.

Several hundred people arrived in Japan in the wake of the severe earthquake that rocked southeastern Turkey in February, their supporters said. The area that suffered the worst damage is home to many Kurdish people who were badly impacted.

Beyzade Baklava, a Turkish pastry shop in Aisai, Aichi Prefecture, is pictured in January 2023. (Kyodo)

Some who have settled and started businesses in Japan have found success. Ahmet Dursun, 47, owner of Beyzade Baklava, a Turkish pastry shop in Aisai, Aichi Prefecture, has tripled sales since relocating his store from Tokyo in 2019 to target Turkish customers in the Nagoya area. With his business booming, he plans to open a new shop.

There are many examples of people arriving in Tsushima near Nagoya from the Fatsa area of Ordu Province in the central Black Sea region of northern Turkey and its environs, relying on relatives to come to Japan, where they get jobs in the demolition industry.

A documentary called "Farewell Fatsa" was made about migrant workers' success in Japan. Some 4,000 Fatsa migrants have come to stay. In 2022, Mosque Tsushima Ayasofya IGMG, an Islamic place of worship in Aichi Prefecture, opened, attracting ethnic restaurants and foodstuff stores to the area.

People pray at Mosque Tsushima Ayasofya IGMG, an Islamic place of worship where many Turks in Japan gather, in Tsushima, Aichi Prefecture, in January 2023. (Kyodo)

A 35-year-old man from Fatsa who wishes to be known only as Ilhan said he knew living in Japan could pay off big. "I heard that my monthly salary could be eight times what I made in Turkey. I want to live here for a long time." he said.

The community's integration has not been without hiccups, however.

An incident in 2015 saw a spillover of Turkish domestic political turmoil reach Japan. In the 2015 Turkish general election, some Kurds from Saitama and Turks from Aichi brawled at an overseas polling station in Tokyo.

Japanese customers dine at a Turkish restaurant in Tsushima, Aichi Prefecture, in April 2023. The restaurant is also a popular hangout among Turkish residents in Japan. (Kyodo)

While a Turkish man who saw the melee insisted that "(The Kurds) supported a radical Turkish separatist organization," one Kurdish student, 21, countered, saying, "That was only a small number of people."

The Metropolitan Police Department strictly guarded the polling station for the presidential election in May this year, and there were no reports of any disturbances.

Koichi Yasuda, 58, a journalist who covers issues affecting foreigners living in Japan, said, "It is only natural to have political affiliations since we are all human beings."

He added that immigration to Japan from other countries is a huge plus as it brings "vibrancy and culture to a country suffering from a declining birth rate."