As of Dec. 31, there were 2,731,093 foreigners residing in Japan, an increase of 169,245, or 6.6 percent over the last day in 2017.

Resident Vietnamese totaled 330,835 for a 26-percent increase.

Ministry officials said moves into a rapidly developing Vietnam by Japanese companies led to increased interest among younger Vietnamese about studying or undertaking technical intern training in Japan.

The latest figure marks the fourth straight year for foreign resident numbers to mark a record.

Those in Japan for technical intern training exceeded 300,000 for the first time, with an increase of 54,127 over 2017.

The Justice Ministry noted that 74,167 foreign nationals were in Japan illegally as of Jan. 1, an increase of 7,669 over 2018. This year marked the fifth straight increase in overstayers.

Foreign residents from China made up the largest group at 764,720, while South Korea placed second with 449,634. Vietnam was third.

By resident status, there were 337,000 students, an 8-percent increase over 2017. Foreign students made up about 10 percent of all foreign residents. There were a total of 328,360 in technical intern training, an increase of 20 percent.

Technical interns from Vietnam numbered 164,499 for a roughly 30-percent increase.

The number of foreign students and technical interns exceeded special permanent residents made up of ethnic Koreans and others for the first time since 2012 when the current form of statistics was introduced.

Among overstayers, those from South Korea made up 12,766, while there were 11,131 from Vietnam and 10,119 from China. The number from Vietnam represented about a 65-percent increase over 2018.

By Naoki Urano - The Asahi Shimbun - March 23, 2019