Japan is often portrayed as an ethnically and culturally homogeneous country. The myth of homogeneity lies at the foundation of modern Japan, being seen by many people as a clue to the understanding of Japan’s postwar economic miracle. Until recent years Japan tended to ignore the fact that the minorities constitute 3-6 per cent of Japanese society, and the minorities in many respects continue to suffer from social marginalization. This article discusses the policy of the Japanese government towards minorities from the late 19th century until the present. Japan became a multiethnic country in the course of colonial expansion. As long as Japan did not feel strong and secure as a nation state, it was willing to bestow Japanese citizenship upon new peoples and recognize them as Japanese, but this policy changed with the passage of time.