Few countries in the world allow foreign residents voting rights, but by next year foreign permanent residents living in the country could be given the right to vote in local elections.
The largest such groups are Chinese and Koreans, whose presence is a legacy of Japan's imperial past, but the plan has its opponents, including nationalists.
They fear that by granting suffrage in elections to ethnic Koreans and Chinese, as well as close to half a million other permanent-resident foreigners, Japan will be surrendering its autonomy and culture to outsiders.
Al Jazeera's Harry Fawcett reports from Tokyo, the country's capital.
Feb 7, 2010