Japan has been celebrating after achieving its goal of hosting at least 100,000 foreign students - a target set two decades ago by then prime minister Yasuhiro Nakasone. In 1983, there were 10,000 foreigners studying in Japan. Mr Nakasone pledged to multiply that by 10 'by the early 21st century'. After a steady increase in the first 12 years, the influx dropped for the first time in l996, as a result of the Asian financial crisis. In the past three years, however, 45,000 students have flooded into Japan, predominantly from East Asia. More than 64 per cent come from China, which includes Hong Kong, 14.5 per cent from South Korea and 3.9 per cent from Taiwan. The recent surge has largely been the result of a steady decrease in Japan's young population - due to the falling birthrate - which has led universities to turn to foreign students for survival. Many have opened new doors for them such as making scholarships available. The University of Tokyo, one of the most prestigious national universities, has 2,000 foreigners on its student roster. Waseda University in Tokyo has 1,600. But although the goal has been achieved, it has not been a happy ending all round. Last year, a big scandal was exposed at Sakata Junior College in northern Japan, where almost all the 340 students were Chinese. Nearly 60 per cent of them moved to Tokyo to get part-time jobs. Some were discovered by the authorities and deported, while others have simply vanished. Sakata is an extreme case, but it is only the tip of a huge iceberg, according to many education specialists. Foreign students arrive with high aspirations, but the high cost of living means that many end up working in restaurants and in other service-sector jobs for low wages - and mostly illegally. The financial gap between them and their Japanese peers is clear for all to see, and can lead to frustration or resentment. Such factors underpin the crimes committed by foreign students, notably Chinese nationals, according to some educators. When three young Chinese were arrested and charged with murdering a Japanese family in Kyushu, it just added to the unfavourable image some Japanese have of Chinese students. But it is not only the students who are to blame. More than a few say they are treated unfairly and are made to feel unwelcome. Also, they have very little prospects of getting a job in Japan after graduating. Japan's challenge now is to improve the support system for foreign students. Some citizens' groups and non-governmental organisations have already launched counselling services. Such grassroots efforts may prove better than the government policy, which involves expanded monitoring, with more emphasis on academic competence and their conduct.