Globalization has engendered a rise in international migration, including what has been called “return migration”: the resettlement of people to the place from which their ancestors originally emigrated. Japanese Americans (Americans of Japanese ancestry) living in Japan can be considered one example of this increasing phenomenon. In Japan, people are dichotomously categorized into the social groups “Japanese” and “foreigner/gaijin,” despite the presence of many groups that don’t easily fit into this bifurcated schema, including Zainichi Koreans and Chinese, Kikokushijo and Nikkeijin. “Nikkeijin” (Japanese emigrants and their descendents) in Japan usually refers to Brazilians of Japanese ancestry who now have an estimated population of 280,000.
This presentation will examine Japanese Americans in Japan as Nikkeijin who are both ethnically Japanese and nationally foreign, noting in particular that their foreignness as Americans differentiates them from Nikkeijin from other countries. Drawing from interview data collected over the past year, I show how Japanese American identity (trans)formation in Japan is 1) an interactive process of negotiating social categorization in Japan and asserting individual identities; and 2) that this process is shaped significantly by both their experiences in the US and positionality in Japan as Americans.
Jane H. Yamashiro is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Hawai’i / Manoa and currently a research student at the University of Tokyo / Komaba.