Strangers in the Ethnic Homeland: Japanese Brazilian Return Migration in Transnational Perspective

Strangers in the Ethnic Homeland: Japanese Brazilian Return Migration in Transnational Perspective

Strangers in the Ethnic Homeland: Japanese Brazilian Return Migration in Transnational Perspective

Strangers in the Ethnic Homeland: Japanese Brazilian Return Migration in Transnational Perspective

Synopsis

Since the late 1980s, Brazilians of Japanese descent have been "return" migrating to Japan as unskilled foreign workers. With an immigrant population currently estimated at roughly 280,000, Japanese Brazilians are now the second largest group of foreigners in Japan. Although they are of Japanese descent, most were born in Brazil and are culturally Brazilian. As a result, they have become Japan's newest ethnic minority.

Drawing upon close to two years of multisite fieldwork in Brazil and Japan, Takeyuki Tsuda has written a comprehensive ethnography that examines the ethnic experiences and reactions of both Japanese Brazilian immigrants and their native Japanese hosts. In response to their socioeconomic marginalization in their ethnic homeland, Japanese Brazilians have strengthened their Brazilian nationalist sentiments despite becoming members of an increasingly well-integrated transnational migrant community. Although such migrant nationalism enables them to resist assimilationist Japanese cultural pressures, its challenge to Japanese ethnic attitudes and ethnonational identity remains inherently contradictory. Strangers in the Ethnic Homeland illuminates how cultural encounters caused by transnational migration can reinforce local ethnic identities and nationalist discourses.

Excerpt

The train slows as it rolls into Shibuya station in Tokyo. It is past rush hour on the Yamanote line, but the car is still quite full with commuters. Outside on the station platform await hundreds of passengers, a blur through the windows as the train passes by them before coming to a precise stop. the doors open, allowing the passengers inside to shuffle out and a new group to file into the train in an orderly manner. Most of the men are dressed conservatively in suits, and the women are clad in the standard ol (office lady) style with knee-length skirts and stockings. Finally, just before the doors shut, a group of three men stroll in. Compared to those who preceded them, these Japanese appear quite different. Their demeanor is casual and leisurely. Two of them are dressed in shirts of bright, mixed colors and jeans with a stripe down the seam. the third wears a T-shirt that says brasil. They continue their conversation, speaking loudly in Portuguese.

Brincadera, cara. Ele ‘ta falando, falando, mais o japonês não entende,” one of them remarks, his hands in his pockets as he leans against the handrail.

Coitado. Viu, o japonês dele é antigo. É um dialeto de Okinawa também,” another says. They laugh. a big, hearty laugh.

Instantly, the three men become the objects of peculiar glances from the surrounding Japanese. Some look up from their newspapers. Others pretend not to notice these strangers. Two Japanese women sitting beside me turn their eyes away from the men and look at each other. They exchange one word.

Gaijin (foreigners).”

Ever since the first Japanese Brazilians began return migrating to Japan in the late 1980s in search of high-paying jobs in Japanese factories, they . . .

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