Brokered Homeland: Japanese Brazilian Migrants in Japan

Overview

Faced with an aging workforce, Japanese firms are hiring foreign workers in ever-increasing numbers. In 1990 Japan's government began encouraging the migration of Nikkeijin (overseas Japanese) who are presumed to assimilate more easily than are foreign nationals without a Japanese connection. More than 250,000 Nikkeijin, mainly from Brazil, now work in Japan. The interactions between Nikkeijin and natives, says Joshua Hotaka Roth, play a significant role in the emergence of an increasingly multicultural Japan. He...
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Overview

Faced with an aging workforce, Japanese firms are hiring foreign workers in ever-increasing numbers. In 1990 Japan's government began encouraging the migration of Nikkeijin (overseas Japanese) who are presumed to assimilate more easily than are foreign nationals without a Japanese connection. More than 250,000 Nikkeijin, mainly from Brazil, now work in Japan. The interactions between Nikkeijin and natives, says Joshua Hotaka Roth, play a significant role in the emergence of an increasingly multicultural Japan. He uses the experiences of Japanese Brazilians in Japan to illuminate the racial, cultural, linguistic, and other criteria groups use to distinguish themselves from one another. Roth's analysis is enriched by on-site observations at festivals, in factories, and in community centers, as well as by interviews with workers, managers, employment brokers, and government officials.Considered both "essentially Japanese" and "foreign," nikkeijin benefit from preferential immigration policy, yet face economic and political strictures that marginalize them socially and deny them membership in local communities. Although the literature on immigration tends to blame native blue-collar workers for tense relations with migrants, Roth makes a compelling case for a more complex definition of the relationships among class, nativism, and foreign labor. Brokered Homeland is enlivened by Roth's own experience: in Japan, he came to think of himself as nikkeijin, rather than as Japanese-American.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The story that was once told about citizens of foreign countries who could demonstrate Japanese ancestry was that even if they had never been to Japan, even if they couldn't speak the language, they nevertheless remained, in some essential way, Japanese. . . . Brokered Homeland focuses on the way in which these people's self-understanding—as well as other people's understanding of them—shifts as a result of their experiences in Japan. . . . Roth is an astute observer and a graceful writer."—David Cozy. The Japan Times, 11/24/2002

"Joshua Hotaka Roth's concise and readable ethnography . . . is based on fieldwork done in . . . Hamamatsu, an automobile manufacturing centre near Nagoya. Roth's fieldwork included a short stint on an auto assembly line as well as extensive interaction with Nikkeijin and their Japanese neighbors at a Brazilian cultural centre, Hamamatsu's annual kite festival, and other venues. The book's main conclusions are ironic. Far from assimilating smoothly into local society, Nikkeijin have embraced and accentuated their Brazilian identities."—David L. Howell, Princeton University, Pacific Affairs 77:1, Spring 2004

"Joshua Roth provides a perceptive and empathetic ethnography of the unique 'return' migration experience of Japanese Brazilians during the early 1990."—Keiko Yamanaka, University of California, Berkeley, Internatonal Migration Review 37:4, 2003

"There is much to enjoy in both of these books. They are both well written (Roth's three-paragraph account of the kite-flying festival in Hamamatsu sets a scene as well as any recent ethnography I have read) and well structured. . . . Roth's book is probably the one for students doing an option on Japan: punchy and to the point, easily read in a long afternoon."—Roger Goodman, University of Oxford, Journal of Japanese Studies, 30:3, 2004

"Brokered Homeland is more than a book about the experiences of Brazilians in Japan. By participating in the lives of his subjects, whether it be working in an automobile factory and getting repetitive stress disorder, or flying kites in a popular festival, Joshua Roth lets readers feel the pain and joy of identity building and identity negation. Working with Japanese and Brazilian subjects and sources, Roth has opened up a world of negotiation and conflict that suggests that"home" can be close and far away at the same time. It is this kind of nuance that makes Brokered Homeland such a superb book: nothing in it is absolute. Rather Roth has grasped the real human experience of migration as a phenomenon that is both repressive and liberating."—Jeffrey Lesser, Emory University

"Joshua Roth's wonderfully vivid ethnography of the mutual negotiation of identity by both Brazilian-Japanese migrants and mainstream Japanese reveals local currents of multicultural engagement that are often obscured by stereotypical views of Japanese parochialism and homogeneity."—Theodore C. Bestor, Harvard University

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Product Details

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 Introduction 1
2 Transnational Identifications at the Conference for Overseas Japanese 19
3 On the Line at Yusumi Motors 37
4 Accidents, Apologies, and Compensation 64
5 Money and Community at the Brazilian Culture Center 92
6 Internationalization and the Hamamatsu Kite Festival 118
7 Conclusion 138
Bibliography 147
Index 157
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