- Japanese Diasporas: Unsung Pasts, Conflicting Presents, and Uncertain Futures
Despite the widespread use of “diaspora” to frame the study of Asian immigrants throughout the world, especially in reference to Chinese overseas1, that term has largely eluded Japanese immigration studies until very recently. Nobuko Adachi, an anthropologist whose own work focuses on the Japanese in South America, signals a new direction in approaching Japanese migration studies by assembling this wide-ranging collection of essays under the rubric “Japanese diasporas.” In so doing, she has broken rank with previous studies on the topic. For example, three recently published seminal studies of Japanese migration to Latin America—the key receiving regionóare entitled The Japanese in Latin America (Daniel M. Masterson. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004), New World, New Lives: Globalization and People of Japanese Descent in the Americas and from Latin America in Japan (Lane Ryo Hirabayashi, Ademi Kijumura-Yano and James A. Hirabayashi, eds. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002), and Encyclopedia of Japanese Descendants in the Americas (Akemi Kikumura-Yano, ed. Walnut Creek: Altamira Press, 2002).
Not only that, Adachi actually maps out a typology of Japanese diasporas, in the plural, in her thought-provoking Introduction: incipient diaspora, displaced diaspora, model or positive minority diaspora, Nikkei diaspora, Okinawan diaspora, long-term and permanent-resident diaspora. One might reasonably wonder if she might have over-stretched the concept of diaspora with such fine-tuned differences. This volume is published as part of an important series on “Asian Transformations,” edited by the eminent sinologist, Mark Selden. Asian Americanists in general are probably not in the habit of accessing the titles in this series; indeed, most of the titles are probably too Asia-centered, not sufficiently transnational in scope and approach, to be directly relevant to Asian American Studies. This volume on Japanese diasporas is an exception; its inclusion in the [End Page 124] series bodes well for future titles that may seek to further bridge Asian Studies and Asian American Studies.
While the Americas occupy a significant space in the volume, with essays covering the Japanese in the national contexts of Canada (Keibo Oiwa) , Brazil (Nobuko Adachi), Peru (Daniel Masterson), and Bolivia (Kozy Ameniya), as well as the United States and Latin America (Gary Ohihiro, Lane Hirabayashi, and Akemi Kikumura-Yano) regionally and comparatively, several essays cover the home base, Japan itself, and the reasons for out-migration from the Meiji (late nineteenth century) through the Second World War. The author, James Stanlaw, estimates that upwards of 1 million left before the war, and another 300,000 since then. (35) Equally important, essays cover Japanese migration to the Philippines and miscegenation with the local people, producing distinctive mestizo nisei (mixed-race second generation) and Nikkeijin (Japanese descended people) problems (Shun Ohno); the return migration of Nikkeijin from Brazil to Japan (Takeyuki Tsuda); Japanese working women in modern Singapore (Leng Leng Thang, Miho Goda, and Elizabeth Maclachlan).
For me, the most interesting and enlightening of the essays concern Japanese migration as colonization of East Asia, in particular Japan’s agricultural colonists in Manchukuo, Japan’s name for occupied Manchuria as a puppet state (Greg Guelcher), and the subsequent challenges of repatriating them after the war when a defeated Japan lost her empire (Mariko Asano Tamanoi). Some ten thousand “overseas Japanese,” mostly children, were left behind in Manchuria and Northeast China after the war. Forgotten by a demoralized postwar Japan, they were raised by adopted Chinese families as Chinese, in a society that never fully accepted them as Chinese nationals or citizens. Consequently, when belated efforts to repatriate them to Japan began in the 1980s after Japan and China resumed diplomatic relations, they were viewed ironically as “overseas Chinese” by many in the Japanese public who do not view them as kin. Not only do these case studies provide fascinating examples of complex identity formation and transformation under diasporic conditions, they sharply highlight relationships of migrants with state policies and actions, in this case both China and Japan...