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  • From Ethnic Affinity to Alienation in the Global Ecumene:The Encounter between the Japanese and Japanese-Brazilian Return Migrants1
  • Takeyuki (Gaku) Tsuda (bio)
Takeyuki (Gaku) Tsuda
University of California, San Diego
Takeyuki (Gaku) Tsuda

Takeyuki Tsuda received his doctorate in anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley and is currently Associate Director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California—San Diego. He is the author of eight published articles, including "When Identities Become Modern: Japanese Immigrants in Brazil and the Global Contextualization of Identity" (Ethnic and Racal Studies, 2001); "Acting Brazilian in Japan" (Ethnology, 2000); "Transnational Migration and the Nationalization of Ethnic Identity among Japanese-Brazilian Return Migrants" (Ethos, 1999); and "The Permanence of 'Temporary' Migration: The 'Structural Embeddedness' of Japanese-Brazilian Migrant Workers in Japan" (Journal of Asian Studies, 1999).


1. This article is based on over twenty months of intensive fieldwork and participant observation in both Japan and Brazil. Nine months were spent in Brazil (1993-1994) among two separate Japanese-Brazilian communities in the cities of Porto Alegre (Rio Grande do Sul) and Ribeirão Preto (São Paulo). During my subsequent one-year stay in Japan (1994-1995), I conducted fieldwork in the cities of Kawasaki (Kanagawa prefecture) and Oizumi/Ota (Gunma prefecture), where I worked in a large electrical appliance factory with Japanese-Brazilian and Japanese workers as a participant observer for four intensive months. Close to 100 in-depth interviews were conducted with Japanese-Brazilians and Japanese workers, residents, employers, and officials. See Tsuda, "Ethnicity") for a self-reflexive analysis of the methodological implications of my fieldwork experiences in Japan as an ethnically ambiguous anthropologist.

2. Excluding the approximately 650,000 Korean-Japanese who are still registered in Japan as "foreigners." Although most of them were born and raised in Japan, they are not granted Japanese citizenship and have not naturalized. The population of Chinese in Japan remains higher than that of the Brazilian nikkeijin. In 1994, there were 214,389 Chinese registered as foreigners in Japan. In addition, there were 39,552 illegal visa overstayers.

3. See Tsuda, "Motivation," for an analysis of the causes of Japanese-Brazilian return migration.

4. Of course, the Japanese-Brazilians have not always been regarded so highly. Before and during World War II, when Japan was a global imperialist menace, they were subject to considerable prejudice and ethnic repression in Brazilian society. See Tsuda, "When Identities," for a historical analysis of the Japanese in Brazil.

5. In 1989, a mere 14,528 Brazilians were registered as foreigners in Japan. Three years later, the population had exploded tenfold to 147,803, and their numbers have continued to expand steadily since then, despite Japan's prolonged economic recession.

6. Under the new immigration provisions, the nikkeijin are allowed to enter Japan on two types of visas, both of which can be renewed an indefinite number of times and have no activity restrictions.

7. Unless otherwise indicated, all English translations of interviews and published texts are my own.

8. See Tsuda, Strangers, for further analysis of Japanese-Brazilian ethnic experiences in Japan.

9. In a similar vein, Ong (738-9) observes that notions of cultural difference (instead of racial difference) are employed being increasingly in the ethno-political discourse of Western Europe to marginalize immigrant or minority groups.

10. See Tsuda, Strangers, for an analysis of how the Brazilian nikkeijin assert their Brazilianness in Japan.

11. Non-nikkeijin Brazilian spouses of Japanese-Brazilians are legally admitted to Japan on the same visas.

12. For a more extensive discussion of Japanese ethnic attitudes toward the Japanese-Brazilians, see Tsuda, Strangers.

13. Ethnic and national identity are considered synonymous in the Japanese case, since the nation is seen as composed of one ethnic group (see also De Vos and Suárez-Orozco 251; Ivy 3-4; Yoshino).

14. As George De Vos notes, "It is yet a basic incongruity to consider the possibility that one could be Japanese and maintain adherence to a [culturally different] background" (13).

15. Marginal figures in Japanese history have served as metaphors for symbolic transformations in collective self-representations (Ohnuki-Tierney, Monkey). Renato Rosaldo (207-9, 215-7) claims...


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