Spend time in New York City and, soon enough, you will encounter some of the Japanese nationals who live and work there—young English students, office workers, painters, and hairstylists. New York City is home to one of the largest overseas Japanese populations in the world. Among them are artists and designers who produce cutting-edge work in fields such as design, fashion, music, and art. Part of the so-called “creative class” and a growing segment of the neoliberal economy, they are usually middle-class and college-educated. They move to New York for anywhere from a few years to several decades in the hope of realizing dreams and aspirations unavailable to them in Japan. Yet the creative careers they desire are competitive, and many end up working illegally in precarious, low paying jobs. Though they often migrate without fixed plans for return, nearly all eventually do, and their migrant trajectories are punctuated by visits home.
Japanese New York contributes to international migration studies, to the study of contemporary Japanese culture and society, and to the study of Japanese youth, while shedding light on what it means to be a creative migrant worker in the global city today.