1st Edition

Doing Ethnography in the Wake of the Displacement of Transnational Sex Workers in Yokohama Sensuous Remembering

By Ayaka Yoshimizu Copyright 2022
    244 Pages 13 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    244 Pages 13 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Doing Ethnography in the Wake of the Displacement of Transnational Sex Workers in Yokohama reflects on the politics, poetics, and ethics of remembering the lives of transnational migrant sex workers in postcolonial Japan. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in the port city of Yokohama, the book focuses on the “water trade” in the Koganecho neighbourhood where exploitative and stigmatised labour took place, involving sexual services performed by migrant women. In recent years the city has sought to rebrand Koganecho, evicting transnational migrant sex workers who had been integral to postindustrial development and erasing their past presence. The author explores Yokohama’s memoryscapes in the aftermath of displacement through embodied knowledge, engaging her senses and ethics as a colonizer-researcher as she navigates the elusive past through traces that remain in the present. She examines the city’s built environment, official historical narratives, films, and photographic works. With few brothels and workers remaining, Yoshimizu fills the gap with her own interactions, encounters, and imaginings. Yoshimizu also writes through the imagery of water in ways that are informed by the local usage and imaginations—the ocean, flowing rivers, swamps, humidity, alcohol, the fluidity of relationships, and transient lives. The water also offers a way to sense the “ghost”, or the displaced lives and the effects of displacement, that, like humid air, stick to those who occupy or inhabit the site of displacement today. This interdisciplinary work makes a valuable contribution to sensory studies, memory studies, migration studies, and Asian studies.

    Introduction: Sensuous Rememberings

    PART I

    1 Building History on A Vacant Land

    2 Re-membering Shitamachi Water Trade

    3 Politics of Memory in Koganecho


    4 Following the Ghost, Entangled with Lives

    5 Along the River, Under the Railway

    6 Across the River

    7 An Opening (By Way of Conclusion)



    Ayaka Yoshimizu is Assistant Professor of Teaching in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia, Canada.