1st Edition

Mobile Japanese Migrants to the Pacific West and East Self-searching, Work, and Identification

By Etsuko Kato Copyright 2024
    210 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book explores “self-searching migrants,” a new group of indefinitely globally mobile people whose purpose of overseas stay is the search of true self and the work they really want to do, using Japanese trans-Pacific sojourners as the case study.

    Utilizing testimonies collected from interviews with Japanese migrants in their twenties to forties who had entered the job market between the early 1990s and 2010 and left for the English-speaking countries of Canada, Australia, and Singapore, the book argues that their practices are both ubiquitous and unique, the products of global and local contexts of a specific time. As semiskilled migrants from an extra-Western, postindustrial country, their struggles show a different picture of the West-centric world power system from those experienced by migrant workers from the Global South.

    Including extensive qualitative research and interview material collected over a 20-year period, this book will be of huge interest to students and scholars of Japanese culture and society, cultural anthropology, and migration.

    Part 1: What is self-searching migration? A postmodern phenomenon  1. What is meant by self-searching?  2. Self-work identification  3. Self-searching migration in late modernity  Part 2: Who are self-searching migrants? Japanese self-searching sojourners in Canada and Australia  4. True self, true work: the background stories  5. Blurring boundaries: youth and adulthood, work and holiday, sojourning and immigrating  6. Nationalism, corporate-centrism, and the immobility of Japanese men  Part 3: Post-self-searching in the Pacific East?  7. “Asian” and “mobile worker”: new forms of identification in Singapore  Conclusion: self-searching within domestic and global power imbalances


    Etsuko Kato is Professor of Cultural Anthropology at the International Christian University, Tokyo. Her research interests include nationalism, gender, and mobilities. Her publications include The Tea Ceremony and Women’s Empowerment in Modern Japan and its Japanese edition, and two books on self-searching migrants (in Japanese).

    ‘Etsuko Kato is one of the few Japanese anthropologists who can narrate her country for an international audience. Cutting across diverse fields of study, this lucidly written book is a must read for understanding Japan’s “post adolescents” in a global, postindustrial, and postmodern context.’

    Takami Kuwayama, Professor Emeritus, Hokkaido University, Japan


    ‘Etsuko Kato has been researching Japanese migrants around the world in search of self for two decades now; I am excited to see this exploration of a migration phenomenon today that is both global and particularly Japanese. This is our new world—'

    Gordon Mathews, Professor, Chinese University of Hong Kong


    ‘In her research spanning different continents, Kato advances youth and mobilities studies, elucidating the sense of self and work identity among unconventional Japanese migrants, which will resonate with challenges facing young people from other cultures in today’s increasingly globally mobile world.’

    Leng Leng Thang, Associate Professor, National University of Singapore