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Intimate Encounters: Filipina Women and the Remaking of Rural Japan

Lieba Faier
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Intimate Encounters
    Book Description:

    This groundbreaking study explores the recent dramatic changes brought about in Japan by the influx of a non-Japanese population, Filipina brides. Lieba Faier investigates how Filipina women who emigrated to rural Japan to work in hostess bars-where initially they were widely disparaged as prostitutes and foreigners-came to be identified by the local residents as "ideal, traditional Japanese brides."Intimate Encounters, an ethnography of cultural encounters, unravels this paradox by examining the everyday relational dynamics that drive these interactions. Faier remaps Japan, the Philippines, and the United States into what she terms a "zone of encounters," showing how the meanings of Filipino and Japanese culture and identity are transformed and how these changes are accomplished through ordinary interpersonal exchanges.Intimate Encountersprovides an insightful new perspective from which to reconsider national subjectivities amid the increasing pressures of globalization, thereby broadening and deepening our understanding of the larger issues of migration and disapora.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94459-6
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xv)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Relations of Cultural Production
    (pp. 1-32)

    This book is about the ways that cultural encounters make a difference in how people craft lives and selves in a globally interconnected world. It is about how paths converge in sometimes unexpected ways and the new forms of culture and identity that develop through their meeting. My approach to cultural encounters emphasizes the intimate and everyday dynamics of transnational cultural crossings. I describe how Filipina migrants and Japanese residents in a region of southwestern Nagano that I call Central Kiso create new meanings of Japanese and Filipino culture and identity through their shared daily lives.¹

    I use the expression...

  6. PART ONE Figures of Desires

    • [PART ONE Introduction]
      (pp. 33-38)

      Where does one begin to map a zone of encounters? Classic ethnographies began with stories of arrival that located the ethnographer and the reader in an unfamiliar world, a world that the text promised to render comprehensible. This “setting trope” at once delineated the object of ethnographic study as a fixed and bounded culture and established the ethnographer’s territorial claims to it.¹ But when we focus on zones of encounters, the object of our analyses is not a culture or a people but sets of contingent, translocal relationships in which we are in different ways implicated. What different points of...

    • CHAPTER 1 Sites of Encounter
      (pp. 39-79)

      In my morning newspaper, I occasionally found fliers for local Filipina hostess bars. Printed in dark red ink on glossy white paper, one such ad featured a large eye-catching photograph of seven women: Four were smiling, two had serious expressions, and one seemed to be caught off guard by the camera. Five of the women, standing on a stage, were dressed in white spandex pantsuits with beaded detail and low-cut spaghetti-strap tops, posed in a line like Las Vegas showgirls, their hips sharply angled toward the camera, front knees cocked. The two women sitting in front, their crossed legs hanging...

    • CHAPTER 2 America and Other Stories of Filipina Migration to Japan
      (pp. 80-102)

      Cora, Ana, and I were sipping tea at a small coffee shop beside the highway when Cora suddenly sighed. Glancing around the restaurant’s tired interior and out the window at the nearby mountains, she explained, “I never thought that I would marry a, what do you call it, aprobinsyado” (a hick, Tg.). Then she and Ana began chuckling. “You too?” Cora asked Ana in Tagalog. Ana nodded knowingly. I had heard Cora and Ana make similar comments before. During an interview at my home a few months earlier, I had asked them about their expectations for their lives when...

    • CHAPTER 3 Japan in the Kiso Valley, the Kiso Valley in Japan
      (pp. 103-132)

      Matsubara, my landlady Emiko’s shoe and clothing boutique, was housed in a striking new building that was poised along the narrow two-lane highway that ran the length of the valley. The structure had been a gift to Emiko from her late husband Toshiharu when he had learned that he was dying from liver disease. Toshiharu had decided that the new building would stand as testimony to Emiko’s ability to rebuild and carry on, and he had spared little expense in its construction. The storefront was built in exquisite contemporary style, with a gentle sloping roof trimmed with wood stained deep...

  7. PART TWO Terms of Relations

    • [PART TWO Introduction]
      (pp. 133-136)

      One afternoon my filipina friend Ande and I were making lunch for her Japanese husband and son. I volunteered to preparetamagoyaki, a Japanese-style omelet, to go with some cold noodles we were serving. Having consulted a Japanese cookbook, I had thought that I knew how to make the egg dish, but after observing me for a moment, Ande quickly intervened. She corrected the way I was beating the eggs, explaining that I should only mix them lightly, leaving the white and yellow slightly intact. She then told me that I had the fire under the pan on too high....

    • CHAPTER 4 Kindred Subjects
      (pp. 137-157)

      On my way home from Tessie’s one afternoon, I stopped by Emiko’s shop to share some photographs of Tessie, her family, and me at work in Tessie’s in-laws’ rice fields. Over the course of the summer, I had assisted in the three-step process of producing rice: planting seedlings, binding and drying mature rice stalks, and feeding the stalks into a machine to separate out the grain. Emiko was curious about the lives of Filipina women in the region. She fingered through glossy shots of Tessie planting rice seedlings with her mother-in-law, both women wearing old floral cotton aprons, matching sunbonnets,...

    • CHAPTER 5 The Pressures of Home
      (pp. 158-189)

      The winters in Central Kiso are long and cold. People born and raised in the region will tell you they come from a “samui tokoro” (a cold place). They may even recite a line from the Kisobushi (The Kiso Melody), a folk song about the Kiso region that is familiar throughout Japan:Natsu demo samui. “Even summer is cold.” Some liked to say that the region was colder than even Hokkaido, where at least houses are well heated. Only the newest and most expensive homes in Central Kiso had insulated walls or central heating. Most people I knew warmed their...

    • CHAPTER 6 Runaway Stories
      (pp. 190-210)

      “It’s lonely, isn’t it?” Sharyn remarked. It was a grey afternoon, and we were sitting in the living room of her family’s large, empty house. Located a ways up Route 19, the multiple-level structure sat beside the highway, looking out across the railroad tracks and the smattering of homes, trees, and fields that filled the cross section of the narrow valley below it.

      Like most Filipina women married to Japanese men in the region, Sharyn had met her husband while working as an entertainer at a local hostess bar. She told me that she had been happy being a homemaker...

    • Epilogue
      (pp. 211-218)

      I’ll end this book just as I began it: somewhere in the middle—in the middle of ongoing social processes; in the middle of long histories of unequal relations among people in Japan, the Philippines, and the United States; and in the middle of a conceptual and practical zone of encounters among Filipina women, their Japanese communities, and me.

      After being away from Central Kiso for nearly five years, I returned for a visit in 2005. That year and every following year that I have gone back (in 2006 and 2007), I have found that people’s lives in the region...

  8. APPENDIX A Registered Philippine Nationals in Central Kiso by Year (1981–1999)
    (pp. 219-219)
  9. APPENDIX B Registered Philippine Nationals in Japan on Entertainer Visas by Year (1980–2006)
    (pp. 220-220)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 221-248)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 249-272)
  12. Index
    (pp. 273-280)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 281-282)