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The Japanese Overseas

The Japanese Overseas: Can They Go Home Again?

Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 202
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  • Book Info
    The Japanese Overseas
    Book Description:

    The astonishing success of Japanese corporations throughout the world has transplanted millions of Japanese into foreign lands, but returning families face a crisis--a problematic, sometimes traumatic reunion with an inward-looking culture. Drawing on scores of in-depth interviews, Merry White explores the personal and social consequences of a problem that is fully recognized as a national issue in Japan. She pays particular attention to the plight of the returnee Japanese child--a stranger in his or her own land. "In this knowledgeable and perceptive book, [Merry White] describes how families who have returned from prolonged sojourns abroad endure damaged careers and spoiled educational prospects."--Joan Cassell, The New York Times Book Review "An invaluable source of insights into the problems that Japanese overseas face and the strategies they pursue, both in adjusting to life in foreign countries and in preparing for what may or may not be a hospitable welcome when they arrive back home."--Theodore C. Bestor, The Journal of Asian Studies

    Originally published in 1992.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6319-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 Families at Risk
    (pp. 1-12)

    This chant, which accompanies a playground circle game, conveys some of the costs borne by Japanese who venture abroad. The children unclasp their hands and raise their arms to signal that the one who is “it” may leave freely. Then they grab hands and move together again quickly to prevent the child from getting back inside. The tight closed circle may be taken as a symbol of the exclusion often felt by families returning to Japan.

    Japanese families who have gone overseas are caught in a paradoxical culture warp—agents of Japanese international economic growth, they themselves have derived little...

  5. 2 Families and Fortunes: The History of a Cultural Paradox
    (pp. 13-24)

    The movement of people across boundaries is often accompanied by political, religious, or economic rituals—passport stamping, purification rites, or money changing. In the case of Japanese employees and their families going overseas, leaving and returning to Japan is also a most important and problem-filledsocialact. While they are Japan’s most valuable people in the competitive international economy, they also face great problems as stigmatized, devalued individuals who are seen as culturally contaminated by their acquaintance with foreign ways. And, as employees, they are regarded as outside the mainstream and the upward track. The ironies in this situation are...

  6. 3 Return to Japan: Three Case Histories
    (pp. 25-42)

    A best-selling novel of the 1970s, serialized on Japanese television, featured a trading company executive and his family on their return to Japan.¹ The opening scene introduces us to the two children of this family, who have forgotten much of their Japanese. They feel they must protect themselves from embarrassment by guarding their faces—one with a sanitary gauze mask over her mouth and nose and the other with a motorcycle helmet—so that no one will try to speak to them. Later we are shown a humiliating scene at a school for returning children, where the mother is forced...

  7. 4 Facing the Schools: The Lessons of Readjustment
    (pp. 43-72)

    Yukio Hayashi has confronted the system. He returned to Japan when he was fifteen years old, first entering a returnee class and then a regular class. According to his parents Yukio has “recovered” from his overseas experience. Meanwhile, his teachers say he is a “normal Japanese” now and credit his parents with his successful reentry, citing the extra classes and tutoring they arranged and the emotional support they provided.

    Yukio’s mother especially devoted herself to her children’s learning, both overseas and back in Japan. In the United States, Kumiko Hayashi interested Yukio in studying Japanese and subscribed to Japanese magazines...

  8. 5 Adult Strategies: Mothers and Fathers at Home and at Work
    (pp. 73-102)

    Parents are not as obviously watched, protected and stigmatized as are their children on return to Japan. Why? Because of the simple fact that, at least in a structural sense, they already belong. While children are at high risk on the meritocratic and highly structured ladder of success, their parents have found their places. But the places still demand much of those who occupy them, and the culture of work and relationships in Japan puts great pressure on adult returnees. Although there are no “readjustment classes” for parents, fathers at work and mothers in the community must reschool themselves in...

  9. 6 Can They Go Home Again? Brokers and Borders in Modern Japan
    (pp. 103-122)

    Japan’s desire to protect and maintain its unique, homogeneous, and closed island identity is rivaled only by its desire for full-scale involvement and success in the world economy. The paradox of an international Japan—a nation of both cultural isolation and international exchange—is not just a fascinating if academic irony. Real human beings—the returnees—shoulder the burden of the paradox. Their perceived impurity leads to their segregation from mainstream education and work. Their transgression across Japan’s geographical borders, as essential as it is to Japan’s economic success, calls into question their Japanese identity.

    We observed employees in companies,...

  10. Afterword
    (pp. 123-130)

    When I began this study twenty years ago, it was clear that when Japanese overseas employees and their families returned to Japan they were seen as marginal—significantly damaged by their overseas experiences in terms of their educational and occupational opportunities. The proliferation of overseas Japanese schools and special classrooms receiving returnee children in Japan bore witness, it seemed, to a serious problem. Interviews with employees and personnel managers yielded stories of careers blighted by the international stigma. And, indeed, as their stories played out over the years, even Japan’s evident need for people with such skills as theirs did...

  11. Appendix 1 The Sample and Interviews
    (pp. 131-136)
  12. Appendix 2 Cities and Wards Receiving Returnee Children
    (pp. 137-137)
  13. Appendix 3 Characteristics and Strategies of the Sample
    (pp. 138-142)
  14. Appendix 4 International Work in Various Organizations
    (pp. 143-152)
  15. Appendix Addendum
    (pp. 153-154)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 155-170)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 171-186)
  18. Index
    (pp. 187-191)