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Article

Abstract

Japan’s economic situation and need for foreign labor present challenges when attracting and incorporating an influx of newcomers, which in turn poses questions relevant to previously established theories of migration. By examining public policies and the experiences of Japanese-Brazilians or Brazilian nikkeijin—migrants of Japanese descendants born in Brazil—I argue that Japan’s immigration policy is a key determinant in their migration to Japan and, subsequently, that this policy plays an integral role in shaping the Japanese-Brazilians’ environment in the host society. Building on Portes and Borocz’s theory of host country receptivity, I consider how determinants of migration influence the immigrants’ incorporation. Japanese immigration policy essentially recruits Brazilian nikkeijin for immigration by extending admission to them on the basis of Japanese descent; following their immigration, this policy results in a generally low-level reception of Brazilian nikkeijin into the dominant society as evidenced by government policy, public opinion, and Japanese-Brazilian ethnic communities in Japan. Specifically, the Japanese government has created an immigration policy that both supports a perception of Japanese-Brazilians as possessing a high-level of “Japaneseness,” and yet continues to view these immigrants as “others” or foreigners (Tsuda 2003). As a result, Japanese immigration policy encourages Brazilian nikkeijin to immigrate and meet Japan’s needs for foreign laborers, but once in the country, Japanese-Brazilians face political restrictions and negative public sentiment stemming from their emergent cultural and ethnic differences. This case reveals how policy plays a significant role in shaping migration flows and illuminates possible motives behind and inconsistencies between pre- and post-migration policies.

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