Taikichiro Mori Memorial Research Grants 2010
Graduate Student Researcher Development Grant




Name of the Research Project: Citizenship in the second generation in the Latin American Nikkei immigrants in Japan


Name of the Research Project Leader: Pavel Robles

Affiliation: Graduate School of Media and Governance

Type of Program: Master’s Program

Student Year: 2nd Year


Telephone Number:  080 3687 7287

Email Address:          probles@sf,keio.ac.jp

Name of the Research Advisor Professor: Michio Umegaki





This investigation is related to the exploration of the concepts "belonging, identity and citizenship" that the second generation of Latin American immigrants in Japan possess today. The subject of this research is Latin-American immigrant families that participated in the Dekasegi phenomenon (出稼ぎ) during the nineties. The earliest comers have seen their children grow up in this society as second-generation immigrants.


This generation of immigrants, which has not yet reached the age of adulthood, has received its education in Japanese schools, grown and developed inside the Japanese national culture and in many cases has strong oriental physical characteristics, but despite that, they have Latin American nationalities.


With regard to “citizenship”, the research will attempt to uncover how these Japanese residents are affected by not having some civil and political rights and duties, like the nationals citizens. Granted that, to characterize a generation of individuals who don’t have a complete membership in a political community and for this reason they are not protected from the government and state power, by political rights.


This research wants to describe the current situation in terms of rights and duties that the immigrants posses. It’s necessary also measure the levels of participation of these immigrants into their communities.


The Identity’s notion in the investigation would refer to the set of behavioral or personal characteristics by which this type of young immigrant is recognizable as a member of a group into a Japanese society.






Purpose of the Fieldwork


Obtain first-hand information about Peruvian communities living in Japan. Confirm some hypothesis and notions pre-exiting and catching through my previous experience.


-       Immerse into the daily way of living of the Latin American Nikkei immigrants.

-       Recognize the works condition of these migrants in Japan.

-       Observe the networks and social capital resources that they created.

-       To know what they (beneficiaries of a policy) demand to the Government.

-       Characterize their troubles and difficulties in living in Japan without a fulfill membership into their community. (A larger group of the informants born in Japan)

-       Describe their feeling (hope and fears) and their forward-looking approach as Japanese’s residents.


We recognize the information sources for this research booth: the associations and groups formed by the Latin American immigrants in Japan, on one side; and the policy makers, academic scholars and representative of the non-governmental organization linked with immigrants, on the other side. However, we will focus our analysis on the basis of how the families evaluate their lives. We would emphasize, in the data collection, the fears and emotional strain that these Peruvians have to face in their lives as immigrants.


On this account, the main importance of the research fieldwork will be directly bring, without interpreters, the voice of the people living as immigrant laborers in Japan. Through the observation, interviews and focus group, we want to penetrate into their subjectivity and try to understand their fears and behaviors.


The data collected during our fieldwork will become the most important source of descriptions regarding our research problem. Moreover, since one of the research’s objectives is to propose some answers to the necessities of our informants (bearing in the Migratory Laws) we need to develop broad and deep knowledge about them through intensive fieldwork. 


Another important issue in the research fieldwork activity will be try to discover the relationship between the Peruvian collectives with (or into) the Japanese society. We will try to find out the levels of integration (and participation) of some communities and the main factors that make this integration possible.







Fieldwork Procedures


Fieldwork Location


The fieldwork was carried out in Aichi and Kanagawa, the two prefectures with a major number of Peruvians residents. Since these prefectures are industrial areas, they contain a concentration of large numbers of labors migrants. Most of our informants have been settled down in these areas for a long time. All our informants are a part of associations or organizations.


Toyohashi and Toyokawa in Aichi Prefecture


“Illary de Peru”

Peruvian Folklore Dance School where Peruvian immigrant families try to preserve their traditions and teach their children about Peru.

Families live in Toyohashi and Tahara. This group is part of the dissolved Latin American Community of Toyohashi (COLAT for the Spanish acronym)



A Latin-American organization created to help the integration of the immigrant children into the Japanese school system. They provide Japanese and Spanish language classes. They promote the Latin American identity through vernacular music and dance.


Yokohama and Fujisawa in Kanagawa Prefecture


Tsurumi F.C.

Club of Peruvian families (also some mix families) living in Tsurumi Ward. They live around Ushoda Park and the most of the men work in electric related industries.


Shonan Sport Club

Club of Peruvian families living in Fujisawa-shi that provide periodical soccer and volleyball gatherings. The group was formed by parents and children and their mission is promote a nice space of camaraderie.


By the same token, I held interviews with Municipalities officials that are part of the International Office in Toyohashi, Toyokawa and Yokohama.


Another interviews with Peruvian representatives were held in Tokyo and Kanagawa. I had interviews with members of the NPO “La Comunidad” and AJAPE, which are organizations that group politically and business-aimed the Peruvians in Japan. Besides that I also had interviews with a Japanese lawyer that is an specialist in immigration law. Moreover I interviewed members of Nikkei insititutions.


This research wants to describe the current situation in terms of rights and duties that the immigrants posses. Nevertheless, we will consult with policy makers and scholars on migratory law, and we would like to collect the perspective from those directly affected by the policies and laws.



In this report we are presenting the preliminary results of 30 interviews. Most of which were held with Peruvians, but I have also interviewed some of mixed marriage. In Aichi-ken I held 15 interviews including one with the person in charge of the International Office in Toyohashi City Hall; on top of that I’ve already carried out 9 interviews in the Kanto area with Peruvian informants and also many informal conversations with scholars and migration issues’ policy makers.


Almost all the interviews were held using Spanish language, but in some cases when the children’s proficiency in Spanish was not good enough they answered in Japanese. In all the cases I tried to create a propitious environment to get the more honest and accurate information from the informants, and all of them were very collaborative. Interviews with municipalities’ officials were held in English.

I have kept digital audio files of all the interviews.



Preliminary Study Results


Finding 1. Those Nikkei Peruvians who came to Japan during the nineties looking for better job opportunities have settled down here and have no plans to return to Peru.


The majority of them already posses a permanent resident visa and there are many indicators of their stability as a residents in Japan. A significant indicator is that they are purchasing properties and are acquiring long-term debts in Japan. In many cases their consumption behavior is just as any other Japanese citizen.


Thus, they can not be longer characterize with the label “出稼ぎinstead they have to be considered by the local and national authorities and the Japanese society in general as permanent residents and contributors.


Finding 2. The second generation of Nikkei immigrants from Latin America (who came to Japan very young or those who were born here) has developed a strong feeling of belonging with Japan. These bounds are determined and reinforced by the educational system.


Due that this young generation of immigrants has spent their entire lives (or almost) in Japan, acquiring competences into the Japanese social institutions and completely surrounded by Japanese culture; they have developed belonging feelings toward Japan and in many cases an “hybrid” identity. They behavior in many situations answer more to Japanese patrons than Latin American, and I able to assure that many of them have some troubles to define their own national identity.


Terms like “half” or “Nikkei” help to understand the feelings that this young generation has towards their identity. Some of the informant expressed that, even when they have notorious oriental physical characteristics (ethnically Japanese) they are not completely accepted by their fellow students. Many of these young informants have expressed that discrimination in the form school bullying (苛め) made them change their identity and belonging feelings.


These young informants also expressed that since they are living in a country where they are not considered national citizens, sometimes they don’t feel secure and recognize that their Japanese counterparts have more “rights” and more “power” than they. These situations where tip the balance in favor of the “national citizens” are more common in work-related and civil law issues.


Finding 3. During the last 20 years several forms of social capital have been materialized into the Latin American communities in Japan. Among the Peruvians there are many institutions and association gathered them.


Through the observations’ fieldwork have been possible recognized important institutions created by the immigrants in order to satisfied necessities and great deal of anxiety among themselves. Old comers help new comers primordially with relevant information to their better adaptation to the Japanese environment. These groups and associations accomplish and important role within the Latin American communities and in many cases they are sources of customs and traditions that let the immigrants keep in contact with their roots.


Finding 4. Local Governments have granted key rights to immigrants, who enjoy complete access to public services as any other Japanese citizen.


At the local level, Japanese State provides to immigrants with services as health and education. In many localities with a high concentration of immigrants had been implemented policies that look for the integration of foreign communities. Moreover in municipalities that have a longer experience with immigrant communities, they achieve a high level of policies customization.


Migrant workers are treated as any other Japanese taxpayer, and have the same rights and duties. Many of our informants expressed that since the information is available in Spanish they are able to take advantage of subsided programs and discounts.




The fieldwork reported here allowed me to open my eyes to the common characteristics among the Peruvian-Japanese descendants living in Japan, and define their way of living within this society. Through the fieldwork it became possible to understand their necessities and the ways in which they try to solve them and overcome their difficulties (threats) through institutions. (Immigrant Social Capital).

There are many indicators showing that the local level in Japan is addressing effective policies to deals with immigrants; however, even though this fact is positive it also highlights the necessity of some changes at the national level. Japan has been labeled as a “recent country of immigration” and that means that a modernization in the migration legal framework is urgent in order to deal not only with the human security issues of the current foreign residents but also with the gloomy demographical trends that put Japan as a nation at risk.

In regard to the second generation of immigrants our fieldwork observations lead us to conclude that even when they demonstrate a high level of adaptation to the Japanese society, culture and way of living in general; they suffer the strain of living into a community where you are not legally equal as their counterparts. They also expressed some discrimination during the job-hunting process.

Further examinations have to be done in the next fieldwork round in order to provide more accurate recommendations for these findings.