Ethnic Ties Stronger Than Family Ties: Ethnic Network Utilized By Japanese Immigrant Women in the US.

Monday, 11 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 07 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Yuko NAKANISHI, Department of Sociology, Musashi University, Japan
After the rapid economic growth era of Japan (1960-1990s) there are some Japanese women who were dissatisfied with the patriarchal society and migrated to other countries to seek better career opportunities and alternative life. Their transnational migrations were not motivated by political or economic reasons, but by the cultural reason; escape from the patriarchal society. This paper aims to discuss how those cultural migrants utilize their ethnic network for their mutual support.

On the basis of semi-structural interviews with 27 Japanese women who voluntary immigrated to a metropolitan area of California after the Second World War, the author found that they rely on their Japanese friends immigrated to the US more than their family they had made in the US. This tendency increases when they are getting older.

Unlike immigrants from other East Asian countries, many new Japanese immigrants came to the US are women now. Many came to the US alone and not accompanied by their Japanese family. That is to say, many Japanese immigrant women start their new life in host country without “strong ties” (Granovetter 1973).  

Informants rely more on formal and informal ethnic networks instead. There are some NPOs established to help elder Japanese women living in the area. They also created semiformal networks to help others or to share information they needed (i.e. child care systems for working mothers or groups for expectant mothers). More informally, most of them have Japanese friends to support each other when they become physical or mental illness. Although most of them married transnationally, some women even said their Japanese friends are more important than their husband.

The author concluded that extra-familial ethnic network of Japanese immigrant women works as proxy family systems that can cover the shortage of their relatives in host country and support well-beings of their lives.