Becoming “Cosmopolitan Japanese”: How Japanese Adolescents Employ Transnational Experiences for Their Empowerment

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 9:10 AM
Room: 311+312
Oral Presentation
Misako NUKAGA , Wako University, Tokyo, Japan
Reflecting the imperatives of the global economy, both the Japanese government and private companies have recently begun stressing the need to raise ‘global talent’, especially placing value on English and various other transnational competences. At the local level, such global forces have led overseas Japanese middle-class families to adopt transnational education strategies, which enable them to accumulate what is called ‘global cultural capital’ (Kim 2011; Waters 2006; Weenink 2008)--English skills and cosmopolitan sociability particularly, at the same time preserving children’s Japanese language and cultural attitudes (Nukaga 2013). However, the question remains as to how these children are incorporated into the US host society and how they readapt to the Japanese society when they finally return home. Based on interviews with Japanese adolescents who had stayed in the US with their parents since their childhoods and later decided to return or actually returned to Japan for university, this study examines how they perceive and employ their transnational experiences to increase integration both in the US and Japan. Acquiring transnational habitus, a double consciousness that analyses aspects of both life ‘here’ and ‘there’, these adolescents are capable of assessing the value of their global cultural capital and “Japaneseness” in the US and Japan respectively. Although feeling a sense of marginalization in both societies, they attempt to maintain transnational connections and learn to use transnational assets in appropriate contexts for their empowerment. From their own experience, these adolescents are often critical toward inequalities in both societies, yet they show a strong preference to become fully bilingual and bicultural by keeping their feet in two societies. Such strategy leads these ‘cosmopolitan Japanese’ adolescents to choose a job that transcends national boundaries and allow them to stay connected to two or more countries.