Organizing Immigrants in Rural Areas in Japan: Case Studies of the Tsunami-Devastated Areas

Friday, July 18, 2014: 8:56 AM
Room: F201
Oral Presentation
Kumiko TSUCHIDA , Department of Sociology, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan
This study examines the process of organizing immigrant groups in rural areas in Tohoku, Japan, especially the 3.11 tsunami-devastated areas. In recent decades, Japan has witnessed the entrance of many more immigrants. Along with this influx of newcomers, their relationships with Japanese society and their social mobility have drawn attentions. Although previous studies tend to focus on the cases of labor immigrants in urbanized or highly industrialized areas, few studies have been conducted with a focus on the immigrants in rural areas that lack a concentration of immigrant populations, such as the Tohoku region.

      Many of immigrants in the Tohoku region are female immigrants as spouses of Japanese nationals, who are mostly dispersed throughout small towns and villages. They tended to be marginalized from their local society and given the limited understandings and supports from the local government.

      The Great East Japan earthquake that devastated many areas of the Tohoku region seriously affected these immigrants as well as Japanese nationals. The disaster and its aftermath consequently led them to form groups to help support each other and to change their social surroundings. How did they attempt to grapple with the difficulties after the disaster? To what extent did their organizational efforts contribute to changing their relationships with their local society?

      With a focus on these questions, this study analyzes the process of organizing immigrants in the Tohoku region. The findings from my interviews with the actors and participatory observations suggest how they obtain resources inside and outside their community on the recovering process after the disaster, and the social issues they face to continue living in rural society. This study contributes to considering the possibilities and issues of “bottom-up” approach for immigrants to change their social surroundings in rural society in Japan.