Filipina Wives in Rural Akita

Monday, July 14, 2014: 5:48 PM
Room: 313+314
Oral Presentation
Takeshi AKIBA , Global Studies, Akita International University, Akita, Japan
Keiko YAMANAKA , University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
This paper examines the migration and integration process of Filipina wives in rural Japan.  Southern Akita in Tohoku Region has long been plagued by the stagnant economy, aging population, and out-migration.  Since the 1990s a trickle of Filipino women working as “talents” married local Japanese men, forming transnational families in the traditional agricultural community. 

Through surveys and interviews with the wives as well as with local leaders and government officials, we look at how gender and family has played an important role in the migratory process of these women and the manner in which they were incorporated into the family structure of rural Japan, and by extension the local community. 

Gender has at times constrained choices that these women can make, while it has also become an empowering factor, as Filipina and Japanese women meet in schools and local cultural institutions and forge bonds over childrearing and care-giving in their families.  Local language classes, staffed by volunteers (mainly local Japanese women) as well as support organizations (again led by local Japanese women) have played a critical role in the incorporation of Filipina wives into the local community. 

Now one or two decades into their residence in Akita, these wives are facing a critical juncture, whether they be changes in their careers, the departure of their children from their homes, and the care of their now aged in-laws.  Once again, their position within the society, both in regards to their “foreignness” and their gender, is being tested.  We will therefore add to the existing literature on Filipina wives by examining their experience in later stages of their life in Japan.