ASCJ 2009
Session 1: Room 11-221

Discovering Diversity within Filipino Communities in Modern Japan
Organiser/Chair: Mariko Iijima, Sophia University

This panel aims to highlight the diversity of Filipino communities by presenting four different Filipino communities in Japan. Although much research has been done on so-called Filipino entertainers, backgrounds of migrants from the Philippines to Japan are much more diverse in terms of their ethnic and social backgrounds at their homeland as well as their legal, marital, occupational statuses in Japan.

This panel consists of four papers. Two papers focus on the communities constituted of Filipinos of Japanese descendants and examine their identity formation. Zulueta focuses on the Okinawan-Filipino Nisei (the second generation), who are working on military bases in Okinawa. Unlike the image of low-waged Filipino workers in Japan, most of them have lived middle- or upper-middle class lives. Iijima looks at the return migration of Philippine Nikkeijin (descendants of Japanese who immigrated to the Philippines before WWII) since the 1990s and argues that they have formed multifaceted identity through contacts with workers of different ethnic groups at factory. The other two papers look at Filipinos of non-Japanese descent by particularly examining the connection between their communities and Catholic Church in Japan. LeMay analyses the transmission of Catholic faith to Japanese-Filipino families by Filipino mothers based on his fieldwork at churches in the Kanto Area. Comafay’s paper, on the other hand, looks at the social and communal roles of the Catholic Church in assisting Filipinos in Kyoto.

These papers reveal how Filipino communities have been diversely formed in Japan and how each community has differently connected with the local society.

1) Nicolle Comafay, Doshisha University
A Church-Based Filipino Community in Japan

In the past 20 years Filipinos living in Japan has not only increased in number but has also shifted roles from transient entertainers to permanent wives and mothers of Japanese. This paper examines how resident Filipinos in Kyoto although geographically isolated from each other due to the nature of their migration, found a way to form an ethnic community.  The formation of this niche-type community, not only paved way to reconciling their Filipino identity within the context of a Japanese society but also in forming a help support network for those who are in need of social services. In this paper, a series of workshop was conducted with the core members of the Kyoto Pag-asa Filipino Community and was designed not only as a means of gathering data but also as a form of empowerment for the community. The first workshop identified the needs and problems of the group and their suggested solutions and measures. The second workshop dealt mainly with the identifying the strengths of the group and the individual members. Finally, the third workshop focuses on the future of the group through team-building and planning of programs for the community. The result of the workshop showed that although commitment from the members is important, there is a need for an external support for the community to survive. External support from networking with institutions includes, the Catholic Church in maintaining a permanent place of gathering, and, support from NGO’s in gaining access to social resources and social welfare services.

2) Alec LeMay, Sophia University
Filipina Ambassadors: A Theological Perspective of how Filipina Migrants Exert Agency within the
Catholic Church of Japan through their Japanese-Filipino Marriages

This presentation will elucidate how Filipina migrants are exerting their social, cultural and religious agency within their Japanese-Filipino marriages and the faith formation of their Japanese-Filipino children. This will be achieved in four parts. First, a description of the multicultural paradigm shift that is currently taking place within the Catholic Church of Japan will be described in order to provide a context for discussing the religious agency of the Filipina mother. This section will begin by focusing on the theological implications of a Catholic Church in Japan that is becoming increasingly more multicultural and end with a discussion of the role of the Filipina as an international ambassador within this formation. The second section will outline the religiosity of the Filipina and how their migrant experience affects their Catholic faith both socially and religiously. The third section combines qualitative interviews with theological analysis. This section begins with data gathered from personal interviews of Filipina women who are married to Japanese men and who have Japanese-Filipino children. These interviews focus on the cultural, social, and religious agency Filipino women exert through religious discourse within the family. This includes discourse between husband and wife, and mother and child. In conclusion, the above three sections will be analyzed to reveal how the Filipina is using their faith in order to exert their authority both within their family and the wider Catholic Church.

3) Mariko Iijima, Sophia University
Return-Migrant in Japan: Examining the Formation of Philippine Nikkeijin Identity since the 1990s

One of the largest recent immigrant groups is descendants of Japanese (Nikkeijin) who were born in Brazil, Peru and the Philippines. It is said that more than 300,000 Japanese descendants are working and living in Japan now. Although much research has been conducted on mushrooming Japanese-Brazilian communities in Japan, little is known about Japanese-Filipinos who work and live side by side with Japanese-Brazilians.

One of the characteristic of Japanese-Filipinos, compared to other ethnic Japanese all over the world, is that most Japanese-Filipinos were left behind in the Philippines after WWII and were forced to disguise their identity in a country where anti-Japanese sentiment was widespread. However, after Japanese immigration regulations were revised in 1990, Japanese-Filipinos began to seek their roots and get reacquainted with their Japanese identity as well as to look for the possibilities in acquiring Japanese citizenship. Now that Japanese-Filipinos can work legally in Japan, one of the reasons they have been going back to Japan is because the country offers better economic opportunities than their homeland.

In this paper, I am examining how Japanese-Filipinos working in Japan perceive or identify themselves in their everyday life experiences—contacts with Japanese, Filipinos, Nikkeijin from other countries and their families in the Philippines. Their identity after living in Japan becomes more multi-facet and diversified with their contacts with various ethnic groups in Japan. Although Japanese-Filipinos in Japan have not established a distinctive ethnic community like Japanese-Brazilians, this research would reveal that ‘diversity’ of Japanese-Filipino identities through their multi-ethnic contacts in Japan.

4) Johanna O. Zulueta, Hitotsubashi University
Living as Migrants in a Place That Was Once “Home”: Okinawan-Filipinos in Okinawa

Second generation Okinawan-Filipinos (or Nisei) make up a significant number of USFJ (United States Forces in Japan) employees hired by the Japanese government to work in U.S. military installations dotting Okinawa. Occupying high positions on base, these Okinawan-Filipino Nisei enjoy relatively middle- to upper-middle class lives as compared to their local counterparts. Offspring of an Okinawan mother and a Filipino father, who worked in the U.S. bases in Okinawa during the immediate post-war years (late 1940s to the early 1950s), these Nisei can be characterized by movements that enabled them to construct a distinct identity as Okinawan-Filipinos – having been born in Okinawa, moving to the Philippines in their childhood or teenage years, then “returning” to Okinawa mainly to look for job and financial security. Other reasons include the acquisition of a Japanese nationality as well as the desire to connect with their Okinawan roots.

The “return” to Okinawa puts the Okinawan-Filipino Nisei in an ambivalent position vis--vis Okinawan (and Japanese) society. Their nationality as Japanese categorizes them as such however their insufficient knowledge of the language as well as their part Filipino ancestry puts them in a position of being outside Okinawan society, and hence are seen as foreign migrants. Nevertheless, their hybridity enabled them to celebrate their mixed heritage and they are able to construct a distinct identity as they continuously negotiate and define their identities in accordance with existing social conditions as well as their place in Okinawan society – a place that was once “home” to them.

This paper aims to look at the Okinawan-Filipino Nisei’s identities in the context of their “return” to Okinawa. Analyses are based on data gathered from face-to-face interviews.

Discussant: Shun Ohno, Kyushu University