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Volume 32, 2015

Making and Un-Making Modern Japan

Hironori Onuki
Pages 59-82

A Dilemma in Modern Japan?
Migrant Workers and the (Self-)Illusion of Homogeneity

Transnational labour migration has recently returned to the spotlight in Japan, due to its rapidly declining population and labour force. This paper argues that the tension between the (self-)illusion of Japan as a homogeneous nation-state and trans-border labour-importing to ensure the continued supply of the workforce has inherently characterized the process of Japan’s modernity since the Meiji Restoration of 1868. In doing so, it seeks to demonstrate how the synchrony of such ostensibly conflicting interests makes eminent economic sense to recruit migrant workers in order to ameliorate chronic labour shortages while keeping their labouring and living condition perpetually insecure and vulnerable.

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