• 244 pages
  • 6 x 9
  • Price: $32.95
  • EAN: 9781439923528
  • Publication: Oct 2023
  • Price: $110.50
  • EAN: 9781439923511
  • Publication: Oct 2023
  • Price: $32.95
  • EAN: 9781439923535
  • Publication: Oct 2023

Intimate Strangers

Shin Issei Women and Contemporary Japanese American Community, 1980–2020

Tritia Toyota

At the end of the twentieth century, many twenty-something Japanese women migrated to places like Southern California with few skills and an overall lack of human capital. These women, members of the shin Issei community, sought economic opportunities unavailable to them in their homeland. In Intimate Strangers, shin Issei women tell stories of precarity, inequality, and continuing marginality, first in Japan, where they were restricted by gendered social structures, and later in the United States, where their experiences were compounded by issues such as citizenship.

Intimate Strangers charts the experiences of shin Issei lives: their existence in Japan prior to migration, their motivations for moving to the United States, their settlement, and their growing awareness of their place in American society. Toyota chronicles how these resilient young women became active agents in circumventing social restrictions to fashion new lives of meaning. The Nikkei community (Americans of Japanese ancestry who were born in the United States) has been transformed by the inclusion of shin Issei, and Toyota describes the tensions around intergroup negotiations over race, identity, and the possibility of common belonging.

Intimate Strangers is a perceptive study of migration and community incorporation enacted around cultural differences and processes.


Intimate Strangers is an unprecedented ethnography that uncovers the lived experiences of shin Issei women in Los Angeles. Toyota’s crafted work elevates the voices of these overlooked women, who, despite being employed at local Japanese restaurants, shops, and other establishments, often live in precarity due to their undocumented status. Her thought-provoking analysis of the complex interaction between these migrant women and Japanese Americans provides deep insights into the tensions and affinities that shape their relationships. Intimate Strangers is an invaluable resource for all those seeking a deeper understanding of the intersectionality of race, gender, class, and citizenship.” Yasuko Takezawa, Professor at Kansai Gaidai University, and author of Breaking the Silence: Redress and Japanese American Ethnicity

“Highly personal and theoretically grounded, Intimate Strangers addresses diversities, tensions, and ruptures within contemporary Japanese America. Life histories of shin Issei women, which Toyota meticulously documents, defy a common understanding about postwar Nikkei experience, which privileged the memory of the wartime Nisei incarceration, third-generation political activism, and the influx of ‘war brides’ in the early Cold War years. As Toyota details, shin Issei women in Southern California built a transpacific Japan under the yoke of Japanese multinational corporations, engaged with more established U.S.-born Nikkei, and continue to carve out distinct identities. Intimate Strangers significantly expands Japanese American scholarship.” Eiichiro Azuma, Professor of History and Asian American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and author of In Search of Our Frontier: Japanese America and Settler Colonialism in the Construction of Japan’s Borderless Empire

About the Author(s)

Tritia Toyota is Associate Adjunct Professor in the Department of Anthropology and is a Research Scholar at the Asian American Studies Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is the author of Envisioning America: New Chinese Americans and the Politics of Belonging. She also wrote and produced the documentary Asian America.

In the Series

Asian American History and Culture

Founded by Sucheng Chan in 1991, the Asian American History and Culture series has sponsored innovative scholarship that has redefined, expanded, and advanced the field of Asian American studies while strengthening its links to related areas of scholarly inquiry and engaged critique. Like the field from which it emerged, the series remains rooted in the social sciences and humanities, encompassing multiple regions, formations, communities, and identities. Extending the vision of founding editor Sucheng Chan and emeriti editor Michael Omi, David Palumbo-Liu, K. Scott Wong, Linda Trinh Võ, and Shelley Lee, series editors Cathy Schlund-Vials and Rick Bonus continue to develop a foundational collection that embodies a range of theoretical and methodological approaches to Asian American studies.

Also of Interest

Giving Back

L. Joyce Zapanta Mariano

Issei, Nisei, War Bride

Evelyn Nakano Glenn

Japanese American Millennials

Edited by Michael Omi, Dana Y. Nakano, and Jeffrey T. Yamashita