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