Changes in Labor and Lifestyle Views, Explored Through Immigration Studies

Public Relations Office        October 10, 2018

— Studies in Contemporary Middle-Class Migration

Jun Nagatomo

Jun Nagatomo

Jun Nagatomo, Professor, School of International Studies
A native of Miyazaki Prefecture, Professor Jun Nagatomo graduated from the Faculty of Policy Management of Keio University. He holds a Ph.D. (Sociology) from the School of Social Science of University of Queensland (Australia). He was appointed associate professor in the School of International Studies of KGU in 2010 and became a professor of the School in 2018. His specializations are immigration studies, Australian society, and globalization theory.

At a time when continued economic growth in developing nations and the development of air routes by low-cost carriers (LCCs) is making international travel ever easier, the movement of people, for both tourism and labor purposes, is becoming increasingly intense. Under these circumstances, at the mention of “immigration,” what kind of person comes to mind?
In the news, the most visible immigrants are people fleeing conflict-torn parts of Africa and the Middle East to European countries. However, there are also many Japanese people who are either leaving Japan for another country or relocating within Japan in search of a fresh start. Professor Jun Nagatomo of the School of International Studies is researching Japanese who migrate to Australia and people who relocate to the isolated Oki Islands in Shimane Prefecture from other parts of Japan. His work focuses on the processes of migration, those immigrants’ interactions with the local community, and their social relationship with other immigrants.

Prof. Nagatomo is continuing his research into contemporary migration through field work in Australia and Shimane Prefecture’s Ama-cho, located in the Oki Islands in the Japan Sea. In general, his approach is to travel to those regions to study them for himself. In the course of spending long periods of time infiltrating the target regions, developing relations and conducting interviews, he is shedding light on the process of migration and settlement and relationships with local communities.
In the past, migration was primarily economic in nature, with people being forced to relocate for economic reasons. Since the 1990s, however, for reasons such as the increasing mobility in the Japanese labor market, middle-class migration has become the norm. This is classified as “lifestyle migration,” in which immigrants’ desire to relocate stems from the importance they place on their personal values and their way of life. Through researching contemporary migration and its processes, he is investigating the changes in perspectives on work and lifestyle in Japan and Australia.
At one time in Australia, Japanese pearl divers from Wakayama Prefecture were allowed to migrate to Australia as an exception to the White Australia policy. Since the pre-war period and during wartime, when that migration was halted by World War II, the most common reason for Japanese to migrate to Australia today is international marriage.
Many of these people travel to Australia on working holidays or to study, where they meet and marry locals. The second most common reason is “skilled migration,” in which Japanese people relocate based on their professional experience in Japan. They may be researchers, business people or other skilled professionals. Some of them decide that they want to pursue their own lifestyle, while others who like to travel originally come for tourism, but decide they want to live there.


Others relocate because they want to raise their children in a different environment. Until the mid-1990s, many Japanese migrants to Australia were well-off retirees, but more recent years have seen an increase in younger people in and around their thirties.
We are now seeing more secondgeneration Japanese-Australians, while a rise in divorce rates has resulted in an increase in single mothers. Many of these migrants value their unique ways of life as a means of self-realization, and place importance on their personal relationships.
With the growing number of migrants who have that sort of perspective on life, the Japanese community in Australia is also starting to change. in the past, Japanese expat organizations had a strong presence, their significance being mutual assistance in work and daily life. Today, however, more and more Japanese residents in Australia dislike those sorts of virtuallystructured communities. Connections between Japanese people have also started to change, with those relationships becoming less of an organization and more of a network. He has also written a paper on single mothers, commenting, “As I explore the settlement process, many additional research themes are derived from that work.”
His work in the Oki Islands, meanwhile, began in 2011. This was the year after he joined the newly-established School of International Studies at KGU. The town of Amacho, which covers the entirety of Nakanoshima Island, one of Oki’s three Dozen islands, has just over 2,200 residents. Prof. Nagatomo’s interest in the town was sparked by an acquaintance there, from whom he learned that the town had launched regional revitalization initiatives, such as the Miryokuka Project, centering on the town’s educational environment. In middle-class migration, individual values and lifestyles are major factors in decision-making.
How this works is difficult to explain via traditional models. Prof. Nagatomo was interested in esearching how it worked on an island with many so-called “I-Turn migrants,” people who relocate to an area despite having no previous ties to it. Find- ing that the roots of that migration were similar to immigration to Australia, he decided to choose Amacho as a domestic fieldwork location.
Prof. Nagatomo travels to Amacho with his third-year seminar students in the first half of the fall semester every year, where they stay for up to a week. The students mainly talk to the key people involved in regional revitalization, and engage in research that best matches their individual interests, such as Amacho’s tourism culture or I-turn migrants.
The island only has one set of traffic lights (flashing lights installed for educational purposes), and does not have a convenience store. “We don’t have what we don’t have,” is the town’s key phrase. This has two meanings: “We don’t have what we don’t have, so there’s no point in complaining,” and “We have everything we need.” On this island, people can see the tangible fruits of their own labor. There are many people who have quit their jobs at major corporations to move to the island, and many people with a strong entrepreneurial spirit. While salaries on the island are low, there is meaning to be felt that cannot be measured by money. Under tough financial circumstances, the town’s local government has built a state-of-the-art snap-freezing facility called CAS, in an effort to add value to the town’s fishing industry. This kind of proactive investment is essential to the revitalization of local industry. Though Ama-cho is known for its educational reforms, “This town is doing something that is the complete opposite of the urban model of mass consumption. It might seem to be lagging behind the most, but in fact, it may actually be far ahead of everywhere else,” according to Prof. Nagatomo’s analysis.
What do Prof. Nagatomo’s students sense on this island? “It is an island where results are all visible. My students go to the island before they embark on their own search for employment, so I hope that, in seeing the way these I-turn migrants work, beyond the research, they will use these trips as an opportunity to think about their own lives after graduation. I hope that they will sense the significance of going to Oki.” Looking to the future, Prof. Nagatomo hopes to expand the range of his own fieldwork to Germany.