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(Continued from front flap)


self-represented by Okinawan-Bolivians Embodying Belonging is the first full-length
themselves as the physical embodi- Of related interest: study of an Okinawan diasporic commu-
ment of a generalized and naturalized nity in South America and Japan. Under
culture of Japan, Okinawa, or Bolivia. Okinawan Diaspora extraordinary conditions throughout the
Racializing narratives and performances Edited by Ronald Y. Nakasone twentieth century (Imperial Japanese rule,
ideologically serve as both a cause and the brutal Battle of Okinawa at the end
2002, 216 pages
result of Okinawan-Bolivians social and of World War II, U.S. military occupa-
Paper: ISBN 978-0-8248-2530-0
economic status as successful large-scale tion), Okinawans left their homeland
farm owners in rural Bolivia and struggling and created various diasporic communi-
manual laborers in urban Japan.
Okinawa, Japan ties around the world. Colonia Okinawa,
The first Okinawan immigrants arrived in Honolulu in January 1900
a farming settlement in the tropical plains
As the most comprehensive work availa- to work as contract laborers on Hawaiis sugar plantations. Over
of eastern Bolivia, is one such community
ble on Okinawan immigrants in Latin time Okinawans would continue migrating east to the continental
that was established in the 1950s under
America and ethnic Okinawan return U.S., Canada, Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, Cuba,
the guidance of the U.S. military adminis-
migrants in Japan, Embodying Belonging Paraguay, New Caledonia, and the islands of Micronesia. The essays
tration. Although they have flourished as
is at once a critical examination of the in this volume commemorate these diasporic experiences within
farm owners in Bolivia, thanks to generous
contradictory class and cultural identity the geopolitical context of East Asia.
support from the Japanese government
(trans)formations of transmigrants, a rich
Using primary sources and oral history, individual contributors since Okinawas reversion to Japan in
qualitative study of colonial and post-
examine how Okinawan identity was constructed in the various 1972, hundreds of Bolivian-born ethnic
colonial subjects in diaspora, and a bold
countries to which Okinawans migrated, and how their experiences Okinawans have left the Colonia in the
attempt to theorize racialization as a
were shaped by the Japanese nation-building project and by last two decades and moved to Japanese
social process of belonging within local
globalization. Essays explore the return to Okinawan sovereignty, cities, such as Yokohama, to become
and global schemes.
or what Nobel Laureate e Kenzabur called an impossible manual laborers in construction and
TAKU SUZUKI is assistant professor of possibility, and the role of the Okinawan labor diaspora in Japans manufacturing industries.
international studies at Denison University, imperial expansion into the Philippines and Micronesia.
Based on the authors multisited field
Granville, Ohio.
Okinawa City research on the work, education, and
community lives of Okinawans in the

Cover art: Monumento al Colono de Okinawa

Racializing Colonia and Yokohama, this ethnog-
raphy challenges the unidirectional
sculpted by Germn Garcia Miranda Okinawan model of assimilation and acculturation
commonly found in immigration studies.
Cover design: Wilson Angel Diaspora in In its vivid depiction of the transnational

Bolivia and
experiences of Okinawan-Bolivians, it
UNIVERSITY of HAWAII PRESS argues that transnational Okinawan-

Honolulu, Hawaii 96822-1888 Bolivians underwent the various racial-
ization processes in which they were
ISBN 978-0-8248-3344-2
90000 portrayed by non-Okinawan Bolivians
living in the Colonia and native-born
Japanese mainlanders in Yokohama and
9 780824 833442
www.uhpress.hawaii.edu TA K U S U Z U K I
(Continued on back flap)

Suzuki-Embodying_jktMech.indd 1 5/6/10 12:10:31 PM

R a c i a l i z i n g O k i n awa n D i a s por a
in Bo l ivia a nd Japan

Taku Suzuki


2010 university of hawaii press
All rights reserved
Printed in the United States of America

1 5 1 4 1 3 1 2 1 1 1 0 6 5 4 3 2 1

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Suzuki, Taku, 1971

Embodying belonging : racializing Okinawan diaspora in Bolivia and
Japan / Taku Suzuki.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN13: 9780824833442 (hardcover : alk. paper)
ISBN10: 0824833449 (hardcover : alk. paper)
1. RyukyuansRace identityBoliviaColonia Okinawa. 2. BoliviansRace
identityJapanYokohama-shi. 3. ImmigrantsBoliviaColonia Okinawa
Social conditions. 4. Children of immigrantsBoliviaColonia OkinawaSocial
conditions. 5. Return migrantsJapanSocial conditions. 6. Okinawa-ken (Japan)
Emigration and immigration. 7. Colonia Okinawa (Bolivia)Emigration
and immigration. 8. TransnationalismCase studies. I. Title.
F3359.R97S89 2010

University of Hawaii Press books are printed on acid-free

paper and meet the guidelines for permanence and
durability of the Council on Library Resources.

Designed by University of Hawaii Press production staff

Printed by Edwards Brothers, Inc.

vii Acknowledgments

1 INTRODUCTION : Racializing Culture and Class in a

Transnational Field
22 [ 1 ] Modern Okinawan Transnationality:
Colonialism, Diaspora, and Return
54 [ 2 ] The Making of Patrones Japonesas and Dekasegi

83 [ 3 ] From Patrn to Nikkei-jin Rdsha: Class
113 [ 4 ] Educating Good Nikkei and Okinawan
146 [ 5 ] Gendering Transnationality: Marriage, Family,
and Dekasegi
183 CONCLUSION : Embodiment of Local Belonging

191 Notes
215 Glossary
219 References
245 Index

Like any other fieldwork and ethnography project, the re-

search that has culminated in this book was a collaborative project in which
numerous individuals made direct and indirect contributions. Without their
generous support, I could not have written this book. I am most grateful to
the residents of Colonia Okinawa and the Okinawan-Bolivian immigrants in
Yokohama who participated in this study. They not only provided their time for
conversation and shared their insights, but also kindly introduced me to many
other individuals who they thought might help my research. I can list here only
a handful of names among the dozens who have been helpful: Ikehara Masa-
hide, Ikehara Herman and Ikehara Naoko, Shimabukuro Seiei, Yamashiro Ya-
sunori, Kchi Hiroshi, Asato Marcelo, Higa Satoshi and Higa Mariera, Sakurai
Hiroaki, Asato Shik, Terui Yutaka, Higa Eikichi, Oyakawa Hugo and Oyakawa
Keiko, Toguchi Masanori and Toguchi Harumi, Kishimoto Aiko, Nakamura
Yukifumi, Gushiken Ktei, Uezu Masaru, Nagahama Masahiro, Kond Mit-
suyo, Baba Masaki, Tamashiro Hiroshi, Yamashiro Uky, Yamakawa Toshio,
Gushiken Harold, Gushiken Kenji, Chinen Luis, Kamiya Akira, Yoshihira Hi-
roshi, and Arashiro Reiko. Special thanks to Asato Hidehiro and Asato Sanae,
Hoshikawa Kazuo and Hoshikawa Setsuko, Higa Tomoko and Higa Hiroshi
(who also provided me with accommodation, transportation, and access to the
World Uchinanchu Festival 2001 in Ginowan, Okinawa), Higa Takeshi, and
Tsuzaka Hideari and Tsuzaka Ryko for providing accommodations during my
research. I am grateful for assistance provided by Chovi Tours of Santa Cruz
viii Acknowledgments

de la Sierra in securing the appropriate visa for the duration of my research. I

also want to thank Okuma Reiko, the late Asato Nagako, Inoue Etsuko, Kuri-
hara Aiko, Kuniyoshi Maria, Oshiro Yoshie, It Kiyokazu, Taira Izumi, Yo-
namine Akira, Eloy Duran Parada, Yamauchi Masaru, Ishigaki Tokio, the late
Nagaoka Masashi, Yamashiro Tokuko, Kikuyama Mika, Shimabukuro Katsu,
It Kyoko, and Kawauchi Misa for helping me perform the role of a Japanese-
language teacher at schools in Colonia Okinawa. Also, my gratitude goes to
the committee members of the centennial celebration of Japanese immigra-
tion to Bolivia and other affiliated individuals who shared valuable informa-
tion with me, including Kunimoto Iyo, Takeda Kenji, Oshikawa Ayumu, Shioiri
Yumi, Shimabukuro Masaru, and Sat Nobuhiro. I also want to thank those I
met at Colonia San Juan, such as Bani Katsumi, Ikeda Tokuo, Nishizawa Atsu-
mi and Nishizawa Yasue, and Mukai Suemi for helping me learn its unique
This book began as a dissertation project in the Department of Anthropol-
ogy at the University of Minnesota. I benefited immensely from the guidance
and wisdom provided by my advisor and mentor, the late Daphne Berdahl.
Despite her declining health as I was completing the book manuscript, she
continued to help with my writing and to exhibit faith in the projects value. I
only regret that I cannot show my gratitude by handing her a copy of the final
product. I dedicate this book to Daphne for the unwavering intellectual and
emotional support she provided. I also owe a great deal to Joshua Hotaka Roth,
who read the entire manuscript of this book at various stages and provided me
with valuable suggestions that helped me organize and clarify my thoughts. I
am grateful to both of them for sharing their time and labor as well as their
expertise and ideas with me. Other faculty at Minnesota, such as Karen Ho,
Steve Gudeman, Pradeep Jeganathan, and Karen Till were also generous with
their time and energy in helping me develop and improve the research and the
book manuscript.
My colleagues and friends at the University of Minnesota and Wesleyan
Universitys Center for the Americas read different parts of the manuscript at
various stages of development and lent valuable criticism and suggestions. I
am particularly grateful to Lisa Anderson-Levy, Hiromi Mizuno, Kazuyo Kubo,
Yuichiro Onishi, Anita Mannur, Patricia Hill, Claire Potter, Ann Wightman,
and Khachig Tllyan.
Discussions with many other individuals also helped me process ideas
that became part of the book. They include Michael Molasky, Chika Shino-
hara, Hyang-jin Jung, Timothy Dunnigan, David Lipset, Gloria Goodwin-
Acknowledgments ix

Raheja, J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Stephen Angle, Bill Johnston, Su Zheng, Al-

lan Isaac, Lok Siu, Ayumi Takenaka, Ed Thompson, Ann Marie Leshkowich,
David Hummon, Susan Rodgers, Susan Diduk, Veve Lele, Gary Baker, Isis
Nusair, and John Cort.
I am grateful for support I received from different institutions at various
stages of this project. I thank the University of Minnesota Department of
Anthropology for its Research Block Grant, the MacArthur Interdisciplinary
Program on Peace and International Cooperation for its Predissertation Field
Research Grant, the University of Minnesota Seminar on Race, Ethnicity, and
Migration for its Dissertation Research Fellowship, the Freeman Asian/Asian
American Initiative at Wesleyan University for its Research Grant, and Deni-
son University for the Michelle T. Myers Professional Development Fund.
I could not be more thankful to Masako Ikeda at the University of Hawaii
Press, whose commitment, support, and understanding got me through the
manuscript revision process. I would also like to thank the anonymous readers
of this manuscript for their helpful suggestions and enthusiastic recommenda-
tions. An anonymous copyeditor at Scribendi also refined and strengthened
the manuscript.
My family has not only lived with this project, but also grown in the pro-
cess. My parents Suzuki Tadao and Suzuki Kiyoko, and my sisters Seki Shiori
and Kojima Orie, have been among my greatest supporters. They always have
kept their faith in me, even as my decision to pursue a competitive academic
career in the United States worried them endlessly and kept me thousands of
miles away from where they live. My wife, Beth Suzuki, who entered my life
shortly before my long-term fieldwork in Bolivia and Japan began, is present
in some way on every page of this book. Along with my stepson Sean Ekotto,
she was an integral part of my field research, and she continued to provide me
with intellectual and emotional support during the trying years of my early
academic career. Without the love, encouragement, and assistance from Beth
and from her mother Bonnie Davis, this book simply would not have come into
existence. My daughter Ayame and my son Takashi have grown from newborns
to preschoolers while I worked toward the completion of this book. Their im-
mense talent for love, compassion, and learning has never failed to amaze me
and to inspire me to grow intellectually and emotionally. This book marks both
the culmination of a research project and the beginning of our life together
with many adventures to come.
[ introduction ]

Racializing Culture
and Class in a
Transnational Field

As I got out of a taxi with my dusty backpack and suitcase at

the centro (village center) of Colonia Okinawa, a farming settlement founded
by Okinawan immigrants in the Santa Cruz Prefecture of eastern Bolivia, I
immediately recognized two different types of gaze cast on me. The first was
from taxi drivers who were congregating at the parada, or taxi stop, and street
vendors who were selling snacks and drinks to those waiting for rides. Their
stare with reserved curiosity seemed to have deciphered my nationality. Otro
japons ha llegadoanother Japanese has arrived. The second was from those
who were slowly driving their pickup trucks over the speed bumps on the
road in the centro. After giving me a long and inquiring stare, they nodded at
me as they passed me by. Nihonjin deshyou are Japanese, arent you? They
appeared to be acknowledging that I had come to their place, a village of Oki-
nawans. Whenever and wherever I was in the village, I was always made aware
that my appearancephysique, demeanor, outfit, and so onwere monitored
by these two different types of scrutinizing gaze: one from Bolivians of non-
Okinawan and non-Japanese descent (referred to as non-Nikkei Bolivians in
this book) and the other from Okinawan immigrants and their descendants
(Okinawan-Bolivians hereafter) in Colonia Okinawa. Among the memories
from my field research in Colonia Okinawa, I remember most vividly the in-
quisitive looks that I received from the members of the two distinct groups
and how my body instantly became an object of scrutiny in which cultural
and socioeconomic differences between Japanese and Bolivian as well as

Naichi-jin (Japanese mainlander) and Okinawan were articulated and ob-

The central question of this book arose from my memories of these inquir-
ing and objectifying gazes as well as from numerous anecdotes I heard in Co-
lonia Okinawa about physical, cultural, and psychological differences between
Bolivians, Japanese (Naichi-jin), and Okinawans. How does an Okinawan-
Bolivian person, for instance, appear, think, and behavein short, become
Bolivian, Japanese, or Okinawan (as opposed to Naichi-jin)in his or her
own eyes and in the eyes of others in different situations? What are the socio-
economic implications of these differing yet purportedly natural attributes of
Okinawan-Bolivians within the particular local context? In this book, I exam-
ine how peoples bodies came to symbolize and represent their true cultural
identity as it was formed and expressed in everyday practices, and how these
embodied cultural truths came to symbolize various degrees and forms of
belonging (and nonbelonging) of individual subjects in the places they resided.
This is the social process I refer to as racialized belonging, through which, as I
hope to demonstrate, embodied, performed, and narrated cultural differenc-
es between population groups become essentialized and naturalized as both a

Colonia Okinawa Uno Centro area

Racializing Culture and Class 3

reason for and a manifestation of discrepancies in socioeconomic statuses and

senses of belonging.
A multisited ethnography of transnational migrants that follows the peo-
ple (Marcus 1995, 106) offers a useful case study to explore racialized belong-
ing, as it comparatively examines the social processes in two or more locales,
where daily practices and narratives differentially embody their culture, which
comes to function as evidence of their class positions and social statuses in
each locale. In this ethnography, I portray transnational ethnic Okinawan com-
munities in two nation-states: Okinawan immigrants and their descendants in
Colonia Okinawa, Bolivia, an agricultural settlement established in the mid-
1950s by Okinawan settlers, and Okinawan-Bolivian immigrants in the city of
Yokohama, Japan, where hundreds of Okinawan-Bolivians have moved from
Colonia Okinawa as dekasegi, or sojourning, migrants since the 1980s.2 Al-
though the individual experiences of Okinawan-Bolivians in Bolivia and Japan
undoubtedly varied with differences in age, generation, class, gender, and other
individual attributes, the relatively small size of the Okinawan-Bolivian com-
munity in Colonia Okinawa (approximately 850 people currently reside there)
and strong ties between those who reside in Colonia Okinawa and those in
Japan allow me to consider the Okinawan-Bolivians in both locations as part of
a single community that has created a transnational social field of action and
meaning (Glick Schiller et al. 1992, 19) that spans the two nation-states. The
differing experiences of various Okinawan-Bolivians in the two locales, there-
fore, are examined together as those of a group of transmigrants, individuals
who have socioeconomic footholds in multiple nation-states (ibid.).
To theorize the racialized belonging of transmigrants, this study examines
multiple contradictions Okinawan-Bolivians (Okinawan settlers, or Issei, and
their offspring in Colonia Okinawa, and Okinawan-Bolivian dekasegi migrants
in urban Japan) faced in Bolivia and Japan. First, how did Okinawan-Bolivi-
ans experience and make sense of paradoxical socioeconomic class positions
they occupied in a transnational social field? In Colonia Okinawa, many Is-
sei (first-generation settlers) were affluent large-scale farm owners, although
their second-generation, or Nisei, children struggled to transform their eco-
nomically privileged backgrounds into upward class mobility in a larger Bo-
livian society. In Yokohama, meanwhile, Nisei dekasegi migrants could earn
more money by working in the construction and manufacturing industries,
yet the migrants suffered from financial instability and personal humiliation
as blue-collar laborers. Second, how did educational institutions, such as com-
munity schools in Colonia Okinawa, shape Nisei and Sansei (third-generation)

Okinawan-Bolivian youths identities and behaviors? The schools believed that

they were helping second- and third-generation Okinawan-Bolivians succeed
in the larger Bolivian society as bilingual (Spanish and Japanese) and bicultural
Nikkei (the descendants of Japanese immigrants) subjects, by teaching them
the standard Japanese language and what they considered to be authentic
Japanese culture. Yet, the schools appeared to have inadvertently encouraged
the Okinawan-Bolivian youth to migrate to Japan as dekasegi laborers rather
than pursue socioeconomic success in Bolivia. Finally, how did Okinawan-
Bolivians interpret and negotiate their historical and cultural distinctiveness
as Okinawans, whose past as the colonized subjects under imperial Japan still
stirred ambivalent feelings toward Japan among Okinawans in Okinawa Pre-
fecture and the Okinawan diaspora abroad? Okinawan identity among the
Okinawan-Bolivians in Bolivia and Japan was subdued on certain occasions
but strongly felt and expressed by them on others, especially when they had
to deal with Japanese government officials. This study, then, is an attempt to
understand the contradictory processes of class and cultural identity formation
of transmigrants, an ethnography of postcolonial subjects in diaspora, and an
effort to theorize race, class, and culture in a transnational context.
There are two underlying assumptions in this study. First, I consider that
individuals are not unified and autonomous beings, who exercise free will to
position themselves within social relations, economic conditions, or cultural
climates. Instead, I regard each individual as a subject, a locus in which an in-
coherent (and often contradictory) plurality of such relational determinations
interact (Certeau 1984, xi) and believe that their agency is created through
situations and statuses conferred on them (J. Scott 1992, 34). Because these
subjects make themselves and are made at the same time, it is imperative to de-
fine them as an ongoing formative process, not a finished product. The individ-
ual subjects occupy a certain subject position, which Tim OSullivan defines
as a contradictory mix of confirming and contending identities (OSullivan
et al. 1994, 310; cited in Parreas 2001, 31). Thus, individual identities are de-
fined here as contested and shifting positions in which subjects are placed
and place themselves in relation to other individuals and institutions.
Second, in examining the changing subject positions of transmigrants
and their embodied belongings in two different locales, I view these locales
not as static and unified but as dynamic and heterogeneous domains that
are constantly in flux socioeconomically, politically, and culturally. Spaces
that transmigrants move across are neither empty (Lefebvre 1991, 15) nor
geometrical(Certeau 1984, 117) spaces that are filled with the homogeneous
Racializing Culture and Class 5

national or regional cultures of politicoterritorially defined nation-states (see

Malkki 1995). Instead, the space of each locality is a social space that is always
actuated by the ensemble of movements deployed (Certeau 1984, 117) by
institutional and individual actors who provide specific meanings and bound-
aries to the space (Appadurai 1995; Gupta and Ferguson 1997). My discussions
of racialized belonging locate social spaces for transmigrants under differing
circumstances shaped by particular political economic conditions at specific
historical moments. The aim of this book is, therefore, neither to uncover the
true or core identity of Okinawan-Bolivians living in Colonia Okinawa and
Yokohama nor to highlight cultural clashes Okinawan-Bolivians presumably
experienced by encountering (monolithic) Bolivian or Japanese culture, but in-
stead to elucidate the ways in which their subject positions have been defined
within locally specific socioeconomic and cultural contexts of Colonia Okina-
wa and Yokohama in particular and of Bolivia and Japan in general, which have
changed dramatically during the fifty years of the Colonia Okinawan commu-
nitys existence.

Theorizing Race, Class, and Culture

in a Transnational Context
In examining the racialized belongings of Okinawan-Bolivians in a transna-
tional context, I rely on two key concepts in recent sociological and anthro-
pological studies: racialization and citizenship. Racialization is defined here
as a social process by which certain bodily features or assumed biological
characteristics of a particular group come to represent the group members
inherent psychological, behavioral, and/or moral characteristics (Cornell and
Hartmann 1998, 33; Miles 1989), while citizenship is conceptualized as a so-
cial process of self-cultivation and being-cultivated, the Foucauldian process
of subject-making, within the web of socioeconomic and cultural powers of
state and capital (Ong 1996).

Racialization of Culture and Class

After reviewing anthropological studies of Brazilian and Peruvian Nikkei-jin
living in Japan (Lesser 2003; Linger 2001; Roth 2002; Tsuda 2003), I was struck
by the fact that none of them addressed race as a key analytical concept in un-
derstanding the Nikkei-jins socioeconomic marginalization in Japan, although
their situations frequently reminded me of the experiences that many other

racialized immigrants from developing economies face in Europe or North

America.3 These studies, such as Takeyuki Tsudas ethnography, tended to ar-
gue that the immigrants predicament was mainly due to the cultural exclu-
siveness of Japanese society, which alienates the Latin American Nikkei-jin,
who may be racial insiders (by sharing the ancestral origin and physical char-
acteristics) but nonetheless are cultural outsiders (Tsuda 2003, 131135).4
The conspicuous absence of the race concept in these studies reflects a more
general tendency among anthropologists. Anthropologists have been reluctant
to engage the race concept in their analyses of societies where there are no ob-
vious phenotypic differencesaccording to criteria set by the eugenicist race
sciences a century agowithin the populations, even though anthropologists
have adamantly argued that race is a sociocultural, not a biological, category.5
By having defined race as what culture is not (Visweswaran 1998, 72), anthro-
pologists have been largely disengaged from what Etienne Balibar called new
racism, an absolutionist discourse that relies on the notion of essentialized and
naturalized culture in which culture can also function like a nature (Balibar
1991, 22, emphasis original). This new discourse of race and culture aligns race
closely with the idea of national belonging and...stressed complex cultural
difference rather than simple biological hierarchy (Gilroy 1993, 10).6 Cultur-
alist racism, or what Paul Gilroy calls ethnic absolutism, is a phenomenon
certainly not limited to Western Europe. Anthropologist Takezawa Yasuko, for
instance, refers to the governor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Area, who stated
in 2001 that several violent crimes committed by Chinese residents in Tokyo
in recent years were indications of the ethno-national (minzoku-teki) DNA
of the Chinese (Takezawa 2005, 10, 82). Given these emergent discourses of
naturalized cultural differences, I do not wish to debate in this book whether or
not Okinawan-Bolivians are a racially (i.e., quasi-scientifically) distinct group
apart from non-Nikkei Bolivians or native-born Japanese, or to determine
whether they underwent either cultural or racial transformations in Colonia
Okinawaand Yokohama; instead, I conceptualize Okinawan-Bolivians shifting
subject positioning in Bolivia and Japan as processes of racialization (Miles
1989), by which individual Okinawan-Bolivians came to be viewed and to view
themselves as part of a naturally collective entity through narratives and prac-
tices of cultural absolutism by themselves and their Others in both locations.
Like the naturalization of cultures that Okinawan-Bolivians experienced
through subject positioning in Bolivia and Japan, Okinawan-Bolivians chang-
ing class positions in the two locations underwent a similar essentialization
process. Theorists of racial whiteness have argued that ones racial belonging
Racializing Culture and Class 7

is akin to possession or lack of financial property or wage (C. Harris 1993;

Roediger 1991; Lipsitz 1998),7 by envisioning race as a kind of symbolic capi-
tal, which, similar to cultural and social capital (e.g., prestige, social connec-
tions, knowledge, or physical skills), help shape individuals socioeconomic
statuses (Bourdieu 1977, 1986).8 Although this concept of race-as-capital
(or, more precisely, racialized categoryassymbolic capital) originally de-
rived from historical examinations of European immigrants experiences in
the United States, more recent studies indicate that, regardless of locations
and historical contexts, it is a potent tool to understand the dynamic interplay
between a racialized category and a socioeconomic class within changing so-
cial, cultural, and political environments.9 Furthermore, by ethnographically
portraying the appreciation and depreciation of race-as-capital (racialized cat-
egoryassymbolic capital) manifested by Okinawan-Bolivians shifting and
contradictory class positions in Colonia Okinawa and Yokohama, this study
attempts to theorize the race-class nexus in a transnational context, where the
local definitions and stratifications of races and classes in a particular society
and the global politicoeconomic hierarchy within the capitalist world system
(Wallerstein 1974) intersect.10

Body as a Surface and Vehicle of Racialization

Where, then, should I observe and analyze the processes of cultural and class
racialization of Okinawan-Bolivians in Colonia Okinawa and Yokohama? Fol-
lowing Michel Foucaults propositions on the discursive production of sexu-
al bodies (Foucault 1978), David Palumbo-Liu suggests that the discursively
constructed human body functions as a site of enormous symbolic work and
symbolic production and creates a slippage between multiple social catego-
ries, such as race, culture, and class (Palumbo-Liu 2001, 82; see also Omi and
Winant 1994). I similarly envision human bodies not as ahistorical, precul-
tural, or natural objects but as materials for corporal inscription, upon which
cultural and class differences are inscribed, marked, engraved by various soci-
etal discourses (Grosz 1994, 53). Colonial discourses, for instance, relentlessly
highlighted a certain bodily feature of the colonized people that appeared dif-
ferent from that of the colonizers as a sign of inferiority or degeneracy...[and
of the] natural identity of the colonized. In so doing, the colonial discourses
turned cultural and racial differences between the two groups into common
knowledge in a range of cultural, political and historical discourses (Bhabha
1994, 78, 80, emphasis original).11

At the same time, human bodies are vehicles for individual subjects to
perform these differences in their daily lives (Butler 1990; OConnell 1999),
and these daily performances actively produce the body as a body of deter-
minate type (Grosz 1994, x). Individuals performative practices could trans-
gress, subvert, or legitimate the socially constructed and corporally inscribed
social categories to which they belong as they cultivate, in the Foucauldian
sense, their bodies into a representation of a certain social identity through
the stylized repetition of acts they consciously or unconsciously perform
in daily lives (Butler 1990, 140). From this perspective, an individual neither
turns from a blank subject before the constitution of a subject into some-
one inscribed with a particular social identity, nor is he or she merely a pup-
pet of sociocultural processes (OConnell 1999, 65). Instead, an individual
is always and already becoming a socially defined subject through everyday
By refusing to presume the existence of raw (blank, natural, or abstract)
bodies before their social constitutions, two forms of racialization of Okinawan-
Bolivians, as Japanese farm owners in Colonia Okinawa and as South American
Nikkei-jin laborers in Yokohama, are conceptualized here as processes in which
societal influences inscribed and naturalized certain cultural and class identities
upon their bodies (physiques and behaviors), while individual Okinawan-Bolivi-
ans conformed to or resisted these categories through daily practices.

Racialized Belonging in Transnational Context

Examining Okinawan-Bolivians experiences in Bolivia and Japan provides an
opportunity to pursue, as Takezawa (2005) and Kenan Malik (1996) encour-
age us to do, an integral, not merely comparative, theorization of the various
processes of cultural and class racialization in a transnational-local nexus.13
Taking a cue from Bonnie Urciuoli, who has argued that racialized individuals
are often typified as human matter out of place (Urciuoli 1996, 15, emphasis
added), I argue that racialization, a social process that produces a human body
as a natural manifestation of his or her culture and class, is also a process that
turns an individual into human matter [in or] out of place in society, depend-
ing on his or her relationships with the powers of state and capital.
To address these varying degrees and forms of belonging in society, vari-
ous scholars have redefined the concept of citizenship not merely as a le-
gal relationship between an individual and a state, but also as a more total
relationship, inflected by identity, social positioning, cultural assumptions,
Racializing Culture and Class 9

institutional practices and a sense of belonging (Werbner and Yuval-Davis

1999, 4).14 Even within a nation-state, then, the population is divided along the
impassable symbolic boundaries between those who truly belong and those
who do not, and individual citizens belongingness and otherness are con-
stantly marked, fixed, and naturalized through a typically binary system of
representation (Hall 1996, 445). From this viewpoint, even a legal citizen of
a state may remain excluded from universal citizen status in a nation-state
(Glenn 2002, 2021) if he or she continues to be located outside the cultural
and racial boundaries of the nation (Lowe 1996, 10).15
In my study, I take a slightly different tack on citizenship from these theori-
zations because I believe that individuals do not always desire universal (legal,
economic, social, and cultural) belonging to a singular nation-state; some, in-
cluding certain groups of transmigrants, may instead pursue flexibility in their
national belonging (Ong 1999). Furthermore, the symbolic boundary making
operates not only in the system of representation, but also in what Michael
Herzfeld calls etiquette, a formalized and formalizing behavior in everyday
life that distinguishes those who belong within the boundary from those who
do not (Herzfeld 1996, 4748, cited in Hartigan 1999, 291).16 I envision citizen-
ship, therefore, as a two-way negotiation between individuals and their sur-
roundings, or what Aihwa Ong calls a dual process of subject-making and
being-made, which defines their particular modes and degrees of belonging
in a local society through formalizing and formalized everyday practices (Ong
1996, 737738).17
Okinawan-Bolivians changing and often contradictory subject positions
and their different modes of belonging in the places they live are outcomes of
this dual process of citizenship. The cultural and class racializations that Oki-
nawan-Bolivians underwent in Colonia Okinawa and Yokohama were, then, at
the same time processes shaping both the forms and degrees of their belonging
in each local society in which they lived. These simultaneous processes of ra-
cialization and citizenship, or racialized belonging, are what Okinawan-Bolivi-
ans experienced within a transnational social field that spans rural Bolivia and
urban Japan. Through ethnographic portraits of Okinawan-Bolivians at their
workplaces, in educational institutions, and within family relationships, this
study will demonstrate how their culture and class positions were racialized
through the discursive constructions and daily performances of themselves
and their Others in each of the places they lived and how they, in turn, shaped
and expressed the forms and degrees of their belonging in these places.

Fieldwork Sites: Colonia Okinawa and Tsurumi, Yokohama

My exploration of the racialized belonging of Okinawan-Bolivians required a
mobile and multisited ethnographic approach to provide insight into the situ-
ational, complex, and shifting meanings of racialized national and regional
identities, such as Japaneseness, Bolivianness, and Okinawanness. Like many
anthropologists, I had to fulfill different roles required of me and to act in ac-
cordance with preexisting norms in each site of my fieldwork. I also needed to
negotiate multiple dimensions of my own social identities, as a Japanese Nai-
chi-jin, a student researcher, a Japanese citizen living overseas, and a United
States resident, in my interactions with community members and interviewees
(Kondo 1986; Lutz 1988; Tsuda 2003).18 Below, I outline the contexts of my
fieldwork in Colonia Okinawa and Yokohama, where I conducted most of the
research for this book.

Colonia Okinawa
Colonia Okinawa (Okinawa Ijchi, literally Okinawa immigrants land), an ag-
ricultural settlement founded by Okinawan settlers from the Ryky Islands of
southwest Japan, is a small rural village located 30 miles northeast of Santa Cruz
de la Sierra, the capital of Santa Cruz Prefecture (Departamento de Santa Cruz),
and 15 miles east of Montero, a small hub on the trans-Bolivian highway. Santa
Cruz is the largest among the nine prefectures of Bolivia and constitutes ap-
proximately 34 percent of the land of the entire nation. A large portion of Santa
Cruz Prefecture belongs to the eastern lowland, or llano, that shares its borders
with Brazil and Paraguay. Unlike the Andean highland in western Bolivia, or
altiplano, Santa Cruz Prefecture is known for its mild tropical climate, with an
annual average temperature of 24C to 26C (75F to 79F), with distinct rainy
seasons (November to April) and dry seasons (May to October). As the capital
city of the agricultural- and oil-rich prefecture, Santa Cruz de la Sierra has re-
cently become the largest city in Bolivia, with a population of more than one
million, replacing La Paz as the countrys demographic and economic center.19
Seventeen groups of Okinawan immigrants arrived in this location between
1954 and 1963 as agricultural settlers, and more than 1,500 people have moved
into its three subdistricts: the oldest and most populous, Colonia Uno, and
smaller and newer Colonia Dos and Colonia Trs. The vast majority of these
settlers, however, soon left the Colonia for Santa Cruz de la Sierra, So Paulo,
or Buenos Aires, or returned to Okinawa in the 1960s and 1970s. Around
Racializing Culture and Class 11

Map of Bolivia

2000, some eight hundred Colonia residents were members of Okinawa Ni-
hon Boribia Kykai, or Nichibo Kykai, the self-governing organization for the
Okinawan-Bolivians in the village. The majority of Nichibo Kykai members
were Issei Okinawan settlers and their children, but there were a small number
of Naichi-jin Japanese from the major four islands of Japan, who had settled
in Colonia Okinawa since the 1970s through Japanese government-sponsored
settlement programs.

Although the vast majority of Okinawan-Bolivians were cattle ranchers

and farm owners whose main products were soybeans, wheat, and sunflow-
ers, there were a small number of wage earners, such as administrative and
technical staff at Nichibo Kykai and the Okinawan-Bolivians farming coop-
erative, Cooperativa Agropecuaria Integral Colonias Okinawa (CAICO), Jap-
anese language teachers at the communitys schools, and nurses and clerical
staff at the hospitals. The Okinawan population in the Colonia encompassed
multiple generations: Issei, many of whom were in their sixties and seventies,
younger Issei, who were born in Okinawa but migrated to Bolivia with their Is-
sei parents when they were children, and the Colonia-born second-generation,
Nisei, and the third-generation, or Sansei, most of whom were still school-age
children.20 The Okinawan-Bolivians in Colonia Okinawa were among approxi-
mately 13,000 Nikkei Bolivians, the fourth largest ethnic Japanese population
among Latin American countries. The two major centers of Japanese Bolivian
population are Riberalta of Ben Prefecture and its surrounding areas and San-
ta Cruz Prefecture, particularly Santa Cruz de la Sierra and the two Colonias,
Colonia Okinawa and Colonia San Juan de Yapacan.21 While I recognize the
importance of other ethnic Okinawan and Japanese communities, especially in
the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, where there is a sizable population of Nik-
kei, including Okinawan-Bolivians, I did not include Santa Cruz de la Sierra
extensively in my field research. It was not logistically feasible for my research
to cover the experiences of both rural and urban Okinawan-Bolivians, not to
mention their very different socioeconomic situations and labor relations, in a
sufficiently ethnographic manner.
Between December 1997 and May 2001, I conducted field research in Co-
lonia Okinawa for approximately fourteen months, though the majority of my
research took place from July 2000 to May 2001. From my previous research
trips, I realized that I would not be able to interact closely with Okinawan-
Bolivians without having a certain official position in the community. More-
over, because the Okinawan-Bolivians residences were spread throughout the
Colonia and I did not have a car, it was difficult to get acquainted with people
simply by living in one part of the community. My solution was to agree to a
request from Nichibo Kykai to become a Japanese-language teacher at the
communitys elementary-middle school, a typical assignment for an outsider
from Japan (see Chapter 4). I taught Japanese language classes at two schools in
the Colonia and taught English to Okinawan-Bolivian middle- and high-school
students during their school break. As a staff member at the school, a key com-
munity institution of Colonia Okinawa, I was able not only to participate in
Racializing Culture and Class 13

numerousformal and informal social gatherings, but also to create and devel-
op connections with the students parents and grandparents. I attended wed-
dings, a funeral, and numerous informal gatherings at private homes. I was at
the schools inauguration and graduation ceremonies, field trips, and welcome
and farewell parties for other volunteer Japanese teachers. I participated in lo-
cal festivals and events such as the Harvest Festival (hnen-sai), the Colonia
Okinawa Track Meet (und-kai), Respect for Elders Day (keir no hi), New
Years Day, Mothers Day, and Fathers Day.
Through these occasions, I came to know many, though not all, Okinawan-
Bolivians, especially those who had school-age children. Although I identi-
fied myself as a graduate student at a United States university conducting field
research for my doctoral dissertation, they viewed me primarily as a school-
teacher, which distinguished me from the communitys stereotype of an aca-
demic researcher as an intruder who stays in the Colonia only for a short peri-
od of time and demands their cooperation. I also joined a sanshin club, a group
that gets together once a week to play sanshin, a traditional Okinawan string
musical instrument, through which I befriended elderly Issei club members. I
also regularly spent time at the Methodist Church kindergarten for Okinawan-
Bolivian children and attended services at the Methodist Church, where I be-
friended several elderly Issei who were regulars at church functions. Although
I managed to find housing for myself in Colonia Uno for most of the research,
I also lived with an Okinawan-Bolivian family for about three months. During
that period, I frequently went to the familys farmland with the father of the
family and dined, chatted, watched TV, and sometimes played board games
with other members of the family.
During the course of my research, I conducted approximately eighty formal
interviews with Issei, Nisei Okinawan-Bolivians, and Naichi-jin Japanese set-
tlers and non-Nikkei Bolivians. The formal interviews, lasting an average of
two hours, were normally conducted at the interviewees homes. The individu-
als selected for formal interviews were mostly those who had returned from
dekasegi in Japan, but I also conducted a number of interviews with elderly
Issei, whose children had migrated to Japan. While the interviewees had di-
verse backgrounds in terms of age, generation, gender, and other social identi-
ties, I reiterate that the goal of my research was not to delineate generalized
patterns found among the interviewees answers. I instead explored how my
interviewees invested meanings in and interpreted Japaneseness, Okinawan-
ness, and Bolivianness at specific sites and at specific moments, because these
categories, like any axes of identity, are contested and shifting open signifiers

(Louie 2004, 21) that become relevant only through individuals narrations and
Meanwhile, as an embodied Japanese subject, I faced more obstacles in
socializing and conducting interviews with non-Nikkei Bolivians in the Co-
lonia. As will be revealed in the following chapters, the social divide between
Okinawan-Bolivians and non-Nikkei Bolivians was deep, and for a Japanese
national, it was difficult to transgress social boundaries and establish close rela-
tionships with non-Nikkei Bolivians because they were suspicious of or utterly
disinterested in Japanese outsiders. I managed to conduct several interviews
with parents of non-Nikkei Bolivian students of the community school at their
homes and had numerous casual conversations with those non-Nikkei Boliv-
ian laborers and domestic workers who worked for Okinawan-Bolivians, but
as they saw me as a friend of their employers, I often sensed their reluctance to
be frank with me.
The different forms and degrees of interactions I had with various subgroups
in the community remind us, as feminist and halfie anthropologists have
pointed out, that anthropologists cannot simply discard or change their social
identities in the field and that these identities are always defined in relation
to their research subjects within the larger power dynamics in society (Behar
1995; Kondo 1986, 1990; Narayan 1993). My social identities, which manifested
in my name, speech, and general demeanor during interviews and other forms
of interactions, were also invested with certain significances by the individuals
I encountered, regardless of my intention as an ethnographer. For instance, I
believe that my embodied Japaneseness influenced, to varying degrees and in
different ways, my interactions with Okinawan-Bolivian interviewees. On the
one hand, as ones connection to Japanperceived or realserved as valuable
symbolic capital within the Okinawan-Bolivian community, my interviewees
might have been tempted, if not compelled, to be overzealous in exhibiting their
Japanese identity in front of me, a Naichi-jin Japanese; on the other hand, as
longtime residents of Bolivia facing a Japanese student researcher, they eagerly
shared their native knowledge of Bolivian society with me.22
My age, gender, and occupation as a young (late twenties) male graduate
student with an urban, middle-class background as well as my residence in
the United States also factored into my research and general interactions with
Okinawan-Bolivians. Most significantly, the fact that Yokohama is my home-
town facilitated my conversations with Issei and Nisei; all Okinawan-Bolivian
interviewees asked me, at one point or another, where I was originally from,
and once they found out that I used to live where their children, relatives,
Racializing Culture and Class 15

friends, and/or themselves had lived, they became more eager to talk about the
topic of dekasegi in general. My background as a doctoral student, in contrast,
had a more ambiguous impact. It sometimes appeared to stir respect and/or
a feeling of inferiority among some interviewees, as few Okinawan-Bolivians
had postgraduate education; other times, it incited playful ridicule from them,
for I was still a student in my late twenties, without a real job and real
income (one Nichibo Kykai staff member asked me, with mocking serious-
ness, if I would like to come back and work for the organization after I finished
graduate school, as he predicted that I would fail to find a decent job). Some
female interviewees I tried to contact were hesitant to meet me at their homes
for an interview, citing their numerous household chores and the absence of
their husbands during the day. Many nevertheless were comfortable speaking
in standard Japanese and were willing to speak about school affairs, about
which they were well informed. Consequently, while it was true that in the
Okinawan-Bolivian community, as anthropologist Takeyuki Tsuda discovered
in his field research in Japanese factories, male researchers often have more
difficulty accessing female informants than women do with male informants
(2003, 2223), the Okinawan-Bolivian womens familiarity with the Japanese
language and my role as a teacher at their childrens schoolconsidered a fe-
male domain in the communityhelped me to establish a rapport with many
Issei and Nisei women over the period.23 The interplay of these preexisting so-
cial categories and roles in the community and my personal background pre-
sented advantages and disadvantages for my fieldwork, reminding me that, as
Andrea Louie writes, I was a subject of my own research, if only in the ways
that others perceived and interacted with me (2004, 9), whether I was willing
or not.
The majority of my interviews with Okinawan-Bolivian and Naichi-jin resi-
dents in the Colonia were conducted in standard Japanese rather than the
Okinawan language (Uchinguchi) or Spanish, while the interviews with non-
Nikkei local Bolivians were conducted in Spanish.24 Overall, Issei were most
comfortable in communicating in Uchinguchi and were very competent in
Japanese but were not fluent in Spanish (Anbo et al. 1998, 246). My request for
interviews was occasionally turned down by Issei, who cited their discomfort
in communicating in standard Japanese, as I could not speak to them fluently
in Uchinguchi. Nevertheless, a vast majority of Issei and Nisei women had
no problem communicating in standard Japanese, and they spoke far more
comfortably in standard Japanese than in Spanish. Meanwhile, some of the
interviews with Nisei, many of whom were more comfortable with Spanish

than with either Japanese or Okinawan, were conducted in both Spanish and
Japanese. Some Nisei, particularly men, were clearly not very comfortable
speaking in Japanese, even though few seemed to have difficulty understand-
ing me when I spoke Japanese. As a result, our conversations mixed Spanish
and Japanese.25
Finally, my study involved archival research at the Nichibo Kykai head-
quarters. For three months, I worked for the association part time, cleaning
and organizing the old documents in storage. In exchange for this service, I
was allowed access to the official and unofficial documents in the archive, in-
cluding the existing records of the Colonias population changes over the past
two decades. Because of the poor preservation and organization of the docu-
ments, I was unable to conduct my archival research in a systematic manner.
The information I obtained through archival research was, therefore, at best
fragmented, although some of the documents, such as the copies of the asso-
ciations community notices and transcripts of board meetings, compensated
for my lack of access to the formal board meetings at Nichibo Kykai.

Tsurumi, Yokohama
In 1998, the number of Bolivian nationals in Japan was reported to be 3,461
by the Japanese government, but with those who have dual citizenship added,
the population was estimated to be closer to 4,000 (Ikuno 2000, 294). Most
Okinawan-Bolivians migrated to Kanagawa Prefecture or, more specifically, to
the cities of Hiratsuka, Atsugi, Yokohama, and Kawasaki. The Tsurumi Ward
of Yokohama became a major destination for dekasegi migrants from Colonia
Okinawa, especially the Nakadri and Ushioda neighborhoods. Although the
total Okinawan-Bolivian population has never been recorded, one researcher
counted twenty-one businesses in Tsurumi that were owned by Okinawan-
Bolivians from Colonia Okinawa, and at least 102 Okinawan-Bolivians lived in
the district in 1994 (Tsujimoto 1998c, 320, 326).
I conducted my fieldwork in Yokohama from June to October 2000. Un-
like in Colonia Okinawa, the Okinawan-Bolivian community in Yokohama, as
in other Japanese cities, was neither geographically confined nor tightly knit.
There was little daily contact and few community events that drew a large
number of Okinawan-Bolivians. Instead, most socialization took place spon-
taneously and privately among families, relatives, and personal friends. I made
several attempts to contact Okinawan-Bolivian dekasegi migrants in the area to
conduct interviews, but as they were preoccupied with work and family affairs,
Racializing Culture and Class 17

I was able to conduct only a few formal interviews and had difficulty creating
and expanding networks for my research. In addition, a formal organization
among Okinawan-Bolivians in Tsurumi, Boribia Shinboku-kai, or the Bolivia
Friendship Association, was defunct by the time I went to Japan.
I conducted much of my research, consequently, at workplaces and through
an informal social network. In addition to frequenting the Okinawan-Bolivi-
anowned restaurants in Tsurumi, where I often encountered, conversed, and
had drinks with dekasegi migrants from Colonia Okinawa, I worked as an elec-
trician at T Denki, a Nisei-owned electrical installation firm in Tsurumi, for
three months. As one of the T Denki staff, I went to work at several construc-
tion sites in Kanagawa Prefecture and the Tokyo Metropolitan Area with Oki-
nawan-Bolivians. I worked side by side with these T Denki electricians, who
were mostly young Nisei men in their twenties, and observed their work and
interactions with Japanese Naichi-jin supervisors and coworkers, and among
themselves, at various sites. I chatted with them while commuting from the
meeting place in Tsurumi to the days work site, during the breaks, and on the
trip back to Tsurumi. I often spent time at the company office, which was the T
Denki presidents apartment, and drank beer and chatted with them. I did not
conduct any formal interviews with my coworkers, but the informal conversa-
tions with these electricians turned out to be more revealing than the formal
interviews I had with other Okinawan-Bolivian dekasegi migrants in the area,
for the electricians were more relaxed and willing to talk openly about their
pasts, their current lives in Japan, and their future plans.
Although I told most of them about my status as a graduate student at a
United States university and my intention to write my tesis (dissertation) on
Colonia Okinawa and dekasegi migrants in Japan, I was not always able to make
a point of informing the Japanese Naichi-jin workers at the construction sites,
where opportunities for prolonged conversation were severely limited. My
Okinawan-Bolivian coworkers appeared less interested in my academic back-
ground and research objectives than in my experience as a Japanese-language
teacher who had lived in Colonia Okinawa for an extended period of time. Even
though my background gave me partial insider status among them, I was pri-
marily regarded as a Japanese citizen who possessed cultural and symbolic
capital in the larger Japanese society. My privilege as a Japaneseand Na-
ichi-jinbecame apparent in certain situations. For instance, while they talk-
ed mostly in Spanish among themselves, mixed with a number of standard
Japanese terms and phrases and a few Okinawan ones, the electricians seemed
to feel compelled to switch to standard Japanese, which they spoke fluently,

even after they realized that I mostly understood their conversations in Span-
ish. They were also clearly uncomfortable reading and writing in Japanese, so
they often asked me to help them read road signs while we were driving to the
construction sites and to fill out the employment registration forms in Japanese
at the job sites. My interactions and conversations with my coworkers were,
therefore, inevitably affected by their ambivalent feelings toward me; they felt
they were superior to me as more experienced and skilled technicians yet infe-
rior to me as less privileged members of the Japanese society at large.
Other than accounts of the particular conditions in which these electri-
cians worked, my discussion of Okinawan-Bolivians dekasegi experiences in
Japan relies heavily on recollections by those living in Colonia Okinawa who
had returned from dekasegi in Japan. Given the considerable diversity among
Okinawan-Bolivians dekasegi experiences, resulting from their differences in
location of residence, workplace, gender, generation, age, and other factors in-
volved, I do not claim that my participant-observation at construction sites
along with T Denki electricians objectively and comprehensively captures the
dekasegi migrants work and life experiences in general. Instead, in this book I
try to present a glimpse of the migrants everyday work and lives in urban Japan
that configured their subject positions.

Organization of the Book

Chapter 1 outlines the modern history of the Okinawan diaspora in three sec-
tions: the history of Okinawan immigration to Bolivia in the prewar and post-
war periods, the foundation and transformation of Colonia Okinawa in eastern
Bolivia, and the factors and processes of Okinawan-Bolivians dekasegi migra-
tion to urban Japan since the 1980s. In rendering the history, the chapter high-
lights the fact that Okinawan immigration and settlement in Colonia Okinawa
and dekasegi migration to Yokohama are not merely population movements
driven by local and global political economies but an illuminating case of the
continuing displacement and struggle of colonial and postcolonial subjects.
The chapter contextualizes the prewar and postwar waves of Okinawan emi-
gration to Bolivia within this turbulent history of Okinawa and the Okinawan
diaspora and describes in detail the postwar Okinawan migration to Bolivia,
which was planned and sponsored by the United States military administration
and the United Statesbacked Okinawan government during the occupation.
From the 1950s to the 1980s, Okinawan settlers in Colonia Okinawa increas-
ingly defined themselves as Japanese, rather than Okinawan, subjects, vis--
Racializing Culture and Class 19

vis non-Nikkei Bolivians, as they asserted themselves as powerful upper-class

patrones (large-scale farm owners). The chapter ends with a discussion of vari-
ous contributing factors to the dekasegi migration since the 1980s, despite the
Okinawan-Bolivians privileged class position in Colonia Okinawa, against the
backdrop of changing socioeconomic conditions surrounding Colonia Okina-
wa, Bolivia in general, and Japan.
Chapters 2, 3, 4, and 5 provide ethnographic evidence to illustrate the pro-
cesses of racialized belonging in key critical sites (Cornell and Hartmann 1998,
153): the workplace, educational institutions, and family and gender relation-
ships. Chapters 2 and 3 contrast the class positions that Okinawan-Bolivians
occupied in Colonia Okinawa with their positions in Yokohama and depict the
ways in which their different class positions manifested in their interactions
(or, in certain situations, lack thereof ) with their local Otherssuch as non-
Nikkei Bolivian laborers and native-born Japanese Naichi-jin coworkers and
supervisorsat their respective workplaces. The ethnographic descriptions of
and narratives provided by Okinawan-Bolivian farm owners in Colonia Oki-
nawa and dekasegi migrant workers at construction sites in Yokohama not only
exhibit the privileges that Okinawan-Bolivians enjoyed in rural Bolivia and the
struggles they faced in urban Japan, but also show how both the Okinawan-
Bolivians and their Others symbolically linked their class positions with their
purportedly innate cultural (Japanese, Bolivian/Latin American, or Oki-
nawan) characteristics. As a result, Okinawan-Bolivians class positions vis-
-vis their Others were primarily interpreted not as products of global and lo-
cal political economies but as natural expressions of their different cultural
Chapter 4 focuses on educational institutions that actively sought to foster
Okinawan-Bolivians as culturally hybrid subjects by infusing them with objec-
tified and naturalized cultures. Specifically, the chapter examines Okinawan-
Bolivian schools in Colonia Okinawa, where most Nisei and Sansei children
received Japanese language education and learned about the Japanese and Oki-
nawan cultures. In portraying the various school events in Colonia Okinawa,
such as the school track meet and Japanese-language speech contest, the chap-
ter demonstrates the ways in which these educational institutions enabled,
even encouraged, Okinawan-Bolivian youth to form, nurture, and embody
their identities through the terms and images of essentialized and naturalized
(Japanese, Okinawan, and Bolivian) cultures. These educational institutions in
effect shaped Okinawan-Bolivian youth into transnational subjects who have
developed an ambiguous sense of belonging in either Bolivia or Japan.

In Chapter 5, my discussion turns to gender and family relationships among

Okinawan-Bolivians, which often underwent drastic transformations during
their migrations between Colonia Okinawa and urban Japan. The gender rela-
tionships among Okinawan-Bolivians were defined and practiced in the public,
communal, and domestic spheres of the Okinawan-Bolivian community in Co-
lonia Okinawa through subtly yet strictly defined male and female gender roles
and codes of behaviors at workplaces, in community functions, and in homes.
The gender division was further complicated by sociospatial segregation of
Okinawan-Bolivians and non-Nikkei Bolivian men and women coexisting in
these settings. Once Okinawan-Bolivians moved to a Japanese city, such as
Yokohama, the gender divergence among Okinawan-Bolivians was often chal-
lenged by the radically different economic and social responsibilities assigned
to the migrants in these urban settings, where both men and women worked as
manual laborers and often earned a comparable amount of income. The chap-
ter also sheds light on intermarriages between Okinawan-Bolivians and non-
Nikkei Bolivians, and between Okinawan-Bolivians and Japanese Naichi-jin.
These couples not only faced changing gender roles and codes of behavior in
Colonia Okinawa and urban Japan, but also coped with highly racialized and
sexualized stereotypes of Bolivians held by other Okinawan-Bolivians and
of South Americans (and, to a lesser extent, Okinawans) held by Japanese
Naichi-jin in-laws. Their stories reveal how Okinawan-Bolivians subject posi-
tions were profoundly mediated by the different gendered norms in Colonia
Okinawa and urban Japan.
In my conclusion I draw together the data on Okinawan-Bolivians contra-
dictory subject positions in Bolivia and Japan in order to theorize the mean-
ing of racialization in a transnational context. The various subject-makings of
Okinawan-Boliviansas Japanese farm owners in Colonia Okinawa and as
South American manual laborers in Yokohama, as good Bolivians of Japa-
nese descent in educational institutions in Bolivia, and as part of an Oki-
nawan diasporic brotherhood and sisterhood across the globeexemplify
a social process of citizenship, conferring individuals with different degrees
and modes of belonging in the respective locales. This study reiterates that, in
studying and theorizing race, class, and culture in the globally interconnect-
ed world today, we can use anthropological techniques to discern the ways
in which political, economic, and social institutions and everyday practices of
individuals together shape and reshape the meanings and expressions of these
The quotations from the subjects in this book are from formal interviews,
Racializing Culture and Class 21

informal conversations in which I was involved, or observations recorded in

my fieldnotes. Throughout the book, the names of individuals are pseudonyms,
although the names of official organizations, such as schools and state institu-
tions, are not. Although many individuals I quote or portray will be well known
to other members of the community in Colonia Okinawa and Tsurumi, I have
tried to conceal their identities as far as possible. Where quotes were originally
spoken in Japanese, Spanish, or both, I italicize the words uttered in a language
different from that of the rest of the quote. For Japanese names, I maintain
the typical order of family name first, given name second (e.g., Suzuki Taku
instead of Taku Suzuki), while for Spanish and English names, I employ given
name first, family name second to minimize alteration of actual enunciations.


During my research in Colonia Okinawa, I repeatedly heard a

popular anecdote from Okinawan-Bolivian returnees from Japan after several
years of dekasegi. The anecdote went like this: Growing up, they spoke only Jap-
anese with their parents and friends in Colonia Okinawa. When they decided
to go to work in Japan for the first time, therefore, they were very confident that
they could easily pass as Japanese, because the Okinawan-Bolivians spoke
their language fluently, looked the same as Japanese, and possessed a Japanese
passport. When the Okinawan-Bolivians landed at New Tokyo International
Airport and reached the immigration counter, however, they were shocked.
The Japanese immigration officials did not seem to understand what the Nisei
were saying. They wondered, as one interviewee jokingly told me, Why dont
Japanese people understand the Japanese language? This was when the Nisei
realized that the language they had spoken in Colonia Okinawa, which they
had firmly believed to be normal Japanese, was in fact Uchinguchi (the Oki-
nawan language), which most Japanese Naichi-jin would not understand.1
This seemingly innocent and comical anecdote encapsulates the drastic
identity transformations that Okinawan-Bolivians have experienced in the
last sixty years, during which their often ambiguous subject positions were
constituted and reconstituted. In this chapter, I outline three periods of Oki-
nawan and Okinawan-Bolivian migrations: Okinawan immigration to western
Bolivia before the 1950s, Okinawan immigration to Colonia Okinawa in east-

ern Bolivia from the 1950s to the 1970s, and Okinawan-Bolivians dekasegi
migration to Japan from the 1980s to the 1990s. These three distinct waves of
Okinawan and Okinawan-Bolivian migration reflect Okinawas colonial and
postcolonial relationships with Japan throughout the twentieth century and
the Okinawan diasporas shifting subject positions within those relationships.
Pre-1950s immigrants to Bolivia were part of a larger trend of Okinawan exo-
dus under the Japanese imperial rule of Okinawa. Issei who grew up in prewar
and wartime Okinawa were ambiguous Japanese national subjects until 1945
and then became nationlessneither Japanese nor Americansubjects un-
der the United States military occupation after 1945. For those Issei, the three
decades after immigration to Bolivia in the 1950s brought about a gradual
process of self-identifying simply as Japanese instead of as Okinawans. In the
1980s, limited employment opportunities in the mainstream Bolivian econ-
omy and a labor shortage in the manufacturing and construction industries
in Japan, along with Isseis anxiety about their childrens cultural assimilation
into rural Bolivian society, prompted the mass emigration of Nisei to urban
Throughout the history of immigration, settlement, and dekasegi re-migra-
tion, Okinawan-Bolivians have been placed at the margins of what anthropol-
ogist Liisa Malkki (1995) calls the national order of things. To address the
marginal and often ambiguous nationalities that Okinawans and Okinawan-
Bolivians have been assigned, particularly in relation to Japanese Naichi-jin,
my discussion here does not regard Okinawans as a discretely bounded group
of individuals who can be objectively distinguished from Japanese Naichi-jin.
Instead, following Tomiyama Ichir, a historian of modern Okinawa and the
Okinawan diaspora, I view Okinawans not as a group of individuals who in-
nately possess discernible Okinawan culture and identity but as a discursive
category that has been assigned to those who were produced as Okinawans
in modern Japanese society (Tomiyama 1990, 3). As Nomura Kya, an Oki-
nawan sociologist, argues, the political and psychological violence of Japanese
colonialism from the late nineteenth century to 1945 constructed Okinawans
as those who are not Japanese (Nomura 2005, 4243). Thus, the history of
Okinawan and Okinawan-Bolivian migrations summarized in this chapter ex-
emplifies the ways in which the colonized subjects encountered and reacted to
the colonizing gaze (Pratt 1992) cast upon them, which created the racialized
categories of colonizers and colonized, rendering their differences as absolute
and natural.

The Japanese Family State and the Okinawan Diaspora

Formerly an autonomous kingdom that prospered as an international trade
hub in East Asia, Okinawa (Ryky) became imperial Japans laboratory for
producing Japanese national subjects, the colonial agenda that was later ap-
plied to the peoples in Taiwan, Micronesia, and the Korean peninsula (Ching
2001; Oguma 1998; Tomiyama 1997, 2002). Within the nationalist ideologies
and colonial discourses, Okinawans and the Okinawan diaspora were encour-
aged to self-acculturate into Japanese society, yet they were rarely granted equal
legal and socioeconomic status with those of Naichi-jin Japanese, whether the
Okinawans were in Okinawa Prefecture or migratory destinations.
Contrary to the common perception of prewar Japan as a nation-state that
boasted of its cultural homogeneity and racial purity, historian Oguma Eiji
(1995) argues that the imperial regime often proclaimed Japan to be an empire
of mixed-ethnos, a union of multiethnic and heterogeneous Asian peoples.
This self-image of a multiethnic Japan was legitimated by the ideology of a
family state (kazoku kokka), within which diverse ethnic groups within the
empire were unified as a family of common ancestry. The ideology of a multi-
ethnic family state justified Japans colonial expansion not only as repatriation
of the original Japanese peoples who resided in the neighboring regions, but
also as the paternalistic readoption of the colonized Asians as those who had
been wrongly raised and therefore were underdeveloped children of the Japa-
nese nation (Christy 1997, 153). In effect, the family state ideology produced
an ambiguous boundary between the Japanese Self and colonized Others, and
eradicated any sense of guilt or responsibility in the [Naichi-jin Japanese] per-
petrators (Ching 2001, 107).
The metaphor of family reflects a certain notion of the household institu-
tion, or ie, in Japan, which is best conceived as a corporate residential group
whose membership is not rigidly defined by blood relationships (Nakane 1970;
Smith 1974).2 While it is true that the flexibility of the ie allows any outsider
to become a member of the family and to be treated with benevolence by the
household head, the adopted member was also expected, if not forced, to aban-
don any connection to his original family, change his family name, and obey
the rules of the new household. Moreover, the notion of ie contains a natural
hierarchical order within it: between husband and wife, parents and children,
and elder siblings and younger ones. Within the new family, adopted children
must naturally and happily assume subordinate positions in relation to those
who are above them (Oguma 1995, 388).

The ie metaphor frequently appeared in writings by prewar Japanese in-

tellectuals and politicians about the Japanese empire and Okinawas position
within it. As adopted children, the authors claimed, Okinawans were expected
not only to abandon their previous customs, beliefs, and language to become
indistinguishable members of the Japanese nation, but also to naturally obey
the ies household head: Naichi-jin and their national government.3 Okinawans
were, consequently, saddled with a profoundly ambivalent identity: they were
perceived as authentic, even original, Japanese long estranged from Naichi-
jin, yet they were never allowed the same rights as Naichi-jin (Christy 1997,
158159; Oguma 1995, 374376). It took decades after the Japanese govern-
ments annexation of the Ryky Islands in 1879 for Okinawans to achieve the
same legal rights as Naichi-jin under the national constitution, while cultural
and linguistic assimilation, or dka, policies were still enforced by the Japanese
government (Oguma 1998, chapter 5).4
Okinawas ambiguous status within the Japanese nation-state created a psy-
chological trauma for Okinawans, especially when they encountered Japanese
Naichi-jin after immigrating to the Japanese mainland or overseas. A massive
emigration of Okinawans began soon after annexation, due to the increasingly
unstable Okinawan economy caused by the Japanese governments promotion
of monocultural sugarcane production in the prefecture. The first group of Oki-
nawans moved to Hawaii in 1899, and by 1927 some 26,500 Okinawans had
migrated overseas (Sakihara 1981, 15; see also Ishikawa 1973; Tomiyama 1990;
Rabson 2003). Even in overseas migratory destinations, however, Okinawans
could not entirely escape the colonial stigma of being almost the same, but not
quite Naichi-jin (Bhabha 1994, 86).5 As many historians and journalists re-
ported, Naichi-jin migrs in Hawaii, Brazil, and the islands of Micronesia of-
ten regarded their Okinawan counterparts as the other Japanese (Kaneshiro
2002; Ueunten 2002) and blatantly discriminated against them, accusing them
of being lazy, dirty, heavy-drinking, and, therefore, less civilized than Naichi-jin
(Ige 1981; Miki 1988; Peattie 1988; Tomiyama 1997; Toyama and Ikeda 1981).6
A common reaction by Okinawan migrs in these destinations to the Na-
ichi-jins prejudice was to strengthen their identification with their Japanese
nationality and relinquish what were perceived as uniquely Okinawan customs
and behaviors.7 For instance, sociologists Mori Kichi (2000, 2003) and Kozy
Amemiya (1999a) found that the leaders of Okinawan immigrant communi-
ties in prewar Brazil, who had been looked down upon by Naichi-jin immi-
grants and often neglected by the Japanese government, actively referred to
themselves as part of the larger Japanese immigrant community in their public

addresses and launched the Lifestyle Reform Movement (seikatsu kaizen

und), which prohibited them from speaking Uchinguchi (the Okinawan lan-
guage) or playing sanshin, a traditional Okinawan musical instrument, in pub-
lic.8 After World War II, Okinawan-Brazilians, especially Nisei, who foresaw
that their future would lie in Brazil, began to describe themselves as ken-jin
(prefectural people) and koronia-jin (people from an agricultural settlement),
rather than Okinawa-jin (Okinawans), to minimize their outsider status in the
Japanese-Brazilian community (Mori 2003, 43).9 In other instances, Okinawan
migrs also amplified their hostility toward and, occasionally, discrimination
against the local (non-Japanese/Okinawan) residents to be more closely as-
sociated with Naichi-jin immigrants. In the Micronesian islands during the
1930s, Okinawan migrs worked in harsher working conditions and received
lower wages than their Naichi-jin counterparts on sugarcane plantations.
The Okinawan migrs responded to the prejudice from the Naichi-jin colo-
nial bureaucrats, scholars, and their coworkers by amplifying discriminatory
behaviors against native Micronesians to demonstrate their proximity to the
Legal, socioeconomic, and psychological impacts of Japanese colonialism
on Okinawans and the Okinawan diaspora notwithstanding, these experiences
of Okinawan immigrants overseas reveal that the particular socioeconomic
and political situations in the host societies either divide Japanese and Oki-
nawan immigrant communities and identities or merge them. The Okinawan
immigration to Bolivia and transformations of Okinawan-Bolivian commu-
nities in the prewar and postwar eras also demonstrate that the boundaries
between Japaneseness and Okinawanness were variously drawn by Oki-
nawans who left Okinawa under different circumstances and that the changing
local and extralocal social conditions after their arrival in Bolivia influenced
their interpretations of what it is to be Japanese, Okinawan, and/or Bolivian.

Before Colonia Okinawa: Prewar Immigration

The first group of Okinawan immigrants in Bolivia entered the country via Peru,
where they were contract laborers on sugarcane plantation. The first Okinawan
immigrants to Peru, thirty-six men under the contract of the Meiji Coloniza-
tion Company (Meiji Shokumin Gaisha) from Tokyo, arrived in Callao in 1906.
After suffering from low wages and poor living conditions at a British-owned
sugar plantation in coastal Peru, a group of thirty Okinawans left for Bolivia to
work for the Inca Rubber Company, a United States enterprise, in 1910 (Tigner

1954, 474).11 In the 1890s, when automobile production in North America and
Europe dramatically increased, rubber became a highly desirable commodity
worldwide (Kunimoto 2000, 116). The rubber industry in the Bolivian Upper
Amazon, one of the few major rubber-producing areas in the world at the time,
was booming and attracting workers from around the world. During the peak
years of the rubber economy in the 1910s, some forty Okinawans worked in the
city of Riberalta and surrounding rainforest.12
After the international rubber market collapsed in the mid-1910s, most
Okinawans settled in cities like Riberalta, Trinidad, Oruro, and La Paz (Sat
1997, 22; Tigner 1954, 476). The number of Okinawans in Riberalta reached fif-
ty-five in 1930; among them only three were women (Shioiri 2000, 159; Tigner
1954, 475). The growth of the Okinawan population in Bolivia was very limited
after the peak of the rubber economy, and many Okinawan immigrants left
Bolivia altogether, leaving the Okinawan population before the 1950s relatively
small: the estimated Okinawan Issei population in 1952 was ninety-four (sev-
enty-four men and twenty-two women), with 220 Nisei (Tigner 1954, 471).13
The number of Naichi-jin immigrants also remained small during the same pe-
riod; the only increase came from the practice of yobiyose (summoning family
members, relatives, and friends from the homeland) by the immigrants already
living in Bolivia (Table 1).
While records of prewar Okinawan immigrants are scarce, available ac-
counts indicate that unlike Okinawan migrs in Hawaii or Micronesia, who
suffered discrimination by Naichi-jin (Sellek 2003, 7980) and formed, in
response, self-segregated Okinawan enclaves, the Okinawan immigrants in
Bolivia reportedly neither experienced conflicts with Naichi-jin immigrants
nor established exclusive communities apart from them. Business partnerships

table 1. Prewar Naichi-jin and Okinawan immigrant populations in Bolivia


19001915 300 (re-migrants from Peru) 40 (re-migrants from Peru)

108 (re-migrants from Peru) 5 (re-migrants from Peru)

25 (yobiyose from Japan) 29 (yobiyose from Okinawa)

Total 433 126

Source: Tigner 1954, 477


and intermarriage between Okinawans and Naichi-jin were not uncommon,

and both groups participated in pan-Nikkei organizations. In fact, unlike most
other Okinawan immigrant communities overseas, Okinawans in Bolivia nev-
er established a kenjinkai (prefectural peoples association) in the prewar years;
instead, they cofounded the first Japanese Association with other Naichi-jin
immigrants in La Paz in 1922. Okinawans apparently had equal standing with
Naichi-jin members within the association, evidenced by the fact that all
nineteen Okinawans living in La Paz in 1952 belonged to the association, and
Okinawans occupied three of the ten seats on the board of directors. As was
observed in 1954, it seemed that in Bolivia Naichi-jin discrimination against
Okinawans was minimal, and, consequently, Okinawans showed little sign of
an inferiority complex (Tigner 1954, 484) toward Naichi-jin.
A pressing issue for Okinawans in Bolivia was the fragmentation of the
Okinawan immigrant community into socioeconomically successful members
in urban areas, largely business owners and professionals, and struggling mem-
bers in rural areas, mostly small-scale shopkeepers and laborers.14 The gap in
socioeconomic status between the two groups also affected their marriage
patterns. While Okinawans in La Paz by the 1930s had accumulated enough
wealth to bring so-called picture brides from Okinawa Prefecture to Bolivia,
the vast majority of those in rural areas intermarried with non-Nikkei Bolivian
women (Tigner 1954, 485, 487497; Furuki 2000, 134135).15 It was reported
that many of the Issei Okinawans who married poor Bolivian women struggled
economically, while a small number of those who married yobiyose Okinawan
women or non-Nikkei Bolivian women of middle- or upper-class backgrounds
were affluent business owners in cities.16
It was within this context that ethnic Okinawan community leaders called
for a new Okinawan immigration and settlement project after World War II,
as a way of not only rescuing their ancestral homeland from the devastation
of the war, but also revitalizing their own ethnic communities in Bolivia. In
1949, after raising funds and sending goods to war-ravaged Okinawa to help
their countrymen, President Gushi Kanch of the Riberalta Association for
Rescuing Okinawa from War Damage (Riberaruta Okinawa Sensai Kyen-kai)
proposed a plan to build an Okinawan village (Okinawa-mura) in Bolivia to
truly rescue our Okinawan brothers and to strive for our everlasting nation-
al development (Gushi, quoted in Aniya 1995, 57). After Gushi and others
searched for an ideal location for the settlement, the Uruma Agricultural Soci-
ety (Uruma Ngy Kumiai) was founded by sixteen Issei Okinawans in 1949.17
The society purchased 2,500 hectares of land in Santa Cruz Prefecture, hoping

that not only new immigrants from Okinawa but also Okinawans from all over
Bolivia would join in the construction of the new village. One of the founding
members of the Uruma Society expressed his hope for the plan: For the pur-
pose of raising our successors in this country, this plan must be materialized
(Aniya 1995, 57). It is worth noting that most Uruma Society members, who
were eager to bring new Okinawan immigrants to Bolivia, were from Riberalta
and Santa Cruz rather than La Paz, the urban center where most of the pros-
perous Okinawans resided. Witnessing fellow Okinawan immigrants rapid as-
similation into Bolivian society and declining socioeconomic status, the con-
struction of an Okinawan village represented to them a means to regenerate
the fledgling ethnic communities. The postwar Okinawan immigration project
was, in this sense, conceived as the prewar Okinawan immigrants effort to
maintain racialized boundaries vis--vis non-Nikkei Bolivians, especially those
of rural and lower-class backgrounds.

Postwar Okinawa and the Emigration Project

The Okinawan-Bolivian community was dramatically transformed, or, more
accurately, reinvented, by the new immigration that began in 1954. In addi-
tion to the aforementioned ethnic Okinawan community leaders in Bolivia,
the immigration and settlement project was orchestrated by three major insti-
tutionsthe United States military administration of Okinawa, the local Oki-
nawan (Ryky) government overseen by the United States military adminis-
tration, and the Bolivian governmentall of which had different motivations
and intentions.
The United States military administration played the most significant role
in planning and executing the Colonia Okinawa project. The tragic Battle of
Okinawa in the spring of 1945, during which one-fourth of the entire popula-
tion of Okinawa Prefectures main island (Hont) died, was followed by Japans
surrender to the Allies on August 15. Immediately, the United States military
assumed governance of Okinawas land and population, an arrangement that
would last for twenty-seven years, until Okinawas reversion to Japan in 1972.
Instead of returning the land to Japan, the United States government decided
to retain Okinawa and to transform the islands into the largest United States
military stronghold in East Asia against the perceived communist threat in
the region. This peculiar mode of governance by the United States military
transformed Okinawans from colonized subjects under imperial Japan into
nationless subjects with no legal protection under any state constitution. In

December 1950, the military administration was renamed the United States
Civil Administration of the Ryky Islands (USCAR), which subsequently
founded the Government of the Ryky Islands (the Ryky government here-
after) in 1952. The Ryky government consisted of locally elected officials and
was in charge of the administrative and legislative functions of Okinawa but
was obliged to obey executive orders from USCAR, which also maintained the
right to nominate the governments head.18
With the memories of the oppressive dka (cultural and linguistic assimila-
tion) policies by the Japanese government in the preceding years and the Impe-
rial Armys violence against Okinawan civilians during the Battle of Okinawa
still vivid, many Okinawans initially welcomed governance by the United States.
Their hopes for a better future, however, quickly dissipated as the United States
government showed little interest in protecting Okinawans rights. Unlike the
Japanese government, which had adopted Okinawa as a child of the Japa-
nese family state, the United States government had no intention of annexing
Okinawa or legally naturalizing and culturally Americanizing Okinawans. The
United States governments main goal in Okinawa was, after all, to provide
a stable environment for the construction of military bases (Yoshimi 2003,
Many local Okinawans, with few employment opportunities in the war-
torn islands, worked at the military facilities, but they were paid substantially
lower wages than the legal minimum wage set by the Ryky governments
labor laws. Without legal protection under the United States or Japanese con-
stitution, local Okinawan workers were not allowed collective bargaining, and
those who protested or disobeyed USCARs orders were accused of being com-
munists and often arrested on civil disturbance charges (Oguma 1998, 504,
474476).20 As Okinawans became increasingly pessimistic about their future
in Okinawa under United States rule, many looked for a way to leave Okinawa
to improve their lives. Many Issei in Colonia Okinawa were among those who
had once worked unhappily for the United States military and sought emi-
gration as a way to escape. Responding to a survey conducted by Okinawan
researchers, approximately 10 percent of Issei cited their dislike of living under
United States occupation, especially of working for the military, as a primary
reason for their decision to emigrate (Nakayama et al. 1986, 45).21
Okinawans frustration grew further as the United States military began
expanding the bases on the island in the wake of the Korean War in June 1950.
In April 1953, USCAR released the Compulsory Land Expropriation Order,
which permitted the military to remove Okinawan residents and to seize their

land regardless of the landowners will. By the end of 1953, United States bases
occupied 14 percent of the entire main island, or 42 percent of the islands
farmland (shiro 1992, 99).22 Postwar Okinawas job and land shortages were
further compounded by the mass return of Okinawans from the former oversea
territories of imperial Japan. Immediately after the war, all Japanese civilians,
including approximately 100,000 Okinawansnearly one-third of the prefec-
tures total population at the timein Japans overseas territories were ordered
by the United States to return to Japan (JICA Okinawa 1985, 44). Those who
returned to Okinawa, a total of 56,900, without farmland or employment had
no choice but to take service jobs on the United States military bases. It was
no surprise that a survey by the Ryky government revealed that the majority
of the returnees from former Japanese colonies expressed their wish to re-em-
igrate overseas (Sellek 2003, 86). Those who immigrated to Colonia Okinawa
were among those who were eager to re-emigrate. Nearly one-third of Issei in
Colonia Okinawa had once lived outside Okinawa or the Japanese mainland,
and among them, three-fourths were returnees from former Japanese colonies,
such as Taiwan, Micronesia, and Manchuria (Nakayama et al. 1986, 3132).
During my own fieldwork, I also encountered a number of Issei who had spent
their childhood or adolescence in Nany (Southern Sea, a Japanese term for
Micronesia)for example, Saipan and Palauand Manchuria, and found the
return to devastated and crowded Okinawa after the war very difficult. An Issei
interviewee told me why he applied for the emigration project after a number
of attempts to emigrate during the war:

My father lived in the Philippines when he was young. He used to

tell me stories about his experience [in the Philippines] . . . growing
Manila cotton, the local peoples lifestyles, deforesting in Mindanao
[Island], and so forth. As a boy, I listened to his tales and dreamed,
Someday I will also emigrate. . . . During the war, I wanted to go to
Manchuria badly, wanted to join the Manchuria Colonization Team
(Mansh Kaitaku-dan). . . . So I had always dreamed of [large-scale]
continental farming [tairiku ngy]. . . . But before I could actually
go there, the war ended. . . . I returned to Okinawa [from the Japanese
mainland] a few years after the war ended. . . . I farmed only for a year
or so before I was hired by the [United States] military, then I became
a member of the Special Police [tokkei] under the military. . . . But my
desire had always been to enjoy life with all my family in one large
home. Then, I heard about the Bolivia immigration project.

Okinawan returnees from the former colonies of imperial Japan who viewed
overseas migration as a chance to escape from the confinement of Okinawa
waited impatiently for an opportunity (see Ishiki 1995; Amemiya 1999c).
USCAR and the Ryky government, who were well aware of Okinawans
growing frustration with the land shortage, unemployment or underemploy-
ment, and their legal status as second-class citizens, considered a sponsored
emigration project as a possible solution, which they also believed might pre-
vent communism from spreading in the islands. They sent James L. Tigner of
the Hoover Institute and Library at Stanford University to numerous Latin
American countries in search of a possible destination for the Okinawan emi-
grants. Tigner and Paul H. Skuse, the chief of the Public Safety Division of
USCAR, explained the value of the project:

The Okinawan people are traditionally farmers and ownership of land

is one of their most cherished desires in life. Okinawa, with its rising
population and decreasing areas of available land, will offer progres-
sively less future for the farming population. Restiveness and dis-
satisfaction will inevitably accompany the waning prospects of land
ownership and fading hopes for an adequate livelihood, particularly
among the youth of Okinawa. Since Communists appeal to the youth
of a nation, and with apparent success in many areas of the Commu-
nist dominated world, the youth of Okinawa represent a potentially
vulnerable element of the population. The prospects of obtaining large
tracts of free land in a distant community as afforded by an emigra-
tion program will give fresh hope to the youth and in this way serve to
cope with their discontent and susceptibility to the Communists false
promises of reward. (Tigner 1954, 522)

Although it is debatable whether land expropriation would have prompted the

spread of communism in Okinawa, USCAR felt it needed a drastic measure
to reduce the population pressure in the islands and appease the increasingly
disgruntled Okinawans.
Okinawans, facing a bleak future under the military occupation, embraced
the emigration plan. Responding to the public notice for sponsored migra-
tion to Bolivia, which guaranteed fifty hectares of farmland for each migrant
household, 3,591 applications were sent to the Ryky government for the four
hundred slots in only eighteen days (Ishikawa 1995, 31). As the migrants were
expected to take part in hard physical labor, such as clearing land and farming,

and to reside in an underdeveloped area for a long period of time, commissions

from local municipalities and the Ryky government looked for candidates
with previous farming experience and households with at least two members
who could work immediately after their arrival in Bolivia. As a result, relatively
young men in their twenties and thirties and their spouses and young children
made up the majority of those who won the stiff competition (ibid., 2630,
3839). Many Issei interviewees in Colonia Okinawa recalled how excited they
were about the prospect of leaving the crowded and impoverished island, ob-
taining a large tract of farmland, and starting a new life in a foreign land. Taira
Hiroshi, an Issei, told me: After graduating from high school, I took jobs here
and there [at the military bases]. Then I was attracted to the advertisement that
said that I would be given fifty hectares [of farmland]. In Okinawa, there was
no landlord who owned fifty hectares. My village as a whole was only sixty-
some hectares large. When I was leaving for Bolivia, I was excited, thinking, I
will become a landlord of land as big as my village!
USCAR considered Santa Cruz Prefecture of Bolivia a desirable destination
for the Okinawan immigration and settlement project not only because of the
campaign by the existing ethnic Okinawan communities in Bolivia to bring in
new immigrants, but also because of the Bolivian governments enthusiastic
acceptance of Okinawan immigrants. The Bolivian government expected them
to be a potent force to develop the fertile but sparsely populated land of Santa
Cruz Prefecture, after numerous attempts to attract European immigrants to
the area since the late nineteenth century had failed.23 After the national revolu-
tion of 1952 and the subsequent agrarian reform of 1953 by the Revolutionary
Nationalist Movement (Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario), the Bolivi-
an government desperately needed to increase sagging agricultural production
to meet domestic needs.24 Unlike in the western altiplano, where the Revolu-
tionary Nationalist government rigorously pursued redistribution of latifun-
dia, in the eastern lowland the government promoted an economic policy of
agricultural enterprise, a mode of large-scale agricultural production using
modern technology and wage labor, allowing a small number of affluent elites
to retain large tracts of land. The government then funneled economic invest-
ments to the lowland regions and to individuals who had been less affected by
the agrarian reform (Gill 1987, 36).25 Part of the new governments economic
development plan was domestic and international migration and settlement in
the eastern lowland. North-central Santa Cruz was the destination of several
such domestic migration and settlement programs. In encouraging the reloca-
tion of thousands of landless peasants from the altiplano to nationally owned

wilderness in the region, the government hoped to relieve population pressure

in the altiplano and to divert attention away from the possibilities of a more
radical agrarian reform (ibid., 38).26
Other settlements of foreign immigrants, including Italians, North Amer-
ican Mennonites, and Naichi-jin Japanese, were also being planned, but the
Okinawan immigration and settlement program was the first project granted.
The Bolivian government released an ordinance in June 1953, which revealed
the governments high expectation for the Okinawan immigrants productivity:
The Bolivian government demands that all immigrants who would settle as
farmers have a certain amount of agricultural and stock-raising experience.
Those who do not fulfill these requirements . . . are subject to repatriate to the
homeland at the expense of the Uruma Society (cited in Oshimoto 1970, 75).
In September 1952, USCAR officially mandated the Okinawan migration and
settlement program in Santa Cruz Prefecture, allocating US$160,000 to cover
the cost of transportation for the first four hundred immigrants. The plan was
finalized in June 1953, when Bolivian President Paz Estenssoro granted per-
mission for the entrance of 3,000 families or 12,000 individual Okinawan im-
migrants in a ten-year period, giving them nationally owned, heavily wooded
land near the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. The first group of settlers suffered
from a mysterious epidemic disease, later named Uruma disease, which killed
fifteen settlers in the first eight months, and had to move twice before finally
moving into the current Colonia Uno, or Daiichi Ijchi, location between 1955
and 1956. To accommodate the incoming Okinawan settlers, who reached
nearly 1,000 in 1958, the Okinawan leaders purchased more land from the Bo-
livian government, expanding the settlement with the founding of Colonia Dos
(Daini Ijchi) in 1959 and Colonia Trs (Daisan Ijchi) in 1962 near Colonia
Uno. By 1964, the total Okinawan population in Colonia Okinawa was more
than 3,200, or more than five hundred households (Table 2).

Semisubsistent Farming (19541960s)

The early settlement years from the mid-1950s to the late 1960s were char-
acterized by the Okinawan settlers relative independence from and neglect
by the United States, Bolivian, and Japanese governments. This inattention by
national authorities had three major implications for the settlers: First, they
struggled to survive in an underdeveloped rural village with little financial
and political support from the indifferent United States and Bolivian govern-
ments and the resource-strapped Ryky government. Second, because of the

table 2. Ryukyu government-sponsored migration to Bolivia

No. Group Persons in Singles Total Arrival

Households Households Year/Month

1 62 215 57 272 1954/8

2 21 113 16 129 1954/9
3 29 109 13 122 1956/2
4 40 209 5 214 1957/12
5 44 215 5 220 1958/5
6 38 213 4 217 1959/1
7 45 242 2 244 1959/7
8 34 207 1 208 1959/9
9 19 124 5 129 1960/4
10 29 175 5 180 1960/6
11 23 156 0 156 1961/4
12 20 138 0 138 1961/6
13 27 185 0 185 1961/8
14 30 198 0 198 1962/4
15 28 193 0 193 1962/5
16 27 116 2 118 1962/7
17 16 120 0 120 1963/6
18 14 71 5 76 1963/6
19 19 98 4 102 1964/6
Total 565 3,097 124 3,221

Source: Ishikawa 1992, 33

Coloniassocial and geographic separation from the Japanese government and

other Japanese Naichi-jin, the settlers were able to maintain Okinawan customs
and language with relative ease. Finally, being placed within the local class and
ethnic dynamics of lowland Bolivian society, the Okinawan settlers, who were
still without legal citizenship, self-identified as Japanese national subjects
and upper-class patrones, or large-scale farm owners, vis--vis the Bolivian
laborers whom the settlers employed.
Similar to the approach to Okinawa under the United States occupation, the
Japanese government largely stayed out of Okinawan-Bolivian affairs, because

it was afraid of causing waves in its bilateral relationship with the United
States. The Japanese government nonetheless continued to claim vaguely
defined residual sovereignty over the Okinawans in Bolivia and was afraid
that a failed Colonia Okinawa project might damage Japans international
reputation (Tamashiro 1979, 96). The lack of legal citizenship troubled the
Okinawans in Bolivia as it had back in Okinawa before the migration. An Issei
interviewee, who immigrated to Bolivia in 1954, told me that when he and his
friends traveled to So Paulo, Brazil, they were detained at the airport, because,
according to the immigration official, their certificates were issued by neither
the Japanese nor the American government. He bitterly recalled how unhelp-
ful the Japanese embassy in So Paulo was and how helpless he felt as a citi-
zen of no country.27 To meet the communitys basic needs, such as securing a
water supply and maintaining roads in and around the village, officials from the
Ryky government had to negotiate with the Bolivian and the United States
governments as well as with many international agencies to improve the Oki-
nawan settlers welfare (Ij 1987). The Okinawan settlers had hoped that the
Japanese government would recognize them as its citizens and provide them
with legal protection and technical, financial, and administrative assistance
(Oshimoto 1970, 71).28
Even though the Okinawan settlers desired Japanese legal citizenship in
hopes of obtaining assistance from the Japanese government, the communitys
detachment from Naichi-jin and the Japanese government allowed the settlers
a certain psychological freedom. Unlike the Okinawan immigrants elsewhere
who organized a Lifestyle Reform Movement, those in Colonia Okinawa did
not feel compelled to assimilate themselves into mainland Japanese culture,
however it was defined.29 Issei recalled that although they learned standard
Japanese in school when they grew up in Okinawa before immigrating to Bo-
livia, they hardly used it in Bolivia during the early settlement years, while
those who had immigrated from Okinawas off-lying islands or rural villages
on the northern main island (Hont) remembered that they had to get used to
the standard Okinawan language, which is used in the Shuri area of Hont,
because this language became the common means of communication among
the settlers. In addition to language, the settlers maintained a variety of cus-
toms and arts from their ancestral villages in Okinawa. The second anniversary
of the foundation of Colonia Okinawa in 1958,30 for instance, was celebrated
with village theater (murashibai), plays based on a variety of local folktales of
villages across Okinawa, Okinawan classical dance (Ryky buy), and sanshin
recitals, all performed by the settlers themselves (Ij 1987, 254). Some Issei

interviewees recalled that, during the early years of settlement, members of

the community frequently gathered and ate Okinawan cuisine, such as roast
pig, and enjoyed Okinawan folk songs, dances, and plays performed by fellow
settlers in the Okinawan language at social functions such as harvest festivals
and weddings.
The Okinawan settlers relative isolation from the Japanese government and
Japanese Naichi-jin resulted in the re-formation of the settlers group identity
within the particular racial and ethnic contexts of lowland Bolivia. Bolivian
society has been, Diego Saucedo argues, fundamentally structured around the
class-stratified and racialized bipolarity between Indians (indios) and whites
(blancos) (Saucedo 1996, 95). Blancos in modern Bolivia are not necessarily de-
fined by their pale skin or Iberian origin, but they are those who speak Span-
ish, and identify generally with western notions of civilization, progress, (neo)
liberal market relations, and citizens rights, and hold sway over economic,
legislative, and judicial power (Stephenson 1999, 23). In contrast, indios are
thought of as impoverished, illiterate, and uncivilized subjects and situated
politically and economically at the periphery of the incipient culture of moder-
nity (Larson 1995, 29, cited in Stephenson 1999, 3).31
While maintaining the underlying blanco-indio polarity of Bolivian society
at large, Santa Cruz Prefecture has shaped its own unique race-class strati-
fications. Thanks to the prefectures geographic isolation from the altiplano
until the twentieth century, Santa Cruzs disproportionately large population
of Spanish descendants who originally moved from the La Plata region, and the
prefectures fierce desire to maintain local autonomy from political authorities,
such as the Spanish viceroys in Peru during the colonial era and the revolving-
door presidents of the newly independent Bolivia, Santa Cruz has created its
own ethnoracial category, camba. The term camba, which is believed to have
its origin in the Guaran word meaning friend, initially referred to the peasant
class in the region but has become over time an inclusive category for Santa
Cruz residents, both peasants and landlords (Stearman 1985, 20). Camba for
the most part are mestizo, mixed descendants of highland Indian (Quechua
and Aymara), lowland Indian (Guaran, Guarayo, Chiquitano, and many more),
European (primarily from southern Spain), and perhaps African (former slaves
who fled from Brazilian plantations) heritages. The category, therefore, alludes
to the groups presumably stronger European heritage in their genes and physi-
cal features than those living in the altiplano.32
Those who were identified as neither indio nor blanco in Bolivia, such as
non-European immigrants and their descendants, had to either acculturate

themselves to pass as blancos or demonstrate resources other than Euro-

pean heritage that indicated their familiarity with modernity to gain social
prestige. For instance, Arabs and Jews in Bolivia, most of whom immigrated
in the early twentieth century, are identified neither as indios nor simply as
blancos, but instead as extranjeros, or foreigners. The category of extranjeros
implies their integration into the industrial capitalist economy and interna-
tional networks, thereby presenting them as people who must be shown re-
spect and an upper-level social group who are urban and worldly (Oster-
weil 1998, 151), in contrast with bolivianos, who are viewed as being confined
within the peripheries of the global political economy. In modern Bolivian
society, in short, ones race-as-capital draws its symbolic value from two
sources: either being a blanco, whose presumed Iberian heritage supposedly
manifests in an individuals physical features and cultural practices, or being
an extranjero, who is allegedly equipped with transnational resources that
are unavailable to other bolivianos. Within these local racial-class dynamics,
the Okinawan settlers were positioned, and positioned themselves, as Japa-
nese extranjeros, thus gaining upper-level social group status in Colonia
Soon after their arrival in the 1950s, the Okinawan settlers employed lo-
cal camba as inexpensive labor for clearing fields and harvesting rice (Hira-
oka 1980, 97; Mori 1998b, 3738). The practice of hiring farming laborers was
nothing new in this region. Before the agrarian reform in the 1950s, just as
campesinos in the altiplano had been tied to the hacienda, an agricultural es-
tablishment inherited from the colonial era, poor lowlanders were subjugated
to a large-scale farm called a finca. The finca owners, or patrones, in Santa
Cruz tied their farm laborers, or peons, not by a long tradition of servitude
on the hacienda but by debt that no peon could possibly pay off with their
low wage (Stearman 1985, 2829).33 With little experience in slash-and-burn
agriculture and a lack of knowledge of local vegetation, the Okinawan settlers
quickly realized the necessity of hiring local camba to clear the land, plant, and
harvest. Patterning themselves after other camba patrones in the region, they
had little difficulty finding and employing agricultural laborers for their farms,
using a few phrases and words in Spanishsuch as how much, one hectare,
cutting trees, and plantingthey learned from the dictionary (Mori 1998b,
38).34 Through this labor practice, the Okinawan settlers gradually established
a distinction between themselves and those whom they referred to as Boribia-
jin (Bolivians) or genchi-jin (locals). Meanwhile, they were referred to simply
as los japoneses by local camba, who did not or could not distinguish Okinawa

from Japanthe newcomers were simply Japanese in their eyes, and what
mattered to them was that those Japanese were patrones who employed tra-
bajadores, or laborers.

Engagement by the Japanese State

and Farming Expansion (19701980s)
The 1970s were a turning point for Okinawan-Bolivians with respect to farming,
their relationship with the Japanese government, and their socioeconomic po-
sition within Colonia Okinawa. Unlike rice and corn production in the 1950s
and 1960s, which was fundamentally for subsistence, in the 1970s and 1980s
the Okinawan settlers turned their farms into large-scale commercial enter-
prises, thanks to newly available financial assistance from the Japanese govern-
ment. Accompanying these changes was a rapid demographic shift: a sharp
decline in the Okinawan population and a mass immigration of non-Nikkei
Bolivians, particularly from the altiplano. For the Okinawan settlers, the 1970s
also marked a renewal of their relationship with the Japanese government, af-
ter it became a sponsor and overseer of the Colonia in 1967. The Japanese
government had little sociocultural influence on the everyday lives of the ma-
jority of Okinawans in Colonia Okinawa, as the number of Naichi-jin govern-
ment agency staff members who were stationed in the Colonia remained small.
Under these circumstances, in the 1970s and 1980s, the Okinawan-Bolivian
community in Colonia Okinawa steadily cemented their Japanese positional-
ity vis--vis local Bolivians without sacrificing the Okinawan language and
Okinawan customs even after Colonia Okinawa came under the Japanese gov-
ernments supervision.
In the mid- to late 1960s, Colonia Okinawa suffered from repeated floods
and droughts, which resulted in the departure of approximately 40 percent of
the settlers by 1967 (Tsujimoto 1999, 1314).35 During the same period, Oki-
nawas reversion to Japan became imminent, which prompted a discussion re-
garding the Japanese governments replacement of the United States Techni-
cal Assistance Mission (USTAM) in administering the community affairs of
Colonia Okinawa. Okinawan settlers were delighted by the takeover by the
Kaigai Ij Jigydan (Overseas Migration Agency), a predecessor of the Japan
International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which was a division of the Japanese
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but were concerned about whether the Overseas
Migration Agency would treat the immigrants from Okinawawhich, after
all, was still governed by the United Statesas legitimate Japanese citizens

(Higa 2000, 250251). On July 1, 1967, the Japanese government officially

replaced USTAM and began stationing staff in Colonia Okinawa to help the
community. Okinawans in Bolivia legally became Japanese citizens five years
before Okinawasreversion to Japan in 1972.
The Japanese governments involvement with Colonia Okinawa began with
improvement of the communitys social infrastructure, such as fortifying the
decaying roads and furnishing the central hospital with new medical equip-
ment (Aniya 1995, 118). In addition, the Overseas Migration Agency attempt-
ed to help Okinawan settlers recover from the flood in 1968 by introducing
large-scale, mechanized, and commercial cotton production, an experiment
that ended in devastating failure after the collapse of the international cotton
market in 1975 (Higa 2000, 252).36 The failure of cotton production dealt a final
blow to many struggling Okinawan farmers, who left Colonia Okinawa for Bra-
zil, Argentina, and Okinawa, after liquidating their assets (Tsujimoto 1998a,
280).37 Between the early 1960s and 1979, the number of Okinawan-Bolivian
households in Colonia Okinawa decreased from more than 500 to 213, while
the resident population declined from 3,200 to 1,344 (Table 3).
Along with the decreasing Okinawan population, another significant out-
come of the failed cotton production experiment was the mass influx and set-
tlement of domestic Bolivian migrants from the altiplano. To fulfill the need for
manual labor for cotton harvesting, the Issei leaders of the Cooperativa Agro-
pecuaria Integral Colonias Okinawa (CAICO), or Colonia Okinawa Integral
Agricultural Cooperative, went as far as to Chuquisaca and Potos prefectures
in central Bolivia to bring laborers to Colonia Okinawa (Gushiken 1998, 96).

table 3. Estimated Colonia Okinawa population (1997)

Colonia Nikkei Nikkei Nikkei Nikkei Non-Nikkei

Households Men Women Total Total


Okinawa Uno 126 232 224 456 4,500

Okinawa Dos 59 110 115 225 500
Okinawa Trs 29 67 73 73 500
Total 214 409 412 821 5,500

Source: Nichibo Kykai 1997b


The cotton boom in Colonia Okinawa, and Santa Cruz Prefecture in general,
had significant demographic consequences. In 1974, 34,000 peasants from the
altiplano were brought to work on cotton farms as pickers in the lowland area,
and more than half reportedly have stayed (Stearman 1985, 36). Many cotton
pickers in Colonia Okinawa also stayed in the area after the boom economy
abruptly ended in the mid-1970s, realizing that they could take advantage of
plentiful year-round employment opportunities on the Okinawan settlers
farms (Mori 1998b, 42). As a result of these economic and demographic chang-
es, Okinawan settlers in Colonia Okinawa turned themselves into large-scale
commercial farm owners, who, after their short-lived cotton production, grew
wheat, sorghum, and, more recently, soy and sunflowers.
To some Issei, the influx of the new immigrants from the altiplano, locally
referred to as kolla, presented a potential challenge to the majority status of
Okinawan-Bolivians in the village, and their anxiety over the kolla influx was
further fueled by the stereotype associated with the group.38 Owing to the
centuries-old political divide between the highland and lowland regions and
the purported racial differences between highlanders and lowlanders, there
was deep distrust and antagonism between camba and kolla, exhibited in vari-
ous stereotypes the groups projected on each other. Camba claimed that kolla
might be hard workers but were untrustworthy, dirty, shrewd, and culturally
backward, while kolla could be heard to say that camba were lazy, drunken, and
roguish (Mori 1998b, 59; Stearman 1985, 208).39 The Okinawan settlers also
adopted the local ethnic stereotypes (lazy but easygoing camba and hard-
working but shrewd kolla). The very reason that kolla were brought to Colonia
Okinawa in the 1970s was their supposedly superior work ethic. A CAICO offi-
cial, who was in charge of recruiting the kolla cotton pickers, stated that camba
were not suited for work that requires patience and attention to details, while
kolla were more hardworking and meticulous (Gushiken 1998, 96).
The stereotypes of the kolla newcomers also made some Okinawan set-
tlers nervous. An Issei interviewee expressed his view of kolla, in contrast with
camba and those whom he called whites (hakujin) in the Bolivian lowland:

People from the mountains [kolla] are punctual, while camba always
say [they will do an assigned task] maana [tomorrow]. Wherever
you have a hot climate all year and foods are always available, people
are easygoing, whereas people who live in cold climates and harsh
environments work hard. All kolla can do math, so they dont get
duped by whites [i.e., farm owners], but people of Santa Cruz [camba]

are simpleand not educated, so they are easily ripped off by whites
[hakujin]. The whites want to hire those who can do math, but some
patrones dont like to hire smart ones. The smart ones may help you,
but they may also do something bad to you.40

His statement exemplifies Okinawan-Bolivians mixed feelings of respect and

anxiety toward kolla, who were viewed as being hardworking but potentially
dangerous and smart but culturally alien.
In reality, most kolla newcomers, like their camba predecessors, became
farm laborers for Okinawan patrones, construction workers, or small retail
business owners in Colonia Okinawa and were far from posing a real threat
to Okinawan settlers dominant socioeconomic status. It is more appropri-
ate, therefore, to interpret the Okinawan settlers anxiety over the kolla im-
migration in the 1970s as a reflection of the settlers uneasiness regarding the
fast-changing population ratio in the Colonia and the increasing instability of
commercial agriculture, which had become susceptible to trends in the global
agricultural market that were beyond their control (Tsujimoto 1998a, 281).
The decrease in population and the destabilization of farming as an enter-
prise in the 1970s were crucial factors in the dekasegi migration of the 1980s
and 1990s. Migration to Japan represented to the Okinawan ethnic community
an opportunity to revitalize Colonia Okinawa, in which they were outnum-
bered by non-Nikkei Bolivians and their capital-intensive farming businesses
had become vulnerable. The Okinawan-Bolivians expected the dekasegi migra-
tion to provide them with an alternative income source, which would prevent
the remaining farm owners from abandoning their operations and leaving the
community. In this way, the Okinawan-Bolivians dekasegi migration to Japan
can be understood as the communitys strategy to maintain their endangered
extranjero status, the source of their economic, social, and cultural capital in
rural Bolivian society.

Dekasegi Migration to Japan

After dramatic expansion and commercialization during the 1970s, Oki-
nawan-Bolivian farmers became a major force in soybean production. In 1991,
CAICO reported that its members soybean production, 392,000 tons, was
approximately9 percent of the entire soy production of the prefecture of Santa
Cruz that year, and their wheat production, 48,400 tons, was more than 12
percent of the prefectures (CAICO 1991). Okinawan-Bolivians prominence in

agriculture was also apparent in the amount of land they had under production.
In 1996, Okinawan-Bolivian farmers owned 26,856 hectares of soybean fields,
which was 6 percent of the entire soybean farmland of the nation, and 9,750
hectares of wheat farmland, or 7 percent of the national total (Nomura Eisaku
1998, 20; CAICO 1996). Despite this apparent prosperity during the 1980s and
1990s, the era also witnessed a steady population decrease due to Niseis deka-
segi migration to Japan.41
My Okinawan-Bolivian interviewees generally agreed that the peak years
of dekasegi migration to Japan were in the second half of the 1980s. After the
mid-1990s, they claimed, more people returned to the Colonia than left it.
The available statistics seem to support this impression. It was estimated that
approximately four hundred Okinawan-Bolivians left for dekasegi to Japan
from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, before the numbers decreased in the
mid-1990s. The Okinawan-Bolivian population in Colonia Okinawa actually
increased, albeit slowly, in the second half of the 1990s, while out-migration
still continued. Since 1995, the total Okinawan-Bolivian population in Colo-
nia Okinawa has been consistently around 800 to 850, and population changes
have remained small.42 The most significant demographic consequence of the
dekasegi migration in the 1990s was the absence of young Nisei residents in
their twenties and the thirties. In 2000, more than half of the Okinawan-Boliv-
ian Nisei between the ages of eighteen and thirty resided in Japan after having
left Colonia Okinawa. When I attended a ceremony to celebrate new adults in
Colonia Okinawa in January 2001, only one of seven Nisei who would become
twenty-years old was present, while the rest were listed as currently living in
Japan and thus unable to attend.
Okinawan-Bolivians dekasegi migration was, at the macro level, shaped

Emigration to Japan

by the capitalist world system (Wallerstein 1974), which has created and
maintained a structural linkage between the sending country (Bolivia) of pe-
ripheral blocs and the receiving country (Japan) of core blocs of the global
economy (Portes and Walton 1981; Sassen 1988; Glick Schiller et al. 1992).
Domestic and regional factors also help us understand why Japan, among many
core nation-states, was chosen by the Okinawan-Bolivians as their migra-
tory destination, why the migration persisted after the initial causal factors had
become insignificant, and why the migrants came from certain socioeconomic
backgrounds (Castles and Miller 1998; Grasmuck and Pesar 1991; Parreas
2001). Sociologist Wayne Cornelius (1998) claims that transnational migration
often becomes structurally embedded in the local socioeconomic systems of
the sending and receiving communities, and migration flows tend to persist
regardless of the initiating factors. For those migrants, migration becomes so-
cialized and normalized (Yamanaka and Iwanise Koga 1996) as they create
and strengthen transnational institutions and connections between their mi-
gratory origin and destination (Chavez 1988; Glick Schiller et al. 1995; Margo-
lis 1994; Rouse 1991).
A crucial factor in Okinawan-Bolivians dekasegi migration to Japan was
the Japanese governments nationality law (kokuseki-h), which allows the sec-
ond-generation offspring of Japanese immigrants overseas to obtain Japanese
citizenship and a passport. Nisei, as well as Issei, faced no legal obstacle to
traveling to and working in Japan. Once the dekasegi migration to Japan be-
came a sustained trend in the late 1980s and 1990s, it became structurally em-
bedded and socially normalized, creating what Douglass Massay et al. called a
culture of migration. As dekasegi migration has grown prevalent, it has be-
come deeply ingrained into the repertoire of peoples behaviors, and values

Colonia Okinawa population


associated with migration become part of the communitys values (Massay

et al. 1993, 452453). Okinawan-Bolivians came to view the migration as an
ordinary, even natural, choice in their lives. At the micro level, the dekasegi
migration can also be understood as a tactical response by Okinawan-Bolivian
families and individuals to larger societal conditions in which they were placed
(Boyd 1989; Chen 1992; Portes and Borocz 1989; Sorensen 1998; Stoller 1996).
The migration was an outcome of the generational shift in Okinawan-Bolivian
families in Colonia Okinawa, Issei parents desire to mold their children into
Japanese subjects, and growing personal connections with those who had
previously moved to Japan.
The changing characteristics of dekasegi migration from the early 1980s
to the late 1990s reflect these different contributing factors. The first wave of
dekasegi migrants consisted mostly of Issei, who left their family members back
in Colonia Okinawa, while the second wave of the dekasegi in the late 1980s
and early 1990s consisted mostly of young Nisei, creating the mass migration
trend. Those who have continued to migrate to Japan from Colonia Okinawa
after the peak of emigration were largely young Nisei and families with serious
financial problems.

1982 to 1985: First Wave

When the first group of Issei from Colonia Okinawa went to Japan for dekasegi
in 1982, Bolivia was in the midst of hyperinflation.43 With the country suffer-
ing from the decline of the mining industry, which had been the largest gen-
erator of the nations foreign currency income, President Hernn Siles Zuazos
regime increased currency circulation by more than 1,000 percent between
1980 and 1984. Inflation promptly jumped to three digits in 1983 and to an
annual 2,177 percent in 1984. Incredibly, the inflation rate continued to rise to
8,170 percent in the first six months of 1985, before Siles Zuazo relinquished
the presidency(Klein 1992, 272).44 Among the Okinawan-Bolivians in Colonia
Okinawa, small-scale farmers and wage earners were hit hardest by the hyper-
inflation (Higa 2000, 253).
Meanwhile, the Japanese economy experienced unprecedented growth
from the 1970s to 1980s, particularly in the manufacturing and construction
industries. Throughout the 1950s to the 1970s, Japan achieved rapid industri-
alization without the introduction of an immigrant labor force, thanks largely
to the development and introduction of labor-saving technologies and a large
rural labor force. By the 1980s, however, untapped sources of labor, such as the

rural population and women, were mostly exhausted, leaving little room for
further significant increases in the labor supply. In 1989, it was reported that 46
percent of the companies in the manufacturing sector were suffering from labor
shortages, and small-scale subcontractors in manufacturing and construction
became so desperate that they began to employ illegal (i.e., without the proper
visa) foreign workers from places such as Pakistan, Iran, and Bangladesh (Tsu-
da 1999; Yamanaka 1993). What attracted these foreign workers to Japan was
the upward revaluation of the Japanese yen after the Plaza Agreement in 1985,
which dramatically raised the relative value of Japanese wages.
It was against this backdrop of economic chaos in Bolivia and booming
economy in Japan that several Issei from Colonia Okinawa decided to migrate
to Japan in 1982, which created small Okinawan-Bolivian communities in Yo-
kohama and other cities in Kanagawa Prefecture. Upon their arrival, these first
dekasegi migrants called phone numbers from job advertisement flyers, even-
tually landing assembly plant jobs at an auto manufacturer in Tochigi Prefec-
ture. Their hard work at the factory impressed their employer, and they were
asked to recruit friends from Bolivia (Ikuno 2000, 295).45 From this first group
of dekasegi Okinawan-Bolivians in Tochigi, some moved to Kanagawa Prefec-
ture, for example, to the Tsurumi Ward of Yokohama, around 1987. Since then,
Tsurumi has become a major destination for dekasegi migrants from Colo-
nia Okinawa. One interviewee in Colonia Okinawa jokingly called it Dai-yon
Ijchi (Colonia No. 4).46
Those who migrated to Japan in the early 1980s were mostly middle-aged
wage earners or small-scale farmers who could not generate enough cash in-
come. They left their families back in Colonia Okinawa and intended to work
in Japan and send remittances to Bolivia for several years (Tsujimoto 1998c;
Ikuno 2000, 295). Mr. Yara Hiroki, an Issei who immigrated to Colonia Okina-
wa in 1958, was among the pioneers. Mr. Yara had owned a small farm, but he
had also worked at the Colonias agricultural cooperative to support his large
family of eleven. His farming operation suffered from poor production in the
early 1980s, and hyperinflation aggravated his familys financial woes. Selling
his farmland and going to Japan, it seemed to him, was the only choice: Even
my family understood why I had to go to dekasegi. My wife was not working,
so my entire family [in Colonia Okinawa] was dependent upon my remittances
from Japan. . . . All I had on my mind back then was how to survive the crisis
my family was in, rather than what I would do in the future. I knew it was
impossible to move my entire family to Japan, so I went there alone. He left
Bolivia in 1982 and first worked in Saitama Prefecture, because his uncle and

aunt, who had moved from Okinawa Prefecture, lived there. He then moved
to Hiratsuka City in Kanagawa Prefecture to work on the assembly line of a
Nissan Motor subcontractor. He was the only Okinawan-Bolivian at his work-
place and had few acquaintances in the area: There were still very few of us
who went to dekasegi back then, but it began to increase after I returned here
[in 1985]. He decided to return to Bolivia when he turned forty-five years old:
Normally, good companies only hire those under forty-five. I could still find a
job, but if I got paid only 170,000 or 180,000 yen a month, it would be very diffi-
cult to get by, let alone to send remittances. Thanks to the money he had saved
during his dekasegi stint in Japan, Mr. Yara managed to pay off his debt. After
his return to Bolivia, he took various clerical jobs in Colonia Okinawa and did
not purchase new farmland. Despite the low wage he earned at these jobs, he
never considered going back to Japan because he thought that he was too old.
For him, dekasegi was only a means to cope with [financial] emergency.

1985 to 1993: Socialization of Migration

Despite the chaos it created, the hyperinflation in Bolivia throughout the 1980s
was, in fact, a blessing for many Okinawan-Bolivian farm owners, who were
trying to pay off large debts they had accumulated in the 1970s.47 As the Oki-
nawan-Bolivians borrowed Bolivian pesos from JICA (through CAICO) for
their cotton production, the hyperinflation in the 1980s, which reduced the pe-
sos value significantly against the U.S. dollar, in effect, dramatically reduced the
financial burden for farmers whose accounting remained U.S. dollarbased.48
In the second half of the 1980s, Okinawan-Bolivians farms also shifted their
main cash crop to soybeans, which became a major export product. Coincid-
ing with the sharp rise in the international market price of soybeans in the late
1980s, Okinawan-Bolivian farmers enjoyed economic prosperity for the first
time in Colonia Okinawas history.
The apparent prosperity of Okinawan-Bolivian farmers did not result in a
decrease of dekasegi migration to Japan; instead, the period of the late 1980s
and early 1990s was the time of what Okinawan-Bolivians today call the deka-
segi fad among youth. This fad was largely attributable to the generational
changes among the Okinawan-Bolivian families in Colonia Okinawa. As Issei
who were born in Okinawa but raised in the Colonia and Nisei who were born
in the late 1950s and 1960s reached their adulthood in the 1980s, Okinawan-
Bolivian families needed to make decisions about their future. As their farms
became large, mechanized operations, with the use of non-Nikkei Bolivian

labor,each Okinawan-Bolivian household needed only one child to inherit the

family farmland and business. The oldest son typically took over his fathers
farm, and the other siblings were left to simply assist their elder brother or to
find work elsewhere. Many Nisei initially pursued college education and non-
farming careers, but during the economic and political turmoil of the 1980s,
when Bolivian universities were paralyzed by frequent faculty and staff strikes,
Nisei gave up their educational pursuits. With no other viable options in Boliv-
iaone Nisei returnee from dekasegi said to me, What could you do if there is
no job or school?they decided to join their family members or friends who
had already moved to Japan. Issei parents embraced Niseis dekasegi migration
as a positive experience for young Nisei to see and live in the country their
parents and grandparents came from (Gushiken 1998, 202). Their approval of
Niseis dekasegi for broadening their worldview (Higa 2000, 259) outside the
rural village spurred the dekasegi fad from the late 1980s. Because of the rapid
decrease in young Nisei during this period, many Okinawan-Bolivians recalled,
community events in Colonia Okinawa were downscaled or canceled.
When Nisei who had returned from dekasegi in Japan told me why they
had migrated to Japan, I was struck by how casually they seemed to have made
their decisions. Many could not recall a specific reason why they went to Japan,
claiming that it was simply because it was easy to do or everybody else was
going. The stated reasons for dekasegi migration during its peak years indicate
the steady socialization and normalization of the dekasegi migration of Nisei.
Mr. Nomura Takeshi, a Nisei, left Bolivia for Japan in 1989, three months after
he graduated from high school in Montero near Colonia Okinawa. He is the
youngest child among four Nisei children, with an elder brother and two el-
der sisters. When asked why he went to Japan, he replied: Because my friend,
Kaneda Eiken, was already in Japan. He had left for Japan a year before, after he
had graduated from high school. So, I intended to go there as soon as I finished
school. Among his seven classmates who graduated from the middle school in
Colonia Okinawa in 1984, according to Mr. Nomura, all but one left for Japan
about the same time he did.
Even though dekasegi migration came to be taken for granted by Nisei
youth, some had a more concrete motivation for leaving Bolivia for Japan: mak-
ing enough money to start their own farming operations in or near Colonia
Okinawa. Issei also viewed dekasegi migration as a preparatory step for Ni-
sei to become farm owners in Colonia Okinawa. Mr. Gushiken Ktei, former
CAICO president, estimated that US$330,000 was needed to start a new farm
in Colonia Okinawa in 1997 (Gushiken 1998, 203).49 JICA would provide loans

of US$50,000 to US$80,000 for newly independent farmers, and typically their

parents could provide US$20,000 to US$50,000. If a Nisei managed to save
about US$100,000 during his dekasegi stint in Japan, Mr. Gushiken estimated,
CAICO could provide the rest of the necessary capital in the form of a farm-
operating loan (ibid., 204).
Mr. Onaga Marco, a Nisei born in 1956, worked in Japan from 1982 to 1996.
When he married a Nisei woman in 1981, he was still working for his father,
but he wanted to become independent. He needed a sum of money, know-
ing his brother would likely take over his fathers farmland in the future. Back
then, the land around Colonia Okinawa was much cheaper, so he estimated, If
I made 15,000 [U.S.] dollars, I would be somehow able to buy [enough] land.
He had no clear idea how long it would take him to save that amount of money,
but he hoped it would be five years or so. Six years later, he sent US$22,000 to
his parents in Colonia Okinawa to buy farmland: As long as you had your own
land, you could come home empty-handed. He believed that those who were
able to return to Colonia Okinawa were those who had purchased farmland
earlier and asked their family members to manage it until their return. He said,
Fifty hectares of land used to cost only 30,000 [U.S.] dollars, but now the same
land may cost 60,000 or 70,000! No wonder it is impossible [for those who still
lived in Japan] to return and start farming. He wished he had decided to return
to Bolivia in 1992 or 1993, because it had become more and more difficult to
come back in recent years because of the increasing cost of farmland and op-
erating a farm. Still, he was very happy that he could return to and resettle in
the Colonia, which few Nisei around his age, he said, had accomplished.

From 1993: Structural Embeddedness

Japans so-called bubble economy, which was predicated on excessive and
speculative investment in real estate and stocks, abruptly collapsed in 1991,
and a recession ensued soon thereafter. Accordingly, the dekasegi migration of
Nisei had slowed down by 1993, and some of those who had left for Japan in
the 1980s began to return to Bolivia. The end of the dekasegi fad, however, nei-
ther stopped young Niseis out-migration from Colonia Okinawa to Japan nor
prompted a mass return migration. Even though some macro-level economic
factors changed from the peak years, the dekasegi migration had already been
so structurally embedded that the migration flows steadily continued.
Although the prolonged recession in Japan has reduced the shortage of
laborers in larger companies and the white-collar sector, the labor deficit in

the manufacturing and construction industries has remained high and chronic
(Tsuda 1999, 695; Tsujimoto 1998c, 315). In fact, while Japanese companies
have tried to restructure (risutora in Japanese) their employment practices
as a cost-cutting measure, relatively cheap and expendable wage laborers, in-
cluding Okinawan-Bolivians, have become an even more valuable source of
flexible labor (Tsuda 1999, 696). As a result, despite the gradually increasing
unemployment rate and stagnant consumer demand throughout the 1990s, Ja-
pans recession did not eliminate the labor shortage in the manufacturing and
construction industries.
The local economic situation of Okinawan-Bolivians in Colonia Okinawa
that prompted and facilitated dekasegi emigration in the 1980s, including the
weak Bolivian currency and the sluggish labor market, did not change after
1991. The prosperity of Okinawan-Bolivian farm owners was already in ques-
tion by the second half of the 1990s, owing to the widespread recession in East
Asia that reduced the global demand for imported food and the influx of cheap
North American products into the South American market, which dramatical-
ly lowered the sale price of soybeans (Higa 2000, 259). To make matters worse,
the flooding of the Rio Grande River in early 1997 damaged 5,000 hectares of
farmland in Colonia Okinawa, causing more than US$1 million in damage to
Okinawan-Bolivian farmers properties (Gushiken 1998, 320). Because of the
volatile global agricultural market and unpredictable local weather of Santa
Cruz Prefecture, in addition to the capital-intensive and large-scale format,
Okinawan-Bolivians farming operations became a gamble that could create
a large fortune or a large loss in any given year (Tsujimoto 1999, 13).
Okinawan-Bolivians high-risk and high-return farming operations often
resulted in a large amount of debt. A report by JICA in 1994 showed that their
average debt was 10,097,000 yen, or US$99,777 (JICA 1994). Because of the
high interest rates of commercial banks in Bolivia (16 percent to 18 percent
APR in 2000), most Okinawan-Bolivian farm owners relied on lower-interest
loans offered by JICA and CAICO.50 CAICO implemented a barter system
through which a member could take a loan from the cooperative and pay it
back with his own crops shipped directly to CAICO upon harvest. The amount
loaned to each farmer was determined by CAICO based on the sales price
of each product to local buyers.51 I had a chance to see a CAICO members
transaction record for February and March in 1993. The record indicated that
he had paid for diesel fuel purchased from CAICO and shipping costs for his
harvest, while making payments with his harvest, such as soy seeds, to the
cooperative. His debt actually increased, however, by the end of the statement

period, largely because of the loan interest from the previous term and seed
purchases for the next production cycle. He additionally requested the maxi-
mum possible loan from the cooperative for the projected 200 hectares of his
farmland, which he intended to use for soybean production (CAICO 1993).
Admittedly this was the record of only one farmer for a very brief period, but
it gives a glimpse of how difficult debt payments could be for some Okinawan-
Bolivian farm owners.
Not surprisingly, delayed payment by CAICO members was a major prob-
lem. Rumors within the community often revolved around which farmers were
in serious debt. Even children, housewives, and elderly women I met told me
about the debt crises of other farmers. One day at school, a second-grade girl
surprised me by candidly telling me that her friends family had a huge debt
and therefore the whole family, including her friend, had left for Japan a few
months before. A Nisei housewife of a farm owner told me, albeit jokingly, My
husband was saying, Well, soon we will probably have to flee by night [because
of his debt], so be ready. Shinj Yoshi, an Issei in her seventies, lamented over
the settlers debt problem:

There seem to be so many people suffering from debt. [Lately] we

have had floods and strong wind, which cut our wheat harvest to one-
third of normal [production]. And the prices of pesticides and diesel
have risen. Some literally ran away from here overnight [because of
their inability to repay their debt]. Some families here are in trouble
because they signed a loan contract as a guarantor for those who later
fled without paying it back. In the past, men just took a big loan, and
their wives didnt even know about it, but now both husband and wife
have to sign the CAICO loan contract together. [CAICO] rarely took
over members land or machines in the past, but lately it does.

The principal destination of Okinawan-Bolivians who left (or fled) Colonia

Okinawa, because of cash flow problems or a poor harvest, continued to be
Japan. Financial assistance by JICA, which enabled Okinawan-Bolivians to be-
come large-scale commercial farmers, ironically, contributed to facilitating and
normalizing the dekasegi migration from Colonia Okinawa to urban Japan.
Many Okinawan-Bolivians had multiple dekasegi stints in Japan, and the re-
turnees from Japan living in the Colonia, many of whom had purchased farm-
land and begun farming, still considered it possible that they would migrate
to Japan again. When I asked Mr. Tokuma Shun, who had had three dekasegi

stints, if he would go to Japan again in the future, he said. I really dont want to,
but who knows? If it becomes necessary, I will have to, wont I? Although the
term dekasegi implies the temporality and brevity of the migration, Okinawan-
Bolivian migration to Japan and return-migration to Bolivia have become a
continuing and open-ended process for some that might never really end.

The colonial and postcolonial pasts of Okinawa and the Okinawan diaspora
have cast a long shadow on the history of Okinawan immigration to Bolivia
and Okinawan-Bolivians dekasegi migration to Japan. The history of prewar
and postwar Okinawan immigration to Bolivia reveals how Okinawans, under
the rule of imperial Japan and the postwar occupation by the United States
military, were constantly made and remade as ambiguous national subjects.
Emigrating overseas was often viewed by Okinawans as a way to escape the
stigma of being not quite legitimate national subjects. While many Okinawan
immigrants overseas continued to suffer from their marginal status within Jap-
anese immigrant communities, Okinawans in Bolivia in the prewar and post-
war years largely escaped similar difficulties thanks partly to the small presence
of Naichi-jin immigrant communities and their influences.
The Okinawan emigration project in the 1950s, such as that to Bolivia, was
conceived as the United States military administrations solution to diffuse so-
cial unrest among the increasingly disgruntled Okinawans under U.S. military
rule. Once they migrated, these Okinawans were shaped into Japanese na-
tional subjects within the local ethno-racial and class dynamics of rural Bolivia,
because self-identifying and being identified as foreigners was considered ad-
vantageous, and locals did not distinguish Okinawans from Naichi-jin Japanese.
As Okinawan-Bolivians in Colonia Okinawa transformed themselves from
subsistence farmers to capital- and labor-intensive commercial farm owners,
they also became vulnerable to unpredictable global agricultural markets and
prone to accumulating large debts. Moreover, as more struggling Okinawan
settlers left and more non-Nikkei Bolivians have moved in since the 1970s,
Okinawan-Bolivians have become a numerical minority group in Colonia Oki-
nawa. These changes made Okinawan-Bolivians increasingly concerned about
protecting what they perceived as the endangered Japanesenessnot the
Okinawannessof their ethnic community in rural Bolivia.
Although the primary reasons for Okinawan-Bolivians dekasegi migra-
tion in the 1980s and 1990s were economic, one cannot dismiss Isseis concern
about the communitys decreasing Japaneseness as a key contributing factor
for Nisei migration to Japan. It partly explains why, despite the collapse of the

Japanese bubble economy in the early 1990s, the flow of dekasegi migration
never ceased, much less reversed itself. By the mid-1990s, dekasegi migra-
tion from Colonia Okinawa to Japan had become structurally embedded in
the existing socioeconomic systems at the local and extralocal levels. While
the Japanese manufacturing and construction industries became chronically
dependent on expendable and inexpensive (often imported) laborers, capital-
intensive farming in Colonia Okinawa became a risky enterprise, given the un-
stable local weather and the unpredictable global agricultural market.
The transnational Okinawan-Bolivian communities and households, built
through these historical processes, presented different implications for Oki-
nawan-Bolivian individuals in Colonia Okinawa and in urban Japan. The next
three chapters will detail how Okinawan-Bolivians subject positions were
shaped within the webs of local and global political economies, state and non-
state institutions, and Okinawan-Bolivian individuals own daily practices,
which together contributed to a differently embodied belonging in each of the
two locales.

The Making of PATRONES

JAPONESAS and Dekasegi

The first thing I noticed when I arrived in Colonia Okinawa

from the nearby city of Montero was that the village had nothing that par-
ticularly reminded me of the Ryky Islands or Japan. Except for a steel arch
that says Okinawa Nihon Boribia Kykai: Asociacin Boliviana-Japonesa de
Okinawa at the entrance to the Nichibo Kykai building, it was difficult to
find anything that distinguished Colonia Okinawa from other villages in rural
Santa Cruz. What I did notice immediately upon my arrival, however, was the
obvious contrast between the houses with white-painted walls and orange-
tiled roofs and the small wooden houses with roofs made of motac palm (At-
talea phalerata) leaves. The tile-roofed houses, which were often surrounded
by high walls lined with spearing irons, were owned by Okinawan-Bolivians,
while most wood-and-motac shacks were inhabited by non-Nikkei Bolivians.
A similar contrast was seen in their automobiles. Whenever I saw a new, slick
camioneta (pickup truck) or a motorbike passing by, the drivers/riders were
likely to be Okinawan-Bolivians, while those riding old bicycles or beat-up
motorbikes, or driving a huge camin (dump truck) with sugarcane or hay in
its cargo space, were without exception non-Nikkei Bolivians.
Meanwhile, as I walked eastward from the Tsurumi train station toward the
shore, it was easy to notice the changes in neighborhood characteristics, espe-
cially in terms of class and ethnic composition. The first several blocks from
the station comprise a busy commercial district with department stores, res-
taurants, and retail stores, followed by a business district, with several blocks of
The Making of Patrones Japonesas 55

Residences of a non-Nikkei Bolivian (left) and an Okinawan-Bolivian (right) in

Colonia Okinawa

large corporate office complexes. After crossing six lanes of National Route 15
and the Tsurumi River that parallels it, I entered the Nakadri-Ushioda neigh-
borhoods, where hundreds of South American Nikkei-jin, including many
Okinawan-Bolivians, resided. Instead of the fashionable boutiques, chain res-
taurants, and office buildings that surrounded Tsurumi station, an ensemble
of small factories, mom-and-pop grocery stores, and several Okinawan and
South American restaurants became noticeable, making me realize that this
was not only a working-class neighborhood, but also an immigrant enclave.
These visible signs of Okinawan-Bolivians economic and social status in
Colonia Okinawa and Tsurumi are the subject of my inquiries in this chapter
and the following chapter. I zero in on the labor market and the workplace as
critical sites of racialization (Cornell and Hartmann 1998, 154) in which Oki-
nawan-Bolivians ambiguous belonging in Colonia Okinawa and urban Japan
were embodied and performed. In detailing the class positions and workplace
relationships of Okinawan-Bolivians and their non-Nikkei Bolivian and Japa-
nese Naichi-jin coworkers, I render the social processes of codification, repre-
sentation, and interpretation of Okinawan-Bolivians bodies and behaviors as a
natural embodiment of their socioeconomic status and cultural backgrounds.
In this chapter on Okinawan-Bolivians in Colonia Okinawa, I sketch the labor
market structures in Bolivia and interventions by state institutions, such as
JICA and the government of Okinawa Prefecture, both of which played critical
roles in shaping Okinawan-Bolivians subject positions,1 and portray everyday
encounters between Okinawan-Bolivians and non-Nikkei Bolivians and Japa-
nese Naichi-jin at their workplaces, such as farm fields and cattle ranches, in
Colonia Okinawa. Okinawan-Bolivians contradictory class positions in the
rural Colonia Okinawa community and in the larger (urban) Bolivian society

Okinawan-Bolivian-owned restaurants in the

Nakadri-Ushioda neighborhoods. Both signs
say, Serving Okinawan and South American

are reflected in their racialized stereotypes of themselves and various non-Nik-

kei Bolivian groups within and outside Colonia Okinawa.

Patrn Japons in Colonia Okinawa

As summarized in the previous chapter, ethnic Okinawan communities in Co-
lonia Okinawa had gradually turned themselves into privileged patrones in ru-
ral Santa Cruz by the 1990s. Economic and political interventions in Colonia
Okinawas labor relations by the Japanese government (via JICA) and the Oki-
nawa Prefecture government had created and maintained Okinawan-Bolivians
as a rural upper class in Colonia Okinawa vis--vis non-Nikkei Bolivians. In
2000, members of the Nichibo Kykai in Colonia Okinawa owned a total of
51,250 hectares of farmland (Nichibo Kykai 2000, 4).2 JICA reported in 1994
that among the ninety-nine sample households the organization chose, the
average landholding was 403.8 hectares (JICA 1994, 36). In 1998, Okinawan-
Bolivians owned more than 95 percent of the land within Colonia Okinawa.
Unlike the relatively large centro (village/town center) of Colonia Uno, where
Okinawan-Bolivians and non-Nikkei Bolivians resided side by side, Okinawan-
Bolivians in Colonias Dos and Trs had prevented non-Nikkei Bolivians from
living in the centro areas by limiting land sales to other Okinawan-Bolivians
and by reporting to the authorities whenever they found a non-Nikkei Bolivian
squatter on their property (Mori 1998b, 67). As a result, even during my resi-
The Making of Patrones Japonesas 57

dence in Okinawa Dos and Trs in 2000 and 2001, I saw very few non-Nikkei
Bolivians near the centro areas of Okinawa Dos and Trs, except for those who
were employees of Okinawan-Bolivian patrones and lived on their property.
In 1996, the average Okinawan-Bolivian households net farming profit
was 2,779,000 yen (US$27,461), and net nonfarming income was 519,000 yen
(US$5,130), which combined for a net income of 3,298,000 yen (US$32,590).
Agriculture in Colonia Okinawa was capital intensive and highly mechanized:
Okinawan-Bolivian farmers owned an average of three tractors, one combine
(harvester) machine, two automobiles, and three other machines, including
grass-cutters and pesticide and herbicide sprayers (JICA 1996, 37). There was
significant income variation among Okinawan-Bolivian farmers (see Table 4),
and the average farmer had debt that was worth approximately a quarter of
his assets.3 Nevertheless, the contrast with non-Nikkei Bolivians in Colonia
Okinawa was stark.
The majority of non-Nikkei Bolivians were landless farm laborers or wage

table 4. Income distribution among Okinawan-Bolivians in 19921993

Income No. of Percentage

(1,000 yen) Households of Households

500 8 8.1

5001,000 15 15.2

1,0001,500 12 12.1

1,5002,000 9 9.1

2,0002,500 9 9.1

2,5003,000 10 10.1

3,0003,500 2 2.0

3,50010,000 34 34.3

> 10,000 2 2.0

Source: JICA 1994, 16


workers and were employed by Okinawan-Bolivian patrones and their commu-

nity institutions. One survey revealed that among 401 household heads of non-
Nikkei Bolivian families in Okinawa Unos centro area, 117 worked as farm
field wage laborers and 63 were employees of public or semipublic institutions,
such as schools, Nichibo Kykai, CAICO, and hospitals. Only twelve were in-
dependent farmers, but the average size of farmland for non-Nikkei Bolivians
in the area was approximately 30 hectares (Mori 1998b, 54).

State-Sponsored Patrones: The Japanese Governments Assistance

The economic disparity between farm owners and farm laborers is hardly
unique to Okinawan-Bolivians and non-Nikkei Bolivians in Colonia Okinawa;
the large-scale farming practices that the Okinawan settlers took up had long
existed in Latin America and elsewhere. What made the wealth gap between
the two groups in Colonia Okinawa noteworthy was the fact that it was largely
a consequence of active assistance for the Okinawan-Bolivian community pro-
vided by Japanese and Okinawan state agencies. When I first went to Colonia
Okinawa in December 1997, Kawabata Takashi, then the secretary general of
Nichibo Kykai, drove me around the three subdivisions of Colonia Okinawa.
While giving me a tour, he pointed at the Colonias major social service facili-
ties, including hospitals, gymnasiums, auditoriums, and schools, and said mat-
ter-of-factly: Well, if not for the help from the Japanese government, this Co-
lonia would have disappeared a long time ago. Although Nichibo Kykai tries
to operate within a budget based only on dues collected from its members,
he said, it is impossible for the association to pay for expensive civil engineer-
ing projects, such as road pavement and maintenance and bridge construction
and repair. In addition to building and maintaining social infrastructure, the
financial assistance from the Japanese and Okinawa Prefecture governments
had a significant impact on Okinawan-Bolivians farming operations, medical
services, and education. This state aid from Japan and Okinawa, which far ex-
ceeded that from the Bolivian national and local governments,4 was the single
most important force in creating and reinforcing the drastic economic gap be-
tween Okinawan-Bolivians and non-Nikkei Bolivians.
All major institutions in Colonias Okinawa were, in varying degrees, fund-
ed by JICA, through the Nichibo Kykai budget. According to the 1998 annual
budget plan of Nichibo Kykai, approximately 30 percent of the estimated total
revenue of the association for 1998 would be provided by JICA as financial
assistance (Nichibo Kykai 1998b, 4). Similarly, approximately 30 percent of
The Making of Patrones Japonesas 59

the Okinawa Hospitals operating budget in 1997, including staff salaries and
maintenance costs for medical equipment, was provided by JICA, through
Nichibo Kykai (Nichibo Kykai 1998a, 17). For the community school in Co-
lonia Uno, 22 percent of the entire revenue came from JICAs direct assistance
and Nichibo Kykai expenditure, which was also originally provided by JICA.
(See Table 5.)
In addition to assistance for these community institutions, Okinawan-Bo-
livian farmers have repeatedly received aid from Japanese state agencies when
natural disasters caused serious damage to the farmers assets. In early 1992,
for example, a flood of the Rio Pailn River, which runs through the west end

table 5. Major facilities that received funding from JICA, the Japanese government,
or Okinawa Prefecture for construction and/or administration

JICA or The Japanese Government

Okinawa Uno auditorium

Okinawa Dos auditorium
Okinawa Trs auditorium
Okinawa Uno gymnasium
Okinawa Uno Youth Association building
Hospital Okinawa (Colonia Uno)
Hospital Okinawa Dos clinic
Colegio Centro Boliviano-Japones de Okinawa Uno (private elementary and
middle school)
Colegio Evangelica Metodista (church and school buildings)
Colegio Nueva Esperanza (public elementary and middle school)
Police station buildings (Okinawa Uno, Dos, Trs)
Police chief residence (Okinawa Uno)
CETABOL (Centro Technolgico Agropecuario en Bolivia; Okinawa Dos)
CAICO oil extraction plant

Okinawa Prefectural Government

Nichibo Kykai headquarters building (Okinawa Uno)

Okinawa Dos gymnasium

of Colonia Okinawa, devastated Okinawan-Bolivians farms and ranches. In

addition, a bridge collapsed on the only major road between Colonia Okinawa
and Montero, leaving the Colonia virtually isolated from nearby cities. The
president of Nichibo Kykai at the time detailed his efforts to obtain emer-
gency aid from Japan:

Nichibo [Kykai] repeatedly asked the municipal transportation au-

thority to repair the [Pailn] bridge, but their answers were, There
is no budget and We have machines but no fuel. . . . On June 4,
Nichibo [Kykai] held a board meeting regarding the flood emergency
and reached the decision to ask the Japanese government for help.
Then I first visited Mr. K, the head of the JICA regional office in Santa
Cruz, and asked his advice regarding where and how Nichibo [Kykai]
should send a request for assistance. . . . On June 18, Mr. CM and Mr.
KM, the president and the owner of CAICO, Mr. WD [non-Nikkei
Bolivian], the principal of Metodista School, and I flew to La Paz [to
meet the ambassador of Japan in Bolivia]. . . . Later, Nichibo Kykai
planned a repair project of the national road between [Colonia] Oki-
nawa and Montero, in collaboration with the consulate general, the
embassy, and JICA. (Gushiken 1998, 251256)

As a result of Nichibo Kykais persistent effort, in March 1993, the Japanese

government permitted JICA to provide approximately US$220,000 for the re-
construction of the roads. In addition, the Japanese government decided to
fund the construction of seven concrete bridges between Okinawa Uno and
Montero as part of Overseas Development Aid (ODA) for the Bolivian gov-
ernment. The construction of the bridges was completed in May 1997, with a
festive inauguration ceremony that was attended by the Bolivian president and
the Japanese ambassador.5
The protection of Okinawan-Bolivians economic assets extended to land-
ownership. Since the 1960s, Okinawan-Bolivians have struggled with what
they called land invasion by non-Nikkei Bolivians who migrated into the
area. The problem began as early as 1963 in the Okinawa Trs area of Colonia
Okinawa, when several non-Nikkei Bolivian landowners claimed ownership of
part of the Okinawan-Bolivians farmland, despite the agreement between the
Bolivian and Ryky governments that allocated the nationally owned land.
With complicated practices of land entitlement in Bolivia, particularly after the
agrarian reform by the Revolutionary Nationalist Movementled government
The Making of Patrones Japonesas 61

in the 1950s, it was not uncommon for one land lot to have multiple legal title
holders (Higa 2000, 251). The situation was compounded by Article 77 of the
Agrarian Reform Law of 1953, which granted any individual land entitlement
if he or she had cultivated, or intended to cultivate, the unused land as farm-
land, even if he or she did not officially possess its legal title. In 1964 and 1965,
Okinawan-Bolivian leaders attempted to settle the dispute by returning 750
hectares and 1,550 hectares, respectively, to the alleged former landowners,
but the problem continued into the 1970s, forcing Okinawan-Bolivians to give
up more than 10,000 hectares to non-Nikkei Bolivians.
Kuniyoshi Hidehiko, an Issei in his forties, told me that Malvinas, the name
of the township near Okinawa Trs, was derived from the Malvinas (Falkland)
War between the United Kingdom and Argentina in 1982. In the same year, a
large number of non-Nikkei Bolivian squatters, who formed a peasants union
called Villa Barrientos, came to this area and opened up their own farmland,
despite the legal land title possessed by Okinawan-Bolivians. A bitter legal dis-
pute broke out: We used to say, We are having a war here, too, Mr. Kuni-
yoshi recalled. After their unsuccessful efforts to reclaim the land through an
open hearing and inspection by a delegate from the Bolivian government, the
Okinawan-Bolivians turned to the Japanese government. CAICO and Nichibo
Kykai pressured the Japanese general consul and ambassador to persuade
the Bolivian government, President Paz Estenssoro in particular, to intervene.
The dispute was tentatively resolved by a presidential executive order in 1985,
which secured Okinawan-Bolivians landownership; Mr. Kuniyoshis farmland
was also returned by this measure.
About a decade later, a non-Nikkei Bolivian man claimed 500 hectares of
Taira Hiroshis property in 1994, and both appeared to have legal land title of
the disputed lot. This time, action by the Okinawan-Bolivian community was
swift. The president of Nichibo Kykai sent a letter to the Japanese Embassy
in La Paz, in which he wrote, This [land invasion] problem jeopardizes not
only the property of Mr. Taira [who is a former Nichibo Kykai president and
a prominent Issei leader], but also the social rights of all Japanese residents in
Bolivia (Gushiken 1995). After two years of negotiation by Nichibo Kykai
with the Japanese Embassy, the Japanese ambassador to Bolivia brought the
Nichibo Kykai petition to the attention of the minister of foreign affairs of
Japan. In October 1996, the foreign minister of Japan raised the issue when
President Sanchez de Lozada and the minister of foreign affairs of Bolivia
made an official visit to Japan. According to Mr. Taira, the foreign minister
of Japan implied a possible cut or end of Japans ODA for Bolivia, and the

Bolivian president agreed to resolve the issue by administrative rather than

legal means. Eventually, the executive order that warranted Mr. Tairas land
title was signed in March 1997.
These instances of financial assistance for flood damage and intervention
into the so-called land invasion problem epitomized the Okinawan-Bolivians
dependency on the Japanese governments economic and political power in
handling local problems. Japanese state sponsorship, which was unattainable
by non-Nikkei Bolivians, provided Okinawan-Bolivians with substantial socio-
economic advantages over non-Nikkei Bolivians. Being japones, under this cir-
cumstance, became synonymous with being affluent patrones within the local
context of Colonia Okinawa.

Limited Mobility: Struggles in Urban Bolivia

Despite Okinawan-Bolivians economic dominance in Colonia Okinawa, they
struggled to achieve the same degree of success in urban Bolivia. A small num-
ber of Nisei from Colonia Okinawa have become successful professionals, such
as lawyers, dentists, and doctors, in cities like Santa Cruz de la Sierra, but they
remain exceptions rather than the rule. Bolivia as a whole, moreover, is one
of the poorest countries in the world, with an annual GNP per capita of only
US$1,010 in 2005, and an uneven distribution of wealth; the bottom 20 percent
of the national income was shared by more than 60 percent of its population
(World Bank 2007). In addition, Bolivian higher education is inaccessible for a
wide range of the population, and it does not always help graduates to gain em-
ployment in the white-collar sector. Nationwide, public universities, which are
generally considered more prestigious than private ones in Bolivia, produced
only 294 graduates in 1994, and it took an average of thirteen years for them
to complete degrees (Gekkan Boribia 1996, 10). Nisei who spent a number of
years on a degree could seldom find well-paying professional jobs other than a
small number of positions at Japanese government agencies (e.g., JICA and the
consulate-general) and Nikkei-owned small businesses, (e.g., travel agencies
and auto repair shops) in Santa Cruz de la Sierra. As Issei realized this situa-
tion, many paid less attention to their Nisei childrens academic performance,
and instead encouraged their children to gain vocational skills in areas such as
auto repair and sewing (Mori 1998a, 114).
The socioeconomic privileges Okinawan-Bolivians enjoyed in Colo-
nia Okinawa, in short, failed to translate into socioeconomic success in the
larger Bolivian society. Nisei born into large-scale farm-owning families who
The Making of Patrones Japonesas 63

belongedto the rural upper class in Colonia Okinawa yet were unable to main-
tain their socioeconomic privileges outside the confinement of the Colonia
comprised the majority of dekasegi emigrants to urban Japan. Yara Hiroyasu,
a Nisei, joined the dekasegi fad of the late 1980s and left for Japan in 1986 and
then returned to Bolivia in 1990. He saved some money and entered a universi-
ty in Santa Cruz de la Sierra upon his return, majoring in information science.
He did not complete his degree after spending all the money he had saved, and
he started his own small business in 1996. The business did not go well, so he
had to leave for Japan again in 1998. Although Hiroyasu was reluctant to go
back to Japan, his father, Hiroki, had another idea. When Hiroyasu consulted
his father about whether he should stay in Bolivia or go to Japan, Hiroki told
his son he should move to Japan permanently. He explained: He didnt have
a foothold in Bolivia, so it was safer to live in Japan. There is no safety net in
Bolivia, so the weak cannot survive here. In addition, he claimed, in urban
Bolivia, Okinawan-Bolivians could not compete with Bolivians. He believed
that having Japanese citizenship was a handicap when many non-Nikkei Boliv-
ian applicants were also competing for a position because the employer would
choose a Bolivian over a Japanese candidate.
Tokuma Shun is a Nisei who went to Japan for dekasegi in 1983 after study-
ing for a year at a strike-prone university. Born the second son of one of the
most successful farm owners, Mr. Tokuma made three dekasegi stints in Japan
between 1983 and 1995. He and his elder brother, Masaru, took turns look-
ing after their aging fathers farming operation in Colonia Okinawa while one
of them was living and working in Japan. After his third dekasegi stint in Ja-
pan, Mr. Tokuma hoped that his two young sons would choose careers outside
farming and become urban professionals:

More [Okinawan-Bolivian] kids are going to colleges today than ten

years ago. The first half of the 1980s was the most difficult period to go
to college. . . . Its been forty-five years [since the founding of Colonia
Okinawa], so there will be more who choose jobs other than agricul-
ture from now on. Maybe one [of the siblings] will take over the family
farm, but the rest will have other jobs. . . . The problem is that it is un-
likely that Bolivia will change dramatically, and it wont industrialize
anytime soon. Thats why having higher education is not useful here.
. . . The [regional] population is small, so the market is too small for
us to start a commercial business. . . . Besides, if you are farming, it is
hard to start a business, because if you have a business, you have to

work every day! I am still interested, though. My friends and I often

talk about a possible new business, but few have actually started one.
. . . It is difficult to develop a market, you know? I feel discouraged
whenever I hear [other Nikkei entrepreneurs in Santa Cruz de la
Sierra] are struggling.

Nisei in Colonia Okinawa were painfully aware of the instability of agricul-

ture and the limited class mobility for farm owners in larger Bolivian society.
They hoped their Sansei children would be able to compete against urban elites
in Bolivias white-collar sector. Asato Tadashi, a Nisei farm owner in Colonia
Okinawa, inherited a portion of his fathers farmland but needed to migrate
to Japan to save up money for start-up expenses. He expressed his hopes for
his eight-year-old son: It would be better for Sansei to stay here and succeed
in Bolivia. Until they get into politics and other sectors, the Colonia wont de-
velop, either. I want my children to succeed in Bolivia. . . . I dont want my son
to take over my farm, becausehow can I put this?farmers belong in a lower
layer [shita no hou no sou] of [Bolivian] society. I want them to become profes-
sionals [profesionales] instead.
Younger Nisei were more hopeful about becoming white-collar profession-
als in Bolivia as the universities became more stable than they had been in the
1980s. Kaneda Ken, a nineteen-year-old Nisei who just finished his first year
at the National University of Gabriel Ren Moreno in Santa Cruz de la Sierra,
said that some of his friends from Colonia Okinawa were currently studying
at universities in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, La Paz, and Cochabamba. He also
admitted that many others were working in Japan: [Friends living in Japan]
come back here on certain occasions, like community events and festivals, and
stay for one or two months before going to Japan again. It is like when they get
tired of living in Japan, they come back here to rest, and then go back there
again. He hoped to complete not only a bachelors but also a masters degree in
veterinary medicine and to become a veterinarian. Most of his non-Nikkei Bo-
livian friends from high school in Santa Cruz de la Sierra entered universities
and studied electrical or mechanical engineering: You must have [personal]
connections [with the university administrators] to enter universities. So the
kids who could go to universities are from rich families.
In a country burdened with a weak labor market and with a population po-
larized between a small minority of wealthy elites and a poor majority, it was ex-
tremely difficult to establish economic security through education. Okinawan-
Bolivians socioeconomic privilege in Colonia Okinawa was, therefore, unable
The Making of Patrones Japonesas 65

to help Nisei succeed outside the insular immigrant community, because they
could no longer benefit from the Japanese governments support.6 While their
Japaneseness underwrote the Okinawan-Bolivians power and privilege with-
in Colonia Okinawa, in other words, it was of little value outside the immediate
environs of the village.

Performing Patrn Japons in Colonia Okinawa

The socioeconomic status of Okinawan-Bolivians was not merely observed in
their structural positions in economic relations within Colonia Okinawa and
in Bolivia at large, but also manifested in day-to-day situations at workplaces,
through which the class differences between the Okinawan-Bolivian Self and
non-Nikkei Bolivian Others were racialized. The ways in which Okinawan-
Bolivians interacted with non-Nikkei Bolivian farm laborers were by no means
unique or unusual for large-scale farm owners in the Bolivian eastern lowland.
Given the class-ethnic stratification shaped by the Japanese state intervention,
however, these interactions between Okinawan-Bolivian patrones and non-
Nikkei Bolivian laborers functioned as racialized boundary work, everyday
practices that weave institutional divisions and cognitive classification be-
tween the two groups (Lan 2006, 11, citing Nippert-Eng, 1996, 7). The racial-
ized boundary between the employers and workers was narrated, understood,
and confirmed through what sociologist Stephen Small describes as a tauto-
logical discourse of naturalization in which behavioral and psychological char-
acteristics were attributed to a particular group, and these characteristics, in
turn, were explained by the purported essence of the group, such as its ances-
tral origin (1994, 33). Through these steps, the socioeconomic class differences
between Okinawan-Bolivian patrones and their non-Nikkei Bolivian laborers
came to be seen as essential and natural differences.

Everyday Production of Patrones

Okinawan-Bolivian patrones I interviewed seemed to identify themselves as
owners and operators of business enterprises rather than as farmers. As self-
identified business owners, Okinawan-Bolivian patrones in Colonia Okinawa
did not appear to spend much time on their farmland, letting their employ-
ees (trabajadores), all of whom were non-Nikkei Bolivians, do the work in
the fields. Except for periods of sowing and planting, the Okinawan-Bolivian
patronesrarely spent the entire day in the fields, particularly if their farmland

was located far from home. Some farmers candidly told me that their day-to-
day work was easy. While showing me the personal golf practice cage in his
backyard, Takara Masahide, a farm and cattle ranch owner in his forties said,
Some people say they are busy farming, but they must have much spare time.
I mean, there just isnt much work to do.
To provide a glimpse of the patrn-trabajador relationship, I present here
an excerpt from my fieldnotes describing a typical day of an Okinawan-Bolivian
farm owner during the nonharvest period. Kuniyoshi Hidehiko was in his mid-
forties and had a wife and three boys, fourteen, nine, and eight years of age. He
and his wife were both born in Okinawa but immigrated to Bolivia before they
began kindergarten. Mr. Kuniyoshi had three fields within Colonia Okinawa.
One lot, of only four hectares, was next to his house; another, of 227 hectares,
was located in the submunicipality called San Marcos; the largest lot, of 245
hectares, was in Malvinas submunicipality, ten miles from his house. In the
San Marcos field, he used most of the land for soybean production, while he
diversified production in the Malvinas field for corn, soybeans, and sorghum.
Mr. Kuniyoshis property, approximately 480 hectares, was slightly larger than
that of the average Okinawan-Bolivian farm owner.

February 2001

Mr. and Mrs. Kuniyoshi got up around 6:30. The first task of Mrs.
Kuniyoshi was to prepare lunch boxes for two boys who go to school,
Colegio Nueva Esperanza, in Okinawa Dos. The two boys, third and
fourth graders, reluctantly got up around seven oclock and had a
quick breakfast of bread and powdered milk as they watched childrens
TV shows on a local Santa Cruz channel. Mrs. Kuniyoshi, meanwhile,
offered coffee to Mr. Kuniyoshis employee (a non-Nikkei Bolivian) at
a dining table set on the front patio. Until the school bus came by the
front of the house around 7:40 a.m., the boys sat with him, chatting
in Spanish. A few non-Nikkei Bolivian men came to the front patio
and asked Mr. Kuniyoshi if there was any work in his field today. Mr.
Kuniyoshi gave the days orders to the leader, the non-Nikkei Bolivian
among them who had worked for him the longest. He would gather
the necessary number of workers, all of whom Mr. Kuniyoshi already
knew. Occasionally, those non-Nikkei Bolivian employees who lived
in the Kuniyoshi familys old house next to their pigpens came by and
asked for specific directions regarding the care of the hogs.
The Making of Patrones Japonesas 67

After the children left for school, Mr. and Mrs. Kuniyoshi finally had
their breakfast in the dining room around 8 a.m., normally coffee and
bread with fried egg and sliced ham. Throughout this busy morning,
their TV was always on, normally showing news programs, which
daily featured the ongoing drought in Santa Cruz Prefecture. As they
watched the shows, Mr. and Mrs. Kuniyoshi talked about how much
and in which part of Colonia Okinawa it had rained a day before.
Around 9:00 a.m., we drove to his San Marcos field. Mr. Kuni-
yoshi was concerned about the lack of rain. His farm hadnt had much
rain for more than a month. As we inspected the two soybean fields,
the land was cracked all over because of the drought. The soybeans,
however, still looked green, and there were very few visibly damaged
plants. Mr. Kuniyoshi told me: They are still recoverable. But if we
dont have any substantial rain in the next few weeks, Ill be in trouble.
He also concluded that the soybeans that he had planted in Janu-
ary, which still were in bloom, would need pesticide and germicide.
Mr. Kuniyoshi said: I am just waiting until the next rain before I do
it. Right now they are weak because of the lack of rain, so they wont
be able to absorb the chemical very much. One non-Nikkei Bolivian

An Okinawan-Bolivian farm owner inspects soy on his farmland


Non-Nikkei Bolivian laborers at an Okinawan-Bolivians farm

familylived on Mr. Kuniyoshis San Marcos property and took care of

its day-to-day operations. On the way back, we passed a cornfield that
looked like it was already devastated by the drought. Mr. Kuniyoshi
shook his head. Even if it rains soon, perhaps they wont recover. They
are already dying, and the surviving ones wont produce much harvest,
Around 11:00 a.m., we stopped by the CAICO (farming coopera-
tive) office in the centro of Okinawa Trs. Okinawan-Bolivian men
came in and out of the office frequently, as this place was their hang-
out. They stopped by the office in the morning to exchange informa-
tion and gossip. They frequently brought up the lack of rain and other
Okinawan-Bolivian farm-related business (So-and-sos field in San
Marcos is totally dried up. The workers for so-and-so work hard, but
those at so-and-sos farm are lazy.). The centro was so empty and quiet
that everybody looked out the window whenever a car passed by to
identify whose it was. One non-Nikkei Bolivian man in his twenties
worked at the office as a secretary and an attendant for the attached
gas stand; however, he only stuck his head out into the lounge when
he received a phone call for an Okinawan-Bolivian there and never
The Making of Patrones Japonesas 69

engaged in an extended conversation with them. When noon ap-

proached, the Okinawan-Bolivians started to go home for lunch with-
out saying good-bye to the others; they just left the lounge and got in
their pickups.
After having the lunch Mrs. Kuniyoshi had prepared at home, Mr.
Kuniyoshi took a nap until 3:00 p.m. Then he went to his pigpen to
talk to the non-Nikkei Bolivian workers there. Once a week, he went
to Santa Cruz de la Sierra to shop and run errands before returning
home around 6:00 p.m. Between 4:00 and 6:00 p.m., families of the
non-Nikkei Bolivian workers or neighbors frequently knocked on the
door to ask Mrs. Kuniyoshi for rice, meat, or vegetables, which Mrs.
Kuniyoshi sold to them on credit. After 7:00 p.m., the flow of non-
Nikkei Bolivian shoppers finally stopped, and Mrs. Kuniyoshi looked
in the direction of the employees house next to the pigpen, where
her kids played with the employees children after coming home from
school, and yelled out her childrens names. It was suppertime.

Drawn from my observations at Mr. Kuniyoshis fields as well as from other

Okinawan-Bolivian farm owners stories, the following section examines how
the patrn-trabajador relationships between Okinawan-Bolivians and non-
Nikkei Bolivians were performed, normalized, and subtly challenged.

Normalization of Exploitation
Except for busy periods of sowing and harvesting, Mr. Kuniyoshi told me, he
rarely operated farm machines in his fields. When his farm was smaller, he
said, he used to operate all the machines, but he no longer did. It was efficient
to use cheap labor for all the routine tasks. On any given day, there were five
to ten workers in Mr. Kuniyoshis fields. Basic field tasks, such as plowing and
weeding, paid a worker 30 bolivianos, or US$5, a day, while more technically
sophisticated tasks, such as operating a tractor, counted for 1.5 days, paying 45
bolivianos a day, or US$7.50. During busy periods, such as those for harvest-
ing and sowing, they could earn more. For instance, when they worked until
10:00 p.m. harvesting, they received 1.5 days pay. On average, each worker
earned thirty to forty days pay per month, between 1,000 and 1,200 bolivianos
(US$166 to US$200), typical for workers on Okinawan-Bolivian-owned farms.7
Mrs. Kuniyoshi kept a notebook in which she recorded the workers days and
hours of work. About ten persons were regular workers at Mr. Kuniyoshis

farms, while the rest were employed on a temporary basis, being brought in by
the regular workers during busy spells.
In addition to their low wage, non-Nikkei Bolivian field laborers often
worked in hazardous working conditions. One morning, Mr. Kuniyoshi and I
stopped by his Malvinas farmland, where one of his employees was spraying
herbicide. He told Mr. Kuniyoshi that he had finished spraying the assigned
area and told him that he would empty the tank, because he needed the same
machine to spray another kind of chemical the next day. After a brief chat with
him, Mr. Kuniyoshi and I returned to his pickup truck, and he said to me, You
can smell the chemical from here, cant you? There was indeed a foul odor. I
said: That smells awful! Isnt it poisonous? Mr. Kuniyoshi replied: Oh, yeah.
Very poisonous. Remembering that his employee did not appear to be pro-
tected from such a poisonous chemical, I asked him, Shouldnt he wear a mask
or something? Mr. Kuniyoshi shrugged. Well, yeah, actually he should. But
instead I rotate the operator of the spraying machine [to avoid poisoning]. . . .
When we were producing cotton [in the 1970s], I used to spray pesticide and
herbicide by myself. But it made me very nauseated, so I wouldnt do it myself
Workers were rotated every few months, partly to spread the tasks (such
as spraying poisonous pesticide) to more workers and partly to reduce the risk
of collective work sabotage. A large pool of available labor enabled Okinawan-
Bolivian farmers to change their employees frequently. On two separate oc-
casions, Mr. Kuniyoshi of Colonia Trs and Mr. Takara of Colonia Uno, while
they drove me around their fields, acknowledged a number of their former or
current non-Nikkei Bolivian employees. In Malvinas, where the majority of
Mr. Kuniyoshis employees lived, he told me, I know practically everyone here,
because I have employed pretty much all of them at least once. Mr. Takara,
likewise, while driving through a small village next to his farmland, told me,
Everybody is my friend here, waving his hand at a young non-Nikkei Bolivian
man on the street.
Although they insisted they had cordial relationships with non-Nikkei Bo-
livian laborers, it was the Okinawan-Bolivian employers, not the non-Nikkei
Bolivians, who had the power to rotate their workforce. Tsukamoto Hideo em-
ployed three non-Nikkei Bolivians for his cattle ranch and house for six days a
week, from eight to five. Their days task was assigned each morning, depend-
ing on Mr. Tsukamotos needs, including lawn mowing, cutting grass along the
fences, uprooting and planting trees in the garden, or mending fences on his
ranch. I ran into the three non-Nikkei Bolivians just outside the house when
The Making of Patrones Japonesas 71

they were about to leave. When I asked what they thought of their job, they
reluctantly told me that it was good (Es bueno), and they liked the stable wage
that they received for the job. Having seen me talking with Mr. Tsukamoto,
they probably wouldnt disclose their feelings toward their employer, but they
told me that they didnt expect to work for him for long. In fact, a few days
before, Mr. Tsukamoto had fired one of his employees. According to Mr. Tsu-
kamoto, the worker had refused to show up for work fifteen minutes earlier in
the morning. Mr. Tsukamoto said: It takes ten to fifteen minutes to drive to
the ranch. When I told them that they must come earlier, he said no. So I fired
To be sure, exploiting laborers who handle menial tasks, maintaining a clear
division of labor between employers and employees, and rotating labor sources
were labor practices not limited to the Okinawan-Bolivian patrones but wide-
ly found in the Bolivian lowland, where there was a long history of the finca
(large-scale agricultural establishments) system (Stearman 1985). Within the
social fabric of Colonia Okinawa, however, these practices enabled Okinawan-
Bolivian patrones to view the boundary between employers and workers as be-
ing drawn not only between socioeconomic classes, but also between national
origins. I asked Mr. Takara why no Okinawan-Bolivian patrn employed other
Okinawan-Bolivians for farm labor, even though some Okinawan-Bolivians
were in serious financial trouble and might be willing to work for others in
Colonia Okinawa. He looked at me in disbelief and flatly denied the possibility:
No way will anybody employ Japanese [Nikkei] on his farm! It would be too
complicated for him to use a Japanesehow much to pay him, which work to
make him do, that sort of thing. It is just much easier to use Bolivians. To him,
the class and labor divisions between Okinawan-Bolivians and non-Nikkei
Bolivians in Colonia Okinawa were so normalized that being an Okinawan-
Bolivian meant being an upper-class patrn who used non-Nikkei Bolivians
as trabajadores.

Paternalism and Resistance

Despite the exploitative relationships established between Okinawan-Bolivian
patrones and non-Nikkei Bolivian trabajadores, non-Nikkei Bolivians who
worked for Okinawan-Bolivians had a favorable impression of their employers.
One of the reasons cited in a study by a Japanese sociologist was that non-
Nikkei Bolivian laborers thought that Okinawan-Bolivian patrones treated the
laborers better than other non-Nikkei Bolivian patrones; Okinawan-Bolivians

often provided their employees with food, clothing, and medical care at the
employers expense (Mori 1998b, 60). These practices were neither new in low-
land Bolivia nor unique to the relationship between Okinawan-Bolivians and
non-Nikkei Bolivians. In the nineteenth century, some finca owners in Santa
Cruz provided their peones, or farm laborers, with housing, education, and
medical attention (Stearman 1985, 29). The farm owners benevolent actions
toward their laborers could be, however, understood as an exercise of symbolic
power, the gentle, invisible form of violence, which [was] never recognized
as such (Bourdieu 1977, 191). In an analysis of plantations in the U.S. South,
historian Eugene Genovese defines paternalism more blatantly, claiming that
it grew out of the necessity to discipline and morally justify a system of ex-
ploitation as it created a tendency for the subordinates to identify with their
employers/masters as individuals rather than as a class (1976, 4, 6). Okinawan-
Bolivian patrones, who provided trabajadores and their family members with
much informal and personal assistance, therefore, also exercised a form of
symbolic violence (Bourdieu 1977, 165) against their workers, establishing a
prevailing ethos (Genovese 1976, 6) under which non-Nikkei Bolivians had to
accept the unequal relationships with their Okinawan-Bolivian employers as
legitimate and even natural.
The non-Nikkei Bolivian workers on the Kuniyoshis farm, many of whom
lived near the Kuniyoshis residence, came to the house to purchase food such
as potatoes, bread, rice, and carrots. Because the workers didnt have vehicles
to travel to markets or stores in the cities, they relied upon the Kuniyoshis, who
sold the workers the daily necessities at market price. The Kuniyoshis stored
huge sacks of rice, onions, carrots, and coca leaves, a stock of canned meat,
cooking oil, and bags of flour and salt in their house as if it was a grocery store.
Mr. Kuniyoshi drove to a market in Santa Cruz de la Sierra once a week, usu-
ally on Friday, to purchase various vegetables and dry foods. Mrs. Kuniyoshi
told me, [Knowing that my husband goes shopping on Fridays] many people
come here to buy food on Saturday mornings. She was in charge of these retail
transactions, not only recording purchases by each employees family members
but also giving her husband a grocery list before he went shopping.
It was common for Okinawan-Bolivian patrones to provide lunch, and
sometimes breakfast and supper, for their laborers. Mrs. Kuniyoshi was ex-
tremely busy preparing the laborers meals during the soybean harvest period
in March, when they needed to work overtime. The workers at Mr. Kuniyoshis
farm always had a cup of coffee in the morning, served by Mrs. Kuniyoshi,
before Mr. Kuniyoshi gave them the work orders for the day, and occasionally
The Making of Patrones Japonesas 73

they ate a lunch prepared by Mrs. Kuniyoshi at the table on the front patio.8
When Mr. Kuniyoshi stopped by his farms in the morning to check the work of
his trabajadores, he also delivered the lunch boxes that his wife had prepared
in the early morning.
Many Okinawan-Bolivian patrones also paid for their employees and their
family members medical care. Mr. Takara, for instance, employed eight non-
Nikkei Bolivian farm laborers who lived in a nearby village. He paid his em-
ployees weekly, rather than daily, because, he said, They would otherwise use
all the money right away. When his employees or their family members be-
came ill, he took them to the hospital for treatment: If I dont, they would go
to a small clinic [poste], because it is cheap. It costs only 5 or 10 bolivianos, but
it would not really help them. Mr. Takara, therefore, paid all the medical bills
for them: They cant pay for it, you know, so I feel sorry for them. According
to the Colonia Okinawa Hospitals records in 1997, nine Okinawan-Bolivians
paid for the treatment of twenty-two non-Nikkei Bolivians, who had made
thirty-six visits to the hospital (Nichibo Kykai 1998a, 11).
Thanks to this informal and personal assistance, non-Nikkei Bolivian labor-
ers appeared to favor benevolent Okinawan-Bolivian employers over other
non-Nikkei Bolivian ones (Mori 1998b, 60), but the Okinawan-Bolivian pa-
trones paternalism toward their trabajadores also masked the fundamentally
exploitative relationship between them. As a result, both Okinawan-Bolivian
patrones and non-Nikkei Bolivian trabajadores came to pay less attention to
their profoundly unequal structural positions than to alleged differences be-
tween generous Okinawan-Bolivian employers and tightfisted non-Nikkei Bo-
livian employers.
The paternalistic relationships established between Okinawan-Bolivian pa-
trones and non-Nikkei Bolivian trabajadores notwithstanding, there was also
what James Scott called everyday forms of resistance (1985, 1990), a subtle
and informal means for the weak to challenge the power of the dominant. The
non-Nikkei Bolivians subversive activities might not have been overt and con-
frontational but still could achieve a certain amount of symbolic and/or mate-
rial gain amidst the exploitative labor relations and even heighten the aware-
ness of social inequality among themselves (Rose 1997, 153).
A common means of resistance by non-Nikkei Bolivian laborers was theft
of farming equipment and other valuable materials, such as pesticides, from
their Okinawan-Bolivian employers. Not unlike African American slaves
looting of their absentee owners properties (Genovese 1976, 382; Scott 1990,
195), non-Nikkei Bolivian laborers took advantage of the frequent absence of

Okinawan-Bolivian employers from the fields. Maeda Tadashi, an elderly Issei

farm owner, told me how theft took place on his farm:

What happens is that [non-Nikkei Bolivian employees] steal pesticides

and herbicides. These chemicals sometimes cost 500 dollars for one
liter. . . . Oftentimes, we let [non-Nikkei Bolivian laborers] spray the
herbicide during our absence. But when we come back and check [the
fields] afterwards, the weeds dont look like they have been killed. We
wonder, Why arent they dead? This is strange, and looked into it
more carefully. Then we find that [the employees] used only three li-
ters or four liters of the herbicide, although they were supposed to use
five liters. They have stolen the rest. No wonder it didnt work! . . . This
kind of problem is very common. . . . So [Okinawan-Bolivian patrones]
should be present at the fields and keep an eye on [the employees] all
the time.

Such tactics by employees can easily be overlooked unless the farm own-
ers persistently monitor employees work on a daily basis, something many
Okinawan-Bolivian employers were not attentive enough to do. Even though
low-paid non-Nikkei Bolivian farm laborers might be economically exploited
and symbolically dominated by their Okinawan-Bolivian employers, through
low wages and paternalistic treatment that naturalizes the power inequality
between them, the same workers might informally challenge the exploitation
and domination through deception and stealing. Although everyday workplace
interactions might appear cordial and businesslike, and Okinawan-Bolivian
farm owners might indeed treat their non-Nikkei Bolivian employees more
kindly than other non-Nikkei Bolivian patrones, underneath the calm surface a
struggle between the two groups for material and symbolic power often played
out in informal ways.9

Racialized Categories
In conversations with Okinawan-Bolivians, I always had to be attentive to the
meaning of the phrase koko no hito. Literally meaning people [or a person]
here, koko no hito could refer to non-Nikkei Bolivians in general, camba, the
residents of Colonia Okinawa as a whole, Okinawan-Bolivians, or Bolivian citi-
zens in general. The fluid and situational definitions of people here indicates
that the subject positions of Okinawan-Bolivians were defined in opposition to
The Making of Patrones Japonesas 75

a series of Others in given social contexts. When people here referred to non-
Nikkei Bolivian populations in Colonia Okinawa or Bolivian society in general,
the following three terms were most commonly used: genchi-jin (locals), Bo-
ribiajin (Bolivians), and hakujin (whites). Less frequently, gaijin (foreigner) and
dojin or dojin (aboriginal) were used to refer to non-Nikkei Bolivians, mostly
by Issei elders. The stereotypes the Okinawan-Bolivians attached to the cat-
egories of genchi-jin, Boribiajin, and hakujin indicated their understanding of
the socioeconomic class structures and political power dynamics both within
Colonia Okinawa and in the larger Bolivian society, and their own subject posi-
tions within them.

Boribiajin/Genchi-jin: Rural and Powerless Bolivians

Boribiajin was the most inclusive and neutral description of non-Nikkei Bolivi-
ans, referring to non-Nikkei Bolivians of different socioeconomic backgrounds
living in and outside Colonia Okinawa. Because the term refers merely to na-
tionality, Okinawan-Bolivians occasionally called themselves Boribiajin to em-
phasize their firm Bolivian roots. When I asked the returnees from dekasegi in
Japan to Colonia Okinawa why they had decided to come back or when I asked
them why they would like to continue to live in Bolivia, the most common
answer was Because I am BoribiajinI was born and raised here. Similarly,
because they are Boribiajin was the most common response I received from
Issei in Colonia Okinawa when I asked them why they believed that their Nisei
children living in Japan would eventually return to Bolivia. These usages of
Boribiajin highlight the difference between ones Japanese or Bolivian ances-
tral origin, the dichotomy that was also commonly accepted by the non-Nikkei
Bolivians in Colonia Okinawa. Regardless of their ethnoracial (camba or kolla)
or socioeconomic backgrounds, they simply referred to Okinawan-Bolivians as
japonesas (Japanese), without distinguishing between Bolivian-born Nisei and
Okinawan-born Issei, or between Okinawan-Bolivians and Japanese Naichi-jin
in Colonia Okinawa (Tsujimoto 1999, 87).
Genchi-jin was another common term that referred to all non-Nikkei Boliv-
ians in Colonia Okinawa. It was most commonly used when Okinawan-Boliv-
ians referred to their non-Nikkei Bolivian employees at farms or ranches, as in
I use five genchi-jin on my ranch to oversee cattle. Genchi-jin rarely referred
to non-Nikkei Bolivians outside Colonia Okinawa and was never extended be-
yond camba and kolla groups in Santa Cruz Prefecture. Other recognizable
immigrant groups in cities, such as Koreans and Chinese, were not referred

to as genchi-jin, but instead were called coreanos and chinos, respectively. Ok-
inawan-Bolivians, even Nisei, did not call themselves genchi-jin, even if the
person was locally born and had never left Bolivia in his or her life.10 Frequent
use of this term by Okinawan-Bolivians to refer to non-Nikkei Bolivians in Co-
lonia Okinawa suggests that Okinawan-Bolivians did not believe that the other
genchi-jin population and they belonged in the same local community.
The ways in which Okinawan-Bolivians used genchi-jin and Boribiajin in-
dicate different, albeit subtle, socioeconomic meanings attached to the two
terms. While Boribiajin could include both upper- and lower-class groups of
non-Nikkei Bolivians, genchi-jin primarily referred to manual laborers. For in-
stance, although genchi-jin and Boribiajin were almost interchangeably used
by Okinawan-Bolivians to refer to the trabajadores on their farms or ranches,
non-Nikkei Bolivian teachers at the schools were normally called Boribiajin
teachers and less frequently referred to as genchi-jin. Likewise, non-Nikkei
Bolivian engineers and mechanics at CAICO and Nichibo Kykai, who worked
side by side with Okinawan-Bolivian employees, were more often referred to
as Boribiajin than as genchi-jin. In addition, genchi-jin was used to describe
all non-Nikkei Bolivians in Colonia Okinawa, even if they were not originally
from Colonia Okinawa but from the western altiplano or the central valley.
Despite the literal reference to locality, therefore, the term genchi-jin indicates
Okinawan-Bolivians views of the intertwined relationships between socioeco-
nomic classes, nationalities, and immediate local belongings.
Various stereotypes were projected onto the labels of genchi-jin and Boribi-
ajin by Okinawan-Bolivians. Through these stereotypes, Okinawan-Bolivians
interpreted and explicated the socioeconomic differences between non-Nikkei
Bolivians and Okinawan-Bolivians as trabajadores and patrones. Okinawan-
Bolivians views on non-Nikkei Bolivians reflected not only their sense of supe-
riority to them but also their anxiety over them as an overwhelming majority in
the village. These two sides of stereotyping were articulated by historian David
Roediger (1991) and postcolonial theorist Homi Bhabha (1994) as common
features found in the discourses of racism and colonialism. Roediger argued
that in the late nineteenth century United States, white working-classs rac-
ism against African Americans was simultaneously loathing of and fascination
with what they perceived as the carefree, lazy, and indulgent lifestyle of African
Americans. Bhabha similarly claimed that the colonizers projected split im-
ageries of their fantasy and fear upon the bodies of the colonized through ste-
reotypes. The bodies of the colonized represented contradictions: the incivility
of cannibal and dignified obedience, childlike innocence and rampant
The Making of Patrones Japonesas 77

sexuality (Bhabha 1994, 82). The similar split imageries were found in the
Okinawan-Bolivians depictions of non-Nikkei Bolivians: lazy, dependent,
simple-minded, yet disingenuous and shrewd.11 All of these stereotypes were,
in turn, inversions of the self-images of Okinawan-Bolivians as hardworking,
self-reliant, intelligent, but nave. These stereotypes reflected both Okinawan-
Bolivians disrespect of non-Nikkei Bolivians as a lower socioeconomic class
and envy of them as those without the burden of running a large and risky
farming enterprise.

Lazy and Dependent Bolivians

Issei elders occasionally used the term flojo, a Spanish adjective for lazy, to
describe non-Nikkei Bolivians. When I asked Mrs. Shinj Yoshi, an Issei in
her seventies, to describe her view of non-Nikkei Bolivians, she didnt miss a
beat before using the term and quickly attributed their alleged character to the
groups Spanish heritage: [Non-Nikkei Bolivians] are flojo. Japanese [Nihon-
jin] work hard when they are trusted, but people here turn bad when they are
trusted too much. Spaniards [Supein-kei] are the same everywhere, you know.
In addition to their Spanish heritage, the warm climate and rich natural envi-
ronment of Santa Cruz Prefecture were often cited by Okinawan-Bolivians to
explain the laziness of Boribiajin/genchi-jin. Maeda Tadashi, an Issei, said:

People here [koko no ningen] could eat even if they were just playing
around. . . . Well, I think it used to be the case anyway. If you went
to the mountains [yama, meaning jungle], there were animals, if you
went to a river, there were fish, and if you planted yuca [cassava] and
bananas near your house, it would be enough [to feed yourself ]. Then,
in order to buy milk, sugar, and salt, and all the other stuff you needed
to live, you could work only two or three days a week.

In his narrative, the perceived laziness and laid-back attitude of local Borib-
iajin/genchi-jin were natural attributes born out of their genealogical heritage
and natural environment.
Okinawan-Bolivians often accused non-Nikkei Bolivians of economic
dependency on resourceful people and institutions, such as international
aid agencies. Takara Masahide, a middle-aged Issei farm owner, as he drove
through small communities near the Ro Grande river, told me that the houses
around there could easily go under water in case of flood. Nevertheless, he

continued, non-Nikkei Bolivian residents continued to live there because they

could get government or international aid when the flood happens. He re-
called: When a large-scale flood happened a few years ago, many people from
nearby communities, which were not damaged, came here to receive the aid
goods. Nagamine Tsuyoshi, a Nisei farm owner, also told me, When there
was a large fire around 1990, those who lived in wood-and-motac houses had
their houses burn down. The government gave them money to rebuild their
houses, and they ended up building much better houses than their previous
ones. Those who lived in brick-walled houses didnt get any money, so they
were really angry, saying, I wish my house had burned down, too! [laugh]
Okinawan-Bolivians, too, were heavily dependent on the Japanese govern-
ments financial assistanceespecially for recovery from natural disasters
without which they could not have achieved and maintained their current so-
cioeconomic status in Colonia Okinawa. In the Okinawan-Bolivian narratives
above, however, it was the innate character of non-Nikkei Bolivians, which
purportedly originated from their Spanish heritage and tropical natural en-
vironment, that shaped their lower socioeconomic status and, furthermore,
made them content with their position inferior to Okinawan-Bolivians in Co-
lonia Okinawa.

Untrustworthy and Irresponsible Bolivians

If Okinawan-Bolivians stereotyping of local Boribiajin/genchi-jin as a lazy,
dependent, and simple-minded people served the purpose of justifying the
paternalistic exploitation of non-Nikkei Bolivians as obedient and dignified
servants in their fields and on their ranches, the image of untrustworthy and
sneaky Boribiajin/genchi-jin fulfilled the other side of the stereotype, that of
accomplished liar and manipulator of social forces (Bhabha 1994, 82). Teru-
ya Sumi, as well as many other elderly Issei, expressed her fear of being taken
advantage of by the familys non-Nikkei Bolivian employees: They just can-
not be trusted. When we feel sorry for them and give them the things we no
longer need, they think that we give them because we have too many things.
. . . You should never loan money to them, either, because they would never
pay you back the money. Shinj Yoshi, another elderly Issei, was more blatant
when she told me that she often warned young Nisei not to trust non-Nikkei
Bolivians: Boribiajin are liars [usotsuki]. They say they are religious, but there
are so many thieves among them. Their religious belief is just talk. . . . Young
[Okinawan-Bolivian] people should be careful. They shouldnt trust everybody.
The Making of Patrones Japonesas 79

Once Boribiajin become friends with you, they will steal things from you. They
are good talkers. . . . They take things away from you but never pay you for
These Isseis accusations were not unfounded. As described earlier in this
chapter, many Okinawan-Bolivians suffered thefts of expensive herbicides and
pesticides by their non-Nikkei Bolivian employees. Anthropologist Dorinne
Kondo has suggested that despite academics tendency to romanticize informal
and crafty resistance by the weak against the dominant, these resistances are
often riven with ironies and contradictions (1990, 224). Stealing, a common
form of everyday resistance by non-Nikkei Bolivian laborers against wealthy
Okinawan-Bolivian farm owners, contradictorily reconfirmed the negative ste-
reotypes projected upon the laborers by Okinawan-Bolivians.
These stereotypes of untrustworthy and sneaky Boribiajin/genchi-jin nar-
rated by Okinawan-Bolivians were reflections of their self-image as trustwor-
thy and honest people. Higa Hiroshi, a Colonia resident, wrote that Okinawan-
Bolivian farmers were trusted by Bolivian commercial banks because they paid
all the accumulated debt after the collapse of cotton production in the 1970s,
whereas many non-Nikkei Bolivian cotton producers in the region fled with-
out paying off their debt (2000, 253). In reality, however, it was JICA and, by
extension, the Japanese government that assumed much of the responsibility
for Okinawan-Bolivians unpaid loans. During the hyperinflation in the mid-
1980s, Okinawan-Bolivians paid off their debt to JICA with vastly devalued
Bolivian pesos instead of U.S. dollars; in effect, JICA paid the price for the
peso devaluation (Gushiken 1998, 146). One could argue, therefore, that it was
the Japanese government that raised the reputation of Okinawan-Bolivians
among local creditors. State-sponsorship by the Japanese government was
as responsible for the trustworthiness of Okinawan-Bolivians as the groups
inherent character and morality, which they contrasted with the character of
non-Nikkei Bolivians.

Hakujin: Urban and/or Powerful White Bolivians

The term hakujin (whites) was rarely heard from Okinawan-Bolivians in daily
conversations or interviews. Despite its connotation of skin color, hakujin did
not simply refer to persons with pale skin or European heritage. It instead re-
ferred to either a small number of wealthy camba landowners in Colonia Oki-
nawa or to upper-class Bolivians in cities, regardless of their actual skin color
or ancestral origins. When Okinawan-Bolivians spoke of hakujin, moreover,

they normally paired it with negative characterizations, such as cruel, indi-

vidualistic, or greedy. Shimada Eisei, an elderly Issei who was usually com-
passionate with non-Nikkei Bolivians, expressed anger during my conversa-
tions with him toward wealthy non-Nikkei Bolivian farm owners in rural Santa
Cruz: These rich hakujin patrones bring in barbaros [indigenous peoples in
rural Santa Cruz] and make them work in their farms.12 When they are no
longer needed on their farms, they simply abandon them. It is so wrong! They
must bring [the workers] back to their homes. [The farms] are not their homes,
you know? He went on to criticize hakujin for taking advantage of the poor
and vulnerable camba: All kolla can do math, so they dont get duped by haku-
jin, but people of Santa Cruz [i.e., camba] are simple-minded, so they are easily
ripped off by hakujin. Note that hakujin patrones were distinguished from
other camba in Mr. Shimadas statement, although these landowners might
very well be camba, as they were probably native lowlanders with some Iberian
While Mr. Shimada did not refer to hakujin clearly as a race (jinshu),
Kaneshiro Yasunori, an elderly Issei, addressed hakujin as a distinct jinshu, al-
though he, too, was not referring to their skin color. When I asked him why
there werent many successful Okinawan-Bolivian (and Nikkei in general) en-
trepreneurs and professionals in urban Bolivia, he pointed to racism by hakujin
in Bolivian society:

Some [Nikkei] might look as if they have succeeded, but they have
been destroyed. Everybody has been crushed. Mr. K used to own a
Toyota dealership, but it went bankrupt in his sons era. . . . Mr. S was
also successful but eventually became bankrupt and returned to Japan.
. . . If these were hakujins companies, they wouldnt have gone bank-
rupt. Because they are a colored race [yshoku jinshu], they have
been ruthlessly destroyed. This country is a scary place. . . . No Nikkei-
jin is successful.

His definition of hakujin was not so much predicated on their skin color or
European heritage per se as on their power as business elites in a larger Boliv-
ian society. He defined hakujin by the amount of economic, social, and cultural
capital he believed they possessed. Asked if he socialized with non-Nikkei Bo-
livians in Colonia Okinawa, he cited the different levels (reberu) of social
status between non-Nikkei Bolivians, himself, and urban Bolivian elites: In
the environment of the Colonia, there arent many Bolivians I could socialize
The Making of Patrones Japonesas 81

with. Those who live in the Colonia are lower class [kas kaiky], the kind of
folks who shit on the roadside. I cant make friends with such people. In big
cities like Santa Cruz [de la Sierra], such a high-level [reberu no takai] place, I
might be able to make friends. . . . But in the Colonias environment, people are
proletariat class [rdsha kaiky], and thats not good.
Okinawan-Bolivians usage of the term hakujin appears to be in line with
the definition of blanco (white) in larger Bolivian society, as described by Marc
Osterweil as the upper-level social group who are urban and worldly (1998,
151). Either positively portrayed (sophisticated and influential) or negatively
regarded (cruel, racist, and disingenuous), hakujin were those upper-class ur-
ban Bolivians of, most likely, European heritage, whose political and economic
power allowed them to stand above not only poor rural Bolivians but also Oki-
nawan-Bolivians (and Nikkei in general). Hakujin, in other words, embodied
the unattainable socioeconomic privilege in larger Bolivian society in the eyes
of Okinawan-Bolivians, whose dominance was limited to a small rural domain
and agricultural sector of the economy.
Okinawan-Bolivians resentment against Bolivian hakujin elites and the
country dominated by them led them to generalize about Bolivians in gen-
eral, who, in their view, lacked essential qualities to run a country. For instance,
Mr. Kaneshiros criticism of hakujin, urban Bolivian elites, extended to the na-
tional character of Bolivians in general: Bolivia is a terrible country. Above
all, the soul [kokoro] of Bolivians, the national character [kokuminsei], is no
good. The Japanese kokoro and the Bolivian kokoro are different. The difference
is [Bolivians] extreme individualism, especially in the field of politics. . . . I
think the Japanese kokoro is much superior to the Bolivian one. In his narrative,
the alleged selfishness inherent in the hakujins soul was the main cause of
economic, political, and social problems in Bolivia, while Japans high interna-
tional standing was owed to what he viewed as the favorable national character
of its people.
The various stereotypes regarding innate characteristics of non-Nikkei
Bolivians mentioned by Okinawan-Bolivians reveal as much about their
understanding of their own socioeconomic positions in Bolivian society as
their views on non-Nikkei Bolivians. In their narratives, Okinawan-Bolivians
abundant socioeconomic power within the rural ethnic enclave and their lack
of such power outside it were interpreted and expressed through racialized
generalized and naturalizeddifferences between themselves and their non-
NikkeiBolivian Others, such as impoverished laborers in Colonia Okinawa and
wealthy elites in urban Bolivia. These racialized differences, in turn, provided

Okinawan-Bolivians with explanations for why they occupied a different socio-

economic status within Colonia Okinawa and in larger Bolivian society.

This chapter has examined not only structural macro-processes at the lo-
cal, national, and international levels that shaped the socioeconomic status of
Okinawan-Bolivians in Colonia Okinawa, but also their daily interactions with
non-Okinawan-Bolivians at their workplaces in which they defined, normal-
ized, and negotiated unequal positions in labor relations. The division of labor
between Okinawan-Bolivian patrones and non-Nikkei Bolivian trabajadores
was legitimized, though subtly challenged, by exploitative and paternalistic rela-
tions between the two groups. The different positions that Okinawan-Bolivians
and their non-Nikkei Bolivian Others occupied in socioeconomic structures
and labor markets in Bolivia were interpreted by Okinawan-Bolivians through
stereotyping, which oversimplified and essentialized the complex and hetero-
geneous structural conditions in which they were placed. These stereotypes,
which Okinawan-Bolivians formed through daily interactions with and obser-
vations of their non-Nikkei Bolivian laborers, deterministically explicated the
two groups subject positions, including their different socioeconomic status:
the behaviors and characters of each group were innate and unchanging, and
those were the reasons for their current socioeconomic status. The socioeco-
nomic status of Okinawan-Bolivians as large farm owners in rural Bolivia was,
in this way, understood and enacted in relation to racialized Others, such as
non-Nikkei Bolivian laborers in Colonia Okinawa and political and economic
elites in urban Bolivia. The next chapter will examine a similar process of sub-
ject positioning that Okinawan-Bolivian dekasegi migrants went through in
their workplaces in Yokohama and other Japanese cities. The major difference
between the two situations is, however, the much inferior socioeconomic sta-
tus that Nisei migrant workers occupied in urban Japan than they enjoyed in
rural Bolivia, where they were the offspring of affluent farm owners.

From Patrn to
Nikkei-jin ROdOsha :
Class Transformations

Many young Nisei moved from Colonia Okinawa to urban

Japan after realizing that it was extremely difficult to achieve economic success
on their own outside the insular environment of Colonia Okinawa. They need-
ed to accumulate cash quickly in order to launch their own farming operations
in (or near) Colonia Okinawa.1 Once they had moved to urban Japan, such
as to the Tsurumi Ward in Yokohama, Nisei found jobs in the manufacturing
and construction industries. The majority of Okinawan-Bolivians in Tsurumi
lived and ran their businesses in the Nakadri and Ushioda neighborhoods;
one study in 1998 counted twenty-one small businesses in Tsurumi run by Ok-
inawan-Bolivians from Colonia Okinawa, among which were two restaurants
serving Latin American and Okinawan food and fifteen electrical installation
firms (Tsujimoto 1998c, 320). While landing jobs through personal connec-
tions was relatively easy, Nisei faced numerous difficulties at their workplaces
in urban Japan. In addition to highly stratified labor market structures within
the construction and manufacturing industries, Niseis lack of complete fluen-
cy and literacy in standard Japanese and their own desire to return to Bolivia
in the near future limited their options to those that presented little potential
for upward socioeconomic mobility in Japan.
This chapter portrays the experiences of Okinawan-Bolivian dekasegi mi-
grants in Japan, most of whom were Nisei children of affluent Issei farm owners
in Colonia Okinawa. Paralleling the last chapter, which examined Okinawan-
Bolivians socioeconomic positions and labor relations in Colonia Okinawa

and in Bolivia at large, this chapter outlines the labor market structure in the
construction industry in Japan and locates the dekasegi migrant workers with-
in it. Ethnographic snapshots of the dekasegi workers working conditions at
construction sites, the physically demanding tasks they performed in a hazard-
ous environment, the spatial isolation (and autonomy) they maintained, and
the interactions among themselves and with other workers, such as Japanese
Naichi-jin and Nikkei-jin migrants from other South American countries, in-
dicate how their subject positions in Japan were shaped and experienced. The
dekasegi migrants frequently interpreted and performed their subject positions
within the larger economic structures and daily working situations in Japan
through racialized stereotyping of others and themselves. Their various nar-
ratives on their structural positions within the Japanese labor market and the
ways in which different groups of workers act and interact were reminiscent
of Isseis and Niseis racialized (overgeneralized and naturalized) explanations
of the labor relations between non-Nikkei Bolivian laborers and Okinawan-
Bolivian farm owners in Colonia Okinawa and of the economic structure of
Bolivia at large. These narratives, which naturalized and embodied socioeco-
nomic relations to their Others as manifestations of their essentialized cultural
(Bolivian, Latin American, Japanese, or Okinawan) Selves, in turn, continued
to shape their experiences in urban Japan as Nikkei-jin rdsha (laborers).

Electrical Installation: Subcontracting Pyramid

The relatively small cost of starting up a business and the preestablished net-
works of Okinawan-Bolivian electricians in the area were cited as the key rea-
sons for the large number of Okinawan-Bolivian-owned electrical installation
firms existing in Tsurumi. Indeed, many Okinawan-Bolivian electrical installa-
tion firms in Tsurumi were founded by people who used to work for other Ok-
inawan-Bolivian-owned electrical installation firms. To start their own electri-
cal installation firms, they simply converted their apartments into office space
and hired their friends from Bolivia as staff. Two electrical installation firms I
came to know during my fieldwork employed thirteen and ten electricians, re-
spectively, and the presidents of both firms used their own private apartments
as company offices.
The electrical installation industry was structured under a multilayered
outsourcing system. The construction industry of Japan is heavily depen-
dent on small-scale firms of under three hundred employees, comprising 99.7
percent of the industry, most of which were subcontractors for large general
_ _
From Patrn to Nikkei-jin Rodosha 85

construction, or zene-kon, firms (Sano 1995, 324). When a zene-kon firm was
awarded a project by a client, the firm assumed the role of the designer and
overseer of the overall construction process. The zene-kon firm would appoint
specialized contractors for actual construction assignments, such as building a
steel frame, cement work, electrical installation, painting, and interior furnish-
ing. An electrical installation firm that was hired by a parent zene-kon firm
would then appoint several subcontractors who would actually send electri-
cians to the construction sites.
The subcontracting practiced in the electrical installation industry and
the construction industry in general was further classified into subcontract-
ing (ukeoi) and staffing (haken or ouen, which means supporting). Ukeoi is
an outsourcing practice through which a parent company allocates a cer-
tain amount of work to a subcontractor, which directs and supervises its own
employees. In contrast, haken is the placement of workers by a subcontrac-
tor to its parent company, which maintains control over the staffed (subcon-
tracted) workers at the work site. It is not uncommon that one construction
project creates four or five layers of parent-child subcontracting arrange-
ment (Tsujimoto 1999, 77).2 One construction project I worked on in August
2001 was overseenby the S Kensetsu zene-kon firm. For the projects electrical

(S Kenetsu)

(F Denki)

Subcontractor (D Denki)

Sub-subcontractor (T Denki)

Construction industry pyramid


installation, S Kensetsu contracted F Denki, which, in turn, appointed three

subcontractors, among which was D Denki. D Denki asked T Denki, a sub-
subcontractor, to supply (haken) a certain number of electricians to the site
each day to work under D Denkis supervision. As haken workers, T Denki
electricians, mostly Nisei dekasegi migrants, were at the bottom of this con-
struction industry subcontracting pyramid.

Financial Instability
The zene-kon firms cash-flow problem directly affected its subcontractors and
sub-subcontractors. As sub-subcontracted staff, T Denkis electricians often
suffered from delayed or unpaid wages. In return for staffing electricians, T
Denki typically received 18,000 yen (US$150) per person per day from its par-
ent firm, but the terms of payment were never clear to the T Denki employ-
ees. Shortly after I began working at T Denki, Kamikawa Kazuo, my coworker,
told me that I should negotiate with the T Denki president, Tonoshiro Masao,
about my wages because there was no fixed pay scale. T Denkis base wage
turned out to be 12,000 yen, or US$100, a day, and those who had work expe-
rience could make 15,000 to 16,000 yen a day. Although T Denki electricians
could theoretically make 350,000 to 400,000 yen (approximately US$2,900 to
US$3,300) each month, and, indeed, some of them told me they used to earn
as much, their monthly income was typically much smaller. As one T Denki
electrician told me:

I used to make around 440,000 to 460,000 yen a month because I

worked three hours overtime each day and five or six days a week.
Recently, I havent received a chunk of money from T Denki. It is like
I get 10,000 yen, 50,000 yen, or 100,000 yen every now and then. If I
keep bugging [President Tonoshiro], Hey, give me money! then he
gives me some. But lately he doesnt. . . . If I get money like that [in
small amounts], I dont know how much I am making and getting
from him, and no money is left afterwards.

The unpredictable and unreliable payment of wages created financial stress for
T Denki electricians. In late August 2001, as T Denki electricians were gather-
ing at Ushioda Park, their meeting place, before heading to their construction
site together, Tokashiki Oscar was trying to get hold of President Tonoshiro
to discuss his delayed wage payment. Soon, other T Denki electricians started
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From Patrn to Nikkei-jin Rodosha 87

talking about their delayed wages. Tamashiro Satoru, an experienced electri-

cian, and Kamikawa Kazuo, who was a relatively new electrician with only a
few months of work experience, both said that they hadnt been paid for two
months. Mr. Tokashiki claimed that T Denki owed him nearly 800,000 yen.3
Mr. Tokashiki decided to take action. He told others, Until we get paid, we
shouldnt go to work. He called Mr. Ishikawa of D Denki, which had subcon-
tracted T Denki for the ongoing project, to explain their situation. Mr. Ishikawa
offered to loan some money to those who were in need, but Mr. Tokashiki re-
fused it because it wouldnt solve the problem. He wanted to talk to the president
of D Denki, but Mr. Ishikawa couldnt locate him. Mr. Tokashiki told him that he
would go to the site in the afternoon to discuss the matter with the D Denki pres-
ident. After the call, Mr. Tokashiki and Mr. Tamashiro discussed the situation:

tokashiki: [The delayed payment] was not entirely [President

Tonoshiros] fault. I asked him yesterday, and he told me that D Denki
hadnt paid T Denki, and he wasnt clear when [D Denki] would pay T
Denki, either.
tamashiro: [President Tonoshiro] shouldnt work for D Denki any-
more. They only give us money-losing projects.

Then, one by one, the T Denki electricians began discussing their own financial

kamikawa: I was short my apartment rent this month by 3,000 yen.

tamashiro: I asked the landlord of my apartment to wait for the rent
payment this month.
tokashiki: [A T Denki employee who wasnt there that day] hasnt
come to work recently because he knows that the project is in the red
and he is not going to get paid. He has a wife and a son, you know.
tamashiro:[To me] After all, we are here for dekasegi to make
money,you know?
tokashiki: [To me] You are lucky. You just started working.

When we found Mr. Tonoshiro, he told us that, he, too, had been unable to pay
his rent for the last two months. As a novice, I wasnt asked to join in the nego-
tiations with D Denki. Mr. Kamikawa told me about the meeting the next day:
We had to wait for hours to see the [D Denki] president. But eventually I got
some money for my rent and a little allowance money from him.

Apparently, T Denki frequently faced payment problems with its parent

subcontractors, and the situation sometimes became ugly. When I was at Pres-
ident Tonoshiros apartment, which also functioned as the T Denki office, he
showed me a letter from Y Denki, a sub-subcontractor, with which T Denki
had been having a payment dispute. The letter was written in relatively formal
Japanese, so Mr. Tonoshiro asked me to read it aloud for him. It said: The
payment that you, T Denki, are requesting from us must be D Denkis respon-
sibility. You, therefore, must negotiate with D Denki instead. If you continue to
resort to the means that you have been using lately, we, Y Denki, will consider
legal action. Perplexed by the phrase, the means that you have been using,
I looked at Mr. Tonoshiro, who then explained: We worked for Y Denki on
a project last month. But they havent paid us 1,700,000 yen that they owed
us for the project. D Denki [which was the parent subcontractor for both
Y Denki and T Denki] eventually agreed to pay us on behalf of Y Denki. And
I used the yakuza [mafia] to harass them and make them pay. The whole Y
family [who owns Y Denki] had run away. When the yakuza guys and I went
to their house, they were gone. I could not tell whether he was describing the
dispute accurately or exaggerating it, but the unsurprised response from other
T Denki employees when I read the letter aloud to them led me to believe that
similar troubles must have taken place before. For these Okinawan-Bolivian
electricians, it appeared, delayed or unpaid wages by subcontractors was busi-
ness as usual. Some Okinawan-Bolivian owners of electrical installation firms
formed a moyai, or mutual aid organization, which pooled money to assist
members who were in financial trouble in paying their employees wages (Tsu-
jimoto 1999, 80). According to Mr. Tonoshiro, however, moyai was no longer
practiced, and many Okinawan-Bolivian-owned businesses faced reoccurring
cash-flow problems.
Another problem that dekasegi workers faced was inconsistency of work
availability. During the three months or so I worked for T Denki in 2000, the
actual number of days I went to construction sites was only thirty-five. I was
often frustrated in the morning because I did not know whether, where, or
when I was supposed to work that day. My phone calls to Mr. Tonoshiros cell
phone the night before were rarely returned, and I had to keep calling him
even as I headed to the meeting place in the early morning. When one of us
finally got hold of him by phone, we were often told that there was no work
that day and to go home. We were told not to come to work on the project that
T Denki was staffing for a money-losing construction project. At one con-
struction site, my T Denki coworker told me: [This] project is in the red. . . .
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From Patrn to Nikkei-jin Rodosha 89

The construction firm estimated four hundred person days of labor, but it has
already cost seven hundred person days. Mr. Tonoshiro later confirmed it, as
he told us not to come to work until the current project was finished, because
T Denkis parent firm ordered him to keep novices like me from working for
the project to reduce labor costs. At one point in early September 2001, Mr.
Tonoshiro didnt know when there would be another project for any of his
On other occasions, there were sudden call-ups without prior notice. One
morning, around 7:20 a.m., Mr. Tonoshiro called my cell phone and asked me
if I could work that day, although he had told me the night before that there
wouldnt be any work for the next few days. Still half asleep, I said yes and asked
him where and when I should go. He asked me if I could get to Atsugi in central
Kanagawa Prefecture before 7:50 a.m. It was impossible to get there in thirty
minutes, so I told him that it would take more than an hour. He grumbled for a
while but backed off. Because of such irregular working hours, Mr. Kamikawa,
who had a wife and two school-age children, decided to leave T Denki and
had to find another job less than five months after his arrival in Japan.4 While
we waited for our coworkers at the meeting place on one of many frustrating
mornings, he told me, I cant keep doing this. My seora (wife) prepares a
lunch box for me every morning, expecting me to go to work.
Other Okinawan-Bolivians who worked in the manufacturing industry
were similarly frustrated with fluctuating wages and work schedules. Many re-
turnees from dekasegi in Japan whom I interviewed in Colonia Okinawa told
me that they had decided to return to Bolivia when their employers began to
delay paying their wages. In addition, since most factories paid their employees
hourly, the decreasing number of overtime hours was a serious blow to those
who worked in the manufacturing industry. For instance, Onaga Marco, who
worked for a gas company in Yokohama for fourteen years, decided to return
to Bolivia in 1996, after his companys business started to look shaky in 1993.
He was, at one point, earning approximately 420,000 yen a month, but later his
wages began to be delayed. When he finally quit the company, he claimed, the
firm owed him more than 900,000 yen in unpaid wages, and he didnt receive
the retirement pension benefit due all full-time employees.

Limited Mobility in an Economic Enclave

Instability of work and income in the construction and manufacturing indus-
tries caused Okinawan-Bolivian dekasegi migrants to change employers and

jobs frequently. By exploiting informal networks among family members,

relatives, and friends from Colonia Okinawa, the migrants sought jobs with
higher and more consistent income. Their options were, however, limited to
the construction, manufacturing, and service industries. Further constrained
by their lack of Japanese higher education required for white-collar jobs and
their reliance on kinship and friendship networks, the dekasegi migrants found
themselves confined in a segregated labor market.
Some of my T Denki coworkers had tried to pursue more stable employ-
ment and higher wages in the past. Tokashiki Ken and Tamashiro Satoru left T
Denki once because they thought the company would go bankrupt. Ken said,
We were telling each other, This company will go out of business, so wed
better quit before its too late! Ken and Satorus separation from T Denki,
however, didnt last long. Ken worked for a relatives equipment installation
firm (setsubi-ya). He studied for three months to obtain his license for equip-
ment installation, but he found that the wage payment at the company was,
like T Denkis, not reliable. (Things like pay can be very inconsistent if your
relative is your employer, you know.) So he decided to return to T Denki,
which was surprisingly easy. He recalled: I was really nervous when I asked
[Mr. Tonoshiro] if I could work there again, but he said, Okay. I was like,
Whew! Ken was, though, thinking about leaving T Denki again: If I dont
get paid 15,000 yen [a day] for this month, I will just say bye-bye to [President
Tonoshiro]. Those who had enough experience could also try to improve their
situations by becoming independent. Satoru and his friend, also from Colonia
Okinawa, had a quarrel with President Tonoshiro over wage payment, after
which the two left T Denki. By the end of September 2001, they had begun
contracting with other parent electrical installation firms for which they had
once worked through staffing. They tried to talk their friends at T Denki into
leaving to join them.
Nisei dekasegi migrants struggles as sub-subcontractors and manual la-
borers in the construction and manufacturing industries in urban Japan show
that their ability to move physically between Bolivia and Japan did not translate
into upward class mobility. Once they were removed from the insular Colonia
Okinawan community and entered the highly stratified labor market in urban
Japan, their socioeconomic status declined from that of offspring of upper-
class farm owners to lower-class laborers; Niseis transnational connections to
Japan, a source of their privilege in rural Bolivia, no longer possessed much
value once they moved to Japan.
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From Patrn to Nikkei-jin Rodosha 91

At the Construction Site: Ro- do-sha in Yokohama

After Nisei migrated to Japan to become manual laborers, they not only suf-
fered from a drastic decline in status within the economic structure and labor
market, but also endured numerous physical and mental hardships in their
day-to-day work. The jobs they took up in Japan, such as physical labor at con-
struction sites (genba) and assembly line work in factories, were commonly
known as 3K jobs in Japan. The three Ks stood for kitsui (difficult or strenu-
ous), kitanai (dirty or unclean), and kiken (dangerous). As more young Japa-
nese who had grown up in the affluence of the 1970s and 1980s were reluctant
to choose such unattractive jobs, Okinawan-Bolivian dekasegi migrants, along
with other South American Nikkei-jin immigrants, filled the labor shortage in
the 3K jobs. Virtually all interviewees in Colonia Okinawa who had returned
from dekasegi in Japan had worked on factory assembly lines and at construc-
tion sites, while a few others worked in retail stores as cashiers.5
Although it is impossible to generalize about all Okinawan-Bolivian deka-
segi migrants experiences in Japan, even a brief look at a day at a construction
site in Yokohama shows the sense of powerlessness T Denki electricians felt
as well as feelings of resignation, a degree of freedom, and pride in their work.
Because of the widely varying types and number of tasks at different construc-
tion sites, there was no typical day for Okinawan-Bolivian electricians. The
excerpt from my fieldnotes below shows only a glimpse of their work.

August 2001

I arrived at I Park, near President Tonoshiros apartment, which was

also T Denkis office, a few minutes after 7:00 a.m. As usual, only
Tokashiki Oscar was there. His whole family had moved to Japan sev-
eral years ago, but his uncle still lives in Colonia Okinawa. He was in
his early thirties. He and his wife, who is camba, had a two-year-old
daughter. He told me that she was currently in Colonia Okinawa stay-
ing with her family because she was scheduled to give birth soon. One
by one, other electricians arrived by foot or bike. Buen da [good
morning], sleepy greetings were exchanged among them. Todays
members were Tokashiki Oscar, his younger brother Ken, Uema Jos,
and Kamikawa Kazuo, Tamashiro Satoru, Aniya Akira, Tomori Mino-
ru, and me. Except for Mr. Kamikawa, who is in his forties with three
school-age children, and Oscar, all the others are unmarried and in

their early to mid-twenties. On the street next to the park, they were
sitting on the curb, looking at e-mail messages on their cell phone
screens. They chatted almost exclusively in Spanish, though there
wasnt much talk. Around 7:20 a.m., apparently enough members
showed up, and we got in vans without anyone giving a cue. The days
genba was a high school in the Khoku Ward of Yokohama, about a
twenty-minute drive from Tsurumi. We needed to drive two vans, in
which various tools and construction materials were crammed. We
needed to arrive at the site before eight oclock, when the morning
meeting, which all workers were supposed to attend, starts. From the
first day of my job, I was asked to drive one of the vans, because only
one other T Denki electrician had a Japanese drivers license. They told
me that before I joined one of them drove without a license. The van
was generally quiet in the morning; some munched on pastries they
had bought on the way to the park.
We arrived at the high school site late for the morning meeting.
The morning meeting at any construction site normally started with
rajio tais, or radio exercise, to warm up. All the workers lined up
according to their divisions (i.e., interior furnishing, equipment in-
stallment, electrical installations, and so on) and methodically and
precisely moved their limbs in unison to the tape-recorded music and
cues. Even when they arrived at the genba in time for the exercise, the
T Denki electricians tended to move uninterestedly through the mo-
tions. After the warm-up exercise, a project supervisor from S Ken-
setsu, a zene-kon firm, gave a briefing on the project, such as the load-
ing of the construction materials and the expected dates for the fire
marshals inspections. The meeting ended with the zene-kon supervi-
sors call to the workers, Lets work hard and safely today! (Ky mo
anzen-sagy de ganbar!), to which all the workers responded by rais-
ing their fist in accordance, yelling, Oh! This routine was followed at
all the other construction sites at which I worked.
The T Denki electricians wore worn-out sneakers and olive-
colored uniforms provided by D Denki, T Denkis parent firm. Only
Aniya Akira, who lived far from Tsurumi and took a train to I Park,
changed from his street clothes to the uniform in the van. They wore a
helmet that says D Denki and a tool belt, or koshi dgu, which typi-
cally held a few screwdrivers, a nipper, pliers, a wrench, a ratchet, a
flashlight, a scale, a cutter knife, an electric cord knife, and a balance
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From Patrn to Nikkei-jin Rodosha 93

scale. Some of us had more tools, depending on the days work. The
tool belt has an anzen-tai, an expandable safety band, with a large car-
abiner-like ring-hook at the end. The band prevents an electrician from
falling when he works high above the ground without a stable foothold.
Some were smoking cigarettes or drinking soda while Mr. Shi-
moda of F Denki, the firm that supervises all the electrical installation
projects, including those subcontracted by D Denki (and, therefore,
T Denki), spoke. He was giving the days work orders to Tomori Mi-
noru, Tamashiro Satoru, and Tokashiki Oscar, the most experienced
electricians at T Denki. After the meeting, Tamashiro gathered all the
T Denki staff and divided them into three groups, giving each one the
directions for the day in Japanese. Then, they entered the school build-
ing, which was already noisy and dusty. The days major tasks for T
Denki in the morning were

Installment of lighting equipment (kigu zuke): Following the

blueprint given by Mr. Shimoda of F Denki, they cut out the
ceiling panels where the lights needed to be placed. Then
they pulled the electric cords down from above the ceiling
and placed the light and its reflecting panels in the cut-out
holes. The equipment often didnt fit into the hole, so the
electricians had to carefully enlarge the hole with a cutter
knife without destroying the fragile ceiling panel, normally
made of inflammable fibers. Often there werent proper
electric cords placed for each location of the light, so they
had to climb into the ceiling through an inspection hatch
and crawl above the ceiling with a flashlight to rearrange
the electric lines. If the cords were missing or incorrectly
installed, they needed to install new ones.

Partitioning (majikiri): Following the blueprint provided by F Denki,

T Denki electricians installed the electric sockets and light switches
in all rooms of the building. After opening holes in the wall with a
power drill, they installed the power cords underneath the floor panels
to make sure that all the switches and sockets on the wall would have
electric cords to connect.

At ten oclock, there was a thirty-minute break. Tamashiro called other

T Denki electricians in the building on his cell phone to tell them to

take a break. They came out of the building, sweating, and bought cans
of soda from a vending machine at the on-site office building. They
placed a bucket or their own helmets upside down to sit on. Mr. Shi-
moda of F Denki asked Tamashiro Satoru and Tomori Minoru about
their progress and whether they could finish the assigned tasks for
the day. T Denki electricians were quietly chatting among themselves,
in mixed Japanese and Spanish. Most were reading or typing e-mail
messages, in Spanish, on their cell phones. Uema Jos, who lived with
a Japanese girlfriend, called her. After a short chat in Japanese, he
turned to me and said: Well, we had a little fight last night. So I had to
make up with her.6
Around noon, all the workers took an hour-long lunch break. The
T Denki electricians formed small groups, not in any particular order,
and went to a nearby convenience store to buy lunch. With dirty work
outfits, they rarely went to restaurants for lunch, except at a site where
there was an employees cafeteria construction workers were allowed
to patronize. They settled in the shade next to the building, sitting on
flattened cardboard boxes. Tokashiki Oscar was sitting near me. He
was anxious to find out about his wifes delivery. As soon as he finished
his lunch, he picked up his cell phone and made an international call
to a hospital in Santa Cruz de la Sierra to talk to his parents-in-law.
Oscar found out that a baby girl had been born safely, and both the
baby and his wife were doing well. After finishing lunch, Uema Jos,
Aniya Akira, and Tokashiki Ken took out a soccer ball from the van
and started playing with it in the schools athletic field. Sometimes,
they played catch with a baseball and gloves. The rest of the T Denki
staff spread the cardboard boxes and lay down to take a short nap until
1:00 p.m., when work would resume. During lunchtime, Mr. Shimoda
of F Denki stopped by where T Denki electricians were, but only
Tamashiro Satoru and Tokashiki Oscar, who had known him from
other projects in the past, chatted with him.
The major task in the afternoon was cable installation, or cable
drawing (kburu hiki). The main electric cables were installed
through steel pipes or elastic plastic tubes. At least two people had to
work together to install the cables inside the pipe or tube. From one
end of the pipe or tube, one inserts a steel wire, or suchru, until its
tip reaches the other end of the pipe. Then his partner attaches the
end of the electric cable, called a head (atama), to the tip of the steel
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From Patrn to Nikkei-jin Rodosha 95

wire by tightly wrapping them up together with vinyl tape. The person
holding the steel wire at the other end of the pipe then begins pulling
while his partner pushes the other end of it into the pipe.
When it seemed that we wouldnt have to work overtime today,
Mr. Kamikawa said to me, Normally, work ends at the standard time
(5:30 p.m.). It used to end at 5:00, though, instead of 5:30. Even when
we have to work overtime, it is normally until 7:30 or so. This days
work ended around 5:30 p.m. Tamashiro Satoru again phoned other
T Denki staff in the building and told them to wrap up. At the on-
site office, Tamashiro filled out the days labor registration sheet. He
gestured to me to help him write the names of all the T Denki staff in
kanji (Chinese characters), which he was not comfortable doing. Mr.
Shimoda of F Denki was telling Tomori Minoru about the next days
projects and the estimated number of electricians to be provided by T
On the way back to Tsurumi from the site, the T Denki van was
louder and more jubilant than it had been during the morning ride.
Tokashiki Oscar, who didnt have a drivers license, was driving the van
wildly, cursing in Spanish ( Mierda! [Shit!], Puta! [Whore!]). As
we approached I Park, the meeting place of the morning, they got out
of the van, one by one, near their homes. Those who needed to take a
train or who lived near Tsurumi station, including me, jumped off at
the station.

From this excerpt as well as the stories of Nisei who had worked in the manu-
facturing and construction sectors, three characteristics of their working ex-
periences stood out: first, they had to cope with physical discomfort in often
dangerous working environments; second, they struggled to gain a sense of
independence and control at their workplaces, which was unattainable within
the larger scheme of the hierarchical subcontracting system; and third, partly
owing to their effort to maintain their self-control and independence, they
largely avoided interacting with other Japanese Naichi-jin workers.

Dirty, Difficult, and Dangerous

On my first day at a construction site, Tamashiro Satoru briefly introduced me
to our supervisor from F Denki as a rookie (shinjin) before I started work.
The supervisor looked at me and said, Well, Suzuki-kun, its your first day,

right? Be careful not to hurt yourself.7 Then he joked, I mean, you can fall
from a ladder, rooftop, or whatever, but just dont get injured [laugh]. None of
the T Denki electricians was injured at the construction sites during my field-
work, but I could see why construction work, such as electrical installation,
was considered a 3K job. Several tasks and certain conditions drew groans and
whines from my coworkers. One of the main tasks for electricians was power
cable installation, or kburu hiki, which sometimes required a whole day of
work in an underground pit. One day at the site, it was raining heavily when
Mr. Kamikawa and I struggled in a muddy underground pit to install a power
cable that seemed too thick to come through the preinstalled pipe. Our jackets
were soaked with sweat and rain, while our shoes were soggy from the muddy
water pouring into the pit. Our uniforms were a mess, and my whole body was
aching as we crawled out of the pit.
Another day, Tokashiki Oscar, Ken, and I spent the whole afternoon inside
the main underground pit of the construction site. The pit was approximately
two and a half meters (eight feet) deep, so we used a ladder to enter. Inside it
was dark, cool, and humid. We had to install the cables on a steel rack that was
already in place. The pit was divided into many cells by concrete walls, and each
wall had small holes with a diameter of only sixty centimeters (twenty-three
inches). The holes were so narrow that we had to crawl into and out of them
every time we moved to an adjacent cell. As we were setting up plastic pipes to
install electric cables, Oscar struggled with the erratic pipe in a small compart-
ment of the pit, while I was holding a flashlight to help him. Frustrated, Oscar
cried out, Aaahh! Why in the world did I become an electrician, having to
work in a place like this?
Sometimes, the working environment was hazardous to workers health.
Uema Jos, Tokashiki Oscar, and I worked in a recycling plant in Chiba City
in September 2001. The plant disassembled, broke down, and sorted discard-
ed home electronic appliances, such as TVs and refrigerators, into recyclable
plastic and glass pieces. The plant was large and spacious, but the air inside
the factory building was filled with plastic and metal dust. T Denkis parent
firm gave us Styrofoam masks to protect ourselves from inhaling the danger-
ous dust. It was difficult to perform our physically demanding tasks inside the
hot factory with the masks on, however, so soon we took them off. Before long,
we began coughing violently, and our faces and arms turned ash gray from the
dust within a few hours. We spent the whole morning installing a thick cable
on the high wall rack, approximately four meters (twelve feet) above the floor.
Since there were not enough footholds around the rack nor was there a safety
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From Patrn to Nikkei-jin Rodosha 97

net below us, we could only secure ourselves with the safety band locked to a
stem of the rack nearby.
The common narratives of Okinawan-Bolivians who had returned from
their dekasegi in Japan centered on how hard (kitsui) their working experiences
had been. Those who worked on factory assembly lines had much difficulty
with fast-paced work. Tokuma Shun, who worked at a truck assembly plant in
Tokyo, told me that he hated the fast pace of his work (not a kind of work any
human being should do). He quit the job after four months. When asked what
he remembered most about his life in Japan, he replied: I dont remember Ja-
pan very much. All I remember now was how hard the work was and how bad
[the working] conditions were.
While the fast pace of work was a main source of complaints from the Oki-
nawan-Bolivian migrants who worked on factory assembly lines, those who
had worked in the construction industry hated the physical strain and haz-
ardous environment of their work. Onaga Marco, who had worked for a gas
pipe installation firm for thirteen years before returning to Colonia Okinawa
in 1996, grimaced as he recalled his work: Especially during the summer, it
became very hot because all the heat was reflected on the asphalt surface of the
streets. It was so hot that sweat got into my eyes. When I used this [he gestures
handling a jackhammer], my arms went numb after a while. Even the next day,
my arms were aching badly. I really wanted to come home, but I had a goal [of
saving money to buy land and start farming in Colonia Okinawa], so I could gut
it out. Nomura Satoshi, whom I met in Colonia Okinawa in the winter of 1998,
left for Japan in January 1999 with his wife and two young children. He worked
for a construction firm in Hiratsuka City of Kanagawa Prefecture for two years
before returning to Bolivia in April 2001. I met him the day after he returned to
Colonia Okinawa and asked him about his work in Japan. He recalled: For the
first few months, it was really hard! I had to carry construction materials that
were so long and heavy. You need to carry them with your fingers like this [put-
ting his hands in front of his abdomen, showing his palms to me], not with your
arms or on your shoulders. I can carry heavy stuff on my shoulders, you know,
but just with fingers?! It was hard. By the end of the day, my fingers became
numb and couldnt move. Even though electrical installation was generally re-
garded by the T Denki electricians as less taxing than factory assembly line
work or other construction work, it was still quite exhausting and potentially
dangerous. As Tamashiro Satoru, a T Denki electrician in his early twenties,
told me more than once, electric installation was not the kind of work you do
until you turn fifty [years old].

Struggle for Autonomy and Control

Despite the unstable income and 3K working conditions, the electricians at
T Denki preferred their jobs to others, such as assembly lines at factories and
simple construction labor. Despite the numerous difficulties, they told me, they
liked their job because it was interesting (omoshiroi).8 Their positive view of
the job derived from the relative independence enjoyed by the Nisei electri-
cians at their workplaces and their sense of pride in their manual skills, which
they might not have been able to acquire in white-collar occupations. Even
though their overall tasks were assigned by their parent firms, the electri-
cians could maintain control over their daily work schedule and a social space
among themselves at construction sites. After the morning briefing with the
parent companys project supervisor, in which only a few experienced electri-
cians from T Denki participated, the rest were, by and large, left alone during
the work hours. The T Denki electricians, unless they were badly procrastinat-
ing, enjoyed the freedom to chat in Spanish and playfully teased each other
while working on their assignments.
Freedom from strict and controlling Japanese Naichi-jin bosses was a major
reason why Aniya Akira, a twenty-three-year-old Nisei, had left his previous
electrical installation firm and joined T Denki. After arriving in Japan, Aniya
worked for a Naichi-jin Japanese-owned electrical installation firm in Tokyo,
which was very strict on punctuality, manners, and dress codes. He recalled:
They were always telling me to hurry up. But if you are always yelled at, how
can you do a good job and enjoy the work, you know? Then, he pointed at his
necklace and earrings, and said: They prohibited me from wearing these, too.
Can you believe it?
Indeed, despite my slow and sloppy work as a rookie, the T Denki elec-
tricians were extremely patient with me, and I was never severely scolded by
them. In fact, the only persons who yelled at me during my tenure as an electri-
cian/fieldworker were Naichi-jin Japanese supervisors from a parent com-
pany, when they were unhappy with my slow work. Among the T Denki work-
ers, criticism of work was exchanged in a friendly and joking manner, through
good-natured jabs. One afternoon Tamashiro Satoru was trying to hurry Ka-
mikawa Kazuo, who was a novice electrician: Hey, To [uncle, a Spanish term
of address used for an older adult man], do you want to see which one of us
finishes the work first? When he later caught Mr. Kamikawa and me chatting
while we were setting up the floor power sockets, he yelled at us from the dis-
tance with mock exasperation, inserting an Okinawan word to soften the tone,
_ _
From Patrn to Nikkei-jin Rodosha 99

Hey, you guys are having a yuntaku [chit-chat] again! It was a common sight
at construction sites for two T Denki workers to put their arms around each
others shoulders as they went back to their working locations from a break,
jubilantly chatting in standard Japanese mixed with Spanish terms and ex-
Despite the norms that all workers must arrive at the construction site be-
fore the morning meetings, the T Denki electricians were often late for the
meeting, sometimes missing it entirely.9 The T Denki staff normally joined the
rest of the construction workers during the rajio tais of the morning meeting,
and they didnt seem to be upset even if they were to miss the whole meeting.
The consensus among them was that as long as they could begin their tasks
(approximately) on time, it should not be a problem. To most of them, who
were young, fit men in their twenties, mandatory warm-up routines like the
rajio tais to prevent injuries seemed unimportant.
Meanwhile, direct work orders by Naichi-jin Japanese supervisors were of-
ten viewed as a nuisance. One day, Tamashiro Satoru and Tomori Minoru went
to a different site as ouen (help) staff for D Denki from the project on which
the rest of T Denki electricians worked. The next day, Tamashiro rejoined the
rest of the T Denki staff and complained to Kamikawa Kazuo and me about his
previous days work. He called a Japanese Naichi-jin supervisor from D Denki
debu (fat, a derogatory term in Japanese) and criticized him for only giving
orders to Tamashiro and Tomori Minoru, while never working hard himself.
Tokashiki Ken also frequently complained to me about unreasonable orders
given by the Japanese Naichi-jin boss of the parent firm: Sometimes, we have
to draw the cables twice on exactly the same route. I felt like telling him, Then
just tell us to do all of them at once! Its stupid!
In addition to the independence they were allowed at construction sites,
the Okinawan-Bolivian electricians enjoyed frequent changes in projects and
the opportunity to acquire a wide variety of technical skills, which kept them
interested in their jobs and gave them a sense of power and personal growth.
Before becoming an electrician, Tokashiki Oscar had been an assembly line
worker in a factory, but he got bored after three months; after learning all
the skills required for the job, he felt, the work became a mere repetition. That
was one reason why he chose to become an electrician, because there were
many tasks for [him] to learn and improve [his] skills. When Aniya Akira
worked for a Japanese-owned electrical installation firm in Tokyo before join-
ing T Denki, he was ordered to do all the menial work, such as carrying steel
pipes and opening boxes of lighting equipment, but was never asked to take

on more complex assignments. Tokashiki Ken, Aniyas close friend, explained

to me why Mr. Aniya quit the firm: He had to do the same work all the time.
He got tired of it, you know? Besides, his boss yelled at him whenever Aniya
didnt do it exactly the way he was told, even when he hadnt made a mistake.
It was stupid. It didnt make any difference if Aniya did it differently, right? In
contrast with the electricians freedom to improve and their independence, as
Tokashiki Oscar pointed out, dekasegi migrants who worked in the manufac-
turing industry struggled with what they perceived as lack of freedom or room
for personal growth in their work.10 Tomonaga Hiroshi, who was working at a
small factory in Tsurumi, told me that he didnt have a problem with his bosses,
but he often became frustrated with them when he was not given any choice in
how to do his work. He said, I dont like that I cant do what I want to do. At
my work, even if there are things I want to do, I am forced to do other tasks. I
dont have any freedom.
Insistence on relative freedom and the right to improvise was also a theme
during my interviews in Colonia Okinawa with dekasegi returnees from Japan.
Nomura Satoshi, a Nisei from Colonia Uno who had worked in a construction
firm, insisted that his work was fun because of the new skills he could learn
at work: I enjoyed every day of the work. No matter what it was, I liked learn-
ing a new thing. Everything was new to me. Many Nisei returnees in Colonia
Okinawa were also eager to explain to me the details of the techniques they
had learned through their work, such as how to weld steel pipes seamlessly or
how to locate the hidden electrical cords behind the wall. Takara Wagner, a
former electrician who had returned to Colonia Okinawa after nineteen years
of dekasegi in Japan, boasted he knew far more about construction work than
his Naichi-jin Japanese supervisors from zene-kon firms:

Those [Naichi-jin engineers] might have studied architecture and such

at the university, but when it comes to actual construction work, they
didnt know anything. I often had to oblige them and follow their stu-
pid directions, but, in the end, when things didnt turn out as well as
they had hoped, they came to me and asked me what to do [laugh]. . . .
The blueprints drawn by the architects didnt take these things into
account. So, I often ended up redoing all the designing [for electronic

Okinawan-Bolivian electricians insistence that they enjoyed their work was

not a self-consoling gesture toward their jobs as sub-subcontractors at the
_ _
From Patrn to Nikkei-jin Rodosha 101

bottomof the Japanese construction industry; instead, as sociologist Paul Wil-

lis observed among young British manual laborers, it was an active assertion
that their work was more masculine, and therefore more attractive, than office
jobs. They liked their workplace to be a place where people are not cissies
[sic] and can handle themselves, where pen-pushing is looked down on in fa-
vour of really doing things . . . where you can speak up for yourself, and where
you would not be expected to be subservient (Willis 1977, 96). The physical
strenuousness and potential danger that construction work presented to Nisei
dekasegi migrants required them not to be sissies and to stand for and ex-
press . . . masculinity (ibid. 104), and the variety of manual skills and practical
knowledge required for the job made them feel they were really doing things.
The Nisei electricians at T Denki, therefore, did not merely persevere in their
physically demanding work but often embraced it as an opportunity to express
their masculine strength and individual agency.

Mutual Dissociation at Work

Throughout a workday, beginning at the meeting place in Tsurumi, the van
ride to the construction sites, the morning and afternoon working hours, the
breaks, and ending in their ride back to Tsurumi, there were few direct contacts
between Nisei electricians and Naichi-jin Japanese workers. Even when the two
groups were working within the same section of the construction site, T Denki
electricians received most of their directions from the more experienced elec-
tricians among them, not from Naichi-jin supervisors from T Denkis parent
contractor. As a result, a Naichi-jin Japanese supervisor would recognize only
a few among about ten T Denki electricians who worked for the same project
regularly for several weeks.
Except for limited occasions during the breaks, I rarely witnessed conversa-
tions between T Denki electricians and their Japanese coworkers and super-
visors, largely because the actual work of electricians simply did not require
much collaboration with other workers. Most of the conversations between
them during working hours, if they ever happened, were brief discussions re-
garding the tasks at hand and plans for the rest of the day. When a brief con-
versation did take place, it tended to be, at best, awkward. For instance, a pair
of Japanese Naichi-jin electricians who heard the T Denki staff talking in Span-
ish approached them and timidly asked Uema Jos, Is what you are speaking
English? When Uema told him that it was Spanish, they looked puzzled and
walked away without further conversation.

The awkwardness that followed the interactions between Japanese Na-

ichi-jin supervisors and Okinawan-Bolivian dekasegi workers was also found
in factory settings, where the hierarchical relationship between supervisors
and workers was reinforced daily through stylized forms of communication.
Hokama Toru, a Nisei who had returned to Colonia Okinawa after working
on the assembly line of a window frames factory in Kanagawa Prefecture for
two years, described the relationship between Naichi-jin Japanese bosses and
dekasegi migrant workers in his factory as follows:

I think I was able to see the underside [ura, meaning the hidden but
real inner truth] of Japanese society.11 I could see raw [nama no] Ja-
pan in the factory. For example, I realized there were vertical relation-
ships [tate no kankei, referring to hierarchical relationships between
managers and workers] and horizontal relationships [yoko no kankei,
referring to relationships between those at the same rank] in the com-
pany, which I had never felt in South America. Among my coworkers,
there were many Nisei and Sansei from Brazil and Argentina. Those
who were in higher positions in the factory were all Japanese, but
those who were working on the [assembly] line were all South Ameri-
cans [i.e., Nikkei-jin].12 We spoke Spanish among ourselves but spoke
in Japanese to bosses. But the only time we had to actually talk was
during breaks.

These hierarchical relationships between supervisors and subordinates and

formal mannerisms, both commonly practiced in Japanese workplaces, made
Japanese Naichi-jin supervisors and Okinawan-Bolivian workers mutually
dissociate from each other, creating and maintaining the clear boundary be-
tween the two groups. Conversely, in the case of Nisei electricians at T Denki,
such formalized practices of boundary making and maintenance offered them
a safe space shared with their fellow dekasegi migrants from Colonia Okina-
wa, sheltering them from interacting with Japanese Naichi-jin workers and

South American Nikkei-jin, Okinawans, and Nihonjin

After having developed ideas about what Japanese were like, in contrast with
non-Nikkei Bolivians in Bolivia, the Okinawan-Bolivian workers tested and re-
examined their preconceptions about Japaneseness as they actually lived and
_ _
From Patrn to Nikkei-jin Rodosha 103

worked alongside with Japanese Naichi-jin in urban Japan. When the dekasegi
returnees in Colonia Okinawa recollected their working experiences in Japan,
they frequently shared with me what they learned about Japanese Naichi-jin
behaviors and characteristics, in contrast with what they had previously be-
lieved. Some of their preconceptions were confirmed, others rebutted, but
what appeared to remain consistent in their narratives was their essentializa-
tions and naturalizations of the national character and behavior patterns of
Japanese Naichi-jin as a whole in contrast with those of Bolivians or South
Americans, which often included themselves.
Although they appeared to have carried over the racialized understanding
that they had become accustomed to applying in labor relations in Colonia
Okinawa to labor relations in Japanese cities, the drastic class transformations
Nisei underwent as dekasegi migrants, from children of affluent farm own-
ers in rural Bolivia to sub-subcontracted laborers and assembly line workers
in urban Japan, helped Nisei dekasegi migrants challenge their Issei parents
racialized characterizations of Japanese people and their culture (in contrast
to non-Nikkei Bolivians and their culture). Furthermore, even as their char-
acterizations of themselves and their Others in urban Japan, such as Nihonjin
(native-born Japanese Naichi-jin), other South American Nikkei-jin (primarily
from Brazil and Peru), and Okinawans (from Okinawa Prefecture), were often
filled with stereotypes, they occasionally alluded to the disparities in political
and economic power between Japan and Bolivia (South America) and Naichi
and Okinawa as underlying factors for shaping these groups characters and
behaviors. The stereotyping narratives and practices that essentialized and
naturalized the differences among Nihonjin, Nikkei-jin, and Okinawans por-
trayed below are, then, less an indication of their unsophisticated understand-
ing of Japanese socioeconomic structures and their own positions within them
than evidence of their continuing recognition and application of the racialized
boundaries they had learned in Colonia Okinawa.

Nihonjin: Workaholic and Lazy

Given the structural limitations in their career options in Japan and the occa-
sionally degrading attitudes Naichi-jin Japanese supervisors displayed toward
them at work, it was not surprising that many Okinawan-Bolivians generalized
Naichi-jin Japanese as being cold (Tsujimoto 1999, 98, 103). Their negative
impressions of Naichi-jin Japanese workers took the form of two polarized ste-
reotypes: that of mindless workaholics and that of spoiled slackers.

When the Okinawan-Bolivian returnees from dekasegi I interviewed in Co-

lonia Okinawa described Japanese Naichi-jin, many were more appalled than
impressed by the long hours their Nihonjin coworkers devoted to work and the
robotically fast pace they managed to keep at work. Shimada Julio, a Nisei who
had worked at a subcontractor for an automobile manufacturer in Hadano City
from 1989 to 1993, didnt understand why Nihonjin worked such long hours:
It seemed like Nihonjin are working for tomorrow [the future], but here, we
dont work when it rains [laugh]. To him, his Japanese coworkers work habits
appeared abnormal: Nihonjin like working, dont they? . . . They are living life
at such a frantic pace. I thought, No wonder they became number one in the
world, if they are working this much. Even as he expressed amazement about
the fast pace of Japanese workplaces and the apparent willingness of Naichi-jin
Japanese to keep up with it, he narrated these characteristics of Nihonjin with
a hint of pity and condescension in his voice; as impressive as the Japanese
economy and work ethic might be, he clearly did not want Bolivian society and
its workplace culture to become like Japans.
In contrast, many other Nisei interviewees, who had also worked in Japan
as dekasegi migrant laborers, found that the hardworking Nihonjin was more
a myth than a reality and that they, in fact, had a better work ethic than many of
their Naichi-jin Japanese coworkers. Nomura Satoshi, a Nisei who had worked
in two factories in Hadano and Hiratsuka in Kanagawa Prefecture from 1988
to 1992, found Japanese workers different from what he had imagined them to
be. He said: Before I went there for dekasegi, my image of Japan was, People
there are all serious and hardworking. If you dont work hard, you will be fired.
But once I was there, [I discovered that] the work was not that hard, except for
the fact that they were very strict on punctuality. Mr. Nomura insisted that
foreigners, by which he meant South American Nikkei-jin migrants, includ-
ing Okinawan-Bolivian dekasegi migrants, worked harder than their Nihonjin

The firm I worked in had many foreigners. Japanese employers actually

preferred employing foreigners [i.e., South American Nikkei-jin].
. . . When I went to genba, it was so physically demanding. . . . It was so
hot that you couldnt stand it even after you tried to cool down in front
of [an air conditioner]. My [South American Nikkei-jin] friends and I
used to say, Nihonjin would never work in a difficult place like this.
. . . Nihonjin think, Oh, I can finish my work tomorrow, but we have a
purpose, like saving money or taking the family to [Tokyo] Disneyland
_ _
From Patrn to Nikkei-jin Rodosha 105

while we still live in Japan. . . . Sometimes our work at genba was done
around 3:00 p.m., and then some Nihonjin would say, Its all right. Just
make yourself look busy by sweeping the floor with a broom or some-
thing. . . . Nihonjin who had worked the same job for ten or twenty
years took [frequent] breaks, calling it task-waiting [shigoto machi].
They could do things like that only in Japan! I was thinking, Hey, be-
cause of these [lazy] guys, the projects go into the red.

Like Mr. Nomura, even when the dekasegi returnees in Colonia Okinawa
detailed how difficult and dangerous their jobs had been in Japan, they tended
to emphasize how tough and resilient they were, unlike Japanese Naichi-jin.
Onaga Marco, another Nisei returnee from a long dekasegi stint in Yokohama,
after explaining to me how hard it was to work for a gas pipe installation firm,
added, There is no way that Nihonjin could do that kind of work. . . . I had to
teach some [Nihonjin] rookies how to do the work, like how to use a jackham-
mer. Do you know how hard it is to use one? Your arms get numb after a while.
These guys just couldnt handle it. They wouldnt stick around for very long; it
was just too hard for them.
While these comments on Naichi-jin Japanese coworkers bring to mind
the ways in which Okinawan-Bolivians in Colonia Okinawa referred to the
ancestral origins of non-Nikkei Bolivians and themselves as primary reasons
for their different work ethics, they also indicate that the dekasegi migrants
were astutely aware of the economic power differential between Japan and
Bolivia, against which they observed (stereotyped) different attitudes toward
work between Japanese Naichi-jin and themselves. The dekasegi migrants felt
both jealousy and a sense of superiority toward Naichi-jin Japanese, who, the
migrants believed, could afford to be lackadaisical about work thanks to the
strong economic foundation of the country into which the Naichi-jin Japanese
had happened to be born.

Wild and Crazy Bolivians: (Self-)stereotyping

Nisei dekasegi migrants racialized interpretations of group boundaries were
not merely practices they had brought from Bolivia to Japan, but also were
shaped through daily working situations at construction sites and on assem-
bly lines. Although my Nisei interviewees, both those who had returned to
Colonia Okinawa from Japan and those who continued to live in Japan, rarely
mentioned overt discrimination by their Japanese Naichi-jin coworkers and

supervisors,instances of subtle and blatant discrimination against South Ameri-

can Nikkei-jin in Japan have been widely reported (Mori 1992; Roth 2002; Sano
1995; Takenaka 1999; Watkins 1994; but see also Tsuda 1999).13 Whereas overt
discrimination was rarely experienced by the Nisei dekasegi migrants at their
workplaces, I encountered situations in which Japanese Naichi-jin supervisors
made insensitive remarks toward T Denki electricians and T Denki electricians
had to respond, sometimes with mere shrugs and other times with more ex-
tensive retorts. These interactions indicate that the racialized boundary draw-
ing through stereotyping did not take place merely through observation and
interpretation by the dekasegi migrants alone, but also through an interactive
process involving both Naichi-jin Japanese and Nisei migrants.
Mr. Uchida of J Denki, who was the supervisor of T Denki staff for a ware-
house renovation project in Tokyo, was a rare Japanese Naichi-jin who did not
seem reluctant to chat with T Denki electricians during breaks. Presumably
in an attempt at making conversation with T Denki electricians who were not
conversant with Naichi-jin coworkers and supervisors, he kept making fun of
how under-equipped and disorganized T Denki was. One day, he was needling
Tokashiki Oscar: Hey, has Tonoshiro [T Denki president] finally fixed his fax
machine? Not yet? How can he run a business like that? Geez, your company
is really weird [laugh]. . . . How many of you guys have drivers licenses, any-
way? Just a few, right? Thats ridiculous! [laugh] Later, when he heard that
Mr. Tokashiki was paying approximately 150,000 yen (US$1,300) monthly on
his cell phone bill (he frequently called his wife in Bolivia, who was in her late
pregnancy), Mr. Uchida rolled his eyes: How in the world could you end up
paying 150,000 yen for a cell phone bill? You guys are stupid [baka]! Knowing
that most T Denki electricians were from South America, he often tried to joke
about it to make light of awkward situations. Once when the T Denki electri-
cians arrived at the construction site later than the scheduled time, Mr. Uchida
laughed and said: Where were you? Did you get lost on the way? If you drive
like that, you might end up going back to [South] America! Annoyed by his
loud teasing and taunting, the T Denki staff remained silent.
Instead of denying accusations of being crazy and stupid by Japanese
Naichi-jin supervisors and coworkers, T Denki electricians often responded
to these stereotypes by playing up these crazy and wild self-images. Uema
Jos, one of the few T Denki electricians who chatted with his Japanese Naichi-
jin coworkers and supervisors with ease, liked to tell tall tales about how ad-
venturous life in Colonia Okinawa, and in South America in general, was. He
gave a Japanese electrician, Mr. Nishime, who worked with the T Denki staff
_ _
From Patrn to Nikkei-jin Rodosha 107

during a warehouse renovation project in Tokyo, an exaggerated description

of the Bolivian diet: In Bolivia, people eat everything. We eat goat, armadillo,
many different kinds of bird, wild boar, and alligator. (This is true to an extent;
with the exception of goat, however, these things were not part of Okinawan-
Bolivians daily diet.) Enjoying Mr. Nishimes disgusted look, Mr. Uema contin-
ued to describe graphically how he once killed a bird with a rifle, how people
in Bolivia broil armadillos after shaving the fine hair on their shells, and how
he and his friends used to abuse stray dogs in Colonia Okinawa with slingshots
and BB guns, drawing further groans from Mr. Nishime. On a different oc-
casion, Mr. Uema boasted about gorgeous South American women to Mr.

uema: Women are all pretty in Bolivia, you know.

nishime: Really? What are they like?
uema: Hmm. . . . well, in Japan, maybe one among ten women has a
great body, right? But in Bolivia, most women are like that.
nishime: Wow!
uema: Brazilian women are even more amazing. Theyve got big
asses, and when they go to the beach, many are topless and wear only
a thong.
nishime: Ooooh! [Jokingly] What would happen if you touched
uema: Then her big black boyfriend would show up and beat you up

Mr. Uemas exaggerated descriptions of the wild lifestyles and voluptuous

physiques of Bolivians and Brazilians, along with a joke that stereotyped Afro-
Brazilian mens brute strength, exemplify the ways in which Nisei dekasegi mi-
grant men asserted themselves vis--vis Naichi-jin Japanese men, who not only
knew little about Bolivian society, but who also ridiculed their disorderliness,
which they viewed as representative of their natural Bolivian (South Ameri-
can) characteristics. In so doing, the Okinawan-Bolivians contradictorily em-
bellished and naturalized the aforementioned stereotypes as wild and crazy
South Americans cast upon them by Naichi-jin Japanese superiors. Postcolo-
nial theorist Ashis Nandy argues that the colonized often portrayed themselves
as being crazy and irrational in order to gain psychological autonomy from the
colonizers: The non-achieving and the insane may often have a higher chance
of achieving their . . . goal of freedom and autonomy without mortgaging their

sanity (1983, 113). Uemas tall tales about the insane life in Bolivia as well
as his hypersexualized portrayals of Bolivian and Brazilian women could also
be viewed as an attempt to gain power and authority over Japanese Naichi-jin
coworkers and supervisors at construction sites by appealing to their mascu-
line ethostough and reckless machismo and mastery over women, which
were celebrated among blue-collar workers (Willis 1977, 104)even if these
stories might further solidify stereotypes about Bolivian society and culture.

Partial Passing: Closer to Nihonjin Than South American Nikkei-jin

The majority of Okinawan-Bolivian dekasegi migrants were Nisei who had
been raised in a tight-knit immigrant community. They spoke decent, if not
always fluent, Japanese, and they possessed legal Japanese citizenship. Thanks
to these factors, Okinawan-Bolivian dekasegi migrants could try to avoid un-
comfortable and potentially mortifying stereotyping by Japanese at their work-
places by passing themselves off as native-born Japanese. Unless they openly
displayed their Bolivian/South American upbringing by talking aloud in Span-
ish at their workplaces, they could pretend to be Japanese, which they often
did. Kchi Takashi, an Okinawan-Bolivian electrical installation firm owner
who had lived in Yokohama for fifteen years, told me that he prohibited his
Okinawan-Bolivian employees from speaking Spanish at construction sites,
because some Nihonjin [workers and clients] do not like gaijin [foreigners]
working at their place. T Denki electricians also frequently tried to pass as
Japanese in the eyes of other Japanese while the electricians were at construc-
tion sites. When they arrived at a new project site, they all had to fill out the
registration forms, on which they had to write their names, medical history,
and places and dates of birth. In stark contrast to the loud conversations they
had had in Spanish before entering the office building, they all fell quiet in the
presence of Japanese Naichi-jin project managers at the office. When someone
could not understand what was written in Japanese on the form, he whispered
to another T Denki colleague, asking for help. They all wrote Okinawa Prefec-
ture in the birthplace column on the form, even though they were actually
born in Bolivia. Although Tokashiki Oscar used his Spanish first name publicly
(he wrote it in Japanese katakana, a syllabary script used for foreign names
and words), Uema Jos invented a Japanese first name, Tar, which he used for
worker registration.
Their Okinawan ancestral background played a crucial role in their
largely successful passing practices. Naichi-jin Japanese have long considered
_ _
From Patrn to Nikkei-jin Rodosha 109

Okinawansto be different from themselves because of their accented Japanese

speech, allegedly darker skin tone, and more pronounced facial features (Wa-
gatsuma 1967). Taking advantage of Naichi-jin perceptions of Okinawans as
a slightly different people, Nisei dekasegi migrants proclaimed their accent-
ed Japanese and other discernible differences from Naichi-jin Japanese were
products of their Okinawan, not Bolivian, background. Tomonaga Hiroshi, a
Nisei who had been working in the same factory in Tsurumi Ward for five
years, believed that his coworkers, mostly Japanese and a few South American
Nikkei-jin, didnt even know he was from Bolivia. He explained: Unless I tell
them that I am [from Bolivia], they wouldnt know. I mean, not that they would
care that I am from Bolivia, but I dont really need to say it. . . . [Suzuki: Dont
they notice you are not from here?] No. Okinawans [Okinawa no hito] have
an accent [namari] in their [Japanese] speech, you know? So if I tell them that
I am from Okinawa [Prefecture], they dont think that my Japanese is strange
at all.
The advantage of Okinawan-Bolivian dekasegi migrants passing as do-
mestic Okinawans was most apparent when they were competing against
other South American Nikkei-jin migrants, who occupied similar structural
positions in the construction and manufacturing industries. Many dekasegi
returnees in Colonia Okinawa insisted they were trusted by their Japanese
bosses and had little trouble in communication, unlike other South Ameri-
can Nikkei-jin. Tonoshiro Mitsuo, an Issei living in Colonia Okinawa who had
returned from dekasegi in Japan, told me that he had introduced himself as a
domestic Okinawan to other Japanese at work: I never voluntarily told oth-
ers, I am from Bolivia, but always said, I am from Okinawa [Prefecture], when
I introduced myself. If you told them that you were from South America, you
would be looked down upon [baka ni sareru]. Besides, I had learned Japanese
at school in the Colonia, so I had no problem [communicating in Japanese].
Some of them became interpreters between Japanese supervisors and other
South American Nikkei-jin workers, most of whom were much less fluent in
Japanese than Okinawan-Bolivians. Yara Eish, an Issei who worked in a fac-
tory in Hadano City from 1989 to 1996, proudly said: I could adjust to the
work at the factory smoothly. Only the first three months were hard, but those
of us from Bolivia, from the Colonia, were well trusted [by Naichi-jin supervi-
sors]. I often translated for dekasegi workers from Peru and Brazil. Nakanda-
kari Kazuhiro, an Issei who had worked as a construction laborer in Hiratsuka
City from 1987 to 1993, insisted that his supervisor wished he would stay there
longer: Even though I had told the president [of the construction firm] that I

wouldnt be able to work for good, he begged me to stay. He even offered a par-
tial stipend for my apartment rent. Many other dekasegi returnees in Colonia
Okinawa told me similar stories; their Naichi-jin Japanese employers trusted
the migrants so much that they pleaded with the employees to stay. By ap-
proximating the subject positions of Nihonjin, rather than South American
Nikkei-jin, often through passing as Okinawans from Okinawa Prefecture,
the migrants gained not only practical benefits in finding jobs and apartments,
but also a psychological wage (see Roediger 1991), a sense of superiority over
other South American Nikkei-jin migrants in Japan.
Okinawan-Bolivian dekasegi migrants attempts to disguise themselves as
domestic Okinawans did not mean that the migrants had close relationships
with other Okinawans at their workplaces or in the neighborhoods in which
they lived. When asked about other Okinawans in the area (the Nakadri-
Ushioda neighborhood) where he lived, Tomonaga Hiroshi said, I know there
are many Okinawan people who live and work around here, but we dont hang
out with them. Kchi Takashi, a Nisei who had lived and worked in Tsurumi
from 1983 to 1995, claimed that domestic Okinawans had a bad reputation
among Naichi-jin Japanese: Okinawans often drink too much and talk too
loud until late at night. So real estate brokers in Tsurumi often turned down
inquiries from Okinawan clients. A friend of mine [from Colonia Okinawa]
who lived in Tsurumi had warned me that I should not tell them that I am Oki-
nawan. But I had forgotten the advice, so I was turned down by all the agencies.
. . . I finally had to use an Okinawan real estate broker to find a place to live.
. . . It was later, after many more South Americans [i.e., Nikkei-jin] moved into
the neighborhood, that pretending to be from Okinawa [Prefecture] actually
helped us.14
Okinawan-Bolivian dekasegi migrants, it appeared, did not self-identify as
domestic Okinawans to assert their ancestral roots or a sense of kinship with
the domestic Okinawan diaspora on the Japanese mainland but instead did so
to make themselves appear less foreign and threatening to Naichi-jin Japanese
and thereby to make their lives in Japan less inconvenient. For Nisei dekasegi
migrants who had grown up as children of patrones japonesas, rather than pa-
trones okinawenses, within the race-class relations of Colonia Okinawa, making
a clear distinction between Okinawan and (generic) Japanese identity catego-
ries was not as important as managing the boundaries between Japanese and
Bolivian (South American) ones. For Okinawan-Bolivian dekasegi migrants in
Japan, therefore, the Okinawan identity category functioned as a mediating
device for reconciling the two highly racialized categories of Japanese and
_ _
From Patrn to Nikkei-jin Rodosha 111

Bolivian/South American peoples and cultures. Racialized Okinawan differ-

ences from Japanese Naichi-jin, discerned by Japanese Naichi-jin through last
names, certain physical features, and accented Japanese often mistaken for the
Okinawan dialect, allowed Nisei dekasegi migrants partially to escape from
racialized Bolivian/South American differences.

For Nisei who had grown up as children of affluent farm owners who em-
ployed inexpensive laborers for their business, the transition to working as
manual laborers in the highly stratified construction and manufacturing in-
dustries in urban Japan was a dramatic decline in socioeconomic status, even
if they earned more money. Nisei dekasegi migrants dealt with this contradic-
tory class mobility (Parreas 2001, 3) by detailing both the structural limi-
tations that the migrants faced in urban Japans labor market and their daily
interactions, or lack thereof, with Naichi-jin Japanese supervisors and cowork-
ers at their workplaces, where the migrants engaged in grueling tasks in often
dangerous and unhealthy environments.
Facing this dramatic transition in class mobility, Nisei dekasegi migrants
reexamined their racialized stereotypes of Japanese (Nihonjin) in opposition
to those of Bolivians (Boribiajin), both of which the migrants had learned
back in Colonia Okinawa. Drawn from their observations of Japanese work-
places and interactions with Naichi-jin Japanese coworkers and supervisors
there, Nisei dekasegi migrants reconfirmed or altered the contents of these
racialized categories of Nihonjin and Boribiajin. However, the Nisei dekasegi
migrants rarely challenged these racialized categories themselves; instead, they
projected their own versions of essentialized and naturalized Japanese and
Bolivian/South American characters and behaviors through their observa-
tions at Japanese workplaces.
In their workplaces in urban Japan, Okinawan-Bolivian dekasegi migrants
were saddled with stereotyped behavioral and psychological characteristics
of South Americans/Bolivians as opposed to Japanese; Japanese Naichi-jin
supervisors and coworkers interpreted what they considered unusual about
Nisei dekasegi migrant workers as a natural manifestation of their Bolivian
(South American) upbringing. These essentialized characterizations of Oki-
nawan-Bolivian dekasegi migrants by Naichi-jin Japanese supervisors helped
shape racialized distinctions between the Japanese Self and the Bolivian (South
American) Other, while downplaying, or being oblivious to, the migrants vul-
nerable positions within the Japanese labor market as semiliterate if verbally
fluent workers with no educational credentials in Japanese society.

Through these various stereotyped images, which Nisei dekasegi migrants

formed not only through their observations and interpretations, but also
through interactions with Japanese Naichi-jin coworkers and supervisors, the
migrants tried to make sense of the different socioeconomic positions they
and their Others, such as Japanese Naichi-jin, other South American Nikkei-
jin, and domestic Okinawans, occupied in the larger Japanese socioeconom-
ic fabric. While these actions by Nisei dekasegi migrants did not necessarily
help them improve their situations, such practices provided the migrants with
channels through which the otherwise disempowered dekasegi migrants could
exert authority and power within the confines of the Japanese labor market and
workplace. Under the drastically different socioeconomic circumstances they
encountered in urban Japan, Okinawan-Bolivians continued to undergo racial-
izing processes in which different content and manifestations were assigned to
Japanese, Bolivian, and Okinawan psychological and behavioral characteristics
by both Okinawan-Bolivians and their Others.

Educating Good
Nikkei and Okinawan

While I was a volunteer Japanese language teacher at Okina-

wa Uno Japanese-Bolivian School (Colegio Particular Mixto Centro Boliviano
Japones Okinawa Numero Uno, Numero Uno hereafter) in Colonia Uno and the
Nueva Esperanza School (Colegio Mixto Nueva Esperanza, Nueva Esperanza
hereafter) in Colonia Dos during my fieldwork, I was impressed by the number
of hours the Okinawan-Bolivian Nisei and Sansei children spent studying the
Japanese language, practicing Okinawan dance, such as Eis, and preparing
for community festivals and events. These classes were not part of the national
curriculum, and these extracurricular activities would not necessarily be useful
for students success in the larger Bolivian society. What, then, did the schools
and those who worked for the schools intend to accomplish through education
of young Okinawan-Bolivians in Colonia Okinawa, and what were the actual
outcomes for the students and for the community at large?
In previous chapters, I explored how the subject positions of Okinawan-
Bolivians were shaped in the labor markets and daily working situations in
Bolivia and Japan. This chapter turns to another social site in which Oki-
nawan-Bolivians subject positions were formed: educational institutions. Spe-
cifically, I examine elementary and intermediate schools in Colonia Okinawa,
which most Okinawan-Bolivian Nisei and Sansei children attended before the
vast majority graduated and then moved out of the Colonia. I argue that these
educational institutions were intended to help young Okinawan-Bolivians be-
come good Nikkei Bolivian and Okinawan diasporic subjects who possess, in

theory,idealized and distilled attributes (Kibria 2002, 160) of Japanese, Boliv-

ian, and Okinawan cultures. In various educational settings, the ideals of the
good Nikkei Bolivian and Okinawan diaspora were defined and performed by
Okinawan-Bolivians vis--vis their Others in Colonia Okinawa, such as non-
Nikkei Bolivians, Japanese Naichi-jin, and temporary residents from Okinawa
Prefecture. Nevertheless there were unintended consequences of the efforts to
cultivate good Nikkei Bolivian and Okinawan diasporic subjects out of the
Nisei and Sansei children. Specifically, the interactions of Nisei and Sansei chil-
dren with various people at the schoolnon-Nikkei Bolivian teachers, Naichi-
jin Japanese teachers, and non-Nikkei Bolivian classmatesoften contradicted,
compromised, or redirected the schools effort to produce ideal subjects.

School Education in Colonia Uno

Education in Colonia Okinawa Uno began when Okinawans first settled in the
current location of Colonia Okinawa.1 After several years of informal educa-
tion, where the children of settlers were taught by their parents, the Issei lead-
ers founded a K6 grade school in 1958, which followed the Bolivian national
curriculum (Cdigo de la Educacin Boliviana).
During the 1960s, Colonia Unos formal education was run by the Catholic
and Protestant churches, which founded two schools, Colegio San Francisco
Xavier and Colegio Evangelica Metodista Colonia Okinawa, in the early 1960s.
In 1964, San Francisco Xavier began formal Japanese education after hiring
four Japanese nuns with teaching certificates from Miyazaki Karitasu Shdjo-
kai (Caritas Sisters of Miyazaki), a Catholic organization in Miyazaki Prefec-
ture, to teach the settlers children (Mori 1998a, 106). The school taught Span-
ish classes that followed the Bolivian national curriculum in the morning and
Japanese language classes in the afternoon. The school suffered financial insta-
bility, especially after a flood in 1968 created an exodus of Okinawan-Bolivian
settlers from Colonia Okinawa. When the Caritas Sisters of Miyazaki ceased to
be part of the school administration in 1970, the Okinawan-Bolivian students
moved to Colegio Evangelica Metodista. San Francisco Xavier eventually be-
came a public school in 1974 without Japanese classes or teachers.
Colegio Evangelica Metodista was founded in 1961 by a Japanese pastor
of the Nihon Kirisuto Kydan (United Church of Christ in Japan) who had
been preaching among Okinawan settlers in Colonia Uno. From 1962, a non-
Nikkei Bolivian pastor and his wife who possessed Bolivian teaching certifi-
cates taught regular classes in Spanish, while the Methodist pastor and his wife
Educating Good Nikkei and Okinawan Subjects 115

taught Japanese language classes. In 1965, as the non-Nikkei Bolivian popu-

lation increased in Colonia Uno, the school became half-private, half-public,
staffed with Bolivian teachers appointed by the government, and began to ac-
cept non-Nikkei Bolivian students for free. When Japanese education at San
Francisco Xavier ended, Colegio Evangelica Metodista became the only school
that Okinawan-Bolivian children in Colonia Uno (the most populated of the
three subdistricts in Colonia Okinawa) attended.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the rapid increase in the number of non-Nikkei
Bolivian students and the steady decrease in Okinawan-Bolivian students (see
Chapter 1) dramatically changed the ratio between the Okinawan-Bolivian and
non-Nikkei Bolivian students at Colegio Evangelica Metodista (Table 6). In this
rapidly changing environment, Okinawan-Bolivian parents were concerned
about the increasing number of thefts in the classroom and fights between
Okinawan-Bolivian and non-Nikkei Bolivian students. A Nisei woman who
went to the school in the early 1980s recalled: It was so chaotic! I remember
that I had to carry around my backpack wherever I went, even when I was
playing outside during recess. If I left it on my desk or shelf in the classroom,
somebody would have stolen everything from it! Issei parents believed these
problems were caused by non-Nikkei Bolivian students at the school who were

table 6. Student Population at Colegio Evangelica Metodista Coloma Okinawa

Year Nikkei (Okinawan) Bolivians Non-Nikkei Bolivians

1973 94.7% 5.3%

1978 50.4% 49.6%

1979 39.5% 60.5%

1982 24.3% 75.7%

1983 27.6% 72.4%

1984 26.6% 73.4%

1985 14.6% 85.4%

1986 11.8% 88.2%

Source: Mori 1998a, 105


children of the farm laborers they employed. And that mixed classrooms with
non-Nikkei Bolivian students were lowering their childrens learning ability
(gakuryoku) (Nichibo Kykai 1985, 2). Furthermore, as the student population
increased, the operational costs of the school also rose, which increased the
financial burden on Okinawan-Bolivian parents. Okinawan-Bolivian parents
pooled money to pay extra compensation for teachers and to help the school
purchase and maintain equipment, but the parents of non-Nikkei Bolivian stu-
dents were unable or unwilling to contribute financially to the school, because
they assumed it was their employers responsibility to pay for the education of
employees children (Mori 1998a, 109).
In addition to a lack of public funding, Okinawan-Bolivian settlers had dif-
ficulty attracting and retaining qualified teachers, who did not want to be as-
signed to underequipped and understaffed schools in rural areas (Kunimoto
1986). As labor conditions and teachers salaries worsened during the nation-
wide hyperinflation of the 1980s, strikes frequently paralyzed Colegio Evan-
gelica Metodista. These conditions generated heated debate among Issei on the
future of school education in Colonia Okinawa, especially after tests conducted
by a group of Japanese scholars in schools in Colonia Okinawa and elite private
schools in Santa Cruz de la Sierra revealed that Okinawan-Bolivian students
performed considerably worse than wealthy non-Nikkei Bolivian students in
private schools in the city (Mitsuhashi 1983).
Issei leaders addressed this concern in 1987 by founding a new private
school, pooling money and constructing facilities in the centro of Colonia Uno.
The Okinawa Numero Uno Japanese-Bolivian School, for elementary (five
years) and intermediate (three years) education, accepted both Okinawan-Bo-
livian and non-Nikkei Bolivian children but set its tuition high.2 A 1985 round-
table discussion concluded: A Nichibo Kykairun private school is desirable.
It can accept Bolivian children as long as they satisfy independently set private
school rules and other conditions, and thereby avoid anti-Japanese sentiment
(Nichibo Kykai 1985, 6). By setting the tuition high, Issei attempted to pre-
vent their Nisei children from studying among lower-class non-Nikkei Boliv-
ian children and to encourage them to socialize among themselves and with
only a select few middle- and upper-class non-Nikkei Bolivians. Many of those
non-Nikkei Bolivian students at Numero Uno were children of CAICO em-
ployees, teachers, or stepchildren of intermarried Okinawan-Bolivians (Mori
1998a, 112).3
During the 2001 school year, there were seventy-six students, includ-
ing sixty-five Okinawan-Bolivian students and eleven non-Nikkei Bolivian
Educating Good Nikkei and Okinawan Subjects 117

students. Though it was not mandatory, all Okinawan-Bolivian students vol-

untarily paid extra tuition to attend the afternoon Japanese language classes,
while only three among the eleven non-Nikkei Bolivian students who attended
the Bolivian/Spanish classes in the morning stayed after lunch for the Japa-
nese classes. In the afternoon, sixty-eight students attended Japanese language
classes, which were divided into nine levels, from the special class for those
who had little Japanese proficiency to classes 1 through 8, based on students
language skills. Three Okinawan-Bolivian Nisei, four Japanese Naichi-jin,
and two Okinawan teachers from Okinawa Prefecture were in charge of the
Japanese classes in the afternoon. As with other community affairs in Colo-
nia Okinawa, JICA has been the most influential state institution in Colonia
Okinawas education, providing approximately 20 percent of the schools entire
revenue (Okinawa Daiichi Nichibo-k 1998). Japanese language teaching ma-
terials, such as national language (kokugo) textbooks used in Japanese elemen-
tary schools, writing and grammar workbooks, a Japanese language teaching
manual, various dictionaries, and encyclopedias were obtained through JICAs
Japanese Language Teaching Materials Donation Program.4
Numero Unos five stated educational objectives include a focus on the in-
struction of Japanese culture to students via Japanese language education in
addition to fulfilling the Bolivian national curriculums requirements: (1) We
pursue the coverage of educational requirements set by the Ministry of Edu-
cation of Bolivia and education suitable for the non-Nikkei Bolivian popula-
tion; (2) We pursue an education that instills students with the pride and the
intellect to live as Bolivian Nikkei-jin [Bolivians of Japanese descent]; (3) We
foster students ability to understand and express proper Japanese; (4) Through
instruction in the Japanese language, we enable the students to learn Japanese
culture, to learn and embody [taitoku suru] the good characteristics of Japa-
nese, and to develop as unique human beings with rich personalities; (5) We
pursue co-living [kysei], cooperation, and coexistence with non-Nikkei Boliv-
ians (Okinawa Daiichi Nichibo-k 2001, 1). Similar to Qubcois national-
ists who consider their French language a national essence (Handler 1988,
161), teaching Japanese language to Okinawan-Bolivian youth was regarded
by community leaders as natural resource and cultural property that fostered
their collective identity (ibid., 167). Through education, it was hoped, Nisei and
Sansei youth would become good Nikkei Bolivians, who would possess and
embody Japanese culture and values, command both the Japanese and Spanish
languages, and coexist and co-live with, but not necessarily be culturally
assimilated into, non-Nikkei Bolivians in Colonia Okinawa.

Numero Uno School housed a Spanish department (Seigo-bu) and a

Japanese department (Nichigo-bu), each with its own principal. In the morn-
ing, students attended classes that followed the Bolivian national curriculum,
internally referred to as Spanish classes (Seigo kurasu), taught by non-Nikkei
Bolivian teachers. Okinawan-Bolivian students then attended Japanese classes
(Nichigo kurasu) in the afternoon, taught by Nisei and Japanese (Naichi-jin and
Okinawan) teachers. The afternoon Japanese classes were modeled after class-
es in Japanese elementary schools, with three forty-minute sessions separated
by two five-minute recesses and offering numerous nonacademic programs
and chores, such as homeroom activities (gakky katsud), student committee
activities (iinkai katsud), cleaning school classrooms and facilities, and brass
band for the upper-graders. Since the Japanese classes in the afternoon were
officially an extracurricular program, the non-Nikkei Bolivian principal of the
Spanish department served as the schools principal.
Because the school also functioned as a key community institution for
Colonia Okinawa at large, teachers took on the responsibilities of planning
and running both school and community events. The school and community
events in 2001 that involved Numero Uno students included the following (SP
indicates mainly Spanish department events; JP, Japanese department events):

Da del Padre (Fathers Day: SP, March)

Bolivia Japanese Language Association Friendly Sports Match (sports
event among Japanese language schools in the Santa Cruz region:
JP, May)
Da de la Madre (Mothers Day: SP/JP, May)
Da del Maestro (Teachers Day: SP/JP, June)
School Track Meet (JP, June)
Da de Amistad (Friendship Day: SP, July)
Da de Patria (Independence Day: SP, August)
School Marathon (JP, September)
Keiro no Hi (Respect for Elders Day: JP, September)
Japanese Speech Contest (JP, October)
Feria de Ciencia (Science Festival: SP, October)
Nichibo Kykai Softball Tournament (JP, November)
Bolivia Japanese Language Association Speech Contest (JP, November)
Obra Teatral (Theatrical Work: SP, November)
Shukuhaku Gakushu (School Sleepover: JP, November)
Graduation Ceremony (SP/JP, November)
Educating Good Nikkei and Okinawan Subjects 119

By celebrating holidays based on both Bolivian and Japanese calendars and

customs, and participating in local community events both within the mu-
nicipality and in the larger Nikkei Bolivian community, Numero Uno pur-
sued bilingual (Spanish and Japanese) and bicultural (Bolivian and Japanese)

Five Key Actors at School

Despite the schools fairly straightforward official goals, the diverse person-
nel within the school influenced Nisei and Sansei children in complex and of-
ten contradictory ways. There were five key groups of individuals that shaped
the self-identification of the Okinawan-Bolivian children. The majority of the
Japanese-class teachers were temporary residents visiting from Japan proper
or from Okinawa Prefecture, sponsored by JICA, the Okinawa prefectural gov-
ernment, and the Methodist Church of Japan. In addition to these Naichi-jin
Japanese and Okinawan outsiders, three other groups played important roles
at the school: non-Nikkei Bolivian teachers of the Spanish department, non-
Nikkei Bolivian students, and Nisei Okinawan-Bolivian teachers of the Japa-
nese department. Each of these five principal groups at the schoolnon-Nik-
kei Bolivian students, Spanish-class teachers, Naichi-jin teachers, Okinawan
teachers, and Nisei Okinawan-Bolivian teachershad a unique influence in
forming Nisei and Sansei childrens identities.

Non-Nikkei Bolivian Students: Source of Bolivianization

As stated in the schools educational objectives, Numero Uno School did not
intend to prevent Okinawan-Bolivian students from identifying themselves as
Bolivian nationals, but it did appear to discourage what the Okinawan-Bolivian
adults stereotyped as Bolivian cultural characteristics and habits. The same
sentiments were frequently expressed by Japanese-class teachers, for example,
when they frowned upon non-Nikkei Bolivian students for being tardy and
rowdy. One teacher made fun of a non-Nikkei Bolivian student in his class who
never brought her homework to class, saying that she would bring it maana
(tomorrow). He later nicknamed her maana, and he gave up on her becom-
ing more punctual and responsible. A veteran Nisei Japanese-class teacher who
taught the special class that included several non-Nikkei Bolivian students
confessed she struggled to deal with their behavior. One day she came back
to the teachers office after a particularly trying class session and said, sighing:

I wonder why Bolivian kids [Boribiajin no ko] are so chatty! [Name of a non-
Nikkei Bolivian student] just couldnt keep quiet.
Misbehavior by Nisei and Sansei students in the school was often described
as a sign of their Bolivianization (Boribiajin-ka, literally becoming a Bolivian
person), partly because their troubles at the school often involved non-Nikkei
Bolivian students. While I was teaching at Numero Uno, a group of eighth
graders were suspended for two days after they had broken school rules. They
went off school property during a recess to fish at a nearby pond. The group
included three Okinawan-Bolivian and two non-Nikkei Bolivian boys. As the
teachers discussed the incident, they expressed their concern that the Bolivian
kids were having a bad influence on some of the Okinawan-Bolivian stu-
dents. A Nisei Japanese class teacher said, As [Okinawan-Bolivian children]
become older, they begin to imitate [mane o suru] some bad habits of [their
non-Nikkei Bolivian classmates]. It is good that they get along with each other,
but I dont want them to do bad things together. Okinawan-Bolivian students
friendships with non-Nikkei Bolivian students were, therefore, tolerated inso-
far as their allegedly innate Bolivian moral characters were not transmitted to
Okinawan-Bolivian students to erode the Japanese character that the school
was trying to instill in the students. Partly because of subtle discouragement by
the Japanese-class teachers and parents, it was uncommon to find Okinawan-
Bolivian and non-Nikkei Bolivian students developing close friendships at the
school (Kasuya 1998, 126). Becoming a good Nikkei Bolivian, in the eyes of
Japanese-class teachers at Numero Uno School, then, meant not being too cul-
turally Bolivianized, which could be achieved by limiting socialization be-
tween Okinawan-Bolivian and non-Nikkei Bolivian students.

Spanish-Class Teachers: Contradictory Role Model

Non-Nikkei Bolivian teachers of Spanish classes were another group that was
assumed to have a strong Bolivianizing influence on Okinawan-Bolivian
students but could not be easily controlled by the Numero Uno School ad-
ministration and Japanese-class teachers. While the school has separate offices
for the Spanish-class and Japanese-class teachers, it was rare for non-Nikkei
Bolivian teachers to step into the Japanese-class teachers office or vice versa.
Most Japanese-class teachers came to the office around 1:00 p.m., after the
Spanish-class teachers had finished their morning classes and left the school.
The school had, however, many public functions and events in which both Jap-
anese- and Spanish-class teachers had to participate. On such occasions, the
Educating Good Nikkei and Okinawan Subjects 121

Japanese-class teachers viewed the non-Nikkei Bolivian teachers as ambiguous

role models for the Nisei and Sansei students. In the eyes of the Japanese-class
teachers, non-Nikkei Bolivian teachers, who were expected to command re-
spect from the students, embodied some of the Bolivian characteristics and
manners that the Japanese-class teachers wanted to discourage the Okinawan-
Bolivian students from acquiring.
The Japanese-class teachers often complained that the Spanish-class teach-
ers were not acting as good role models for the Okinawan-Bolivian students.
During a Japanese-class staff meeting after the school track meet, Sat Tsuto-
mu, a Naichi-jin Japanese teacher who taught at Numero Uno as a JICA senior
volunteer, and Gushiken Akira, an elementary schoolteacher from Okinawa
Prefecture, pointed out that the Spanish-class teachers had been lackadaisical
while the students and Japanese-class teachers were doing a warm-up exer-
cise. Mr. Gushiken, a physical education teacher, told the other Japanese-class
teachers that, although he had instructed the students to move their bodies
briskly to the music, these [Spanish-class] teachers were the ones who looked
most uninterested and moved dully in front of the students [laugh]. Mr. Sat
agreed and said jokingly, Maybe we need to teach the Spanish-class teachers
how to move their bodies to the music properly before next years track meet
[laugh]. The two teachers from Japan proper and Okinawa Prefecture, both of
whom were temporary instructors at the school, found such behavior by the
non-Nikkei Bolivian teachers amusing, but Nisei teachers, like Ms. Onaga and
Ms. Tamashiro, didnt seem to find it too funny. They responded, frowning:
We know. This sort of thing always troubles us [i.e., Japanese-class teachers].
Similarly, during a staff meeting after a school fieldtrip to Santa Cruz de
Sierra, the Japanese-class teachers expressed frustration with what they viewed
as the Spanish-class teachers irresponsible actions during the trip. Ms. Tanaka,
a Naichi-jin Japanese teacher who had taught in Colonia Okinawa for decades,
expressed her concern about the students behavior in public during the trip.
Although one of the trips objectives was that students should learn public
manners and group conduct, she pointed out that some students had wan-
dered off from the group and bought snacks from peddlers on the sidewalk.
Ms. Higa, a young Nisei teacher, was disturbed by it, too, but she couldnt say
anything to the kids, because the Spanish-class teachers were the first ones [to
go buy snacks from the street vendors]. Mr. Gushiken, as an outsider from
Okinawa Prefecture, asked the Nisei teachers: Well, to what extent are we sup-
posed to enforce these rules? I also noticed that the kids were constantly eating
snackson the bus, while visiting sitesI mean, all the time! I was wondering

if I should just let such behaviors go as [an indication of ] the national character
[okuni-gara] of this country. In response, Ms. Onaga said, We [i.e., Japanese-
class teachers] know such behaviors are not good, but they [i.e., Spanish-class
teachers] dont think so. There is really nothing we can do about it.
Non-Nikkei Bolivian teachers, however, also embodied what the Japanese-
class teachers considered to be favorable Bolivian national characteristics,
such as their playfulness and allegedly exceptional hand-eye coordination.
During Da de Estudiantes (Students Day), the event during which teachers
showed their appreciation of the students, the Japanese- and Spanish-class
teachers were together making a large number of sandwiches for the children
to eat. Ms. Onaga and Ms. Ihara, both Nisei teachers, pointed at a female non-
Nikkei Bolivian (Spanish-class) teacher who used her palm as a cutting board
while slicing a tomato with a knife. Seeing amazement in my facial expression,
they said: People here [kocchi no hito] are very good at using a knife. They cut
and peel vegetables with a knife so smoothly. At the same event, the Span-
ish-class teachers also put on elaborate shows, including dances, comic skits,
and songs, for the students, who immensely enjoyed the entertainment. To
Mr. Gushiken and me, who were also impressed by the teachers well-prepared
and well-performed acts, Ms. Onaga said: They are very good at entertain-
ment, arent they? Whenever there are occasions, they always come up with
very good stuff.
The non-Nikkei Bolivian (Spanish-class) teachers represented, in the Oki-
nawan-Bolivian school staff members eyes, more of an obstacle than a help in
the schools attempt to instill in Nisei and Sansei children the ideals of good
Nikkei Bolivian subjects, a combination of what they considered to be the
superior cultural traits of Bolivia and Japan. Even as teachers, from the Oki-
nawan-Bolivians perspective, these non-Nikkei Bolivians lacked the strong
work ethic and self-discipline that Nisei and Sansei students were expected to
learn. Instead, these teachers demonstrated skills appropriate for manual labor
and entertainment, which Okinawan-Bolivians viewed as amusing but not ter-
ribly important traits for ideal Nikkei Bolivian subjects.

Naichi-jin Teachers: Authentic Japanese

The position of Japanese-class teacher is perhaps the most important public
post in Colonia Okinawa that is typically filled by Japanese Naichi-jin. From
1972 to 1994, a total of twenty-four Japanese Naichi-jin teachers were placed
in Colonia Okinawa in rotating positions to help with Japanese instruction. In
Educating Good Nikkei and Okinawan Subjects 123

addition, the Methodist and Caritas churches in Japan began placing volunteer
Japanese language teachers in the schools in Colonia Okinawa in 1958 and
1964, respectively. Ms. Tanaka, originally from central Japan, who had been
the pastor of the Methodist Church in Colonia Okinawa since 1975, became
the first principal of Numero Uno Schools Japanese department. She also re-
cruited younger Japanese Naichi-jin volunteers to help with church activities
and to teach Japanese classes at the school.
Since 1972, JICA has sent experienced schoolteachers, usually headmasters
or principals, for two- or three-year terms to Colonia Okinawa and other Nikkei
schools in Bolivia to help develop Japanese language education there. In 1990,
the program was officially renamed the Nikkei Society Senior Volunteer Pro-
gram. Before teachers were allowed to teach in Colonia Okinawa, JICA head-
quarters in Japan screened candidates for positions as senior volunteer teachers
for competence not only as Japanese language teachers, but also as trainers of
Okinawan-Bolivian Japanese language teachers and as administrative advisors
for schools and community organizations.5 JICAs Nikkei Society Youth Vol-
unteer Program was a successor to the Overseas Development Youth (Kaigai
Kaihatsu Seinen) program, which was originally founded in 1985 with the goal

Japanese language class at Colegio Evangelista Metodista Colonia Okinawa


of promoting the immigration of young Japanese into overseas Nikkei com-

munities in developing countries, such as Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay.6 During
my fieldwork in Colonia Okinawa from 2000 to 2001, Sat Tsutomu, a retired
high school principal from Aichi Prefecture, was the senior volunteer teacher
for the Colonia Okinawa schools, and a new youth volunteer, Sawa Akiko from
Yokohama, began teaching at Numero Uno School in March 2001.
These JICA volunteers and other Naichi-jin teachers were expected to
bring a sense of authenticity to the Colonia schools Japanese linguistic and
cultural education. Mr. Sat taught all grades of Japanese classes and partici-
pated in weekly staff meetings. He was also an advisor for Nichibo Kykai,
which oversaw the schools administration. He held a workshop for all Numero
Uno Japanese-class teachers to inform them of the current Japanese language
teaching curriculum in Japan and presented the new Instruction and Advising
Guidelines (Kyiku Shid Yry) for elementary education in Japan to them.
Taking notes diligently, Japanese-class teachers expressed their willingness to
keep up with the latest educational trends in Japan, even though the guidelines
were not enforced in Nikkei schools overseas. The authority given to Japan
and Japanese Naichi-jin regarding Japanese language education by Okinawan-
Bolivians was also apparent when I first visited Numero Uno at the beginning
of my fieldwork. When I asked the Japanese department principal, a Nisei
woman, about the possibility of volunteering at the school, I was surprised at
how easily and eagerly she allowed me to start teaching Japanese, without even
asking me if I had teaching experience. In her eyes, apparently, the fact that
I had been born and raised in Japan and had completed college education in
Japan was enough to qualify me to teach the language to Okinawan-Bolivian
children at the school.
The linguistic and cultural Japaneseness attributed to the Japanese Na-
ichi-jin teachers also provided a point of reference against which Okinawan-
Bolivians understood their own subject positions. Although the dichotomy
between Bolivian and Japanese was undoubtedly the most fundamental
distinction made by Okinawan-Bolivians, the presence of Naichi-jin teachers
at Numero Uno School helped Okinawan-Bolivians recognize and assert their
difference from the Japanese Naichi-jin. The JICA volunteer teachers were fre-
quently invited to the homes of elder Issei, who were eager to tell the Naichi-
jin newcomers how grueling yet adventurous the elders lives in rural Bolivia
had been and to treat the newcomers to local Bolivian foods, such as grilled
crocodile meat, even though these were hardly part of the Isseis daily diet.
One elderly Issei invited me and another Naichi-jin teacher to his house and
Educating Good Nikkei and Okinawan Subjects 125

showed us his old handgun and demonstrated to us how to clean it. He then
told us that he often took new JICA volunteer teachers to his farmland and let
them shoot his handgun and rifle there: They have never shot a gun in their
lives because they lived in a place like [virtually gun-free] Japan, you know? So
everybody loves it! Thats the kind of thing they can only do here. Similarly, I
often witnessed a group of Nisei and Sansei students at Numero Uno catching
new Naichi-jin teachers from Japan between classes and lecturing them about
local food, customs, and Spanish slang that were unfamiliar to the newcomers,
while enjoying their perplexed reactions.
In contrast to the Okinawan-Bolivians self-presentation as being tough
and wild, the Japanese Naichi-jin teachers were considered intellectually so-
phisticated but physically weak. They were, therefore, expected to help the
Okinawan-Bolivians as organizers and stewards for the various community
events. For instance, less than a month after I arrived in Colonia Okinawa,
Nichibo Kykai asked me to serve as an organizing staff member for the Colonia
Okinawa Track Meet. For the track meet, most event staff members assigned
important tasks were Naichi-jin outsiders, such as JICA youth volunteers at
the schools and hospital, Okinawa Prefecture Program teachers, and Method-
ist Church volunteers, all working under Okinawa Prefecture Program teach-
ers, who were routinely designated as event directors. As Okinawan-Bolivians
identified themselves as uneducated and unsophisticatedunfit for planning
and executing detailsNaichi-jin outsiders, such as Japanese class teachers at
Numero Uno School, were asked to fill the void in the community.
Their self-presentations as being uneducated but tough implied that Oki-
nawan-Bolivians had a high regard for physical, embodied skills over intellec-
tual skills. Despite their concern about the declining academic skills among
Nisei youth, which led to the founding of Numero Uno in the 1980s, Issei and
Nisei parents did not appear to be overly concerned about their childrens aca-
demic performance, often regarding vocational skills, such as machine repair
and sewing, as more valuable (Mori 1998b, 114). Mr. Sat noticed that the
people [in Colonia Okinawa] fundamentally valued physical labor more than
mental labor. With a resigned smile, he continued: When I was asked to hold
tutoring sessions for high school students during the [summer] break, some
parents were upset, saying that the sessions cost too much. . . . The farmers
dont value head-using work [atama o tsukau shigoto] very much because it
only uses ones brain, not ones body. They think, Why should anyone be able
to make money by working in an air-conditioned room? Ironically, there-
fore, the self-stereotyping by Okinawan-Bolivians as rural physical workers,

as opposedto Naichi-jin as urban intellectuals, explicitly or implicitly encour-

aged Nisei and Sansei children to pursue vocational and manual skills instead
of academic and intellectual ones. Kawabata Takashi, a Naichi-jin Japanese
and former Japanese-class teacher at Numero Uno School, said: One thing I
noticed among the young [Okinawan-Bolivian] people here was that most of
them have mechanical skills, such as welding and metal cutting. . . . They are
fundamentally good at manual labor that requires skills. Perhaps that is why
there are many [Nisei youth] from [Colonia] Okinawa working in car repair
factories and the like.
Expected to bring authenticity and credibility to Numero Uno Schools
Japanese language education and administration, Japanese Naichi-jin teach-
ers provided Okinawan-Bolivians with points of reference against which the
Okinawan-Bolivians understood their own subject positions. Even though Jap-
anese Naichi-jin teachers were held up as the bearers of authentic Japanese
cultural and mental traits, which Okinawan-Bolivian children were expected
to emulate to become good Nikkei Bolivians, these teachers simultaneously
embodied what Okinawan-Bolivians considered they were not and did not
want to be: brainy and wimpy urbanites who lacked manual skills and physical
toughness. These perceived differences in roles, abilities, and characteristics
between the temporary Japanese Naichi-jin teachers and Okinawan-Bolivians
indicate the community members ambivalent feelings toward the ideals of
good Nikkei Bolivian subjects that youth are expected to embody.

Okinawa Prefecture Program Teachers:

Representing Okinawan Uniqueness
Okinawan teachers from Okinawa Prefecture added more layers to Colonia
Okinawa schools mission to mold the communitys youth into good Nikkei
Bolivian subjects. Okinawa Prefectures Education Ministry is actively involved
in school education in the Colonia. From 1987 to 2001, sixteen public school
teachers from Okinawa Prefecture were assigned to Colonia Okinawa as Oki-
nawa-kenmin ijchi kyiku shisetsu haken kyshi (teachers assigned to educa-
tional institutions in overseas settlements of Okinawan immigrants; Okinawa
Prefecture Program teachers hereafter). Highlighting the historical and cultur-
al uniqueness of Okinawa in their teaching and community involvement, these
teachers helped Okinawan-Bolivians in Colonia Okinawa identify themselves
not only as good Nikkei Bolivians but also as Okinawan diasporic subjects.
Although Okinawa Prefecture Program teachers were, by and large, asked
Educating Good Nikkei and Okinawan Subjects 127

to fulfill the same roles as JICA senior and youth volunteer teachers, Okinawa
Prefecture Program teachers were also expected to introduce Okinawan tradi-
tional arts, such as Eis dance and sanshin, a stringed musical instrument, to
the students and Okinawan-Bolivian community members at large during the
teachers two-year tenures. During my fieldwork, there were three Okinawan
Prefecture Program teachers in the Colonia. Gushiken Akira, an elementary
school teacher from Okinawa, taught at Numero Uno. Ishimine Muneo in
Colonia Dos was replaced by Ishiki Katsu after Mr. Ishimines two-year term
ended at Nueva Esperanza School. As a member of a famous Okinawan music
and dance performing team back in Okinawa Prefecture, Mr. Gushiken was
also a well-trained performer and choreographer of Eis dance and Ryky
drum (Ryky daiko). During his tenure at Numero Uno, Mr. Gushiken taught
the dance to the schools upperclassmen, Colonia Okinawa Youth Association
members, and the mothers associations in Colonia Uno and Trs. In addition
to teaching Japanese classes and Okinawan folk arts, Okinawa Prefecture Pro-
gram teachers were also expected to assume more responsibilities in planning
and running Colonia Okinawas community events, such as the Colonia-wide
Ekiden race and track meet, than other Japanese Naichi-jin teachers, presum-
ably because of the program teachers ability to connect emotionally with Oki-
nawan-Bolivian community members.
Okinawa Prefecture Program teachers were very popular among the Oki-
nawan-Bolivian students parents and grandparents, especially if the teachers
possessed certain behavioral, psychological, and physical attributes that the
community members considered (stereotyped) as typically Okinawan, such
as fluency in Uchinguchi (Okinawan language), an easygoing attitude, dark
skin, a loud voice, and generous consumption of alcoholic drinks. During my
interviews with Issei in Colonia Okinawa, many fondly recalled Okinawa Pre-
fecture Program teachers in the past who had taught sanshin and Eis to the
students and spoken to them in Uchinguchi. In fact, the Issei elders of Colo-
nia Okinawa were disappointed if Okinawan teachers lacked these qualities.
Ashimine Manabu, a former Okinawa Prefecture Program teacher, told me that
he might have been more warmly accepted by the community had he been able
to speak the Okinawan language fluently and to drink alcohol: I dont drink,
and I dont speak Uchinguchi. So, sometimes the parents and grandparents
dont seem to know what to do with me [laugh]. Mr. Nakane [another Okinawa
Prefecture Program teacher teaching in Colonia Okinawa at the time] can speak
Uchinguchi really well, perhaps because he is, unlike me, from a rural area. So
he gets invitations from the grandpas and grandmas here quite often. These

alleged uniquely Okinawan characteristics that the Okinawan-Bolivian resi-

dents expected from the teachers went beyond the language they spoke. When
a new teacher from Okinawa Prefecture arrived at Nueva Esperanza School in
March 2001, Kuniyoshi Hidehiko, the school board chair, went to the Santa Cruz
airport to welcome the teacher and his family. When I asked Mr. Kuniyoshi later
what the new teacher, Ishiki Katsu, was like, Mr. Kuniyoshi was very happy with
what he had seen: Oh, he is an Okinawan, from whichever angle you look at
him! [Doko kara mite mo Okinawa no hito dayo!] He talks loudly and dresses
casuallyhe was wearing flip-flops coming out of the gate! [laugh].
These descriptions of typical Okinawan as embodied by the Okinawa
Prefecture Program teachers highlighted the differences between Japanese
Naichi-jin and Okinawans (and, by extension, Okinawan-Bolivians) recog-
nized by Okinawan-Bolivians. Like Japanese Naichi-jin teachers for Japanese
classes, Okinawa Prefecture Program teachers were a reference point against
which Okinawan-Bolivians interpreted their subject positions as members of
the Okinawan diaspora in Bolivia. During Japanese classes, Mr. Gushiken fre-
quently used terms and expressions unique to the Okinawan language with his
students, even though some students might not have understood him. When
the intermediate Japanese class students were creating a short act for the Keir
No Hi (Respect for Elders Day) event, a Sansei student came to ask him how
to say certain Japanese phrases in the Okinawan dialect (hgen). Mr. Gu-
shiken told the student the terms and then added, Well, [the language] is not
a [mere Japanese] dialect, it is Uchinguchi, reminding the student that the
Okinawan language is not subordinate to Japanese but a unique and autono-
mous language.
The distinction between the Okinawan diasporic Self and Japanese Naichi-
jin Others made by Okinawan-Bolivians relied on the authority of the Okinawa
Prefecture Program teachers as real Okinawans. At the welcome party for
Ishiki Katsu, the Okinawa Prefecture Program teacher, a Nisei man in his thir-
ties sat next to me and began accusing me of ignoring him on a previous day
when we had passed each other on the street. I did not recognize him, so I told
him that I didnt think I had met him before. The man, who was quite drunk
already, turned to Mr. Ishiki, who was sitting near us, and said, See? Naich
[Naichi-jin] are so stuck up and cold [kiddote-ite tsumetai]! They are different
from Uchin [Okinawans], dont you think? He had been a dekasegi migrant
to Japan, where he, like many other Nisei dekasegi migrants in urban Japan, had
had a difficult time. He believed that he had been turned down when he applied
for jobs in Japan because of his Okinawan surname. He continued talking to
Educating Good Nikkei and Okinawan Subjects 129

Mr. Ishiki: They [Naichi-jin] are all snobs, arent they? And they dont like
Uchin. This incident not only revealed the lingering antipathy and suspicion
toward Japanese Naichi-jin felt by (at least some) Okinawan-Bolivians, which
had often developed through their hardships as dekasegi migrant workers in
mainland Japanese cities, but also indicated their reliance on the Okinawa Pre-
fecture Program teachers as a reliable source of an authentic Okinawan per-
spective on the Japanese nation-state and Japanese Naichi-jin.
Okinawa Prefecture Program teachers helped the Okinawan-Bolivian stu-
dents, their parents, and school staff members learn and maintain their Oki-
nawan cultural heritage through instruction in traditional music and dance.
Equally important, these teachers functioned for Okinawan-Bolivians, students
and nonstudents alike, as an authentic embodiment of their ancestral origin,
represented through the teachers speech, habits, character, and even physical
appearance, which were viewed by Okinawan-Bolivians as uniquely Okinawan.
The teachers presence in Colonia Okinawa served as a crucial reminder for
Okinawan-Bolivians of their distinctiveness as part of the Okinawan diaspora
apart from Japanese Naichi-jin and their overseas counterparts.

Nisei Teachers: Ambivalent Mediators

Among the four Nisei teachers at Numero Uno School in 2000, two were farm
owners wives, one was married to a doctor at the Colonia hospital, and one
was a young Nisei who had graduated from Numero Uno not long before. None
possessed either Bolivian or Japanese teaching certificates or degrees from Bo-
livian or Japanese universities. Those Nisei Japanese-class teachers were placed
in an ambivalent position at the school. On the one hand, as native residents of
Colonia Okinawa who had been involved in the communitys schools for a long
time, they played the role of bilingual and bicultural interpreter for temporary
instructors visiting from Japan proper and Okinawa Prefecture, who command-
ed little Spanish and knew little about the Bolivian school system, the Colonia
Okinawan community, or Bolivian society in general. On the other hand, as
underqualified Japanese language teachers, they also had to learn teaching skills
from veteran teachers from Japan proper and Okinawa Prefecture who had been
properly trained and licensed. Thus, the Nisei teachers epitomized the ambiva-
lence inherent in the hybrid ideal of good Nikkei Bolivians with an Okinawan
cultural heritage, which the Nisei and Sansei children were expectedto pursue;
the Nisei teachers felt they were unable to assert themselvesas beingfully quali-
fied to help the students achieve any one particular aspect of the ideal.

Most Nisei teachers at Numero Uno School had become Japanese language
teachers to fulfill the communitys need, not out of their own aspirations. Find-
ing enough qualified Japanese-class teachers was always the biggest challenge
for the Colonia schools. While the aging Issei settlers were more comfortable
in their command of Uchinguchi (or a regional variant), Nisei were generally
not confident enough in their command of Japanese to teach in the classroom,
especially writing and reading, because most had received formal Japanese lan-
guage education only in Colonia Okinawa and only through middle school.
In addition, as white-collar occupations like schoolteachers were not highly
regarded among Okinawan-Bolivians (and were poorly paid) in Colonia Oki-
nawa, Nisei housewives who were fluent in Japanese usually filled the vacant
positions.7 Despite their fluent Japanese speech, adequate writing skills, and
years of teaching Japanese classes at Numero Uno School, these Nisei teachers
were insecure about their linguistic and pedagogical skills. When I first met
Ms. Onaga Tokiko, the Japanese department principal, I told her that I had not
had much experience in Japanese instruction. She dismissed my concern: Oh,
no, please dont worry. We are more or less amateurs, too. When Ms. Onaga
wrote official letters, announcements, or newsletters in Japanese, she asked
the teachers from Japan, Mr. Sat, Mr. Gushiken, or Ms. Tanaka, to double-
check what she had written before mailing them out. The Nisei teachers regu-
larly participated in workshops organized by the Japanese Language Education
Study Group of the Region of Santa Cruz (Santakurusu-Sh Nihongo Kyiku
Kenky-kai), which was founded in 1980 to help Japanese-class teachers in Co-
lonia Okinawa, Colonia San Juan Japones de Yapacan, and Santa Cruz de la
Sierra to improve Japanese language pedagogy.
It was no easy task for these Nisei women to be at the same time native-born
Bolivians, who understood the realities of rural Bolivian customs and norms,
and Japanese-class teachers, who were expected to teach Japanese language
and culture to the students, especially when there were irreconcilable differ-
ences between the Naichi-jin and Okinawan Japanese-language teachers ideas
of appropriate school activities and local norms. For instance, Mr. Gushiken,
an Okinawa Prefecture Program teacher, was troubled when he learned that
Numero Uno students would perform Eis dances around nine oclock in the
evening at the Nikkei Associations festival in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, which he
considered too late for an official school activity. Ms. Onaga and Ms. Oshiro,
both Nisei teachers, appeared apologetic, and they explained to him how Bo-
livian festivals normally took place:
Educating Good Nikkei and Okinawan Subjects 131

gushiken: Is there any way that the children [i.e., students] could
dance earlier in the event and come home sooner? Nine oclock seems
awfully late for schoolchildren to participate in an event. Besides, this
festival is not officially a school event, either.
onaga: Events here usually begin very late. When they begin too
early on a weekday evening, people cant come because of their work.
On the weekends, because people dont have to worry about [going to
work] the next day, events also start very late in the evening. So, either
way, they tend to be very late.
gushiken: Normally in Japan, schools dont take students out at night
after six oclock. Never!

On numerous occasions, Ms. Onaga and other Nisei teachers had to explain to
the Naichi-jin and Okinawan teachers about the customs in Bolivia and Colonia
Okinawa, hoping that the teachers would agree to compromise. By acting as
cultural intermediaries for the Japanese and Okinawan teachers, these Nisei
teachers were placed in the position of defending the schools ambiguously and
contradictorily defined missions: to help Nisei and Sansei children gain ideal-
ized and essentialized Japanese characteristics and behaviors while continu-
ing to live in the realities of Bolivian society.
The ambiguity and contradiction in the ideals of good Nikkei Bolivians
were also expressed by the Nisei teachers when they commented on non-Nik-
kei Bolivians in Colonia Okinawa on different occasions. The Nisei teachers
often were defensive about social norms of Bolivia and Colonia Okinawa when
speaking with the Japanese and Okinawan teachers, but they also shared some
negative stereotypes with their Issei parents regarding locals or Boribia-jin,
thereby sharply distinguishing themselves from local non-Nikkei Bolivians.
When Mr. Gushiken told his colleagues that he would plant a mandarin tree in
his backyard, Ms. Onaga, a Nisei teacher, and Ms. Tanaka, a Japanese Naichi-jin
teacher and a longtime resident of Colonia Okinawa, gave him their advice:

onaga: You have to think carefully about where you plant a fruit-
bearing tree. Otherwise, the fruits will be easily stolen.
tanaka: They [i.e., non-Nikkei Bolivians] are very smart when it
comes to such matters [as theft].
gushiken: Mr. T [his predecessor] told me when I met him, It would
have been okay if they had taken only mangos from the trees in my
yard, but they also took my laundry from the clothes line [laugh].

tanaka: And once you give them a piece of fruit, they will come to
you all the time.
onaga: [Nodding] They think that they deserve to receive it from you.8

As understanding and protective as the Nisei teachers might try to be of local

customs and norms in Colonia Okinawa and in Bolivian society at large, fun-
damentally the teachers did not see themselves as part of the same community
as non-Nikkei Bolivians; in their view non-Nikkei Bolivians remained funda-
mentally different subjects from what their Nisei and Sansei children should
become. This is not to say, however, that Nisei teachers discouraged Nisei and
Sansei students from identifying themselves as Bolivian (Boribia-jin). When
an Okinawan-Bolivian student came to the teachers office and complained to
a Nisei teacher that some Boribia-jin kids were causing trouble, the teacher
chastised him for his wording, saying, Well, you are Boribia-jin, too. It ap-
peared that, to maintain the ideal of the good Nikkei Bolivian subject as a
logically feasible goal to pursue, these Nisei teachers tried hard to make a dis-
tinction between simply being a Bolivian national and being assimilated into
what they negatively stereotyped as Bolivian culture.
In their attempt to help Nisei and Sansei children fulfill the ideals of good
Nikkei Bolivian subjects with idealized notions of Japanese culture and mo-
rality, such as honesty, obedience, and hard work, as well as a strong Boliv-
ian national identity, the Nisei teachers at Numero Uno School struggled with
what were perceived as undesirable national characteristics and customs of
Bolivia. Their solution was to encourage Nisei and Sansei to self-identify as
Bolivian and, at the same time, to discourage them from acquiring what they
negatively perceived as uniquely Bolivian customs and mentalities. The Nisei
teachers awkward efforts to cope with the Japanese-class teachers from Japan,
who were confused and frustrated by the local realities of the Bolivian school
system, lucidly exemplified the Okinawan-Bolivian communitys ambivalent
and uncertain pursuit in educating its youth.

Defining Bolivian, Japanese, and Okinawan Identities

The complex and often conflicted ideal of good Nikkei Bolivians with Oki-
nawan diasporic awareness that the Okinawan-Bolivian community hoped
Nisei and Sansei youth would fulfill was narrated, negotiated, and enacted by
the Japanese-class teachers and the students parents in various school and
community events. Four events and activities that Okinawan-Bolivian students
Educating Good Nikkei and Okinawan Subjects 133

at Numero Uno School participated in were particularly noteworthy in this re-

gard: Japanese-language speech contests, school chores, the Colonia Okinawa
Track Meet, and Okinawan Eis dance performances. These events provided
venues through which various Okinawan-Bolivian community members ar-
ticulated their diverse views on what it is to be Bolivian, Japanese (Nikkei), and
Okinawan or part of the Okinawan diaspora. While communal harmony and
equality were lauded as Nikkei virtues in intellectual settings, physical rigor
and competitiveness were celebrated as Okinawan values, both of which the
Okinawan-Bolivian community members hoped to instill into their Nisei and
Sansei offspring, thereby preventing the threat of what they perceived as Boliv-
ian cultural values, such as individualism and laziness, influencing the youth.

We Should Reward Everyones Effort:

Japanese-Language Speech Contests
Japanese speech contests, in which the Okinawan-Bolivian students wrote and
presented essays in Japanese, showed the ways in which the community sought
to define, however tenuously, what good Nikkei Bolivian subjects were sup-
posed to be. During the long process of writing and practicing to present es-
says in Japanese, the Okinawan-Bolivian teachers, students, and community
members exhibited a strong aversion to the very idea of competition among
the community members, often resisting the temporary Japanese (including
Okinawan) teachers directions. In the eyes of the Okinawan-Bolivians, no one
within the community should be publicly acknowledged as linguistically and
intellectually superior to the others or as more or less authentically Japanese
than other Okinawan-Bolivian individuals. Their anxiety about being evalu-
ated for their Japanese writing and presentation skills shows what they viewed
as important attributes of good Nikkei Bolivian subjects in Colonia Okinawa.
Rather than possessing a superb command of the Japanese language, main-
taining harmonious relationships among themselves and cultivating certain
aptitudes, or, more specifically, a strong work ethic, were what would make
Okinawan-Bolivian youth good Nikkei subjects.
The School Speech Contest (Knai Ohanashi Taikai, literally In-School Sto-
rytelling Convention) in October was regarded by the Japanese-class teachers
as one of the important events of the year. When I met with the Japanese depart-
ment principal in early July 2000, I was told that the classes until October, when
my term as a substitute teacher would end, would focus on preparing the stu-
dents for the speech contest. All Japanese-class students, including non-Nikkei

Bolivian students who were enrolled in Japanese classes, wrote, memorized,

and presented short essays (length requirements differed among grades) in
front of the parents and Japanese-class teachers, who were also the judges.9 As
the contest approached, the students used class time to write, edit, and practice
presenting the essays clearly. For the School Speech Contest, the teachers were
asked to judge each students speech according to the following three criteria:

1. Expressive Ability (Does the student speak in correct Japanese with

proper intonation?)
Is the students pronunciation correct?
Does the students voice carry well to the audience?
2. Content
Does the essays content reflect its title?
Does the essay include the students personal experience and
3. Attitude
Is the student dressed properly, and does he or she stand with
good posture?
Does the student enter and exit the stage in a proper manner, and
does he or she bow correctly?

Mr. Sat, the contests chief judge, proposed dropping the third criterion, dress
and bowing, from the list, because he thought manners were less important
than the quality of the speech itself. The Nisei teachers were a little surprised
by the suggestion to change the long-accepted criterion, but, as they usually
accepted the Naichi-jin teachers authority, they adopted the change.
Despite these evaluation criteria, the competitive aspect of the event was
openly detested by the Okinawan-Bolivian students, their parents, and Nisei
teachers at Numero Uno School. At the staff meeting before the contest, a Ni-
sei teacher raised the concern that some students would be too discouraged if
only two from each class won a prize, because everybody [was] trying hard.
Thanks to the Nisei teachers push, the teachers eventually decided to give a
participation prize (sanka-sh) to all students, although contest participation
was mandatory for Japanese-class students.
The contest began with the speeches by the students of the special class
with limited fluency in Japanese and ended with speeches by the class 8 stu-
dents. Some students struggled to remember their essays and stumbled, but
most carried out their presentations well. After the contest, the Numero Uno
Educating Good Nikkei and Okinawan Subjects 135

Bo-Nikken Japanese
Speech Contest

teachers, especially the Nisei teachers, seemed to agonize about evaluating and
grading the contestants speeches. In the staff meeting after the contest, the
Nisei teachers revealed how sorry they had felt for the children who hadnt
won. Ms. Ihara, a longtime Nisei teacher, said, I know some of my students
were unhappy, and some were even teary with anger, when [names of two stu-
dents] were given the prizes. They said it was unfair [zurui] only one won the
first prize. They all had worked hard, you know? . . . There were other students
who had made as great an effort as the winners, so if only one [actually two,
the winner and the runner-up] received a prize, those students efforts would
go unrewarded. . . . Probably we should grade their attitudes [taido] [toward
the contest]; I think it is wrong to evaluate the essay presentations with points.
They were at different levels [of fluency in Japanese], so we should take their
efforts [doryoku] into consideration. Ms. Onaga, a fellow Nisei teacher, agreed:
If we consider each students unique personality, level [of fluency], and process
of preparation for the contest, I think it is insensitive to grade their speeches
with points. In an anonymous evaluation of the contest by the teachers, one
respondent, whom I suspect to be one of the Nisei teachers, suggested: Why
dont we eliminate all individual prizes [for the next years contest] and reward
everybody with the participation prize? In the speech contest, we should teach
them what is important and change their mentality. They should not work hard
only to win a prize. Mr. Sat responded to these critiques from Nisei teachers:

I also heard that there were concerns among [the contestants] parents that it
would be too harsh not to give any award to the children who worked hard on
their essays. But as long as the events title is a contest [taikai], rather than a
presentation [happy-kai], I think it should remain a competition.10 Unlike Mr.
Sat, a Japanese Naichi-jin teacher, the Nisei teachers showed more concern
about the students motivation than about the writing and speaking skills in
Japanese they were able to develop.
Through the annual speech contests, the Okinawan-Bolivian students were
pushed by the teachers to improve not so much their writing and public speak-
ing skills in Japanese as their overall work ethic. The contests gave the commu-
nity members an opportunity to instill their Nisei and Sansei children with the
virtues of hard work and self-improvement, which the community members
viewed as being threatened by the assimilating forces of Bolivian society. Judg-
ing Nisei and Sansei childrens intellectual ability, much less their competence
in Japanese language, then, was not only unimportant for Okinawan-Bolivians
in Colonia Okinawa, but also potentially counterproductive, because some
children might be so disappointed with the outcome of the contest that they
would lose their interest in working hard to reach their goals. The differences in
the temporary Japanese teachers and Nisei teachers views of the competitive
element of the contest were a telling illustration of how the Okinawan-Bolivian
community defined good Nikkei Bolivian subjects.

Competitiveness as Okinawan Spirit:

All Colonia Okinawa Track Meet
While competitiveness was disdained by Okinawan-Bolivian community mem-
bers in the case of the Japanese Speech Contest, this was not the case at the All
Colonia Okinawa Track Meet, where Nisei and Sansei youth were encouraged
to compete fiercely. While the tasks of organizing and running the event were
assigned to the outsiders (temporary Naichi-jin Japanese residents and Oki-
nawa Prefecture Program teachers), competition among Okinawan-Bolivians
became a focal point for educating the younger members of the community.
In so doing, the community members expected to cultivate the intense, if not
always cordial, sense of communal bonding among the Nisei and Sansei youth
in Colonia Okinawa.
The annual track meet, which the three Colonias (Uno, Dos, and Trs) took
turns hosting, was considered the biggest of all the community events in Colo-
nia Okinawa, and the competition was taken seriously by all participants. The
Educating Good Nikkei and Okinawan Subjects 137

daylong event consisted of a wide variety of track races, including sprints, long-
distance races, relays of various lengths, and three-legged races. All races were
organized by age group (elementary school students, intermediate school stu-
dents, youth, adults, seniors, and so on) and by sex. Participants were divided
into five teams, according to their community affiliations: Colonia Uno A and
B (two teams from Colonia Uno, due to its disproportionately larger popula-
tion than the other two Colonias), Colonia Dos, Colonia Trs, and the Oki-
nawa Prefectural Association of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. Each team selected an
athlete for each race, who gained points according to his or her finish, and the
teams competed with each other for the total points gained by their members.
Each team selected a captain and held numerous training sessions for its mem-
bers leading up to the event.
The fierce competition among the teams at the track meet was legendary;
many older Okinawan-Bolivians recalled that past athletes and spectators had
been involved in brawls and had verbally attacked referees and staff mem-
bers over rulings on the races. I was told that because of the decreasing youth
population, caused by Niseis dekasegi emigration to Japan since the 1980s,
the intensity of the competition had declined, but the strong solidarity within
each Colonia and the bitter rivalry and jealousy among the Colonias still fueled

The winning team of the Colonia Okinawa Track Meet, 1998


competitiveness.11 In 2000, when I participated as a staff member, there was a

tense moment when the captains of two teams furiously charged at the referees
and the events chief of staff because of a controversial call during a relay race.
At the staff meeting after the track meet, in which staff and representa-
tives from all five teams gathered to reflect on the event, Ishimine Muneo, an
Okinawa Prefecture Program teacher and the events staff chief, questioned the
format and nature of the track meet. Mr. Ishimine pointed out the competitive
imbalance among the three Colonias due to the different population sizes and
suggested downsizing the event: Shouldnt we reduce the number of competi-
tions? I think this issue also involves a more fundamental question: Is this track
meet a recreational event to foster friendship among Okinawan-Bolivians or
a serious athletic competition [kygi-kai]? Onaga Miguel of Okinawa Uno
immediately responded: I think we must maintain the track meet as a com-
petitive event. If we make its objective mere recreation, I am worried that the
athletes would lose motivation. Hokama Tru, the captain of Okinawa Uno
A team, agreed: The track meet should basically retain the form of athletic
competition. [Because the event is competitive,] children can receive a kind of
discipline from the communitys adults that they cannot get at school. Finally,
the Nichibo Kykai president, who was a Colonia Trs resident, claimed that
it was the fierce competitiveness that made the Colonia-wide track meet valu-
able: Insistence on competition creates unity among Okinawans [Okinawa-
jin]. We can assign a recreational function to the schools track meets and seri-
ous competitiveness to the All Colonia Okinawa Track Meet. Our pioneering
spirit [kaitaku seishin] was nurtured [yashinawareru] by forging of our spirit
[seishin no tanren] and by winning [katsu koto].
The All Colonia Okinawa Track Meet, thus, would remain a competitive
event. During this heated discussion, Okinawan-Bolivians emphasized in front
of many Japanese Naichi-jin outsiders their affirmation of physical toughness and
competitiveness, which they believed to foster collective solidarity, disciplined
behavior, and the pioneering spirit of the Okinawan diaspora. This emphasis on
physical competition as a positive source for communal solidarity made a stark
contrast with the Okinawan-Bolivians wariness toward promoting intellectual
and linguistic competition at the Japanese speech contest, where they claimed
the competitiveness would undermine the harmony among the community
members. Linguistic and intellectual prowess was seen by Okinawan-Bolivians
as a useful tool for cultivating good Nikkei (i.e., Japanese-Bolivian) subjects
insofar as it does not undermine the childrens physical ability, which was cele-
brated as a key component of cultivating good Okinawan diasporic subjects.
Educating Good Nikkei and Okinawan Subjects 139

Not to Raise Little Patrones: School Chores

The work ethic and self-improving attitudes of good Nikkei subjects and the
competitiveness and winning attitudes of good Okinawan subjects that Ni-
sei and Sansei children were expected to develop were, not surprisingly, both
posed against what Okinawan-Bolivians viewed as inherently Bolivian char-
acter and attitudes that were lazy and complacent. Numerous school chores for
the students were regarded by the teachers as a systematic tool to prevent the
Okinawan-Bolivian children from learning these perceived Bolivian attitudes
and behaviors.
Numero Uno teachers made sure to enforce school chores as part of the
students daily routine following Japanese classes. Every afternoon, all Japa-
nese class students cleaned the classrooms, hallways, and bathrooms. After the
cleaning was finished, the teachers went to their respective homeroom class-
rooms to inspect the results before permitting the students to go home. Dur-
ing staff meetings, the Japanese-class teachers repeatedly brought up students
lack of interest in keeping their school clean as a serious problem.
The teachers saw the students disinterest in cleaning and their general un-
willingness to do menial tasks as the most telling evidence of their cultural
Bolivianization. In this case, Bolivian culture referred not so much to nega-
tive stereotypes of poor non-Nikkei Bolivian laborers in Colonia Okinawa as to
the stereotypes of a small group of wealthy non-Nikkei Bolivian farm owners
(patrones) who employed domestic workers to do menial tasks around their
houses. During the year-end staff meeting, many teachers raised concerns re-
lated to cleaning and other school chores:

kawamoto: It seems like they cant do most fundamental things

[kihon-teki na koto] like cleaning.
onaga: [Nodding in agreement] It is worse among the upper-graders.
higa: I wonder if they even clean their rooms at home.
tanaka: I dont think they are. Their empleadas [employees, house-
maids] are cleaning their rooms.

Some Okinawa Prefecture Program teachers also noticed a similar attitude

among students during the teachers short stints in Colonia Okinawa. Ahimine
Manabu, an Okinawa Prefecture Program teacher at Nueva Esperanza School,
was disappointed with the students lack of a work ethic and discipline. He
said: They are all really good kids, and I love teaching them, but they havent

learned self-discipline [kiritsu ga mi ni tsuite inai, literally discipline is not

attached to their bodies]. I wonder if they have been Bolivianized [Boribiajin-
ka]; they dont take school chores, like cleaning, seriously.
The teachers considered mandatory school chores an effective means of
preventing Okinawan-Bolivian children from becoming culturally Bolivian-
ized. Another Okinawa Prefecture Program teacher, on his departure from
Colonia Okinawa in 1989, wrote about how he had tried to change what he
described as the Okinawan-Bolivian students little patrones attitudes by cre-
ating a new school chore. He reflected on his effort:

From the [Okinawan-Bolivian] childrens behaviors and comments, I

noticed that they were little patrones [chsana patoron] from the mo-
ment of their birth. Realizing the necessity of providing them with
some work experience . . . I created a school garden with the PTAs
help. Through growing organic vegetables and flowers, I wanted to
enrich their minds and encourage them to appreciate things around
them, nurture a cooperative spirit, enjoy working, and develop a sense
of responsibility. (Shimabukuro 1989)

A similar effort was made at Numero Uno School during my fieldwork. Each
Japanese homeroom class (from levels one to eight) had its own flower gar-
den and was responsible for caring for it. The students watered the homeroom
classs garden during cleaning time, and the extracurricular activity period was
occasionally spent weeding and thinning out overgrown plants. Upperclass
students were also asked to help the teachers prepare school and community
events during the extracurricular activity periods. They cleaned the commu-
nity auditorium and the school auditorium, decorated them, and carried the
heavy long benches and tables. The students parents encouraged the Japanese-
class teachers to require their children to do chores and, if they were slacking
off, to use corporal punishment. When I met my homeroom students parents,
they tended to ask more questions about their childrens behavior and attitudes
than about their academic performance. The father of one of my students said
to me, albeit jokingly, Sensei [teacher], is my kid behaving well at school? If she
is misbehaving or not doing her assignments or chores, please feel free to slap
her! [tataite kudasai-ne!]
From the way Okinawan-Bolivian parents focused on students attitudes
toward school chores, it appeared that the parents viewed Japanese classes
at Numero Uno School more as a venue for disciplining children than as an
Educating Good Nikkei and Okinawan Subjects 141

institution for intellectual development. According to the principal, parents

criticized Japanese-class teachers for the large amount of homework they as-
signed but had little to say about their childrens academic performance at
school. At the end of each semester, the Japanese-class teachers held open
class sessions, after which they handed out report cards to the parents of their
students. Few parents, however, actually showed up on these occasions, and
even fewer asked the teachers about their childrens performance in the Jap-
anese classes. This fact combined with the parents enthusiastic support for
the schools enforcement of school chores for the students made it apparent
that the Japanese classes at Numero Uno School were expected to improve
Okinawan-Bolivian childrens behavior and morals rather than to develop their
Japanese language skills and expand their Japanese cultural knowledge.

Okinawan Blood: Eisa- Dancing Lessons

One of the major assignments for Okinawa Prefecture Program teachers was to
teach Numero Uno students and other Okinawan-Bolivian community mem-
bers traditional Okinawan folk arts, such as Eis dance and sanshin music.12
Members of the Okinawan-Bolivian community saw these lessons in Oki-
nawan folk arts to the Nisei and Sansei children as more than an extracurricu-
lar activity; they were considered to be a crucial means to teach Nisei and San-
sei youth self-discipline and hard work through physically rigorous training,
which would help them develop into good Bolivians not simply of Japanese
descent, but also of distinctly Okinawan heritage.
Teaching Okinawan folk arts to the Bolivian-born children and grandchil-
dren of Okinawan immigrants was an exciting project for Okinawan teachers
who came to Colonia Okinawa because they felt that they were helping the
community maintain its proud cultural tradition.13 A former Okinawa Pre-
fecture Program teacher wrote that, after teaching the Numero Uno students
Eis dance throughout his tenure, he was overcome with emotion when he
saw his students performance at a community event, because he felt that the
Okinawan blood (Uchinnchu no chi) in their bodies showed through in their
dance (Okinawa Daiichi Nichibo-k 2000a). Gushiken Akira, an Okinawa Pre-
fecture Program teacher, told me, to my surprise, that he was disappointed by
how little Okinawan culture Colonia Okinawa had retained. He was eager to
improve the quality of Eis dance in Colonia Okinawa and to introduce shime-
daiko (Okinawan drum) to the community. In preparation for major school
and community events, such as the school track meet in June and the Okinawa

Harvest Festival in July, he conducted a number of Eis dance practice sessions

for Numero Uno students, members of the Colonia Youth Association, and the
Colonia Mothers Association. He also handpicked two intermediate school
students and intensively trained them to perform the Shishi-Mai (Lion Dance),
an acrobatic dance by two people wearing a mythical lion costume, alongside
the Eis dancers and shimedaiko drum lines. Within only eight months after
his arrival in Colonia Okinawa, he had trained the Youth Association members
and some Numero Uno students well enough to establish a Bolivian chapter of
the Okinawan dance and drum performance group for which he was an inter-
national coordinator.14 The Okinawan-Bolivian community members respond-
ed enthusiastically to Mr. Gushikens Eis and shimedaiko lessons for Nisei and
Sansei youth. Nichibo Kykai purchased a new set of drums, made with locally
available materials, and many Nisei and Sansei high school students, who re-
turned to Colonia Okinawa from cities during school breaks, participated daily
in physically demanding practices.
Issei and Nisei parents of Numero Uno and high school students were hap-
py to see their children joining the dance and drum lessons not just because
they wanted their children to learn traditional arts of their ancestral land, but
also because their children, who often were bored during school breaks, had an

Shishi-Mai (Lion Dance) performance by Nisei and Sansei youth

Educating Good Nikkei and Okinawan Subjects 143

Shimadaiko performance by Nisei and Sansei youth

opportunity to invest their time and energy in something they saw as positive.
An Issei parent who had a teenager son on the dance team told me: I am glad
that Mr. Gushiken began [Eis lessons for the Youth Association members]. It is
great that [my son] has become so passionate about something, instead of just
riding a motorbike around. [Nisei and Sansei teenagers] need something to do
to stay out of trouble. Indeed, high energy filled the Youth Association building,
where some twenty high school and intermediate school students participated
in dance and drum training conducted by Mr. Gushiken, who did not hesitate to
raise his voice in correcting their mistakes. The training was intense and physi-
cally demanding; the shimedaiko drums that boys strapped on their bodies were
very heavy, and the dances karate-like movements were fast and acrobatic. Mr.
Gushiken himself was also aware that Eis practice was not just about teaching
the youth a form of folk dance, but also about providing them with discipline
and guidance in their lives. He told me: In Okinawa [Prefecture], too, many
of those who joined [his Eis and drum performance team] used to be rascals
[fury]. Oftentimes, those kids just dont know what to do with their overwhelm-
ing energy and end up becoming members of motorbike gangs [bszoku] or
something. Eis is a means to provide them with an opportunity to get excited
about something and get some discipline through practice.

Therefore, the Okinawan-Bolivian community members hoped Nisei and

Sansei children, by passionately embracing Eis and shimedaiko and by actively
training through rigorous practice, would not only learn and embody the cul-
tural traditions of their ancestral homeland, but also refrain from acquiring
negatively perceived aspects of Bolivian culture, such as laziness and naughti-
ness. The older generation expected the younger generations to maintain the
Okinawan spirit by undergoing strict disciplining and fierce athletic competi-
tion; physically demanding exercise under an authority figure was also seen as
the key to developing a strong work ethic and self-discipline.

Educational institutions, such as community schools in Colonia Okinawa, were

intended to encourage Nisei and Sansei youth to become good Nikkei Bolivian
subjects who possess what Okinawan-Bolivian community members viewed as fun-
damentally Japanese characteristics, such as a work ethic and aspiration for self-
improvement, and the necessary skills to live in Bolivian society, such as speaking
and writing abilities in Spanish. By encouraging Nisei and Sansei youth to learn Oki-
nawan folk arts, the institutions also expected the youth to acquire and embody what
they viewed as distinctly Okinawan virtues, such as physical and mental toughness,
which would presumably keep the youth away from what their parents viewed as
corrupting influences of local Bolivian culture and help them carry on the audacious
spirit of the Okinawan diaspora.
These ideals of good Nikkei Bolivian subjects of Okinawan heritage were
constructed and enacted vis--vis the perceived influences from multiple sub-
groups within the school: a threat of cultural Bolivianization posed by non-
Nikkei Bolivian classmates and Spanish-class teachers; infusion of allegedly
authentic Japanese language, culture, and morality by Naichi-jin teachers
from Japan; and rigorous training in Okinawan traditional arts conducted by
Okinawan teachers from Okinawa Prefecture. In relation to each of these three
points of reference, Okinawan-Bolivians defined and enacted the ideals that
Nisei and Sansei youth were expected to achieve.
In their efforts to articulate ideals for Nisei and Sansei offspring, teachers
and other Okinawan-Bolivian community members also helped these children
to learn various stereotypes about Japanese, Bolivian, and Okinawan cultures
and morals. As we have seen, Okinawan-Bolivians who grew up in Colonia
Okinawa and attended its community schools developed highly racialized un-
derstandings of Japanese Naichi-jin, Bolivian, and, to a lesser extent, Okinawan
characteristics and behavior, which the Okinawan-Bolivians carried with them
when they migrated to Japan for dekasegi. Despite being educated to acquire
Educating Good Nikkei and Okinawan Subjects 145

(allegedly) Japanese morals and an Okinawan spirit in order to live as good

Bolivian nationals, young Okinawan-Bolivians acquired racialized ideas of
these distinct group categories, which led them to achieve only a partial and
ambiguous belonging in Colonia Okinawa, larger Bolivian society, and urban

Marriage, Family,
and Dekasegi

After having heard from Okinawan-Bolivians in Colonia

Okinawa that dekasegi migration was a common phenomenon among young
and middle-aged Nisei men, I initially sought to interview Nisei and younger
Issei men in Colonia Okinawa who had returned from dekasegi in Japan. More
often than not, however, when my interviewees had a hard time remembering
the details of their dekasegi experience, their wives, who had been eavesdrop-
ping on our conversations, chimed in and eventually replaced their husbands
in answering my questions. Though Nisei women were generally reluctant to
be interviewed by me, a male outsider, outside the presence of their husbands,
they were actually more comfortable communicating with me in Japanese than
their husbands were. Furthermore, whereas the Nisei mens recollections of
dekasegi in Japan centered on their work experiences, Nisei women offered me
a wide variety of anecdotes about their families day-to-day experiences dur-
ing their dekasegi stints in Japan. Listening to these womens stories made me
realize that transmigration between Bolivia and Japan was a highly gendered
Gender also played a significant role in racialization and transnationaliza-
tion processes among intermarried couples between Nisei and non-Nikkei
Bolivians.When I attended numerous community events in Colonia Okinawa,
I noticed the invisibility of intermarried couples or, more precisely, the non-
Nikkei spouses of Okinawan-Bolivians. Similarly noteworthy was the lack of
Gendering Transnationality 147

intermarriage between Okinawan-Bolivians and Japanese Naichi-jin, given the

fact that the majority of dekasegi migrants to urban Japan were young, single,
and quite fluent in Japanese. While there were growing numbers of intermar-
ried couples and mixed heritage children in Colonia Okinawa, it appeared that
they were only partially integrated into the community, because of the com-
munitys strong, if not always overt, resistance to intermarriage, coming par-
ticularly from Issei elders. Once the Okinawan-Bolivians migrated to Japan,
they seemed to date and marry other Okinawan-Bolivians or South Americans
of Okinawan ancestry, often with personal ties to Colonia Okinawa. Relation-
ships or marriages between Okinawan-Bolivians and Naichi-jin Japanese were
rare, partly because of mutual stereotyping between them and partly because
of a potentially difficult decision they would have to make in the future: wheth-
er to continue living in Japan or to return to Bolivia. Their marriages and rela-
tionships were, therefore, rarely a matter of purely individual choice but social
processes through which differences between Okinawan-Bolivians and their
Others were constructed and naturalized.
In this chapter, I explore processes of gender formation that establish[ed]
meaning for bodily differences (Joan Scott 1988, 2) not only between Oki-
nawan-Bolivian men and women, but also between Okinawan-Bolivians and
their Others (non-Nikkei Bolivians and Naichi-jin Japanese) in Colonia Oki-
nawa and urban Japan. In examining these gender dynamics and interethnic
courtships and marriages, more specifically, I look into two distinct but in-
terrelated gender regimes (Walby 1997, 6) as critical social sites of Oki-
nawan-Bolivians subject formations. Sociologist Sylvia Walby has defined
the domestic gender regime as being based upon household production as
the main structure and site of womens work activity and the exploitation
of her labour and sexuality, and the public gender regime as based on the
segregation and subordination of women within the structures of paid em-
ployment and the state, as well as within culture, sexuality and violence;
both regimes, according to Walby, must be analyzed in relation to mutual
structuring of class and ethnic relations in each given social context (ibid.,
6). For this study, I would like to add a communal gender regime, based on
gender differentiation of semipublic/semidomestic social apparatuses, such
as formal events and informal gatherings that community members partici-
pated in and through which they interpreted and naturalized gendered and
cultural differences between men and women and between their Others and

The Public Gender Regime of Colonia Okinawa

At workplaces in Colonia Okinawa, Okinawan-Bolivian women were separated
not only from Okinawan-Bolivian men, but also from non-Nikkei Bolivian
workers. The public gender regimes of Colonia Okinawa operated through ex-
clusion of Okinawan-Bolivian women from economic and political positions of
power within the community and through gendered differentiation within the
Colonias overall paid labor market and each individual workplace.
Gender relations in the Okinawan-Bolivian families in Colonia Okinawa
were somewhat flexibly patterned after the ie (household unit) ideology in Ja-
pan (see Chapter 1), in which patrilineal succession to family property is the
norm. Among the Okinawan-Bolivian families in Colonia Okinawa, eldest sons
had primacy in inheritance and succession, so younger sons and daughters
were left to make their own livelihoods. Frequently, an Issei father gave the
largest portion of his farmland to his eldest son and smaller lots to younger
sons. When the eldest son was not interested in taking over the family farm,
however, a younger brother could substitute. Daughters, in any case, were nev-
er inheritors of the family farm.
This patrilineal principle of inheritance was reconfirmed by Issei men when
I asked them about their daughters. The men were largely indifferent about how
their daughters would make their livelihoods and expected that they would get
married and be taken care of by their husbands. Taira Hiroshi, an Issei man
with seven children (four daughters and three sons), told me that he had ex-
panded his farmland before retirement so that he could divide it into three lots
for his three sons to inherit. When I asked him about his four daughters, he
said, I always told them: You wont get any land from me. So you will have to
find somebody to get married to. Women are supposed to marry, so I encour-
aged them to find good ones, not lazy ones [laugh]. If a Nisei woman intended
to live in Colonia Okinawa, therefore, she was left with two choices: find a job
in the extremely small paid labor market within the Colonia or marry a Nisei
man who owned a farm.
While there was an explicit communal norm to prevent women from run-
ning farming operations, there was also a more subtle separation of spheres of
influence (White 2002, 57) that secluded women from certain sectors of the
paid labor market in Colonia Okinawa. The Okinawan-Bolivian community
drew on the Japanese governments koseki (family and domicile registration)
system, in which male household heads played the role of mediator between
the state and individual citizens. As women and children were registered only
Gendering Transnationality 149

as dependents of the male household heads, female and nonadult household

members were connected to the state only through their husbands or fathers,
and the state intervened in the domestic affairs of individual households by
controlling the male household heads. The membership of Colonia Okinawas
principal political and economic organizations, Nichibo Kykai and CAICO,
consisted only of male-headed households, except for women members who
were widowed, divorced, or married to non-Nikkei Bolivian men.1 As a result
of this systematic exclusion of women, no woman had ever occupied a leader-
ship or management position in these institutions. Since their inaugurations in
1971 and 1978, respectively, both organizations have had only male presidents
and board members, and have employed no women except in administrative
assistant positions.
The majority of Nisei women who graduated from high school and re-
turned to live in the Colonia became wives of Nisei farm owners. When I asked
Arakaki Natsumi, a Nisei housewife in Colonia Okinawa, what Okinawan-Bo-
livian women did during their husbands absence during the day, she pondered
for a while and said, Well, they have a lot of time [laugh]. She said that she
normally spent her time with her Nisei friends, who were also housewives and
mothers of young children, at each others houses; visiting her parents house;
or chatting with female friends on the phone. As seen in the ethnographic
snapshot of the Kuniyoshi family presented in Chapter 2, however, the lives of
Okinawan-Bolivian housewives were typically much busier than Ms. Arakaki
portrayed them to be. Housewives were usually in charge not only of house-
hold chores, such as cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry, but also of book-
keeping and catering meals for non-Nikkei Bolivian employees at their farms.
These tasks, performed in the dusty rural environment of Colonia Okinawa,
could easily keep the housewives occupied for much of the day. Furthermore,
during the sowing and harvesting periods, when extra field laborers worked in
two shifts, these wives had to spend longer hours preparing a larger amount of
food. The housewives work, therefore, differed from their husbands mostly in
kind rather than in the amount of time and energy the work required, and the
housewives arguably contributed equally to the successful operation of their
family businesses.
Other Nisei women continued to work in Colonia Okinawa, usually on a
part-time basis, in a few positions within the paid labor market: as secretaries
at community institutions, such as schools, hospitals, and Nichibo Kykai, as
Japanese-language teachers at the schools, and as nurses at the Colonia Okina-
wa Hospital. While women in these positions were structurally subordinate to

Okinawan-Bolivian men, the women nonetheless possessed a certain amount

of authority over other employees, such as younger Nisei women and non-
Nikkei Bolivian employees at the institution. The Nichibo Kykai headquarters
employed several women as administrative assistants to the secretary general,
who directly assisted the associations president, and to a JICA youth volunteer
(replaced by JICA every two years). The secretary general was always a man,
who took on the associations bureaucratic tasks, such as proposing the budget
for the association and its affiliated community organizations and communi-
cating with the Japanese Embassy, Consulate General, and Okinawa prefec-
tural government. The JICA youth volunteer, meanwhile, assisted the secretary
general in specialized areas, such as formulating budget proposals, bookkeep-
ing, and publishing community newsletters.
Okinawan-Bolivian women typically filled two or three administrative as-
sistant positions. They primarily handled routine tasks at the front desk, such as
receiving and sending mail for the association members, handling the electric-
ity and telephone bill payments for the members, posting community notices
in front of the building, and lending members the Japanese books and video-
tapes that the community library owned.2 Not unlike female clerical workers,
or office ladies, at Japanese corporate offices (Ogasawara 2002), the women
also served tea or coffee to the president, the secretary general, and visitors,
and prepared pots of coffee and snacks for the various committee meetings
held in the conference room. These staff members also handled face-to-face
communications and transactions with the associations Okinawan-Bolivian
members and with non-Nikkei Bolivian local residents such as clerks from the
local electricity and telephone company offices who brought bills.
While these administrative assistant positions were the lowest tier within
the organizational structure, they were not responsible for menial tasks such
as cleaning rooms and maintaining the plants around the building. The se-
curity guards, janitors, and gardeners at the headquarters were non-Nikkei
Bolivian employees, whom the female Okinawan-Bolivian secretaries directly
managed. When these non-Nikkei Bolivian staff members came to work on
weekday mornings, they first came to see the secretaries at the front window to
receive detailed instructions for the day, such as which rooms to clean, which
bathrooms to fix, which trees to trim, which part of the yard to mow, or when
to lock up the front gate. Verbal communication between them was kept to a
minimum, and the non-Nikkei Bolivian employees never entered the main of-
fice. In fact, the secretaries rarely stood up from their desks to talk with these
workers when giving them work assignments through the front desk window.
Gendering Transnationality 151

Despite the womens subordinate positions within the organization, therefore,

these Okinawan-Bolivian womens status and roles were also clearly distin-
guished from those of non-Nikkei Bolivians.
In addition to gender and ethnicity, seniority and amount of work experi-
ence defined the Okinawan-Bolivian womens positions at their workplaces.
Ms. Nakada Mineko, an Issei woman who immigrated to Bolivia when she was
young and was raised in Colonia Okinawa, had worked at the headquarters as
an administrative assistant for more than a decade, much longer than the sec-
retary general or the president. Because she had worked at the association for
a long time and knew the individual Okinawan-Bolivian residents much bet-
ter than the rotating JICA volunteers, she was widely regarded as the corner-
stone of the associations administration. For instance, when Nichibo Kykai
was looking for a replacement for another female administrative assistant, the
priority set by the Nichibo Kykai president was to keep Ms. Nakada happy.
The president explained: The next employee must be someone who would be
below [shita ni naru hito] her. . . . If we hire someone above [ue no hito] her,
she would hate her work and quit. For example, hiring an Okinawan-Bolivian
man, who would be placed under her within the associations bureaucratic
structure, could create a problem. The president continued: For instance, we
considered [an Issei man], the former CAICO factory manager, as a poten-
tial candidate [for the vacant administrative position]. But he had had twice
as much experience in office work as [Ms. Nakada]. He was too good [for the
position], because [Ms. Nakada] wouldnt be able to hold him off [osaeru]. Had
he been hired, she would have quit the job. The president believed, therefore,
that unless the man was much younger and clearly less experienced than Ms.
Nakada, no Okinawan-Bolivian man should be hired to work alongside her as
an administrative staff member. Thus, the president concluded, A young un-
married woman [seorita] who will be below [Ms. Nakada] would be the best
[person for the position]. Then, [Ms. Nakada] can teach her how to do the job.
Thus, the open position was eventually filled by a Nisei woman who was much
younger than Ms. Nakada.
To satisfy the communitys ideal gender and status roles, Okinawan-Boliv-
ian women in Colonia Okinawas paid labor market were to be placed under
Okinawan-Bolivian men who had decision-making power and received higher
salaries but above the non-Nikkei Bolivian workers who handled menial tasks
or younger Okinawan-Bolivian women who had less work experience. As well-
entrenched insiders, these women also provided particular types of service,
such as dealing with non-Nikkei Bolivian employees of the association and

community residents, which the better-educated and better-trained staff mem-

bers from outside the community, such as the JICA volunteers, could not offer.
These unique qualities gave the women a certain form of power and authority
at their workplace, despite their low rank within the organizational structure
and salary scale.

Communal Spheres: Womens Unpaid Labor

Although Okinawan-Bolivian women were largely excluded from the paid la-
bor market, they played central roles in Colonia Okinawas numerous commu-
nity events, which demanded an enormous amount of labor from the women.
Okinawan-Bolivians in Colonia Okinawa, community leaders, and others con-
sidered these events an instrumental part of communal solidarity. One Nichibo
Kykai official jokingly said that planning and hosting these events were their
major work assignments. Organizations such as Nichibo Kykai and Numero
Uno School spent a considerable amount of time and resources preparing for
annual events such as the harvest festival and track meet. Although no indi-
vidual gained financially from them, participating in these events was akin to
paid work because contributing to the public good of the community was not
only praised but also practically required of all Okinawan-Bolivians in the Co-
lonia. This quasi-public sphere of communal events was where Okinawan-Bo-
livian women made their presence known to the male community leaders and
thereby increased their symbolic power and statusalbeit in a contradictory
mannerwithin the community.
At many informal and formal occasions in Colonia Okinawa, such as wel-
come parties for newly arrived JICA youth and senior volunteers, Okinawa
Prefecture Program teachers and their families, and annual events such as
Respect for Elders Day and Carnival, Okinawan-Bolivians gathered and ate
churasco (broiled beef ) and boiled yuca (cassava) together at the communitys
auditorium or at Nichibo Kykai headquarters event hall. On all these occa-
sions, there was invariably a clear division of labor between men and women.
The women worked behind the scenes, preparing food in the kitchen of the
auditorium or event hall, while the men played host, entertaining the featured
guests. Once the women finished cooking, they came out of the kitchen and sat
separately from their husbands and fathers, eating and chatting among them-
selves. The tables at these occasions were always clustered into three groups:
adult men, adult women, and children.
The gendered division of labor at communal events was as strict as the
Gendering Transnationality 153

gendered segregation of labor at paid workplaces. As a party wound down, the

women and young people (mostly teenage girls) began to clear the tables, wash
the dishes, and clean the floor of the event space. Issei and Nisei men who stayed
at the party kept eating and drinking even after other tables had been cleaned
and stored away, while their wives were chatting and children were playing out-
side the building, waiting for their husbands or fathers to come out. In fact, I
was once scolded by an Issei man for helping Okinawan-Bolivian women after
a welcome party for the new Okinawa Prefecture Program teacher. Because I
was then a teacher at the school that hosted the event, I, alongside the women,
began cleaning the tables after finishing my dinner. Then an elderly Issei, who
appeared somewhat drunk, yelled at me: Hey, you! What do you think you are
doing? Are you a woman or what? In his eyes, my behavior clearly violated the
gendered division of labor in the communal sphere in Colonia Okinawa.3
Some Okinawan-Bolivian women were unhappy with the gendered divi-
sion of labor at communal events, which put a disproportionate burden on
women. At Nichibo Kykais Christmas party in 1997, an elderly Issei man de-
clared to the women at the occasion: In Okinawan tradition, women were
supposed to serve men and elders. Things might be changing in Japan today,
but it wont happen in Colonia [Okinawa]. Some Issei and Nisei women at the
occasion immediately responded by saying that he was archaic (furui) and
that things should change in Colonia Okinawa. On another occasion, some
Nisei members of the mothers associations in Colonia Okinawa even ques-
tioned the raison dtre of their group if its female members were regarded by
the Nichibo Kykai leaders simply as an exploitable source of labor to carry out
community events.
Except for a few outspoken women, however, Okinawan-Bolivian women
were generally reluctant to express their dissatisfaction with the unfair division
of labor at communal events publicly, claiming that the contribution of womens
labor to the events was their custom (shkan) and that it should be respected
and maintained. At the aforementioned welcome party for the Okinawa Pre-
fecture Program teachers at the Colonia Dos Community Center, I ran into a
Nisei woman who was waiting outside for her husband to finish drinking and go
home with her and their young children. I jokingly asked her why she could not
just leave without him. She smiled at me and said, Well, he is having fun there,
isnt he? Sometimes, our fiestas continue until after midnight [laugh]! . . . Are
you already leaving, Sensei [teacher]? Why dont you stay longer with them?
To her and many other Nisei women, these events were too important for the
communitys unity to complain about the sacrifices the women had to make.

Their contribution to community events, even if the women were asked

to work more than men yet to stay in the background, and even though their
labor was not monetarily compensated, developed a strong sense of solidar-
ity among Okinawan-Bolivian women. Okinawan-Bolivian women who were
not always participating in the mothers associations activities and chores
were often quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) accused of being selfish,
and the members I met were very proud that their association garnered strong
commitment from the wives and mothers in the Colonia. Furthermore, these
women knew that their contribution was regarded as indispensable for suc-
cessful community events. At community events, the Nichibo Kykai presi-
dent never failed to thank the mothers associations contribution during his
speech. The voluntary and unpaid labor of Okinawan-Bolivian women on
communal events was, therefore, not simply exploitation of the women by the
male community leaders, but also an important means for the women to as-
sert themselves and gain recognition from the men as valuable members of
the community.

The Domestic Gender Regime of Colonia Okinawa

The domestic spheres of influence within the Okinawan-Bolivian community
in Colonia Okinawa, such as individual households, primarily belonged to
women, whereas men spent most of their time supervising their employees
in the fields, congregating at places like the CAICO or Nichibo Kykai of-
fices, or running errands in or outside the Colonia. Within each household,
there was also a division of labor along the lines of ethnicity, class, and gen-
der. Since most Okinawan-Bolivian women were housewives, their roles and
status were defined in relation not only to their husbands, but also to their
non-Nikkei Bolivian domestic workers, whose perceived cultural attributes
were essentialized and naturalized through stereotyping. Non-Nikkei spouses
of intermarried couples also played key roles in the domestic gender regime.
Various stereotypes of non-Nikkei Bolivian men and women as spouses and
lovers, narrated by Okinawan-Bolivians (especially Issei), provided points of
reference for Okinawan-Bolivians against which they defined and embodied
their gendered and sexual self-images. Individual households of Okinawan-
Bolivians were, in other words, critical social sites in which gender roles
and status, as well as sexual and marital norms, were articulated, contest-
ed, and performed in reference to racialized Japanese and Bolivian cultural
Gendering Transnationality 155

Divisions within Household Labor:

Non-Nikkei Bolivian Domestic Workers
Okinawan-Bolivian households with three generations living together typically
employed one or two non-Nikkei Bolivian women as housemaids, helping with
cleaning, laundry (including ironing), and, less commonly, cooking. The em-
ployment patterns varied considerably, and there were no available statistics
about non-Nikkei Bolivian domestic workers in Okinawan-Bolivian homes, but
from my conversations with Okinawan-Bolivian families and my own observa-
tions at their houses, the families usually employed middle-aged non-Nikkei
Bolivian women as full-time domestic workers and high-school-aged girls as
part-time helpers. Most lived in the Colonia and commuted to their employ-
ers houses, but a few lived in a separate house built next to their employers on
the same property. This arrangement was a legacy of the finca system in Santa
Cruz Prefecture, a version of the hacienda, in which farm owners employed
farm and domestic workers inexpensively, while providing them with housing,
education, and medical care (Stearman 1985, 2829; also see Chapter 1).
The division of labor and status differences between Okinawan-Bolivian
women and non-Nikkei Bolivian domestic workers in Colonia Okinawa were
similar to the differences observed between Italian women and Filipina do-
mestics in Italy (Parreas 2001) or Taiwanese women and Filipina or Indo-
nesian domestics in Taiwan (Lan 2006), marked and normalized through mi-
cro-scale spatial arrangements and what sociologist Judith Rollins (1985), who
researched domestic workers in Britain, called the unspoken principle of def-
erence. The spatial separation and the principle of deference were apparent in
the relationship between the Tsukamotos, a wealthy Okinawan-Bolivian fam-
ily, and Noemi Vargas and Juanita Delfino, two non-Nikkei Bolivian women
who worked for the family as domestics. Both twenty-five years old, they had
worked for the family for seven years, usually from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. from
Monday to Saturday, and were paid 20 bolivianos (US$3) a day in 2001. Their
main tasks were cleaning the floors and doing laundry, although they occasion-
ally helped Mrs. Tsukamoto with the cooking.4 Despite the large amount of
time they spent in the same house, Ms. Vargas and Ms. Delfino had few verbal
interactions with the Tsukamotos. When there was interaction between the
Tsukamotos and Ms. Vargas or Ms. Delfino, the two women evidently deferred
to their employers; they rarely initiated a conversation with the Tsukamotos,
except when the women needed directions for a task, they hardly spoke to
each other when Mr. or Mrs. Tsukamoto was nearby, and, while cleaning the

house, they avoided the rooms where Mr. or Mrs. Tsukamoto was. Whenever
they had idle time, they retreated to a small (approximately six by eight feet)
laundry room behind the kitchen, which connected to both the kitchen and
the outdoor staircase. The room had no door and had two large refrigerators,
a washing machine, two cabinets that stored cleaning supplies, and a small
table with two chairs. There, the two women ate lunch they had brought from
home. These patterns of spatial separation from and avoidance of contact with
their Okinawan-Bolivian employers were extended to their friends and guests.
When I, a house guest of the Tsukamotos at the time, tried to speak with Ms.
Vargas or Ms. Delfino, as with another domestic worker at the home of another
Okinawan-Bolivian family I stayed with, they were visibly startled and kept our
conversations to a minimum before hurrying back to their duties.
From my observations, cooking was one task that non-Nikkei Bolivian do-
mestic workers and Okinawan-Bolivian wives did together, if not frequently.
Mrs. Tsukamoto and Ms. Vargas and Ms. Delfino, for instance, worked side
by side when they prepared lunch for Mr. Tsukamoto and his guests (my wife
and me, in this case), but the maids quickly left the room as soon as their help
was no longer needed. During the lunch, Mrs. Tsukamoto called to Ms. Vargas
and Ms. Delfino from her seat at the dining table when she needed extra help
from them. Even when Okinawan-Bolivian and non-Nikkei Bolivian women
shared the same task, there was a clear distinction in labor and space between
the two groups. While Okinawan-Bolivian women were in charge of actual
cooking, such as seasoning, frying, boiling, and baking, non-Nikkei Bolivian
women were assigned preparatory tasks, such as washing and peeling vege-
tables, tenderizing and cutting meat, and removing guts and scales from fish.
When helping their employers, the non-Nikkei Bolivian women usually used
outdoor sinks and water basins to work on these tasks, and the women entered
the kitchen only to deliver the prepared materials. As other studies on domes-
tic workers have demonstrated, by relegating physically taxing and demeaning
tasks to paid domestics, employers could visually demonstrate and psychologi-
cally confirm their socioeconomic power over their employees (Lan 2007; Par-
reas 2001; Rollins 1985; Romero 1992).
Ritualized practices of deference were also observed in the retail transac-
tions between the wives of Okinawan-Bolivian farm owners and their non-
Nikkei Bolivian employees wives that commonly took place at the doorsteps
of the farm owners houses. From my observations, the non-Nikkei Bolivian
employees wives never entered their Okinawan-Bolivian employers houses
unless the employers needed help with domestic chores. The wives of non-
Gendering Transnationality 157

Nikkei Bolivian farm workers, for instance, always waited outside the Oki-
nawan-Bolivian farm owners houses when the wives needed to purchase food
and daily necessities on credit from their employers wives. While I was staying
with the Kuniyoshis, the wives of Mr. Kuniyoshis employees daily came to the
back door in the morning and early evening. They cried out, Seora! from
outside to call Mrs. Kuniyoshi at the door. After receiving the womens orders,
Mrs. Kuniyoshi went to the storage room of the house to bring the requested
items to the women, who were kept waiting outside.
This form of paternalistic relationship between affluent housewives and
poor domestic workers, separated by both class and ethnic differences, was not
unique to Okinawan-Bolivians and non-Nikkei Bolivians in Colonia Okinawa.
In western Bolivia, indgena (indigenous women) domestic workers were often
regarded as dependent and childlike by upper-class (and Spanish or mes-
tizo) women, who felt obligated to provide their employees with material and
moral assistance (Stephenson 1999, 2829). The daily interactions between the
wives of Okinawan-Bolivian farm owners and the wives of non-Nikkei Boliv-
ian farm laborers through retail transactions embodied and normalized the
unequal relationships between benevolent Okinawan-Bolivians as employ-
ers and creditors, and dependent non-Nikkei Bolivians as employees and
By employing non-Nikkei Bolivian women, managing their work within
their houses, and maintaining spatial distinctions between the domestics and
themselves, Okinawan-Bolivian women shaped their roles and status as not
maids and as not (non-Nikkei) Bolivians. Just as in the fields, where the class
and ethnic differences between Okinawan-Bolivian patrones and non-Nikkei
Bolivian trabajadores were defined, perpetuated, and naturalized through ev-
eryday practices, within the domestic sphere of individual households, Oki-
nawan-Bolivian seoras and non-Nikkei Bolivian empleadas were differenti-
ated through division of labor, spatial segregation, and unspoken codes of def-
erence during their interactions.

Ambiguous Insiders: Intermarriages

During a Japanese class at Numero Uno School, a teacher asked her students to
write a sentence with the expression they had just learned: It is very likely that
. . . One student, a Sansei girl, raised her hand, and read aloud her sentence: It
is very likely that all people in Colonia [i.e., Okinawan-Bolivians] will become
relatives in the future. Indeed, the vast majority of Nisei residents in Colonia

Okinawa had married Nisei, as strongly preferred by their Issei parents (Anbo
et al. 1998, 252).5 The communitys general disapproval of intermarriages, seen
as a transgression of impermeable ethnic (and, frequently, class) boundaries,
illuminated what sociologist Nazli Kibria (2002) called ethnic aspirations
among Okinawan-Bolivians, especially Issei elders, in Colonia Okinawa. Their
views on intermarriages implied their wishes and desires about the devel-
oping form and character of ethnic identity in their lives (Kibria 2002, 159),
expressed through their sexualized stereotypes of Bolivian, Japanese, and
Okinawan men and women.

Oversexualized Non-Nikkei Bolivians

Isseis condemnation of Nisei intermarriage always pointed to what they re-
garded as the questionable qualities of people here (non-Nikkei Bolivian men
and women) with regard to fidelity and child rearing. Issei most feared that
their Sansei grandchildren would be morally corrupted by a non-Nikkei Bo-
livian parent. Takara Masahide, an Issei, put it this way: I think 90 percent
of [intermarriages] have failed. People here [kocchi no hito] are good talkers
[kuchi ga umai], so we [Okinawan-Bolivians] often are enticed by their talk. . . .
But their [mixed-heritage] kids tend to become Bolivians [Boribiajin]. . . . They
dont keep their promises, arent punctual, and lose empathy [ninj].
In addition to their concern about the Bolivianization of mixed-heritage
grandchildren, Issei often cited sexual irresponsibility and material extrava-
gance, which they claimed to find commonly among non-Nikkei Bolivians,
as the main reason for their opposition to Nisei intermarriages.6 Issei whose
daughters were or had been married to non-Nikkei Bolivian men all told me
that they had initially disapproved of their daughters marriages. Maeda Akira,
whose daughter had married and divorced an Argentine man and had then
married a non-Nikkei Bolivian man, didnt hide his bitterness over her de-
cisions. He insisted, People here [koko no ningen], especially Spanish men,
were unfaithful. If a husband is Nikkei-jin and his wife is a local [genchi-jin],
it would be okay, but the opposite combination is not good. We Issei often
talk about this. . . . Even [my daughters] second marriage, we opposed it, be-
cause we were worried that he might have an extramarital affair. This ste-
reotype of oversexualized and unfaithful non-Nikkei Bolivian men, and South
American men in general, might have originated in the earlier days of Colonia
Okinawa, when several Okinawan-Bolivian women suffered sexual assaults by
non-Nikkei Bolivian trespassers, and the community had to protect its female
Gendering Transnationality 159

members without much help from police. The deep distrust of non-Nikkei
Bolivian men in Colonia Okinawa (and South American men in general) lin-
gered among Issei, which made it difficult for them to accept their daughters
Unions between a Nisei husband and a non-Nikkei Bolivian woman were
slightly more likely to be accepted than the opposite, partly because Issei men
have been sexually involved with non-Nikkei Bolivian women since the early
settlement period. An elderly Issei man told me that during the early settle-
ment period, single Okinawan men often went to brothels in the city to buy
[non-Nikkei Bolivian] women and that they welcomed new settlers by taking
them to whorehouses in the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. Perhaps owing to
these experiences among the Issei settlers, they tended to view non-Nikkei
Bolivian women in general as promiscuous and, therefore, unfit to become the
wives of their sons. Taira Hiroshi, an elderly Issei, told me that Issei parents
generally discouraged their sons from intermarrying with non-Nikkei Bolivian
women. He said: There are many Issei who warn their sons not to marry a lo-
cal woman [genchi no onna]. . . . [Nisei] guys who cant tolerate their wives in-
fidelity shouldnt marry them, because [non-Nikkei Bolivian] men and women
are very carefree about infidelity, saying, Even if you have [extramarital sex],
nobody will notice after you wash yourself [laugh]. Many Isseis stories point-
ed out the alleged cultural differences between Japanese and Bolivian (or
South American) attitudes toward sexual fidelity as a red flag for intermar-
riages between the two groups.
Issei also deemed non-Nikkei Bolivian women to be undesirable as their
sons wives because of their alleged materialistic and extravagant tendencies.
Rather than being frugal and providing for their husbands and children, non-
Nikkei Bolivian wives were stereotyped as spending all their husbands income
for themselves and their birth family members. Shinj Yoshi, whose Nisei son
married a non-Nikkei Bolivian woman, explained: If you have a [non-Nik-
kei] Bolivian wife, your family cant survive because she wastes money. [My
son] always gives money to his wifes siblings. [My daughter-in-laws relatives]
take advantage of a relative who has money. Despite being unfamiliar with
her daughter-in-laws actual intentions or her birth familys financial circum-
stances, Mrs. Shinj seemed to regard her daughter-in-laws management of
the household income as an example of non-Nikkei Bolivian womens natural
tendency to waste. Nisei who married non-Nikkei Bolivians, therefore, had to
fend off their Issei parents stereotypes of their husbands as being unfaithful
and irresponsible or their wives as being promiscuous and extravagant.

Intermarried Couples and Their Children:

Between Nikkei and Non-Nikkei
Nisei who married non-Nikkei Bolivians struggled to overcome not only the
Colonia Okinawa communitys prejudice against their union, but also their
mixed-heritage childrens ambiguous position within the sharply divided so-
cial world of Colonia Okinawa along class and ethnic lines. Nakaima Yko
(Yko hereafter), a Nisei woman, married Ricardo Ortiz in Japan soon after
they together moved from Colonia Okinawa to Yokohama. Like many Nisei
women, she decided to go to Japan in 1990, after graduating from high school
and staying home for a while and working in the hospital for a while in Colo-
nia Okinawa. Yko and Ricardo had known each other since high school, but
Ykos parents were against their marriage. Nakaima Sumiyo, Ykos mother,
explained: We were opposed to Ykos marriage. We were so worried about
the language problem [kotoba no mondai], that we wouldnt be able to under-
stand each other. . . . Right now, we have grandchildren, and things have been
smoothed over. According to Yko and her parents, Ricardo talked to her par-
ents in rudimentary Japanese, and they managed to communicate with each
When they went to Japan together, Ricardo entered Japan on a tourist visa,
and after they married in Japan, he switched to a work visa. Their first daugh-
ter, Erika, was born in Yokohama and grew up there until 1996. The family
decided to return to Colonia Okinawa and, with the money they had saved
during dekasegi, opened a store that sold hardware, machinery parts, and con-
struction material to farmers and builders. In early 1999, when an economic
recession began to affect Colonia Okinawa, their store suffered from decreas-
ing demand from Okinawan-Bolivian farm owners, their main clients. In April
1999, Ricardo again left for Japan to make money to keep the store open, ac-
cording to Yko. Yko considered moving with him to Japan, but the recession
in Japan made her think twice about the decision: If we can manage to keep
the store open with remittances from Japan, we would rather stay here.
Although Yko said that she did not feel particularly uncomfortable liv-
ing in Colonia Okinawa despite her mixed family being a minority within the
Okinawan-Bolivian community, she had concerns about the discrimination
that Erika, her mixed-heritage and Japanese-born daughter, had experienced
at kindergarten and at Numero Uno School: When Erika heard that we might
join my husband in Japan, Erika was happy. [Suzuki: Why?] Because, at [Nume-
ro Uno School], her classmates sometimes say things like, I dont want to play
Gendering Transnationality 161

with you because your father is Bolivian [Boribiajin]. . . . Although I heard that
things have improved lately, there were some [divisions] among the students
[based on their parents ethnicities].
After the family returned from Japan, Erika went to both the Methodist
Churchoperated kindergarten, which most Okinawan-Bolivian children at-
tended, and San Francisco Xavier kindergarten, where almost all the pupils
were non-Nikkei Bolivians. Erika had difficulty adjusting to both kindergar-
tens, but for different reasons. At the Methodist kindergarten, Erikas mixed
heritage and her background as Japanese-born gave other Okinawan-Bolivian
kids reasons to pick on her. Yko said: At the Methodist kindergarten, [Erikas]
friends said to her, Your Japanese is weird, because it had a mainlanders [i.e.,
non-Okinawan] accent. Erika tried to change her speech to fit in. . . . They
picked on such trivial differences! For example, they made a big deal when Erika
was wearing an undershirt underneath the school uniform. Also, whenever she
says, In Japan . . . , her friends dont like it and pick on her. She attributed the
Okinawan-Bolivian childrens rejection of Erika to what she viewed as a typi-
cal Okinawan attitude. She said, Okinawans [Okinawajin] are closed-minded.
Even in Bolivia, that characteristic has remained.
At San Francisco Xavier kindergarten, bullying was never a problem. Yko
believed that it was because Erika was a fast learner of Spanish and was seen
as Bolivian by other non-Nikkei Bolivian children. The problem there was,
instead, the considerable gap in socioeconomic status between Erikas family
and her classmates, which resulted in frequent thefts of Erikas belongings by
other students: Her belongings were frequently stolen. Her snacks, lunches,
school supplies. . . . As a parent, it is difficult to talk to your children about
thefts at school, you know? Even though Yko understood that the class dif-
ference between Okinawan-Bolivians and non-Nikkei Bolivians was the root
of the problem, it was too complex for her to explain a causal relationship be-
tween poverty and childrens misbehavior to a small child like Erika, much less
help her cope with it.
Perhaps because of the visible class divisions she had witnessed at San
Francisco Xavier kindergarten and in Colonia Okinawa in general, Yko said,
Erika seemed to consider herself Japanese (Nihonjin) rather than Bolivian
(Boribiajin), despite her mixed heritage and her trouble fitting in with other Ni-
sei and Sansei children. To justify her Japanese identity, Yko said, Erika even
claimed that her father was more Japanese than other non-Nikkei Bolivians.
According to Yko:

Erika prefers playing with Nikkei kids [to playing with non-Nikkei
Bolivian kids]. She says, [Non-Nikkei Bolivian kids] have different
customs [shkan], even though I always tell her thats wrong. . . . We
parents keep telling her that she is both Japanese and Bolivian, but she
has a strong self-awareness of being Japanese. . . . When asked about
her [non-Nikkei Bolivian] father, she insists, Dad is Japanese, because
he speaks Japanese. He has a Japanese face [Nihonjin no kao], too. She
says that her unclesher fathers brothershave a different kind of
face [from other non-Nikkei Bolivian men]. . . . She also told me, If you
have to go to Japan [to join my dad] without me, I would rather stay
with [my maternal] grandma [than with my paternal grandparents].

One reason Erika had these feelings about being Japanese might be that
she had a much easier time fitting in at preschool in Yokohama than in Colonia
Okinawa. Yko said, [Erika] seemed to have enjoyed her nursery school in Ja-
pan more than the Methodist kindergarten [in Colonia Okinawa]. . . . She was
born in Japan and grew up surrounded by Japanese, so she had no idea that she
was half [hfu] or Nikkei-jin when she was in Japan. Thats why she socialized
with everybody without prejudice. Children who grew up here since they were
babies see the difference [between Okinawan-Bolivians and non-Nikkei Boliv-
ians] from an early age, but Erika was oblivious to it. Once the family moved
to Colonia Okinawa, however, Erika quickly discovered the socioeconomic
gap between non-Nikkei Bolivians and Okinawan-Bolivians in the village and
longed to return to Japan, where Erika believed that socioeconomic stratifica-
tion was less severe. Yko recalled that Erika had told her: Japan is better than
here, isnt it? There are fewer people in misery [kawaisna hito] over there.
Yko was not optimistic that Erika would find it as easy to adjust to Japan the
next time she was there, however. She worried that as a grade school student,
rather than a preschooler, Erika, as a half Japanese, would have much more
difficulty fitting in with her peers in Japan. She sighed: Even we [Nisei] are seen
as foreigners in Japan, so I am worried that Erika, as a half, would have a very
difficult time. Soon after her fathers departure for Japan in 1999, Erika began
to suffer from recurring headaches, which were diagnosed as being caused by
psychological stress. When I returned to Colonia Okinawa in July 2000, Yko
and Erika had already moved to Japan to join Ricardo.
Nisei men who married non-Nikkei Bolivian women also had to grapple
with their Issei parents prejudice against their wives and their childrens sense
of alienation among Okinawan-Bolivians in Colonia Okinawa. Nomura Satoshi
Gendering Transnationality 163

(Satoshi hereafter), a Nisei man, had been married to Marta Estes, a non-Nik-
kei Bolivian woman, since 1992, and they had a daughter, Sayaka, and a son,
Mamoru. Like the Nakaima-Ortiz couple, Satoshi, Marta, and their children
struggled to gain acceptance by Satoshis Issei parents and the Okinawan-Boliv-
ian community at large. The intermarriage had a negative effect on his familys
relationship with other Okinawan-Bolivians. Satoshi said:

I personally think that [Marta] shouldnt worry about being [non-

Nikkei] Bolivian within this [Okinawan-Bolivian] community, but she
does. We have no reason to be ashamed of ourselves; I mean, we dont
have to be extremely outspoken, but we can just be normal. We had a
formal wedding ceremony and a banquet; actually, we were the first to
have a wedding ceremony as a Nikkei-jin and a local person [koko no
hito; i.e., non-Nikkei Bolivian]. There are other Nikkei people [who are
married to non-Nikkei Bolivians], but they normally just cohabited
and then [legally] married afterwards without having a wedding. . . .
After marrying, they kind of began to disengage [hazurechau] from
the [Okinawan-Bolivian] community. Earlier, I was the same, too. My
parents opposed our marriage, you know? So, I began to think, May-
be they dont want to be bothered by us, and I started to dissociate
from [other Okinawan-Bolivians]. After I married my wife, I thought
that we wouldnt be able to live here and would have to move to a
city and live and work among local people [koko no hito]. But some
[friends] told me, She is a good person, so dont be ashamed.

Satoshi added that non-Nikkei Bolivian wives tended to feel more alienated
among Okinawan-Bolivian wives than non-Nikkei Bolivian men who married
Okinawan-Bolivian women, because Okinawan-Bolivian women tended to so-
cialize among fellow Nisei women and to talk almost exclusively in Japanese.
Marta, too, sometimes faced indifferent, if not unfriendly, treatment from Ok-
inawan-Bolivian women. Satoshi said, My wife kind of understands how it is
among [Okinawan-Bolivian women]. She has figured out which women think
of her in what way [i.e., positively or negatively].
Satoshi was an engineer at CAICO. He tried farming on his fathers small
lot of fifty hectares, but it was difficult to do both a day job [tsutome] and
farming. He remained a rare Nisei man in Colonia Okinawa who did not farm.
When I interviewed him in December 1998, he told me to my surprise that he
was planning to leave for Japan for dekasegi. It was unusual that a Nisei man in

his mid-thirties who did not own a farm, and thus did not suffer from a large
amount of debt, would quit his stable job and leave for dekasegi. When I asked
Satoshi about his decision to move to Japan, he told me that his motive was not
solely an economic one, even though it was partly based on his prediction that
CAICO might have to lay off some employees because of its sagging profits
and his ambition to turn his small farm into an apple orchard in the future.
He wouldnt really call his move to Japan dekasegi, because his objective was
not to make money but to live in Japan as a family. He decided to move when
he learned that his daughter Sayaka had been having difficulty fitting in with
her Nisei and Sansei classmates at the Methodist kindergarten because her
mother was different from her friends mothers. After a particularly difficult
day at kindergarten, Sayaka said to her parents, I want a mom who can speak
Japanese. Satoshi also realized that Sayaka was becoming more comfortable
speaking Spanish than Japanese. Sayaka and Mamoru at the time were about
to enter elementary school and kindergarten, respectively, so he thought it was
the right time for his family to move to Japan. When I asked him what Marta
thought of his decision, he said, She kind of knew [dekasegi to Japan] was
coming, because everybody around her was Nikkei. So she didnt oppose the
idea. To Satoshi, therefore, the main purpose of the temporary relocation to
Japan was linguistic and cultural Japanization of his non-Nikkei Bolivian wife
and mixed-heritage children.
During the two years spent in Japan, Martas Japanese communication
skills had improved and she was more hopeful of better relationships with Ok-
inawan-Bolivians in Colonia Okinawa. Satoshi said:

[After returning from Japan,] she has not suddenly become outgoing,
saying, Hey, I have learned Japanese this much. She is still being very
careful. But however little it might be, she did learn Japanese culture
there. So, she is now saying, I am a foreigner [gaijin] in either place,
after all, but I have gotten along with many Japanese and other gaijin
[in Japan], so I might make friends with Japanese [i.e., Okinawan-
Bolivians in Colonia Okinawa] here, too.

Because of Martas ethnicity, however, Satoshi did not expect that Oki-
nawan-Bolivians would wholeheartedly accept her: After all, it is all about
[physical] appearance. Some [Okinawan-Bolivians] are very stubborn, and
they still avoid her simply because she is a local person [koko no hito]. If you are
a local, you must keep [that fact] somewhere in your mind.
Gendering Transnationality 165

During our conversation, Satoshi stressed how different his wife was from
other non-Nikkei Bolivian women, telling me several times that his wife was
never extravagant (zeitaku shinai). He told me how thrifty she was during
their dekasegi in Japan: She never even bought clothes for herself. When she
had to, like when she had to go to [Sayakas] school [for school functions], she
went to a secondhand store and bought a 500-yen piece of clothing. His em-
phasis on his wifes frugality indicated how pervasive the negative stereotype
of non-Nikkei Bolivian wives as irresponsible spenders was among Okinawan-
Bolivians. Furthermore, by stressing how different Marta was from the typi-
cal non-Nikkei Bolivian woman, rather than challenging the stereotype itself,
his narrative showed that even Okinawan-Bolivians who shared the most in-
timate domestic sphere with their non-Nikkei Bolivian spouses were not im-
mune to stereotyping non-Nikkei Bolivians morals.

Transition through Dekasegi in Japan

As with many transnational migrant groups elsewhere, Okinawan-Bolivian
couples and families underwent drastic reconfigurations of gendered and ra-
cialized stratifications through dekasegi migration to Japan, which transferred
the families from one system of gender stratification to another (Zlotnick
1990, cited in Parreas 2001, 29). When Nisei moved from rural Colonia Oki-
nawa to Japanese cities, both men and women turned themselves into low-paid
manual laborers and had to change their lifestyles by rearranging their roles
in their households. For intermarried couples who could not try to pass as
Japanese nationals (see Chapter 3), living in Japan posed additional challenges
in their dealings with their employers, neighbors, and the schools their mixed
children attended. These migrants had to comprehend that their gendered and
racialized subject positions within urban Japan differed from those they had
been accustomed to in Colonia Okinawa and make necessary adjustments.

Womens Paid Work and Encounters with Others

Most couples who went to Japan intended to save as much money as possible,
so wives participation in the paid labor market was not regarded negatively
by their husbands. The biggest change that Okinawan-Bolivian couples expe-
rienced during dekasegi was, therefore, the womens active participation in the
labor market as paid workers. In contrast with the lack of jobs in Colonia Oki-
nawa, where there were only a small number of non-farming-related jobs, in

urban Japan, Nisei women could find jobs in the service and manufacturing
sectors, such as on factory assembly lines, and, less frequently, clerical posi-
tions at offices and cashiers jobs at retail stores. With increased earning power
and participation in a larger social sphere, Okinawan-Bolivian women often
felt more empowered in urban Japan.
Nisei women, who had grown up speaking Japanese more frequently than
Spanish, generally had an easier time fitting in with their Japanese Naichi-jin
coworkers than their male counterparts. As discussed previously, devoting
oneself to academic study and to learning Japanese was considered to be essen-
tially a feminine (or, more accurately, unmasculine) act by Okinawan-Boliv-
ian boys in Colonia Okinawa, a farming community where physical toughness
was esteemed as a sign of masculinity. In such an environment, it was perhaps
no surprise that female Okinawan-Bolivian students generally did better than
male students in school and especially in Japanese classes.7 Female Okinawan-
Bolivian students stronger commitment and higher achievement in school,
and Japanese language classes in particular, gave female students an advantage
after they graduated and decided to move to Japan. Nisei women interviewees
in Colonia Okinawa who had lived in Japan invariably told me that they had
never had a problem communicating in Japanese and often found it quite easy
to pass as Japanese nationals. Like men, Nisei women did not enjoy working
on fast-paced factory assembly lines for long hours and being expendable la-
borers with unstable employment and fluctuating incomes. They added, how-
ever, that their jobs at least enabled them to earn extra money to supplement
their husbands income to pay for their increased living expenses in Japan and
to have active daily lives, which was not always possible back in the rural farm-
ing village in Bolivia.
As a result, despite the many difficulties they had faced during dekasegi,
most of my female Nisei interviewees who had returned to Colonia Okinawa
said that their work experience in Japan had been fulfilling (yarigai ga aru)
and that they found their lives in rural Bolivia a little boring after such experi-
ences. In fact, during my interviews with Nisei couples in Colonia Okinawa
who had returned from dekasegi in Japan, most, if not all, told me that the
wives had wanted to continue to live in Japan, whereas their husbands had
been eager to return to Bolivia. I met two Okinawan-Bolivian women in the
Tsurumi Ward of Yokohama who owned restaurants in the Ushioda-Nakadri
neighborhood after living in Japan for several years. Shingaki Reiko, who was
an Issei but had been raised in Colonia Okinawa since she was six, owned a
small restaurant that served Okinawan and South American dishes, and was
Gendering Transnationality 167

also the bookkeeper for her Nisei sons electric installation firm located in the
same neighborhood. She explained to me her busy schedule:

Right now, I work at the restaurant six days a week. On Mondays,

when the restaurant is closed, I keep the books for my sons company.
When I tell that to my friends back in the Colonia on the phone, they
say, You sound so busy! Are you okay? [laugh] I think I have become
accustomed to the fast pace of life here. When I went back to the Co-
lonia three years ago, I became kind of restless after ten days or so.
After driving a pickup truck to a grocery store, cleaning my house,
doing laundry, and taking care of the garden, there was nothing else
to do. I started feeling bored [laugh]. No wonder so many [Okinawan-
Bolivian] mothers there practice sanshin [The Okinawan musical in-
strument] and Eis [dance]. They need things to do to keep themselves

Many Nisei women who had returned to Colonia Okinawa from Japan sim-
ilarly said that although they were happy to have returned home, they also felt
somehow unfulfilled in rural Bolivia. Nakaima Yko said: I do think my home
is here, and I like living here, because, after all, this is where I was born and
raised. But there just arent any jobs for women, so I dont find much motiva-
tion in my daily life [seikatsu ni hariai ga nai]. Every day, I feel like I am missing
something [Mainichi nanika monotarinai].
Their nostalgia for life in urban Japan, however, should not be mistaken
as fondness for Japanese society in general. Nisei women who had worked on
assembly lines of manufacturing factories recalled how hectic their work had
been and how lonely they had felt among their Japanese Naichi-jin cowork-
ers. Social psychologist Masahiro Tsujimoto quotes a Nisei woman who found
that Naichi-jin Japanese would suddenly change their attitudes when they
found out that [she was] Nikkei-jin (Tsujimoto 1998b, 7). Nakaima Yuk, who
worked in a window frame manufacturing factory in Yokohama, was afraid to
ride the city bus for a while after a bus driver had rudely and repeatedly asked
her whether she had paid the proper fare. Other Nisei women I interviewed also
remembered that Japanese Naichi-jin looked puzzled when the women asked
for directions in Japanese cities; because of the Nisei dekasegi migrant womens
Japanese physical appearance and their largely flawless Japanese speech, local
Japanese Naichi-jin expected the women to be able to read Japanese maps and
street signs to navigate by themselves. These uncomfortable moments during

dekasegi, in turn, made the women regard Naichi-jin Japanese as unfriendly

and cold. Despite the abundance of work and earning power they had gained
during dekasegi in Japan, therefore, they often concluded that it was not a good
place to live for good.
The increased employment opportunities in the paid labor market were
the most dramatic change in the public gender regimes that Okinawan-Bo-
livians underwent when they moved from Colonia Okinawa to urban Japan.
This transition helped them not only to gain a new sense of empowerment and
satisfaction that had been unattainable back in Colonia Okinawa, but also to
reinterpret their roles, status, and identities in relation to Naichi-jin Japanese
in urban Japan as well as Okinawan-Bolivian men and non-Nikkei Bolivian
domestic workers they had interacted with in Colonia Okinawa.

Changing Natures of Community

While the communal events in Colonia Okinawa functioned as a quasi-public
sphere where Okinawan-Bolivian women played indispensable roles, there
were few occasions in urban Japan in which a large number of dekasegi mi-
grants gathered. Their communities in Japan were neither geographically con-
centrated nor was there a centralized organization like Nichibo Kykai to host
large-scale communal events. The character of the Okinawan-Bolivian com-
munity, in other words, dramatically changed from a structured and quasi-
public sphere in Colonia Okinawa to more spontaneous and private networks
among personal friends and relatives in Yokohama.8 This changing character
of the Colonia Okinawa community transformed Okinawan-Bolivian womens
roles in communal events as well, from key contributors to event preparation
as a voluntary (unpaid) labor force to casual participants in the events.
An Okinawan-Bolivian migrant woman who lived in Tsurumi described
her social life: There are so many relatives and friends here that you really
dont have to socialize with anyone other than your own relatives from the
Colonia. The largest socializing occasions they had were occasional barbecues
on the river banks of the Tsurumi River in Yokohama or the Hiratsuka River in
Hiratsuka, and soccer games in Hiratsuka city parks. Unlike Nichibo Kykai
organized communal events in Colonia Okinawa, which required a significant
amount of voluntary labor, these sporadic events required little work by Oki-
nawan-Bolivian dekasegi migrant women to prepare. They could take advan-
tage of a wide variety of premade foods available at convenience stores and
supermarkets to bring to the events, and, more important, their participation
Gendering Transnationality 169

in these occasions, unlike those in Colonia Okinawa, was completely volun-

tary. Moreover, because the Okinawan-Bolivian dekasegi migrant women were
active participants in the public sphere of the paid labor market and made a
significant contribution to the household income, the women were neither
expected nor obligated to prove their value to their husbands and other Oki-
nawan-Bolivian men through voluntary labor contribution to these communal
events. As the communal events changed from being quasi-public in Colo-
nia Okinawa to being largely private in urban Japan, the significance of these
events and the degree of the division of labor between Okinawan-Bolivian men
and women were dramatically reduced.

Convenient Yet Alienating Family Lives

Another change that profoundly affected the roles and status of Okinawan-
Bolivian women during dekasegi in urban Japan, in addition to the increased
opportunities in the paid labor market and the reduced demand for unpaid
labor for communal events, was the abundance of educational, medical, and
recreational facilities that their families could take advantage of. However wel-
come this difference was for Nisei women, who were in charge of their fam-
ily members well-being, they also realized during dekasegi that their families,
including children, would remain culturally and psychologically marginalized
in Japanese society. For Nisei dekasegi migrant women, their families lives in
urban Japan were at once enjoyable and unpromising.
The womens household chores became much easier when they moved to
urban Japan with their families. While in Colonia Okinawa, the women had
to clean large houses in a dusty rural village; their small apartments in urban
Japan required much less care. They also enjoyed the convenience of urban life,
such as the ability to purchase food and other necessities at supermarkets and
convenience stores, many of which were open twenty-four hours a day, seven
days a week. Uehara Keiko, a Nisei returnee to Colonia Okinawa from dekasegi
in Japan, most missed the amenities available in Japanese cities. Knowing that
I am originally from Japan, she said: Compared to [Colonia Okinawa], isnt Ja-
pan better? I mean, there are crimes and accidents because it is so urban, but it
is so convenient over there. Whenever our child became sick, for instance, we
could just run to a convenience store or a pharmacy nearby, even at midnight.
You cant do it here, because health insurance and medical services are inacces-
sible in Bolivia. I like living in the Colonia, but sometimes I think life was much
easier when we were in Japan.

Nisei women also expressed their preference for living in urban Japan when
they brought up their childrens social lives and education. To these women,
urban Japan offered a more structured school system than rural Bolivia and a
wide variety of recreational facilities for children and families, such as neigh-
borhood parks and playgrounds, amusement parks, and zoos. Many Nisei
women fondly recalled family excursions on weekends and how their children
enjoyed nursery school or kindergarten in Japan. Ms. Uehara told me how her
son, Kenta, had difficulty adjusting to life in Colonia Okinawa when the family
moved from Japan:

For the first few years after we came back here, [Kenta] insisted, Im
Japanese, not Bolivian, and he didnt like playing with other [Oki-
nawan-Bolivian] kids. He loved playing in a sandbox when he was in
preschool in Japan. But when we came back, the kids here didnt play
with sand, so they just destroyed the things he had made, like build-
ings, railroads, or cakes. Then, he got into a fight with them [laugh].
. . . For educating children, Japan is much better. Children at school
learn a work ethic and [why they need to make] an effort to accom-
plish their goals. Thats why I wanted to give him an education over
there for a few years to build a foundation, even though I knew we
would come back [to Bolivia] soon.

For her, school education meant not only acquiring academic skills and
knowledge but also learning self-discipline and developing moral character,
which she and other Nisei women who had returned from dekasegi in Japan
felt were not a part of Bolivian school education.
Nevertheless, most Nisei migrant women I met told me that they never
planned or wanted to live in Japan for good because they realized that they
would permanently remain foreigners in the society. A Nisei dekasegi mi-
grant woman living with her Nisei husband in Yokohama said that she did not
want to raise their children in Japan because they would continue to be seen as
foreigners (gaikokujin) by Naichi-jin Japanese (Tsujimoto 1998b, 7). Nakaima
Yko recalled that socializing with her neighbors in Yokohama was difficult at
times. When she brought Erika, her then-preschool-age daughter, to a near-
by playground, other Japanese Naichi-jin children and their mothers avoided
them. She said: It might not have anything to do with us being Nikkei-jin from
South America, but these mothers [who brought their children to the same
playground] didnt want their children to play with Erika. It seemed really hard
Gendering Transnationality 171

for a newcomer to join a circle of friends among Japanese wives. Fear that
their children would be alienated or even ostracized among their peers in their
school or neighborhood discouraged these Nisei women from permanently
settling in urban Japan.
With a plan to return to Bolivia in the future, Nisei mothers were worried
that their children might not be able to adjust to the Colonia Okinawa com-
munity. Ms. Uehara returned from Japan with her children when they were
preschoolers. She told me that the main reason that she and her husband had
decided to return to Bolivia was to help their children learn Spanish with rela-
tive ease. As a Nisei woman, Ms. Uehara bitterly remembered how difficult
it was for her, after primarily speaking and reading Japanese within the insu-
lated domestic sphere of Colonia Okinawa, to catch up with urban non-Nikkei
Bolivian classmates at high school in Santa Cruz de la Sierra. She, therefore,
wanted to make sure that her children returned to Bolivia when they were
young enough to learn Spanish quickly so they were able to compete with ur-
ban Bolivians (not the rural Bolivians, she added) when they advanced to high
school. Charged with the feminine domestic domain of child rearing, Nisei
women evaluated the pros and cons of living in Colonia Okinawa and urban
Japan, and tried to deal with the changes their children underwent through
dekasegi migration to Japan and the return to Bolivia by carefully managing
what they viewed as their childrens cultural and linguistic Japanization and
Bolivianization processes in the two environments they lived in.

Intermarried Couples
Changing gender roles and statuses were differently experienced among the
intermarried couples who moved to Japan compared to the endogamous Ni-
sei dekasegi couples, and intermarried couples were often required to make
dramatic adjustments in domestic relations and divisions of labor. These in-
termarried couples during their dekasegi stints in Japan felt a stronger sense
of alienation in the new environment than the endogamous Nisei dekasegi
migrant couples, because the intermarried couples were easily recognized as
foreigners owing to the non-Nikkei Bolivian spouses physical appearance.
Non-Nikkei Bolivian spouses visible Otherness forced Nisei migrant men
and women to transgress the gendered boundaries in the public and domes-
tic spheres that they had been accustomed to in Colonia Okinawa. Nisei mi-
grants had to actively help their non-Nikkei Bolivian spouses at work and their
mixed-heritage children at school, who frequently suffered psychological stress

duringtheir dekasegi stints in urban Japan because of the language barrier and
overt and covert prejudice from Japanese Naichi-jin peers. As a result, these
Nisei spouses and parents had to take on greater roles in matters in and outside
their households while they were living in Japan, even as they themselves had
to adjust to life as migrants.
Nisei women who were married to non-Nikkei Bolivian men often found
jobs where their husbands worked, because their husbands needed their wives
help to communicate with coworkers and supervisors. Additionally, these
women were responsible for finding their familys apartment. They visited a
number of real estate agencies by themselves, because, as Nakaima Yko said,
If a non-Nikkei [husband] goes to a real estate agency, they would turn him
down just by looking at his face. In contrast, Nisei men with non-Nikkei Boliv-
ian wives took on roles that had previously belonged to the feminine domain
in their family lives, such as parenting and schooling, after they moved from
Colonia Okinawa to urban Japan. When Nomura Satoshi, whose wife was a
non-Nikkei Bolivian, attended his daughters elementary school functions in
Hiratsuka City, Kanagawa, he often felt overwhelmed by the number of women
at the PTA meetings and at parent-teacher conferences (I was stunned at the
PTA assembly; they were all mothers! There were literally no fathers at all!).
Although his daughter didnt suffer from serious bullying at her school, he said,
she still struggled to make friends with her classmates. When she had trouble,
it was he, not his wife, who had to take measures to help her. He described his
efforts to help his daughter:

We went [to Hiratsuka] in January, and [my children] hadnt gone to

preschool or kindergarten over there, so they had no friends at all.
They, of course, didnt understand the [Japanese] language, either.
[My daughter] is not an outgoing type, so she didnt go out and mingle
with others. . . . Soon she started to say, My head hurts. For the first
six months, or a year or so, she was always like that. So I took her to T
University [hospital] to see a doctor and received some medicine. . . .
Then, the doctor said to us, [Your daughters headache] was caused
by [psychological] stress. . . . So, after I accompanied her to all her
sessions with the doctor during the first year, the number of visits [to
the doctor] finally began to decrease.

He had to deal with his daughters emotional and physical troubles, while
his non-Nikkei Bolivian wife struggled with her own adjustment in a foreign
Gendering Transnationality 173

land. She took a few different part-time jobs at supermarkets and other retail
stores in the span of two years, but she had difficulty finding stable employ-
ment. Given an extremely tight job market across various industries in Japan,
Mr. Nomura believed that his wifes inability to find and retain jobs had less to
do with her foreigner status and lack of fluency in Japanese than the fact that
she had two young children, which made it difficult for her to work flexible
hours. Mr. Nomura recalled his wifes problems:

While she was working at a store, when she heard difficult [Japanese]
expressions, like storewide inventory count [tanaoroshi], she called
my cell phone and asked me what they meant. . . . She was rejected at
some job interviews not when they found out that she was gaijin, but
after they asked her, Do you have children? . . . It was so stressful for
my wife when she didnt have a job, because she would have to stay
home all the time. It was so different [from being at home in Colonia
Okinawa]. If she was at home here, she could go outside and take care
of the garden and do other things, but in Japan, our apartment only
had a kitchen, a room, and a closet [so she had few household chores
to do].

In addition to child rearing and his daughters schooling, Mr. Nomura had
to help his wife with household labor more than he had in Bolivia, because his
wife was unable to read the rules regarding such matters as waste collection and
recycling. He tried hard to follow the detailed city ordinances because he was
aware that he and his foreigner wife would be under their Japanese Naichi-jin
neighbors microscope. He said: We were so careful at first. I mean, how was
I supposed to know how to sort our trash? Here, we just burn it all [laugh]. It
was much stricter over there. . . . There were some [Naichi-jin Japanese] neigh-
bors who were not doing it the right way, but it was always gaijin who would
be blamed. . . . So we couldnt do anything bad. He was, therefore, more aware
of his familys outsider status in Japanese society, which was embodied by his
wife, than the endogamous Nisei dekasegi migrant couples were. He added,
Had I been there by myself, people might not have noticed that I am from
South America. But I had my [non-Nikkei Bolivian] wife with me, and [his
neighbors] saw our [South American] friends who were visiting us speaking
Spanish. Then, they would realize [that I was a South American Nikkei-jin].
Intermarried Nisei dekasegi migrants had not only to renegotiate house-
hold duties in the drastically different living environment in urban Japan, but

also to play their gender roles more flexibly and to be even more careful not
to cause trouble in their neighborhoods than endogamous Okinawan-Bolivian
couples in Japan. In so doing, the intermarried Nisei migrants also became
more aware of their own ambiguous subject positions as cultural and linguistic
mediators between their foreigner spouses and Naichi-jin Japanese, the same
roles they had assumed back in Colonia Okinawa between Okinawan-Bolivian
and non-Nikkei Bolivian families and communities.

Dating and Intermarriage with Naichi-jin Japanese

Most single Nisei who migrated to Japan dated or married other Okinawan-
Bolivians or other South American Nikkei-jin from Brazil, Peru, or Argentina,
while only a small number of them married or dated Japanese Naichi-jin part-
ners. While it was slightly more common for Nisei women to meet and marry
Naichi-jin Japanese men, the norm remained the same as for their male coun-
terparts. The ways in which Nisei dekasegi migrant men and women described
the differences between Japanese and Bolivian/South American men and
women in explanations of their preferred partners in courtship and marriage
and their often difficult relationships with Japanese Naichi-jin partners re-
vealed how the racialized Japanese and Bolivian/South American differ-
ences were also sexually embodied. While Okinawan-Bolivians in Colonia
Okinawa, particularly Issei, projected a racialized image of a sexually carefree
Bolivian culture and behaviors, Nisei migrant men and women in Japan pre-
sented a different set of sexualized images of Japanese culture and behaviors
as cold, uptight, and awkward, reflecting the sense of local nonbelonging and
transnational longing that Nisei dekasegi migrants felt in urban Japan.
Among my seven or so Okinawan-Bolivian coworkers at T Denki (the
number constantly fluctuated; see Chapter 2), only one was dating a Japanese
Naichi-jin woman, who had once lived in the Dominican Republic as a JICA
youth volunteer, while the rest were dating or married to women from Colonia
Okinawa or other South American countries.9 Tomonaga Hiroshi, an unmar-
ried Nisei, gave an explanation of why intermarriages between Nisei dekasegi
migrants and Japanese Naichi-jin were infrequent: Frankly, we [dekasegi mi-
grants] dont have much time to socialize. We are here to work, save money,
and go back [to Bolivia]. So most of us work overtime and go home just to
sleep. There arent many chances to meet [Japanese Naichi-jin women].
The lack of opportunities to meet Japanese Naichi-jin women was not the
only reason there have been few cases of intermarriage. Nisei migrant men
Gendering Transnationality 175

who had dated Japanese Naichi-jin women in the past told me that the stereo-
types the women and their parents held about Bolivia scared them away. Yara
Tomohito, a Nisei man in his late twenties who had worked in Chiba Prefecture
in Japan for three years before returning to Colonia Okinawa, recalled his rela-
tionship with a Japanese Naichi-jin girlfriend. Before leaving Japan for Bolivia,
he asked his girlfriend to come to Bolivia with him just to see how things are
there, but she refused: She thought that Bolivia is all [covered with] jungle.
She didnt know how it really is. His experience was not unique among Nisei
men who had dated Naichi-jin Japanese women during their dekasegi stints in
Japan. Some male Nisei interviewees who had returned to Colonia Okinawa
from Japan told me that breaking off a relationship with a Japanese girlfriend
was one of the reasons they decided to leave Japan.
If it was not the Japanese Naichi-jin women themselves, then their parents
got in the way of their marriage or courtship with Nisei men. Takara Naoko
(Naoko hereafter), one of the few Japanese Naichi-jin women who married Ni-
sei men, met Takara Wagner (Wagner hereafter) when he was working in Ja-
pan as a dekasegi migrant. They faced strong opposition from Naokos parents,
who, according to Naoko, were afraid that their daughter would move to a
faraway place for good if she ended up marrying him. Naoko expected that she
would eventually move to Bolivia with Wagner, but her parents were unhappy
about their daughters decision. When the Takaras decided to move to Bolivia,
Naokos parents were further distressed. Naoko and Wagner were still trying
to talk Naokos parents into visiting Colonia Okinawa and hoping that time
[would] cure their [bitter] feelings about their marriage. The possibility of re-
locating to Bolivia, a country viewed as being backward that is also thousands
of miles away from their family and friends in Japan, discouraged Naichi-jin
Japanese from marrying Nisei dekasegi migrants.
Japanese Naichi-jin women and their parents were not the only ones who
were reluctant to date and marry Okinawan-Bolivians. Tokashiki Ken, my Ni-
sei colleague at T Denki, was dating a Nisei woman whose father used to work
at T Denki as an electrician. I asked him why Okinawan-Bolivians seemed to
date or marry among themselves:

suzuki: Why do you guys [Nisei dekasegi migrant men] all seem to
date girls from Bolivia? I mean, you guys speak Japanese well, so I
dont think the [fluency in Japanese] language is a hang-up.
tokashiki: Hmmm, I dont know why. Most guys from Bolivia are
dating South American women, like Brazilian. . . . Bolivian or Brazilian

guys are not having any success picking up Japanese girls.

suzuki: So, which do you prefer to date, Japanese [Nihonjin] or South
American girls?
tokashiki: I think . . . hmmm . . . compared with South Americans,
Japanese girls seem too delicate [derikto] to me.

He didnt elaborate on what exactly he meant by the delicateness that

he saw in Japanese Naichi-jin women. Nevertheless, this image of Naichi-jin
women seemed to be contrasted with what Mr. Tokashiki and other Nisei men
at T Denki considered the easygoing personality and abundant sexual appeal
of South American women, the stereotype that, ironically, was precisely what
made many Issei in Colonia Okinawa view non-Nikkei Bolivian women as un-
suitable marital partners for their Nisei sons.
If the delicateness of Japanese Naichi-jin women partly reflected Nisei
dekasegi migrant mens sense of nonbelonging in urban Japan, the voluptuous
and oversexualized body images of South American women were the main
objects upon which they projected their sexualized transnational longing. At
the T Denki office (President Tonoshiros apartment), there were a number of
pictures of nude Brazilian (white or a white-black mixed race, referred to as
mulatta) female models, color-photocopied from an imported Brazilian maga-
zine, posted on the walls. Aniya Akira, a Nisei electrician in his early twen-
ties, was often teased by his colleagues because whenever he saw a voluptuous
woman with large hips on the sidewalk, he whistled and yelled at her, Hoy,
Brasilera! (Hello, Brazilian girl!) from the cars window, without even know-
ing if she was Brazilian. Nisei dekasegi migrant mens stereotyping of South
American women as sensual and carefree, represented by their physical bodies,
seemed to encourage the men to seek South American women instead of Japa-
nese Naichi-jin women. In reality, though, the number of non-Nikkei South
American immigrants in Japan remained significantly smaller than the number
of South American Nikkei-jin dekasegi migrants. Nisei dekasegi migrant men,
consequently, mostly dated and married South American Nikkei-jin women,
even though they might or might not fit the mens idealized body images of
South American women. The mens apparent obsession with the oversexual-
ized bodies of South American women, then, was less a sign of the Nisei deka-
segi migrant mens carnal desire for these body figures than a reflection of their
yearning for the casualness and affection in Bolivian (South American) society
that the men believed they had left behind.
While there were no reliable data available, I was often told by my Issei
Gendering Transnationality 177

interviewees in Colonia Okinawa that more Nisei women married Naichi-jin

Japanese men than Nisei men married Naichi-jin women. Sociologist Ikuno Eri-
ko has suggested that this gender imbalance partly reflected the fact that it was
typically during JICA-sponsored training programs, when Nisei and Japanese
Naichi-jin studied and worked at vocational schools and on-the-job-training
sites, that the courtship between Nisei and Naichi-jin Japanese started (2000,
301). Thanks to the aforementioned achievement gap between Nisei women
and men in academics in general and in Japanese language skills in particular,
more Nisei women than men were qualified for these training programs. Once
the women moved to schools and other training institutions in Japan, these
Nisei women from Colonia Okinawa studied and worked mostly alongside
Japanese Naichi-jin, and with their excellent Japanese communication skills,
they interacted daily with Japanese Naichi-jin men. Furthermore, intermar-
riages between Japanese Naichi-jin men and Nisei women were less likely to
be opposed by the parents on either side than those between Nisei men and
Japanese Naichi-jin women. The parents of Naichi-jin men assumed that their
sons would continue to live in Japan after marriage, and the Issei parents of the
Nisei women surmised that their daughters would be more financially secure if
they continued to live in Japan with their Naichi-jin husbands than if they re-
located to Colonia Okinawa with their husbands, who would have a hard time
establishing a livelihood in rural Bolivia.
Despite these differences, though, the vast majority of Nisei dekasegi mi-
grant women in Japan socialized only with other Okinawan-Bolivians and
South American Nikkei-jin, and preferred Okinawan-Bolivian men to Japanese
Naichi-jin men as boyfriends and husbands. Tsujimoto Masahiro (1998b), who
interviewed several Nisei women migrants in Japan, found that those women,
like their male counterparts, found Japanese Naichi-jin of the opposite sex un-
approachable and cold. One of his interviewees, who married an Okinawan-
Bolivian man, felt that she could never completely pass as Japanese and was
exposed (barechaimasu) as a foreigner (gaikokujin) by a Japanese Naichi-jin
once she formed a close relationship with him (ibid., 7). Another female inter-
viewee who lived in Japan (her marital status was not revealed) told Tsujimoto
that she thought the way Japanese men [Nihon no dansei] treat women is a
little lousy [chotto hetakuso], unlike Bolivian men, whom she considered very
kind (totemo shinsetsu) (ibid., 8). Although it was unclear whether by Boliv-
ian men she meant Nikkei/Okinawan-Bolivians or non-Nikkei Bolivians, it
was apparent that she viewed men from Bolivia and South America as possess-
ing more desirable qualities for courtship than Japanese Naichi-jin men. These

stereotypes of unkind and awkward Japanese Naichi-jin men in contrast with

kind and affectionate Bolivian men prevented Nisei migrant women from dat-
ing or marrying Japanese Naichi-jin men during their dekasegi stints in Japan.
These examples of mutual stereotyping of Japanese Naichi-jin and Bolivians
(South Americans) suggest that the intimate domestic sphere of courtship and
marriage was a critical site in which Nisei dekasegi migrant mens and womens
sexual and emotional characteristics were defined and interpreted vis--vis
those of Japanese Naichi-jin men and women. These sexualized stereotypes,
mutually projected upon Nisei migrants and Naichi-jin Japanese, reflected Ni-
seis ambivalent sense of belonging in Japan and Bolivia (and South America
in general). Like Niseis intermarriage with non-Nikkei Bolivians in Colonia
Okinawa, which remained controversial within the Okinawan-Bolivian com-
munity, Nisei dekasegi migrants intermarriage with and courtship of Japanese
Naichi-jin often created a sensitive situation for Nisei and their families in Co-
lonia Okinawa. In the migrants efforts to deal with these difficult situations,
Nisei dekasegi migrants were forced to face their own ambiguous subject posi-
tions suspended between Japan and Bolivia.

Change and Lack of Change after Dekasegi

After undergoing significant changes in gender roles and responsibilities in
and outside individual households through dekasegi in urban Japan, Nisei men
and women went back to Colonia Okinawa. Although there seemed to be little
lasting change in the gender regimes of Colonia Okinawa after many Nisei
men and women returned from Japan, some, particularly Issei fathers of Ni-
sei daughters who had returned from urban Japan, were perplexed, if not dis-
turbed, by the changes they saw in their daughters. To them, the Nisei women
returnees from Japan appeared to have become too materialistic and career-
oriented after their dekasegi experiences. When I asked Maeda Susumu, an
elderly Issei father of three Nisei daughters, why many Nisei women seemed to
like living in urban Japan while their husbands seemed eager to come back to
Colonia Okinawa, his answer was: Women prefer a more extravagant lifestyle
than what the Colonia can offer. Some of the other Issei men also complained
that todays young mothers (i.e., Nisei women) had become lazy after tasting
the conveniences of urban life in Japan.
Some Issei fathers were seriously concerned about their Nisei daughters
changed lifestyles and attitudes. Tonoshiro Yoshio, whose Nisei daughter had
recently returned from Japan, complained that she was not yet married at the
Gendering Transnationality 179

age of twenty-nine, which he considered too old for a woman to remain single.
After working in a computer manufacturing factory in Kawasaki City for ten
years, she returned to Bolivia and started a wholesale business in Santa Cruz
de la Sierra with the money she had saved in Japan. Mr. Tonoshiro said with a
sigh: I am urging her, You are already twenty-nine years old. Its about time to
get married. But she told me that many of her friends in Japan were single after
thirty. She says, So I am still a joven [youngster]. . . . Besides, she had never
drunk alcohol before she had gone to Japan, but now that she has been totally
Japanized [Nihon-ka], she drinks a lot. As I have portrayed with regard to fes-
tive occasions in Colonia Okinawa, in which men dined and drank with the
guests of honor, drinking was regarded among Okinawan-Bolivians as a mans,
but not a womans, habit. Mr. Tonoshiro thought that his daughters newly
acquired drinking habit was yet another bad outcome of his Nisei daughters
dekasegi in urban Japan.
Nisei dekasegi migrant couples in urban Japan had to alter the strictly gen-
dered divisions of household labor, because both husband and wife had to work
to save money and cover the increased cost of living in the city. These experi-
ences, however, did not seem to enable the Nisei dekasegi returnees to chal-
lenge and transform the public, communal, and domestic gender regimes in
Colonia Okinawa, owing to its stagnant paid labor market and the strong hold
of communal norms. There were, nonetheless, some signs of change. Tradi-
tionally, the New Years festivities, beginning on New Years Day and lasting
three days, had been extravagant in Colonia Okinawa. Women in each house-
hold had to cook a variety of dishes and provide abundant liquor for the visiting
guests, mostly young men, who went from house to house in the community.
Although the occasions were jovial and regarded as important annual rites,
many Nisei women had long complained about the amount of work the festivi-
ties entailed. Onaga Tokiko, a Nisei woman, told me: It is too much work for
women! The guests come and go incessantly and randomly, so women have to
serve the food on the table, then put it away, only to put it on the table again
before long for the next visitor.
When I was conducting field research from 2000 to 2001, the 2001 New
Year in Colonia Uno was celebrated at the newly completed gymnasium next to
the Nichibo Kykai headquarters, where Okinawan-Bolivian families gathered
for lunch and dinner. While the women still had to prepare a large amount of
food in the headquarters kitchen, they were also able to celebrate New Years
Day by enjoying the food, chatting with their friends, and playing volleyball or
cheering at futsal (floor soccer) games that were also played at the gymnasium.

The official explanation given for this change was that the community wanted
to celebrate the completion of the new gymnasium, but it also reportedly re-
sulted from a considerable number of informal requests from Colonia Uno
residents, especially Nisei women, for Nichibo Kykai to host a community-
wide event so that the financial burden on each household and the amount of
labor the women had to put into the festivities would be reduced.10 This change
might seem insignificant within the larger scheme of public, communal, and
domestic gender regimes in Colonia Okinawa, but it might be an example of
the subtle transformations in Okinawan-Bolivian communities initiated by the
drastic changes in gender roles and status that a large number of Nisei men and
women had undergone while transmigrating between rural Bolivia and urban

Okinawan-Bolivians gendered subject positions in Colonia Okinawa and

urban Japan were inevitably linked to their unique class and ethnic formations
in each location. Okinawan-Bolivian womens roles and status were defined
by the everyday division of labor in public spheres, where womens functions
and positions were defined in relation to those of Okinawan-Bolivian men and
non-Nikkei Bolivians. Once Nisei couples moved to Japan, the gendered divi-
sions of labor in public spheres were radically challenged. The womens urgent
need to earn and save money as dekasegi migrants and Nisei womens generally
superior command of Japanese pushed the women into the paid labor market
and enabled them to make a significant financial contribution to their house-
holds, which strengthened the womens positions vis--vis their husbands.
Okinawan-Bolivian womens roles and status in communal spheres, semi-
public social domains yet defined by neither financial reward nor official deci-
sion-making power, also differed between Colonia Okinawa and urban Japan,
because the nature of the community itself changed drastically. In Colonia Ok-
inawa, where communal events were considered to be extremely important for
community members, women had to donate a significantly larger amount of la-
bor than men, and in so doing, the women tried to prove their value within the
community to the male leaders. Once the women moved to Japan, in contrast,
there was neither a sense of coherent community among Okinawan-Bolivian
dekasegi migrants nor regularly organized large-scale communal events. Fur-
thermore, unlike in Colonia Okinawa, Nisei dekasegi migrant women made
significant contributions to their households income, so they had little need to
demonstrate their importance to their male counterparts by providing unpaid
labor for communal occasions. Consequently, Nisei migrant women in Japan,
Gendering Transnationality 181

like men, were involved in small-scale and spontaneous leisure activities as

casual participants along with their family members, relatives, and friends.
The roles and status of Okinawan-Bolivian women within individual
households were also differently defined in the two locales. In Colonia Oki-
nawa, although household chores were primarily womens responsibility, Oki-
nawan-Bolivian women also took advantage of their ethnic and class privilege
by outsourcing some of their tasks to non-Nikkei Bolivian women of lower
socioeconomic status. By introducing the larger Colonia Okinawa communi-
tys ethnic and class hierarchy into their private households and by enforcing
spatial separation and unspoken codes of deference between the non-Nikkei
Bolivian domestics and themselves, Okinawan-Bolivian women defined their
status and performed their roles and status apart from those of non-Nikkei
Bolivian women. Living in Colonia Okinawa, where ethnic and class divisions
influenced many facets of the community and individual lives, households with
Okinawan-Bolivian and non-Nikkei Bolivian spouses faced difficulties. Oki-
nawan-Bolivian spouses often felt compelled to protect their Okinawan-Bo-
livian spouses, upon whom various stereotypes, including those about sexual
morality, were projected by other Okinawan-Bolivians and to prove that they,
too, belonged to the same Okinawan-Bolivian community.
After Nisei families moved to Japan for dekasegi, urban amenities signifi-
cantly lessened the amount of the womens domestic labor and the gendered
division of labor within households. Among these Nisei dekasegi migrants, in-
termarried Nisei men who moved to Japan with non-Nikkei Bolivian wives
and mixed-heritage children frequently had to take on domestic tasks, such as
dealing with neighbors complaints and meeting their childrens healthcare and
educational needs, which had been primarily their wives duties in Colonia Oki-
nawa. These men also strongly felt their families profound Otherness within
Japanese society, because the men, even as outsiders themselves, were often
forced to play the role of a linguistic and cultural interpreter for their non-
Nikkei Bolivian spouses and mixed-heritage children. Nisei dekasegi migrants
often unsuccessful, and always difficult, intermarriages with and courtships of
Japanese Naichi-jin revealed various gendered and sexualized stereotypes mu-
tually projected onto Japanese Naichi-jin and Bolivians (and South Americans
in general), through which Nisei dekasegi migrants located their own ambigu-
ous subject positions within Japanese society. The sense of alienation in a for-
eign land and the yearning for the idealized Bolivian home that many Nisei
dekasegi migrants felt while living in Japan were projected onto the stereo-
types of sensual and affectionate Bolivians/South Americans and sexually and

emotionally reclusive Japanese Naichi-jin. In the eyes of the Nisei migrants,

these perceived gendered and sexualized differences between the Okinawan-
Bolivian Selves and their Japanese Naichi-jin Others were natural evidence of
their belonging in Colonia Okinawa and nonbelonging in urban Japan.
Okinawan-Bolivian womens ethnic and class privilege as Nikkei and dis-
advantage as women in Colonia Okinawa positioned them in the public sphere
as being inferior to Okinawan-Bolivian men but superior to non-Nikkei Boliv-
ians and in the domestic sphere as being more sexually responsible individu-
als than non-Nikkei Bolivians. In urban Japan, Okinawan-Bolivian migrant
women and men, both as blue-collar laborers, were granted equal status in the
public sphere, which prompted married Okinawan-Bolivians to assume more
equal roles and responsibilities within the domestic sphere of their households.
The far-reaching changes in gender roles and status that Okinawan-Bolivians
underwent through dekasegi migration to urban Japan, however, appeared to
have minimum impact on gender relations in Colonia Okinawa at large when
migrants returned from Japan. The overwhelming communal ethos and drasti-
cally different labor market in rural Bolivia limited the scale of the changes.
With generational transitions from elderly Issei to younger Nisei and their San-
sei children, many of whom have lived in urban Japan at some point in their
lives, however, there may be more profound changes in Okinawan-Bolivians
gender roles and status formations in Colonia Okinawas near future.
[ conclusion ]

Embodiment of
Local Belonging

By portraying various situations faced by Okinawan-Bolivi-

ans at workplaces, homes, and schools in Colonia Okinawa and urban Japan, I
have attempted to highlight the fluid and situational senses of belonging they
experienced in the places they lived and worked. It is tempting to explain away
their sense of entitlement in Colonia Okinawa and of disenfranchisement in
urban Japan, as well as in the larger Bolivian society, as either a matter of cul-
tural adjustment and maladjustment, or an implication of their higher and
lower class statuses in these locations. Okinawan-Bolivians complicated sub-
ject positions as an ethnic minority group in Bolivia and as nonnative nation-
als in Japan make it difficult to reduce their transnational subject formation
processes to either a cultural or a class phenomenon.
To capture more vividly the intersection of the cultural and class transfor-
mations that Okinawan-Bolivians underwent, I directed my attention to the
ways in which they explained these transformations through terms and images
of overgeneralized and naturalized, in short, racialized, notions of Japanese,
Okinawan, and Bolivian psychological characteristics and behavioral pat-
terns. Amidst changing socioeconomic and cultural environments, Okinawan-
Bolivians were identified by their Others and identified themselves as embody-
ing manifestations of certain racialized cultures in each of the places they lived.
Allegedly inherent (true) attributes of non-Nikkei Bolivians in Colonia Oki-
nawa, white power elites in urban Bolivia, Naichi-jin Japanese in Yokohama,
and Okinawans in diaspora were perceived through their habitual actions and

physical appearance in the eyes of Okinawan-Bolivians and their Others in Bo-

livia and Japan. These narratives and performances of racialization provided
Okinawan-Bolivians with an interpretive tool to make sense of the complex
and often contradictory subject positions that they occupied in the transna-
tional social field they lived and worked in.
Racialized Japanese, Bolivian (South American), and Okinawan psy-
chological and behavioral characteristics also helped Okinawan-Bolivians to ex-
plicate the shifting sense of belonging they felt in different local environments,
such as rural Bolivia and urban Japan. Their power and control over non-Nik-
kei Bolivians in Colonia Okinawa, for instance, were understood as a natural
manifestation of their Japanese national character, while their lack of power and
control in the larger Bolivian society was seen as a consequence of having Japa-
nese ancestry. Okinawan-Bolivians also attributed their success as large-scale
farmers in Bolivia to their Okinawan heritage, with a characteristically physical
and competitive nature that allegedly distinguished Okinawan-Bolivians from
Japanese Naichi-jin. Similarly, Okinawan-Bolivian dekasegi migrants in urban
Japan interpreted and performed their subject positions in relation to racialized
images of Naichi-jin Japanese, other South American Nikkei-jin immigrants,
and Bolivians/South Americans in general. The fluctuating values and compet-
ing meanings of their racialized Selves within different surroundings clarified,
in Okinawan-Bolivians view, the different degrees and forms of affinity Oki-
nawan-Bolivians felt with rural Bolivia, urban Bolivia, and urban Japan.
The racialized belonging of Okinawan-Bolivians portrayed in this study,
characterized by its ambiguity and fluidity, is a historical product of the mod-
ern Okinawan diaspora. Their peculiar subject positions as colonial subjects
under imperial Japan and nationless subjects under United States military rule
were narrated through generalized and naturalized cultural differences from
Japanese Naichi-jin. The Japanese governments designation of Okinawans as
incomplete (and, therefore, suspect) imperial subjects and the United States
governments suspicion of Okinawans as potential communists and trouble-
makers justified these governments treatment of Okinawans as partially le-
gitimate and, therefore, exploitable subjects. Okinawan immigration to Bolivia
before World War II and during the 1950s and 1960s, against these historical
backdrops, were an attempt to overcome the profound uncertainty imposed
on Okinawans and to counteract exclusion from the economic, political, and
cultural boundaries of Japanese or U.S. citizenship. Okinawans racialized yet
ambiguous belonging to Japan and the United States, in short, was a key factor
in the formation of the Okinawan diasporic communities in Bolivia.

Local demographic and economic changes in Santa Cruz Prefecture from

the 1950s to the 1980s created a drastically different social backdrop against
which Okinawan-Bolivians subject positions were defined and redefined.
Their changing socioeconomic status from small-scale, self-sufficient farmers
to an affluent ruling class in rural Santa Cruz as large-scale, capital-intensive,
commercial farm owners was also a process of their subject positioning as
Japanese vis--vis non-Nikkei Bolivians (camba and kolla) in Colonia Oki-
nawa, many of whom became a subordinate class of farm laborers employed by
Okinawan-Bolivians. Through the process of becoming a powerful upper class
in rural Bolivia, in other words, Okinawan-Bolivians also became as much the
embodiment of racialized Japanese national subjects as Okinawan diasporic
subjects. The dekasegi migration from Colonia Okinawa to urban Japan begin-
ning in the 1980s added a crucial dimension to the Okinawan-Bolivians racial-
ized belonging in multiple locales: transnationalization. The subject positions
of Okinawan-Bolivians in Colonia Okinawa were no longer a product of exclu-
sively local processes that defined themselves along the dichotomy between ra-
cialized Bolivianness and Japaneseness embodied by Okinawan-Bolivians and
their Others. Multiple group categories of Others in Colonia Okinawa, urban
Bolivia, and Japan were invested with various stereotypes about the groups
psychological, behavioral, and physical characteristics, which provided Oki-
nawan-Bolivians and their Others with tautological explanations for economic
disparities and social segregation among these groups.
In my ethnographic portrayals of Okinawan-Bolivians in Colonia Okinawa
and Yokohama in several critical social sites of subject-making, such as work-
places, schools, and family and gender relations, I have attempted to illuminate
the different citizenship processes (i.e., socioeconomic and cultural inclu-
sion in and exclusion from local communities) that Okinawan-Bolivians un-
derwent. The drastically different socioeconomic classes they occupied in the
two places manifested differently in their everyday practices. In farm fields, for
instance, Okinawan-Bolivian farm owners represented and performed their
power over non-Nikkei Bolivian farm laborers through a strict division of labor
and various gestures of paternalism, while attributing the power differentials
between them to the natural disparity between the Bolivian and Japanese
national characters, bolstering the symbolic value of their racialized transna-
tionality. In the larger Bolivian society, where domestic personal and fam-
ily connections were valued more than the real or imagined transnationality
of the group, however, the Japanese-state-sponsored power and privilege that
Okinawan-Bolivians enjoyed in rural Bolivia were no longer helpful for them

to achieve individual success. Struggling to succeed academically in schools

and universities, and to compete for scarce professional jobs in Bolivian cities,
Okinawan-Bolivians viewed their Japanese background as a detriment, not
an advantage. Excluded from affluent and politically connected white Boliv-
ians, who possessed abundant social and cultural capital that was valued in ur-
ban Bolivia, the same embodied transnationality of Okinawan-Bolivians came
to symbolize deficiency in cultural and social capital.
Once moved to urban Japan, Okinawan-Bolivian dekasegi migrants, most
of whom were Nisei, were confronted with different values of their racialized
Japanese, Bolivian/South American, and Okinawan characteristics as blue-
collar manual laborers. As electricians and assembly line workers, the dekasegi
migrants were regarded by their Japanese Naichi-jin supervisors as the em-
bodiment of racialized South American characteristics, shown through the
migrants behavior and demeanor, such as their buoyant Spanish speech and
easygoing attitudes. The dekasegi migrants, too, saw their Japanese Naichi-jin
coworkers and superiors in a highly racialized light; to them, Japanese people
were either workaholics or lazy, depending on the situations the migrants en-
countered during their lives in Japan. Meanwhile, Okinawan-Bolivian deka-
segi migrants in Japan distinguished themselves from other South American
Nikkei-jin dekasegi migrants by proclaiming Okinawan-Bolivians superior
linguistic and cultural familiarity with Japan, promoting their embodied values
as workers.
Racialized Okinawan characteristics, such as accented Japanese speech
and an allegedly darker skin complexion, helped Okinawan-Bolivian dekasegi
migrants mediate the seemingly impermeable boundaries between racialized
Japanese and Bolivian national cultures and characters. As Okinawans have
long been racialized as not quite authentic Japanese subjects by Japanese
Naichi-jin, many dekasegi migrants from Colonia Okinawa managed to be in-
cluded, if marginally, in the racialized domain of Japanese cultural boundar-
ies by passing as domestic Okinawans. These racialized and racializing in-
terpretations and actions by Okinawan-Bolivian dekasegi migrants and their
Others in Japan indicate that their embodied transnationality, which benefited
Okinawan-Bolivians in Colonia Okinawa, amounted to little socioeconomic
or symbolic value for them in Japan. No matter how the differences among
Okinawan-Bolivians, Naichi-jin Japanese, other South American Nikkei-jin
migrants, and domestic Okinawans were racialized in their narratives and per-
formances, therefore, Okinawan-Bolivians highlighted their uneasy and am-
biguous sense of belonging in Japan.

Schools and related educational institutions in Colonia Okinawa were

other critical sites in which racialized belonging of Okinawan-Bolivians was
formulated. The official objectives of institutions such as the schools in Colo-
nia Okinawa were to make Nisei and Sansei children and youth good Nikkei
Bolivians, who were equipped with essentialized and naturalized Japanese
moral characters and mannerisms, such as self-discipline and a strong work
ethic, along with a distinct awareness of their Okinawan heritage. In an ef-
fort to instill these qualities in children, racialized images of Japanese/Nikkei,
Bolivians, and Okinawans were articulated and performed in various set-
tings. Because of the many different groups involved in this process of shaping
good Nikkei and Okinawan diasporic subjects, such as non-Nikkei Bolivian
students and teachers, Naichi-jin Japanese teachers, and Okinawan teachers,
as well as Okinawan-Bolivian teachers and parents, these racialized images and
ideals were often contradictory and contested. These educational interventions
into shaping good Nikkei and Okinawan diasporic subjects often resulted in
forming Nisei and Sansei children and youth as transnational subjects who
could achieve ambiguous and often limited socioeconomic success and a sense
of belonging in either Japan or Bolivia. The racialized Japanese (and, to a less-
er extent, Okinawan) behaviors and mannerisms the children were expected
to learn and embody helped them gain direct and indirect benefit within Co-
lonia Okinawa but did not help them thrive, socially or economically outside
of it.
Gender relations, both among Okinawan-Bolivians and between Oki-
nawan-Bolivians and their Others in Bolivia and Japan, were also a key factor
in Okinawan-Bolivians racialized belonging in the different places they lived.
Okinawan-Bolivian womens roles and status in the paid labor market, com-
munity events, and individual households in Colonia Okinawa were defined as
those occupied neither by Okinawan-Bolivian men nor by non-Nikkei Boliv-
ians. Women were encouraged to work as administrative assistants at major
community institutions, where they worked under the male leadership and
supervised non-Nikkei Bolivian employees. In numerous communal events in
Colonia Okinawa, women arguably provided more labor than their male coun-
terparts to prepare for the events, but the women remained in the background,
cooking meals and cleaning dishes for the male hosts and guests at the festivities.
The womens unpaid labor contribution to these important community events,
however, was a crucial means by which women could make their importance
known to community leaders, thereby increasing the womens power vis--vis
their male counterparts in the community. Domestically, Okinawan-Bolivian

womens roles and status were defined in relation not only to their husbands,
who were in charge of income-generating work (for many, farm management),
but also, frequently, to their non-Nikkei Bolivian domestic workers, who were
hired by Okinawan-Bolivians to take care of cleaning and laundry. Separated
from each other through spatial arrangement and through a tacit code of defer-
ence, Okinawan-Bolivian women defined their positions by forming gendered
and class/ethnic boundaries within their households. During dekasegi in Japan,
despite their struggles as low-wage laborers, Okinawan-Bolivian women felt
some sense of empowerment from their active participation in the paid labor
market, while men suffered a decline in their privileged roles and status as
the sole income earners. The sense of alienation that both male and female
dekasegi migrants felt in urban Japan owing to the subtle and overt prejudice
they faced in their daily lives was narrated in their racialized stereotypes of
Japanese Naichi-jins sexual undesirability and South Americans desirability as
potential lovers and spouses. While dekasegi migrant men projected racialized
images of oversexualized Bolivian/South American women, in contrast with
what they saw as delicate and uptight Japanese Naichi-jin women, dekasegi
migrant women saw Japanese Naichi-jin men as being uncaring and awkward,
contrasted with warm and suave Bolivian/South American men.
Against the backdrop of highly polarized ethnic and class relations in Co-
lonia Okinawa and of socially and culturally alienating environments for deka-
segi migrant workers in urban Japan, the small number of intermarried Oki-
nawan-Bolivian couples and their children struggled to locate roles and status
within individual households. In Colonia Okinawa, they had to fight sexualized
stereotyping of non-Nikkei Bolivians as being promiscuous, irresponsible, and
materialistic, projected upon their spouses by other Okinawan-Bolivians, to
gain the communitys acceptance. Meanwhile, in urban Japan, couples strug-
gled to compensate for the physical, cultural, and linguistic foreignness that
their non-Nikkei Bolivian spouses and mixed-heritage children represented in
the eyes of Japanese Naichi-jin residents. The couples had no choice but to
stretch the boundaries of the gender roles previously defined back in Colo-
nia Okinawa; men often helped their wives deal with their childrens troubles
at school and comply with city ordinances and neighborhood norms, while
women translated for their husbands and their Japanese Naichi-jin supervi-
sors at their workplaces. The racialized and sexualized boundaries between
Okinawan-Bolivians and their Others in different settings, thus, were not fixed
but instead were actively worked and reworked.
As both an ethnographic account of the localized experiences of

transnationalOkinawan-Bolivians who underwent drastic class transitions be-

tween Bolivia and Japan and an attempt to understand the contradictory pro-
cesses of forming a sense of belonging in a transnational social field, this book
has tried to present a perspective on why transnational subjects achieve only
partial and often ambivalent belonging, and why they continue to be portrayed
and to portray themselves as the physical embodiment of essentialized and
naturalized national cultures and characters in the places they live. I believe my
inquiries into the racialized belonging of transnational subjects in their quest
to accumulate cultural, social, and economic capital in a global arena has dem-
onstrated the paradoxes of individual agency within a local-global nexus. Ra-
cialized demeanors, behaviors, and physiques of transnational subjects func-
tion as reasons for and indications of the subjects socioeconomic power and
powerlessness, and cultural belonging and alienation within a particular local
setting. Thus, racialized belonging as a social process is a mechanism in which
transnational subjects socioeconomic power (or lack thereof ) is localized and
visualized in and through narration of their bodily and psychological features
and practices.


1. Any effort to refer to Okinawa in relation to the rest of Japan proves to

be tenuous. Ryky is more commonly used than Okinawa when
signifying geographic and cultural phenomena before the forced an-
nexation of the islands by the Japanese government in the late nine-
teenth century (discussed in Chapter 1). Because Ryky was pre-
ferred by the U.S. military administration during the postwar occupa-
tion in their effort to justify the legal separation of the islands from
the rest of Japan, many Okinawans today seem uncomfortable with
the term with reference to their homeland (Molasky 2003, 186). Many
Okinawans resort to Okinawan dialectic terms, Uchinguchi for the
Okinawan language and Uchinanchu (or Uchin, Uchinnchu) for
Okinawan people, as opposed to Yamatoguchi for standard Japanese
and Yamato or Yamatonchu for the people of mainland Japan. In this
book I use Naichi, literally meaning inner land, the nondialect term
commonly used by Okinawans, to refer to the four major islands of Ja-
pan. Although the term is often used to refer to the residents of Naichi
(Toyama and Ikeda 1981), I use the term Naichi-jin, people of Naichi,
to refer to the Naichi residents of Japan in order to distinguish the geo-
graphic areas and demographic groups.
2. Dekasegi literally means one who goes out to earn money, with the
intention of returning home in the future. The term originally referred
192 Notes to Page 6

to workers from rural areas of Japan who domestically migrate to cities

in search of work (Tsuda 2003, xii). See Tsujimoto 1999 for a compre-
hensive study of the dekasegi migration of Okinawan-Bolivians from
Colonia Okinawa to Japan.
3. There are several studies on the concept of race in Japanese soci-
ety (Russell 1991; Wagatsuma 1967; Wagatsuma and De Vos 1966;
Takezawa 2005), in addition to the literature on the race concept in
relation to modern Japans nationalism and colonialism (Oguma 1995,
1998; Siddle 1996; Weiner 1997) and to the neonationalism, or cul-
tural nationalism, of Japan today (Yoshino 1992; Kitada 2005; Oguma
2002). The studies of South American Nikkei-jin dekasegi migrants,
however, have been surprisingly reluctant to engage these discussions.
Some have viewed Nikkei-jin as an ethnic minority in Japan (Tsuda
1998; Yamanaka 1993, 1996), while others have examined Nikkei-jins
acculturation into Japanese society (Adachi 2004; Lesser 2003; Lin-
ger 2001; Roth 2002; Takenaka 1999; Tsuda 1998, 1999, 2003). Some
have addressed racialization of Nikkei-jin in South America (Adachi
2004; Lesser 1999; Takenaka 2004; Tsuda 2003). Among them, Nobuko
Adachis diasporic racialization, which she defines as the racializa-
tion as strangers by the mainstream societies of both host and ances-
tor nations (Adachi 2004, 71), is similar to what I propose here as ra-
cialized belonging, though for Okinawan-Bolivians, the nation-states
of Japan and Bolivia never self-evidently represented their host and
ancestor nations. In addition, Adachi neither offers clear definitions of
race and racialization nor attends to local (subnational) diversity and
nuance of race and racialization.
4. Tsuda argues that the ethnic prejudice that Brazilian Nikkei-jin expe-
rience in Japan was due to their cultural ambiguity within Japanese so-
ciety. Drawing on Mary Douglas famous thesis on purity and danger,
he contends that Brazilian Nikkei-jin are polluted subjects because
they violate the symbolic boundary in Japanese society between inside-
purity and outside-impurity by being liminal beings, simultaneously
of Japanese descent and culturally foreign (Douglas 1966; Turner 1969;
Tsuda 2003, 131135). Tsuda admits, however, the insider-purity and
outsider-impurity binary cannot fully account for the differences in
Japanese attitudes toward Japanese-Brazilians versus, say, Japanese-
Canadians (Tsuda 2003, 134).
5. Anthropologists have steadily moved away from the race concept during
Notes to Pages 6 7 193

the twentieth century. While Franz Boas and his students discredited
eugenics as bad science and race as an unscientific category during
the first half of the twentieth century, as Roger Sanjek pointed out, they
also helped create an intellectual climate among cultural anthropolo-
gists in which race is nonexistent and a dangerous fallacy (Sanjek
1994, 67). Another, but related, legacy of Boasian anthropology is the
separation of culture from race, effectively establishing race as given,
unchangeable, and biological (Visweswaran 1998, 72). The demise of the
race concept in cultural anthropology was accelerated by the emergence
of ethnicity studies in the 1960s. Instead of physiological characteristics,
ethnicity is socially defined by a community of language, religion, social
institutions, and other cultural traits (Montagu 1962; van den Berghe
1967). As anthropological studies of cultural ethnicity have flourished
since the 1970s (Banton 1983; Barth 1969; Cohen 1974; DeVos 1975;
Isaacs 1975; Keyes 1981; Light 1981; Nash 1989; Waters 1990), the ideo-
logical separation between race as biology and ethnicity as culture was
widened, and, in some cases, race was relegated to a subcategory of eth-
nicity as only one visible marker for ethnicity (Mukhopadhyay and
Moses 1997, 523). As a result, as many concerned anthropologists have
argued, the anthropology of ethnicity has tended to underestimate the
continuing salience of race in forms of physical appearance in the real
world and to disembody their concrete material conditions (Alonso
1994; Harrison 1995; Shanklin 1994; Williams 1989).
6. Paul Gilroy proposes the concept of ethnic absolutism to explicate
the relationship between race and culture in Britain, where the conflu-
ence of race, nationality, and culture is a driving force for xenophobia
(Gilroy 1990, 114). He defines ethnic absolutism as a reductive, essen-
tialist understanding of ethnic and national difference which operates
through an absolute sense of culture so powerful that it is capable of
separating people off from each other and diverting them into social
and historical locations that are understood to be mutually imperme-
able and incommensurable (ibid., 115).
7. Numerous studies of ethnic groups in the United States have demon-
strated how these groups, who had previously been considered non-
white, came to identify themselves and be perceived as members of
the white race through upward socioeconomic mobility and social
dissociation from African-Americans (Brodkin 1998; Ignatiev 1995;
Jacobson 1998; Loewen 1988).
194 Notes to Pages 7 9

8. Sociologists Paul Willis (1977) and Dick Hebdige (1979), for instance,
theorized working-class youth subcultures as both a symbolic expres-
sion and a formative process of their class-defined life situations.
9. Numerous studies of ethnic groups of non-European descent have
shown the symbolic racial whitening and blackening processes they
experienced in the United States (Koshy 2001; Ong 1996; Warren and
Twine 1997; Winant 1994), while others have exposed the gap between
socially assigned face values of racial whiteness and the actual pale
skin color and/or European heritage (Frankenberg 1993; Hartigan
1999; McClintock 1995).
10. Along with Takezawa (2005), Cornell and Hartmann (1998, 38) are vo-
cal critics of the parochial (i.e., Eurocentric and North Americancen-
tric) paradigm of race concepts, advocating a truly globalnot merely
comparativescope in theorizing race.
11. Anthropological studies on ethnic and racial violence (Das 1990, 1995;
Feldman 1991; Hayden 1996; Jeganathan 1998; Malkki 1995) demonstrate
how acts of violence effectively identify, isolate, and exterminate Others
from the Self and thereby produce the racialized Self and in-group inti-
macy by creating persons out of what are otherwise diffuse, large-scale
labels that have effects but no locations (Appadurai 1998, 241).
12. While most previous studies of racial performances have examined
theatrical presentations by professional artists and entertainers (Case
et al. 1995; Muoz 1999; Manalansan 2003), Urciuoli (1996), Fordham
(1996), Hartigan (1999), and Ho (2002) ethnographically treated ra-
cializing performances in mundane everyday situations.
13. While Takezawa recognizes the importance of attending to the local
nuances of race, she insists that if none of us explores how to speak
of race in the common language, and all of us instead are preoccupied
with the differences among local racial formations, we could neither
understand the historical significances of current racial phenomena
in various parts of the world, nor predict their future implications
(Takezawa 2005, 1112).
14. Renato Rosaldo has proposed the concept of cultural citizenship,
defining it as the right to be different (in terms of race, ethnicity, or
native language) with respect to the norms of the dominant national
community, without compromising ones right to belong in a nation-
state (Rosaldo 1994, 57). Lisa Lowe, along with Stuart Hall (1996) and
Evelyn Glenn (2002), highlights the state-capital alliance that prevents
Notes to Pages 9 10 195

particular subjects from belonging in a culturally defined national citi-

zenry, arguing that a nation-state is at once juridically legislated, ter-
ritorially situated, and culturally embodied, and it is through the ter-
rain of national culture that the individual subject becomes a citizen
(Lowe 1996, 2).
15. Criticizing Marxs notion of abstract labor in a market that under-
writes the rights of an abstract citizen in a political state, Lowe argues
that in a liberal capitalist state like the United States, nonwhites have
never been abstract labor or citizens but have always been placed
outside its national citizenry bound by race, language, and culture
(Lowe 1996, 13).
16. As will become apparent in the book, Okinawan-Bolivians subject
position in Colonia Okinawa, Yokohama, and other locales cannot be
simply categorized into either full belonging or nonbelonging. Rather,
the book will portray the different modes and degrees of their social
17. Lok Siu critiques Ongs definition of citizenship for its underestima-
tion of individual subjects agency in defining their cultural belonging
in a nation-state (Siu 2002). As indicated by her discussion of flexible
citizenship, Ong recognizes individual subjects as active participants
in this process of citizenship. However, Ong, in the Foucauldian fash-
ion, does not view individuals and structural forces as being at odds
with each other; instead, they are considered as co-contributors in the
process of subject-making. As I noted at the beginning of this chapter,
I also view Okinawan-Bolivians as subjects, a fluid locus where mul-
tiple and often conflicting social relations intersect, rather than auton-
omous beings whose agency is formed independently from structural
18. When I conducted long-term fieldwork in 2000, I had lived in the
United States for a total of six years as an undergraduate and a gradu-
ate student.
19. Although it is beyond this books scope, Santa Cruz Prefecture is cur-
rently (2007) striving to gain greater political autonomy, even seces-
sion, from the La Paz national government. The movement has been
led by the agricultural and industrial capitalists group called Nacin
Camba de Liberacin (Camba Nation of Liberation) amidst criticism
of the groups overt and covert racial prejudice against the indigenous
populations in the altiplano (Forero 2004, 2005).
196 Notes to Pages 1215

20. Some Issei were born during the 1930s and 1940s in the former over-
seas territories of imperial Japan, such as the South Pacific islands and
Manchuria. I will discuss the colonial backgrounds of Issei further in
the next chapter.
21. There are numerous studies and reports on the early Japanese and
Okinawan immigration to Ben Prefecture before World War II, most
in Japanese. For publications in English on Japanese and Okinawan im-
migration to Bolivia, see chapter 3 of Encyclopedia of Japanese Descen-
dants in the Americas (Kikumura-Yano 2002), Tigner 1963, Amemiya
1999b, Hiraoka 1980, and Thompson 1968. For Japanese publications
on the prewar Japanese and Okinawan immigrants in Bolivia, see Bor-
ibia Nihonjin 100-shnen-shi Hensan Iinkai 2000, Nihonjin Boribia
Ij-shi Hensan Iinkai 1970, Ishikawa 1992, Kunimoto 2000, Ono 1970,
and Otsuka 1992. For studies on postwar Japanese immigration to Bo-
livia in general, see Wakatsuki 1987. On Colonia San Juan de Yapacan,
Kunimotos 1986 study and the settlers own publications are available
(San Fan Ijchi Nyshoku 30-nen Kinen Jigy Suishin Iinkai 1986; San
Fan 15-nenshi Hensan Iinkai 1971; San Fan Nichibo Kykai 1997).
For overviews of Japanese-Bolivian communities in Ben, La Paz, and
Bolivia in general, see Kunimoto 1984, 1989; Furuki 2000; Oshikawa
2000; and Shioiri 2000, all of which are in Japanese.
22. See my other writings (Suzuki 2006, 2007) for the symbolic currency
of imagined or real Japaneseness within the social context of Colonia
23. I will discuss the female and male social domains in the community in
Chapter 5.
24. Whether Okinawan is a dialect of Japanese or a linguistically distinct
language has long been debated among scholars. Although the Oki-
nawan language remains virtually incomprehensible to the mainland-
ers of Japan, most of the words used are the same (Molasky 2003, 165);
it is the intonation and particular pronunciation of words that make
the Okinawan language sound different from mainland Japanese. The
major difference in pronunciation is the number of vowels used. In Jap-
anese, there are five vowels: a, i, u, e, and o; in the Okinawan language,
only three are used: a, i, and o. As a result, words are pronounced dif-
ferently in the two languages (e.g., te [hand] in mainland Japanese is
ti in Okinawan). In addition, many consonants used in the Okinawan
language do not exist in modern Japanese, some verbs have a unique
Notes to Pages 16 25 197

set of conjugations that differ from their mainland counterparts, and

some Okinawan adjectives are not found today in mainland Japanese.
The Okinawan language itself has a wide variety of dialects throughout
the Ryky Islands. The off-lying islands show the widest diversion
from what has been considered standard Okinawan, which is used in
the Shuri area of Okinawa Hont Island (Barrell and Tanaka 1997, 135;
Kerr 1958, xvii, 34).
25. According to a survey conducted in 1996, 66 percent of the Issei re-
spondents said they were very confident in their listening comprehen-
sion of the Japanese language, while 56 percent considered themselves
very competent speakers. As for Spanish, only 1 percent of the Issei
respondents were confident in their listening competency in Spanish,
and none considered themselves able to speak Spanish very well. In
the same survey, 62 and 53 percent of the Nisei respondents were very
confident in their listening comprehension and speaking abilities in
Spanish, respectively, while only 28 and 21 percent expressed strong
confidence in their listening comprehension and speaking abilities in
Japanese. Nisei appeared to be more comfortable with the Okinawan
language than with Japanese: 64 and 34 percent of the Nisei respon-
dents were very confident in their listening comprehension and speak-
ing abilities in Okinawan, respectively (Anbo et al. 1998, 241243,
246). Differences in language use between Issei and Nisei in Colonia
Okinawa and urban Japan and between men and women will be dis-
cussed in more detail in the following chapters.

Chapter 1: Modern Okinawan Transnationality

1. Yamawaki Chikako wrote about a similar anecdote regarding the deka-

segi immigrants from Peru in Japan (1996, 204), where the majority of
the Nikkei-jin population possesses Okinawan heritage.
2. It was common, for instance, for a merchant household to adopt a tal-
ented store clerk as a member of the household and to treat him and
other family members alike.
3. Linda Angst argues that Okinawa has been represented as a sacrificed
or prostituted daughter (2003, 152) within the Japanese family state.
Analyzing the media portrayals of the Himeyuri Student Nurse Corps,
groups of Okinawan female students who accompanied Japanese sol-
diers during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, and the rape of a schoolgirl
198 Notes to Page 25

by three U.S. servicemen in 1995, she argues that the male elites of
Okinawa exploited the symbolic image of Okinawa as an innocent
maiden who has been repeatedly violated by Americans (foreigners)
in order to accuse the father of the Japanese family state, the Naichi-
jins government, of failing to protect his daughter (Angst 2003).
4. This ambiguity of Okinawans as Japanese national subjects, it is be-
lieved, led to numerous tragic deaths of Okinawans during the Battle
of Okinawa at the end of World War II. Japanese Naichi-jin soldiers
in Okinawa suspected Okinawans as potential spies and killed Oki-
nawan civilians (Tomiyama 1995; Allen 2003), by direct execution and
by means of what Norma Field calls compulsory group suicide by
Okinawans themselves (Field 1993; see also Ota 1999). Many argue,
and I agree, that Okinawans today still are not given the same politi-
cal and economic rights within Japan. The prefecture of Okinawa re-
mains home to 75 percent of the U.S. bases and the majority of U.S.
forces in Japan, which occupy 20 percent of Okinawas Hont Island.
Per capita income was around 70 percent of the national average dur-
ing the 1990s, and Okinawas unemployment rate has constantly been
the highest among all prefectures (Hein and Selden 2003a, 56). For
recent studies on the struggles of Okinawa against the Japanese gov-
ernment and the U.S. military, see the volumes edited by Chalmers
Johnson (1999) and Laura Hein and Mark Selden (2003b). In recent
work, Nomura Kya (2005) also offers a compelling argument for un-
conscious colonialism by Japanese Naichi-jin that continues to vic-
timize Okinawans.
5. Bhabhas original formulation of colonial mimicry represents both the
moments of grave predicament and of potential resistance for the col-
onized in the face of the colonizers. In the context of Okinawa under
the Japanese imperial regime, however, it is problematic to highlight
the resistive potential in Okinawans ambiguous subject positions.
6. The massive exodus of Okinawans to Japan proper took place in the
1920s, when the drop in sugars international price hit the monocul-
ture agricultural economy of Okinawa hard. The resulting recession
was called Sotetsu Palm Hell because Okinawans who suffered from
famine reportedly opted to eat poisonous Sotetsu palm leaves. See
Mukai 1992 and Tomiyama 1990 for the causes of the recession and
subsequent Okinawan emigration to cities of mainland Japan, such as
Osaka, Kawasaki, and Yokohama.
Notes to Pages 2527 199

7. Okinawan immigrants experiences in Hawaii during the early years

offer an interesting case. Although Naichi-jin immigrants on the is-
lands held a strong prejudice against Okinawans, the two groups also
formed distinct and often segregated residential communities when
they worked on the same plantation. Even after they left plantation
farms and moved to urban areas, relatively segregated Okinawan com-
munities maintained and nurtured many Okinawan customs (Miya-
saki 1981).
8. In contrast, Yamawaki reports, in rural Nikkei-jin communities in
Peru, where Okinawan immigrants vastly outnumbered their Naichi-
jin counterparts, Okinawans neither organized a Lifestyle Reform
Movement nor viewed the Naichi-jin lifestyle as the authentic Japa-
nese ethnic heritage. Instead, the Okinawan language and food have
come to represent Japanese ethnic heritages for all Japanese-Peruvi-
ans in these villages.
9. It was not until the 1970s, Mori writes, when cultural relativism be-
gan to influence Brazilian society and second- and third-generation
Okinawan-Brazilians had achieved economic stability, that Oki-
nawan-Brazilians began to reassert their Okinawan cultural unique-
ness and revitalize their traditional arts, such as folk songs written in
Uchinguchi, karate, and traditional dance (Mori 2003, 59).
10. The Okinawans effort to become Japanese through lifestyle reforms
and discrimination against the local Others, however, had contradic-
tory consequences. Tomiyama argues that the Okinawans, through
self-inspection and erasure of embodied Okinawanness, inevitably
identified themselves as the colonial Other, who could see themselves
only through the eyes of their colonizers, the Japanese Naichi-jin.
Moreover, through mimicking the Naichi-jins abuse of native Micro-
nesians, Okinawans helped legitimize the overall colonial power hier-
archy (Tomiyama 1997).
11. While there is no official record of the first Japanese immigrants to
Bolivia, it is commonly believed that they were among the first 790
contract laborers sent by the Morioka Emigration Company (Morioka
Shkai)which had been shipping contract workers to Hawaii from
Japanto British sugar plantations in coastal Peru in 1899 (Tigner
1963; Kunimoto 2000). Among those who fled the plantations in Peru
were ninety-one men who entered the Bolivian Upper Amazon re-
gion across the Andes to work on rubber farms. The national border
200 Notes to Pages 2728

betweenPeru and Bolivia was not finalized until 1909, so it is doubtful

that the early Japanese Naichi-jin and Okinawan immigrants realized
that they actually had crossed the national border.
12. Because of the prospering rubber industry, Riberalta attracted a num-
ber of foreigners. Germans, French, British, Turks, Greeks, and Jap-
anese were among the immigrant population in the city during the
1910s (Kunimoto 2000, 118).
13. Responding to a request by the government of the United States, Bo-
livias ally, the Bolivian government captured twenty-nine Japanese im-
migrants and sent them to internment camps in Crystal City, Texas,
and Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1943. The Bolivian government also
seized the assets of Japanese immigrants and restricted their commer-
cial activities as part of its cooperation effort with the United States.
The freezing of assets by the government severely damaged the re-
tail businesses of Japanese Naichi-jin and Okinawans until the end of
World War II (Furuki 2000, 140). Among the twenty-nine internees,
twenty-two chose to repatriate to Japan after the war, while seven re-
turned to Bolivia. In 1999 the survivors of the internment received a
letter of apology and US$5,000 from the United States government as
compensation for the mistreatment (Manabe 2000).
14. During the 1930s and 1940s, Okinawans in La Paz were largely success-
ful retail business owners and professionals. It was reported that the
outstanding characteristic of [Okinawans] occupation pattern [was]
the dominance of urban business pursuits among inhabitants of the
Altiplano and that there had been virtually no discrimination against
Okinawans by Bolivians (Tigner 1954, 484). In contrast, Okinawan and
Naichi-jin communities in rural areas in the Upper Amazon region
struggled to gain economic capital and social prestige. Responding to
a Japanese researcher, one Nisei in Riberalta, who was not identified
as either Naichi-jin or Okinawan, recalled that while a few Japanese
in the area were affluent, local non-Nikkei Bolivians did not take the
Japanese seriously because Japan at the time was dismissed as only
a small country in the margin of Asia and often mistaken as part of
China (Shioiri 2000, 168). Out of shame, some Issei tried to assimi-
late into Bolivian society by changing their family names to Spanish-
sounding ones and by refusing to teach Japanese to their children.
15. In 1952 there were thirty-six Okinawan men in Riberalta of Ben Pre-
fecture, among whom thirty-four were married to Bolivian women
Notes to Pages 2831 201

(Kunimoto 2000, 30; Shioiri 2000, 164). Fifteen Okinawan men lived
in Santa Cruz Prefecture, and all were married to Bolivian women.
In contrast, among the eighteen Okinawan men who lived in La Paz,
only five married Bolivian women (Tigner 1954, 471, 485; Furuki 2000,
16. Another account of the intermarriages in rural Bolivia stated that Issei
Okinawan men who married rural Bolivian women complained about
their wives poor housekeeping, and neglect of their children and ac-
cused them of causing discord in the family by indulging themselves
with frequent dancing, house parties and fiestas (Tigner 1954, 484).
17. Uruma is an ancient name for the Ryky Islands in the Okinawan
archaic language. Uru means coral reef, while ma means in between.
18. The first four chiefs of the Ryky government were nominated by US-
CAR, but the fifth chief, Yara Chby, was elected by the Okinawan
people. Chief Yara was the last Ryky government chief before Oki-
nawas repatriation to Japan in 1972.
19. While the United States government facilitated the speedy, export-ori-
ented growth of the mainland Japanese economy by setting a high and
fixed currency exchange rate (at one U.S. dollar to 360 Japanese yen)
and reducing the mainlands military burden, the United States gov-
ernment deliberately made the Okinawan economy heavily dependent
on the United States military presence by setting a considerably lower
exchange rate (at one U.S. dollar to 120 local B-yen) and concentrat-
ing U.S. installations and staff in the islands (Yoshimi 2003, 442).
20. It is reported that the minimum wage for American employees at
United States bases was fourteen times higher than those of Okinawan
workers (Oguma 1998, 504).
21. Amemiya also writes that nearly all Issei were employed at one time
or another by the military bases before leaving for Colonia Okinawa.
Amemiyas informants also expressed their disdain for military labor,
or gun sagy, because they were placed under American superiors in
terms of both pay scale and rank (Amemiya 1999b, 5859). Among
them was Mr. Tamashiro, a former driver for the United States mili-
tary police, who later immigrated to Colonia Okinawa when he was
twenty-eight years old. He recalled that there was always discrimina-
tion against locals [Okinawans] at work, and working for the military
made him feel like he was a second-class, third-class citizen.
22. Under the agreement between USCAR and the Ryky government
202 Notes to Pages 3336

made in 1952, the landowners were contracted with the chief of the
Ryky government, and the chief subsequently rented the land to
the United States military. Since the rent the Okinawan farmers re-
ceived from USCAR for their land was extremely low, only 2 percent
of the landowners agreed to the contract with the Ryky government.
Hence, USCAR had to resort to the Compulsory Land Expropriation
Act in 1953 (Miyagi 1968, 217).
23. In 1937, Ramn Retamoso L, a researcher working for the Ministry
of Agriculture, Colonization, and Immigration, and Juan Silva V, the
head of the National Office of Immigration, made strong recommen-
dations for immigrant settlements in the eastern lowlands (Retamoso
L and Silva V 1937, 87).
24. In 1952, food imports accounted for 41 percent of all imports and 21
percent of the countrys total food supply (Gill 1987, 31).
25. The U.S. government played a significant role in promoting the devel-
opment of agricultural enterprise in Santa Cruz Prefecture. The Unit-
ed States hoped the new Revolutionary Nationalist Movementled
Bolivia would be reformist, rather than leftist, and sought to maintain
Bolivia within its sphere of influence in the face of potential commu-
nist influence in South America (Gill 1987, 36). Bolivia was the recipi-
ent of the largest amount of financial aid from the United States among
all South American countries from 1945 to 1964 (Uehara 1981, 67). It
was no coincidence, therefore, that the USCAR-led search commis-
sion chose Bolivia as a favorable destination for Okinawan immigrants
to develop commercial agriculture.
26. For more information regarding the Bolivian governments intentions
and local political and economic factors with regard to the Okinawan
settlement program, see Gill 1987, Hiraoka 1972, Amemiya 1999b,
Tigner 1954, and Mori 1998b.
27. Yoko Sellek cites a similar case where Okinawan settlers, who were
carrying Ryky governmentissued certificates of identity, were de-
nied entry into Bolivia on the grounds that the certificates were not
internationally recognized passports (2003, 8586). The Japanese gov-
ernment did not help the settlers reenter Bolivia, claiming that they
had originally immigrated to Bolivia under the United States govern-
ments sponsorship. Ryky government officials ended up having to
ask the United States government to persuade the Bolivian authorities
to permit the settlers to enter Bolivia (ibid.).
Notes to Pages 36 38 203

28. Okinawan settlers dissatisfaction with the lack of assistance from the
Bolivian, United States, and Japanese governments was exacerbated
when the Japanese government sponsored Naichi-jin immigration and
settlement in Santa Cruz Prefecture in 1957. The Naichi-jin settle-
ment, Colonia Japons San Juan de Yapacan, located approximately
120 kilometers west of Colonia Okinawa, was assisted by the Japanese
government from the beginning (Kunimoto 1986; Boribia Nihonjin
100-shnen-shi Hensan Iinkai 2000).
29. Naichi-jin Japanese settlers in Colonia Japons San Juan de Yapacan
and Okinawan settlers in Colonia Okinawa had few contacts until the
1990s, when the highway between Colonia Okinawa and the village of
Yapacan, near Colonia San Juan, was paved, and both Colonias were
equipped with telephone lines. Though there had been several attempts
to create a pan-Nikkei-jin organization in Bolivia, it was not until 1996
that Boribia Nikkei Kykai Rengkai (Federacin Nacional de Asocia-
ciones de Boliviano-Japonesas, or FENABOJA), the national federa-
tion of all regional Nikkei-jin associations in Bolivia, was formed, in
the hope of facilitating interactions among various Nikkei-jin commu-
nities in the country. In 2000, approximately 14,000 Nikkei-jin lived in
Bolivia, among whom 2,300 resided in Santa Cruz Prefecture (Boribia
Nihonjin 100-shnen-shi Hensan Iinkai 2000).
30. As I noted, the first settlers arrived in Colonia Okinawa in August
1954. After struggles with epidemics and poor hydration of the soil in
the first two locations, the settlers finally moved to the current Colonia
Okinawa location in June 1956. Hence, the second anniversary of the
foundation of Colonia Okinawa was held in 1958 (Ij 1987, 253).
31. In fact, many mixed-heritage individuals, or mestizos, in the twenti-
eth century have attempted, and succeeded, in passing as blancos by
learning to speak Spanish, wearing Western clothing, and emulating
modern capitalist ideals, thereby claiming their blanco-ness through
not being Indian (O. Harris 1995, cited in Stephenson 1999, 3, em-
phasis original).
32. While only 14.6 percent of the Bolivian national population was con-
sidered white in 1952, some 30 percent of the Santa Cruz population
self-identified as white (Hiraoka 1980, 26).
33. A large number of domestic migrants from the altiplano have moved
to the lowlands since the 1950s, when the Revolutionary Nationalist
Movement governments insufficient agrarian reform produced a large
204 Notes to Pages 38 41

group of landless farmers, or campesinos, and mismanagement of the

national mining corporation created thousands of unemployed miners
in Potos and Sucre prefectures (Stearman 1985, 30). Jobless former
miners and the land-hungry peasants from the altiplano moved to the
eastern lowland and started small-scale horticulture enterprises. In
the late 1950s, owing to the Revolutionary Nationalist Movement gov-
ernments further effort to promote agricultural development in Santa
Cruz Prefecture, several voluntary settlements (colonias) emerged,
which in effect provided Okinawan settlers with an abundant work-
force pool for seasonal labor.
34. Nearby laborers commuted to the Okinawans farms, while others
lived in huts, built by their employers on the farm, until their tasks
were completed. By the early 1960s, the Okinawan settlers began to
handpick workers whom the settlers considered the most reliable and
let them live on the settlers property (Mori 1998b, 3839).
35. The devastating flood of the Ro Grande river in 1968 spurred the
Okinawan-Bolivians emigration from the Colonia.
36. In Colonia Uno, the percentage of cotton production of total agricul-
tural production jumped from 0 percent in 1968 to 74.7 percent in
1974, while rice production dropped from 74.4 percent to 0 percent in
the same period (CAICO 1993, 74).
37. It is estimated that during the 1960s and 1970s, 1,000 Okinawan-Boliv-
ians migrated from Colonia Okinawa to So Paulo, Brazil, and 600 left
for Buenos Aires, Argentina (Tsujimoto 1998a, 280). It must be noted,
however, that BolivianNikkei or otherwisemigration to Argentina
was an ongoing trend from the 1950s. During the 1950s and 1960s,
more than 122,000 Bolivians migrated to Argentina, and from 1970 to
1974, another 39,100 moved to Argentina (Marshall 1981, 246).
38. The term kolla is taken from kollasuyo, a Quechua word for the Boliv-
ian sector of the Inca Empire (Stearman 1985, 20). The kolla category
encompasses not only highland Indian groups, such as Quechua and
Aymara, but also potentially non-Indian European-Bolivians. I heard a
camba refer to a European-Bolivian from La Paz as kolla on several oc-
casions, in a joking manner. The vast majority of the migrants from the
Andean highlands in Santa Cruz, however, are Quechua and Aymara
Indians, so kolla typically refers to highland Indians. Unlike the low-
landers who have no problem self-identifying as camba, the Andean
highlanders in Santa Cruz rarely refer to themselves as kolla, as they
Notes to Pages 4143 205

consider the name a derogatory one imposed upon them by the low-
landers. They instead refer to themselves as paisano, roughly meaning
countryman (Mori 1998b, 56).
39. These stereotypes are often extended to phenotypic characteristics of
each group: kolla have darker skin with flat faces, while camba have
paler skin and larger facial parts. The perceived phenotypic distinctions
between camba and kolla also relate to what (mainly) camba claimed
to be the differences between the two groups in the amount of Euro-
pean blood and cultural proximity to Europe. Stearman observes that
many lowlanders considered themselves racially superior to high-
landers because of a stronger European heritage, citing the history of
the first Spaniards arriving in Santa Cruz from Argentina, not from
the Andean highlands. She encountered many camba who proudly
claimed their pure Castilian heritage, even though they were unable
to provide any proof (Stearman 1985, 20, 208). During my fieldwork,
I also heard camba making derogatory remarks about kolla in the vil-
lage, such as Those [kolla] did not even know how to speak in caste-
llano (Spanish language) until they moved here. They are backward!
40. I will discuss the racial category of whites (hakujin) in the local con-
text in Chapter 2.
41. From 1968 to 1984, the total number of Okinawan immigrants to Bo-
livia was only 143 (JICA Okinawa 1985, 27). Since the planned im-
migration ended in 1964, a small number of voluntary settlers have
come from both Okinawa and the main islands of Japan. From 1985
to 1995, JICA also sent to Colonia Okinawa thirteen young Japanese
(Naichi-jin and Okinawan) who were interested in immigrating to
Bolivia through the Overseas Development Youth (Kaigai Kaihatsu
Seinen) program, which was intended to help the existing Nikkei-jin
communities in South America revitalize themselves. Before depar-
ture the selected participants were trained in Japan in farming or other
special skills useful for living in their migratory destinations and were
expected to settle permanently in the accommodating communities
after a three-year trial period. Among the thirteen who came to Co-
lonia Okinawa through this program, however, only three still lived in
Colonia Okinawain 2003.
42. In 1997, twenty-three returned to Colonia Okinawa from Japan, while
nine left for Japan. There were twenty-seven returns and sixteen
departuresin 1998 and twelve returns and sixteen departures in 1999.
206 Notes to Pages 4548

43. Tsujimoto (1998b, 1998c, 1999) reports that the first group of Okinawan-
Bolivian dekasegi migrants went to Japan in 1983, but I met several
returnees from dekasegi in Japan who claimed to have left for Japan in
1982. The disparity is likely due to the uncertain definition of the term
dekasegi. See Gmelch 1980 for the difficulty in distinguishing tempo-
rary from permanent migration.
44. In 1985, in his second term, President Victor Paz Estenssoro, Siles
Zuazos successor, implemented an aggressive orthodox shock with
the so-called New Economic Plan, which included currency devalua-
tion, establishment of the floating exchange rate, fiscal control of the
national and local governments, tax reform, and the dismantling of
nationally owned corporations and their labor unions. The immedi-
ate outcome of the economic reform was a dramatic decline in the
inflation rate, but also a sharp rise in unemployment to more than 20
percent (Klein 1992, 277).
45. Tsujimoto counted at least thirty-six Okinawan-Bolivians who had
worked in this factory, all of whom were from Okinawa Uno (Tsujimoto
1998c, 318).
46. The oceanfront area of Tsurumi has been known for the presence of
a large Okinawan population since the 1910s, as many Okinawans
moved to the heavy-industrial center called the Keihin industrial zone,
of which Tsurumi and Kawasaki are part, during the severe recession
and famine in Okinawa during the 1910s and 1920s (Tomiyama 1990;
Mukai 1992; Ikuno 2000, 305). As Japans heavy manufacturing indus-
try grew dramatically from the 1950s to 1970s, the increasing number
of Okinawans living in Tsurumi brought about the Okinawa Kenjin-
kai, or Okinawa Prefectural Association, which has organized cultural
events such as the Okinawan-style sumo tournament that still con-
tinues today. Interestingly, however, the dekasegi Okinawan-Bolivians
I have talked to did not consider the areas history as an Okinawan
enclave an important factor for their decision to settle in the area.
47. In 1975, the total amount of Okinawan-Bolivian farmers debt reached
US$1.3 million owing to failed cotton production (Higa 2000, 252).
48. One Okinawan-Bolivian I interviewed boasted that he had debt (in
pesos) of almost US$100,000 before the hyperinflation, but he paid it
off with approximately US$2,000 in 1986.
49. According to Gushiken, US$50,000 was necessary to purchase land
to build a house, and additional expenses included US$30,000 for
Notes to Pages 50 65 207

vehicles, US$150,000 for 150 hectares of farmland, and US$100,000

for farming machines and equipment (Gushiken 1998, 203).
50. An experienced Okinawan-Bolivian farmer could borrow as much
as ten million yen (US$80,000), but an inexperienced farmer, such as
those wishing to start a new operation, could normally receive only
US$50,000 in loans.
51. For instance, in 1999, CAICO set the limit at US$171 for one hectare
of soybean field, US$200 for one hectare of wheat field, and US$126
for one hectare of sunflower field (CAICO 1999). Unlike JICAs long-
term loans, CAICOs loans had to be paid back at harvest. After the
half-year period, thus, the borrowers had to pay back the loan and its
15 percent interest with their harvested crops.

Chapter 2: The Making of Patrones

Japonesas and Dekasegi Migrants

1. See Cornelius et al. 1994, Hing 1993, Lesser 1999, and Yamanaka 1996
on how the immigration policies of the United States, Brazil, and Japan
have constructed and transformed racial and ethnic categories.
2. It was commonly known among Okinawan-Bolivian farm owners that
the official figures on individual landholding were much smaller than the
reality. To reduce the amount of the annual membership fee for Nichibo
Kykai, which was based on the self-reported property value of a mem-
ber, most underreported the size of their land. One Nichibo Kykai of-
ficial told me that the actual average farm was about 300 hectares, while
approximately ten farmers possessed more than 1,000 hectares.
3. It was reported that while an Okinawan-Bolivian households average
assets were 40,416,000 yen, or US$399,367, their average amount of
debt was 10,097,000 yen, or US$99,777 (JICA1994).
4. Bolivian government agencies had difficulty building and maintaining
basic social infrastructure. For instance, as of 2000, only 6.6 percent of
Bolivian roads were paved (World Bank 2007).
5. The project was, not incidentally, contracted to a Japanese construc-
tion firm. The state-industry congruence in overseas aid projects of
the Japanese government, or, for that matter, the governments of many
other advanced capitalist countries, has created controversy, but that
topic is beyond this studys scope.
6. Because of their immersion in a more competitive urban environment,
208 Notes to Pages 69 83

Nisei who were born or raised in Santa Cruz de la Sierra appeared to

have fared better in pursuing higher education and obtaining profes-
sional jobs. I have met a number of Nisei dekasegi migrants in Japan who
were from Santa Cruz de la Sierra, however, and some told me of having
similar struggles in finding well-paying and stable jobs in Bolivia.
7. Overseers of Okinawan-Bolivian ranches were paid less, typically
around 500 to 600 bolivianos, or US$82 to $100, monthly, although
it depended on their work responsibilities. One Okinawan-Bolivian
interviewee paid US$100 for each of the six employees at his ranch.
Another interviewee, meanwhile, paid only 150 bolivianos (US$25)
per month to a non-Nikkei Bolivian family simply to live on the site
adjacent to his ranch to watch for cattle thieves.
8. Non-Nikkei Bolivians never entered the Kuniyoshis house or ate
with the Kuniyoshis in the dining room. Spatial boundaries between
Okinawan-Bolivians and non-Nikkei Bolivian employees in domestic
spaces will be discussed extensively in Chapter 5.
9. Moreover, as an official of the Nikkei association in Santa Cruz de la
Sierra told me, more overt and formal means of resistance, such as
unionization of the currently nonionized non-Nikkei Bolivian farm la-
borers, could potentially present a serious threat to the dominance of
Okinawan-Bolivian landowners in the future.
10. Genchi-jin is less flexible than koko/kocchi no hito (person or people
here), since the latter could and often did include Okinawan-Bolivians
11. The rampant sexuality was also a common stereotype regarding non-
Nikkei Bolivians (especially camba). This aspect of racialization of
non-Nikkei Bolivians and Okinawans will be discussed in Chapter 5.
12. Barbaros literally means barbarians, but it is a term commonly used
by the general Santa Cruz population, Okinawan-Bolivians and non-
Nikkei Bolivians alike, to refer to indigenous peoples in rural Santa
Cruz, usually with little intention to denigrate them.

Chapter 3: From Patrn to Nikkei-jin Rodosha

1. I have heard from Okinawan-Bolivians in Colonia Okinawa that Nisei
who grew up in the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra were better adjusted
to compete in urban educational settings and job competition than
those who were raised in the Colonia until finishing middle or high
Notes to Pages 85 99 209

school. I was unable to find any evidence to attest or refute the valid-
ity of this observation. I have met in Yokohama, however, a number of
Nisei and younger Issei dekasegi migrants who were from Santa Cruz
de la Sierra. They cited similar reasons for their decision to migrate to
Japan as those given by Nisei from the Colonia: difficulty in completing
a college education, lack of well-paying and reliable professional jobs,
and overall economic and social instabilities in Bolivia.
2. Although such staffing practices are prohibited by the Labor Staffing
Law (Rdsha Haken-h), Sano found that the vast majority of South
American Nikkei-jin workers in manufacturing, construction, and
specialized construction (including electrical installation) were em-
ployed through staffing (1995, 112). In the electrical installation in-
dustry, these staffing firms disguised themselves as subcontractors by
providing construction materials and tools such as electric cables, nuts
and bolts, and power tools. The self-supply of materials and tools made
them exempt from the aforementioned law, even though the electri-
cians from these firms worked under the supervision of the parent
company staff at the construction site.
3. Ken, his brother, however, disputed his brothers claim, saying, Oscar
must have received most of his salary.
4. Mr. Kamikawa was born in Okinawa and migrated to Colonia Okinawa
as a child. His family then moved to So Paulo, Brazil, in the 1960s.
5. Those who worked in retail were all women. A small number of women
also worked as office clerks or domestic workers, or took on piece-work
manufacturing at home, such as soldering electronic board panels.
6. I will discuss intermarriages and courtships of Okinawan-Bolivians in
Bolivia and Japan in Chapter 5.
7. Unlike san, a suffix that shows general respect (the equivalent of Mr.
Ms., or Mrs.), kun is a suffix used for those who are considered
equal or below you in terms of age or status.
8. Tsujimoto also argues that the stereotypical image of the suffering
South American Nikkei-jin worker did not quite apply to Okinawan-
Bolivian dekasegi migrant workers. He claims that his Okinawan-
Bolivian informants actually enjoyed physical work and were eager to
learn new skills through their work (Tsujimoto 1998c, 332333).
9. Some of the senior members, such as Tokashiki Oscar, occasionally
criticized the T Denki staff s tardiness, but Mr. Tokashiki himself was
not always punctual.
210 Notes to Pages 100 116

10. For more detailed studies about South American Nikkei-jin workers
in the manufacturing industry and their relationships with Japanese
coworkers and supervisors, see Tsuda 1998, 1999, 2003, and Roth
11. Coincidentally, Mr. Hokamas vocabulary for hidden discrimination
in Japanese workplaces is used in Tsuda 1998. See also Doi 1985 for
ura versus omote distinctions in Japanese mannerisms.
12. See Nakanes famous theorization (1970) of the vertical relationship
as a central characteristic of Japanese social relationships.
13. Tsuda (1999) argues that Brazilian Nikkei-jin workers subjective expe-
rience of ethnic discrimination in Japan was not necessarily caused by
discriminatory treatment or prejudice by their Japanese coworkers or
supervisors. Instead, Brazilian Nikkei-jin workers subordinate positions
vis--vis Japanese supervisors, the simple and menial work assigned to
them as an inexperienced and often temporary workforce, and Japanese
polite and distant mannerisms were interpreted by Brazilian Nikkei-jin
as Japanese ethnic discrimination and racism against them.
14. Tsujimoto also observed that there were few interactions between Oki-
nawan-Bolivian immigrants and domestic Okinawans in Tsurumi
(1999, 82). He reported persistent anti-Okinawan discrimination in
housing and food service services in the area (Tsujimoto 1998c, 320).

Chapter 4: Educating Good Nikkei

and Okinawan Subjects

1. To avoid redundancy, I focus on school education in Colonia Uno,

which I researched extensively during my fieldwork. I draw on Ka-
suyas research (1998) on Nueva Esperanza as many of her findings
at the school are relevant. I do not discuss training, or kensh, pro-
grams sponsored by the JICA, the Okinawa prefectural government,
and other state and nonstate institutions through which many Nisei
travel to Japan for short periods of time. These programs are intended
to provide technical training for Nikkei-jin abroad and descendants of
Okinawan migrs who live in developing countries, in hope of help-
ing them contribute to the improvement of Nikkei communities.
2. In 2000, the school charged US$30 a month for students who attended
the morning Spanish classes only and US$50 for those who took both
Spanish and Japanese language classes.
Notes to Pages 116 130 211

3. The percentage of Okinawan-Bolivian students at Numero Uno steadily

decreased from 1988 (84.5 percent) to 1996 (64.9 percent) during the
dekasegi fad (see Chapter 1), owing to the emigration of families with
school-age children. Nikkei Bolivian students occupied, however, the
overwhelming majority of the student population (86.8 percent) in
2001 (Okinawa Daiichi Nichibo Gakk 2001, 7).
4. In the special class, designed for non-Japanese speakers, non-Nikkei
Bolivian students, and the children of intermarried parents, a bilin-
gual Nisei teacher used JSL (Japanese as a Second Language) instruc-
tion materials. Since Numero Uno students Japanese proficiency was
somewhat behind that of Japanese students in Japan, the textbooks
used were also behind by one year (for example, a Japanese fourth
grade textbook was used for Numero Unos class 5). Some of these
textbooks, relatively new editions, were donated by past JICA volun-
teer teachers or Okinawa Prefecture Program teachers.
5. The position description for the 20042006 senior volunteer for Colo-
nia Okinawa stated: The main duties of the senior [volunteer] will be
training Nikkei Japanese language teachers, acting as an advisor to the
school administration, and instructing students in the Japanese lan-
guage and other related subjects. Also, [the volunteer] is expected to
fulfill an advisory role in community education activities that [Nichibo]
Kykai has been emphasizing and to instruct basic computer software
operations ([Microsoft] Excel, Outlook, Express, etc.) for beginners
(including students and teachers) (JICA 2003).
6. From 1995, JICAs philosophy toward its relationship with overseas
Nikkei communities changed from the active promotion of Japanese
emigration overseas and settlement assistance to supporting existing
Nikkei communities as part of its international cooperation effort
(JICA 1998, 154). As a result, the Nikkei Society Youth Volunteer pro-
gram came to emphasize volunteers service to Nikkei communities
rather than their eventual settlement in the assigned countries as per-
manent residents.
7. Nueva Esperanza School in Colonia Dos was desperate to find Japanese
language teachers in 2001. The school employed me for three months
as a replacement and then asked Mr. Sat, the JICA senior volunteer
teacher at the time, to recruit two Japanese teachers from his home
prefecture in Japan. Responding to the local newspaper advertisement
posted by Mr. Sat, two young women came from Japan in March 2001
212 Notes to Pages 132142

to fill the two vacancies in the Japanese classes at Nueva Esperanza for
the remainder of the 2001 school year.
8. Though infrequent, thefts and robberies of Okinawan-Bolivians by
non-Nikkei Bolivians did take place during my fieldwork in Colonia
Okinawa. According to Issei, the recent perpetrators were increasingly
violent, often robbing victims at gunpoint.
9. Because of their limited writing and speech skills, the special class
students had a choice of reading a short essay from their textbook in-
stead of essays they had written. A winner was chosen from each class,
and the best four among them would advance to the speech contest
sponsored by the Japanese Language Education Learning Committee
of Bolivia (Boribia Nihongo Kyiku Kenky Iinkai, or Bo-Nikken) in
November, joined by the winners of similar contests in other Japanese
language schools throughout Bolivia.
10. In fact, taikai does not necessarily mean a competition; it literally
means a convention. Mr. Sat was trying to highlight the difference
between the pursuit of excellence in writing and speaking in Japanese
by the contestants and merely a series of presentations by them.
11. For instance, many Colonia Uno residents resented the Nichibo
Kykais policy of distributing an equal amount of the community ac-
tivity budget to the three Colonias despite Colonia Unos much larger
population. Meanwhile, the residents of Colonia Dos and Trs were
bitter about the fact that Nichibo Kykai and CAICO headquarters
and Numero Uno School were all located in Colonia Uno. Before they
were built, Colonia Dos residents had insisted that these facilities
should be located in their district, the geographic center of Colonia
Okinawa, rather than in Colonia Uno (Mori 1998b, 111; 1998c, 98).
12. Eis was originally performed during the bon period (a week in July
when people remember and honor the souls of their dead relatives),
and each village on the islands of Okinawa has its own version of Eis
dance and music. Every summer, villagers dance and sing for a day-
and-a-night-long celebration.
13. Most Okinawa Prefecture Program teachers had taught Eis dance be-
fore coming to Colonia Okinawa because the dance was not only wide-
ly practiced throughout the communities in Okinawa Prefecture, but
also incorporated into physical education classes in the prefectures
public schools.
14. Mr. Gushikens performance team incorporated various karate moves
Notes to Pages 149 166 213

(karate was also from Okinawa) into Eis dance and became popular
among youth in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan proper, and abroad. It has
chapters in the United States, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, and Peru,
where a large number of members of the Okinawan diaspora live.

Chapter 5: Gendering Transnationality

1. Women could also become temporary household heads while their

husbands were away in Japan for dekasegi if the rest of the family
stayed in Colonia Okinawa.
2. There was no mail delivery system to individual houses. Nichibo
Kykai has a mailbox at the central post office of Santa Cruz de la Si-
erra that served all members of the association. A Nichibo Kykai staff
member went to the central post office once a week to mail outgoing
letters from the associations members and retrieve incoming letters to
the members.
3. At public occasions that I attended during my field research in Colonia
Okinawa, the only women who frequently sat at mens tables and so-
cialized with them with ease were two Japanese Naichi-jin women who
had lived in the Colonia for a long period. One was particularly vocal
about womens status in Colonia Okinawa. She observed that many
Okinawan-Bolivian women, especially young Nisei women, were tim-
id and put up with their oppressive situations (Terui 1997, 17).
4. On an irregular basis, the Tsukamotos also employed three non-Nikkei
Bolivian men who performed numerous odd jobs, such as cutting the
grass on their property, assembling doghouses, or planting trees in the
garden. These mens employment, unlike the female domestics, was
unstable; none of the male workers at the Tsukamotos I talked with
had worked for the family longer than three months.
5. In a survey conducted by Japanese researchers in 1996, 55 percent of
Issei considered it was very desirable for their Nisei children and
Sansei grandchildren to marry their fellow Nisei and Sansei, while only
2 percent said the same about non-Nikkei Bolivians (Anbo et al. 1998,
6. This view was shared among Nikkei Peruvians, too. See Miasato (2002)
on intermarriages and courtships among Nikkei Peruvians in Lima.
7. One of the goals of Japanese classes at Numero Uno School was to help
the students pass the grade 2 test of the Japanese Language Proficiency
214 Notes to Pages 168 180

Examination (Nihongo Nryoku Kentei Shiken), administered by the

Japan Foundation (a government foundation that promotes Japanese
studies overseas), before graduating from the school. When the school
had a mock exam during a Japanese class, the average scores of the
female students were consistently higher than their male counterparts
in the same class. Among those students who took the mock grade 2
exam, for instance, the average score of the male students was 232 out
of a possible 400 points, while female students scored 241 on average
(Okinawa Daiichi Nichibo Gakk 2000).
8. Tsujimoto (1999) notes that in 1994 Boribia Shinboku-kai (Bolivia
Friendship Association), a community association among Okinawan-
Bolivian dekasegi migrants, was founded in Tsurumi for recreational
purposes. When I conducted fieldwork in Yokohama in 2000, however,
I was told that the association was defunct. There were also baseball
and soccer games primarily participated in by Okinawan-Bolivians,
but these activities were neither formally organized nor consistently
held. I often found out about the games by word of mouth.
9. Ikuno Eriko stated that it was also common among Nikkei Bolivians
to marry other foreign immigrants in Japan (2000, 302). I heard about
only one such case of intermarriage, a Nisei Okinawan-Bolivian man
from Colonia Uno with a Thai wife. They met through JICAs technical
training program for foreigners.
10. This change, however, had taken place only in Colonia Uno before I
left Colonia Okinawa in 2001. When I told this news to a male resident
of Colonia Trs, he snickered: I heard about [the change in Colonia
Uno], but [Colonia Trs] hasnt changed and will not change. [Hosting
guests at individual homes] is how it is supposed to be [on New Years

JP: Japanese; SP: Spanish; OK: Okinawan

altiplano (sp) Andean highland in western Bolivia.

blanco (sp) White.
CAICO (sp) Cooperativa Agropecuaria Integral Colonias
Okinawa,or Colonia Okinawa Integral Agricultural Co-
camba (sp) Lowland natives of eastern Bolivia.
colonia (sp) An agricultural collective settlement.
dekasegi (jp) Sojourning. Literally means going out to earn
money, with the intention of returning to home in the
denki (jp) Electronics or electricity.
dojin (jp) Aboriginals.
dojin (ok) See dojin.
Eis (ok) Popular Okinawan folk dance that is traditionally
performed during the summer in conjunction with the
annual obon, a ceremony that honors the ancestral spirits.
extranjero (sp) Foreigner.
gaijin (jp) Foreigner.
genba (jp) Construction site.
genchi-jin (jp) Local person or people.


hakujin (jp) White person or people.

indio (sp) Indian, often used derogatorily (cf. indigena for in-
digenous person).
Issei (jp) First generation.
JICA Japan International Cooperation Agency of the Japanese
Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
kitsui (jp) Difficult, strenuous.
kolla (sp) Highland natives of central and western Bolivia.
Also colla.
mestizo (sp) Mixed-heritage descendant of Spanish and indig-
enous peoples.
Naichi (jp/ok) Mainland Japan or Japan proper (the four major
islands of Japan).
Naichi-jin (jp/ok) People of mainland Japan. Also Yamatonchu,
Yamato, or Naich.
Nichibo Kykai (jp) Okinawa Nihon Boribia Kykai. Asociacin Bolivi-
ana-Japonesa de Okinawa, or Japanese-Bolivian Asso-
ciation of Okinawa.
Nikkei-jin (jp) Descendants of Japanese immigrants overseas (e.g.,
Japanese-Americans, Japanese-Peruvians, and so on).
Also Nikkei.
Nisei (jp) Second generation.
Nueva Esperanza (sp) Colegio Mixto Nueva Esperanza, or Nueva Esper-
anza Joint (Elementary and Middle) School.
Numero Uno (sp) Colegio Particular Mixto Centro Boliviano Japones
Okinawa Numero Uno, or Okinawa Numero Uno Jap-
anese-Bolivian Joint (Elementary and Middle) Private
Okinawa Kenjinkai (jp) Okinawa Prefectural Association.
ouen (jp) Literally means support. Labor staffing. Also haken.
patrn (sp) Literally means employer. Large-scale farm owner
who employs field laborers.
rdsha (jp) Laborer.
Sansei (jp) Third generation.
sanshin (ok/jp) Three-stringed plucked lute. Shamisen in stan-
dard Japanese.
shimedaiko (ok) Okinawan drum.
trabajador (sp) Worker.

Uchinguchi (ok) Okinawan language.

Uchinanchu (ok) People of Okinawa. Also Uchinnchu or Uchin.
ukeoi (jp) Subcontracting.
USCAR United States Civil Administration of the Ryky Is-
Yamatoguchi (ok) Standard Japanese language.
Yamatonchu (ok) People of mainland Japan (Japan proper). Also Ya-
mato. See also Naichi-jin.
zene-kon (jp) General construction firm.

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agriculture: Bolivian agrarian reform 62, 200n12, 206n44; migration from

(1953), 3334, 38, 61; British-owned Peru to, 26, 199n11; Naichi-jin, 27t,
sugarcane plantations in Peru, 26, 36, 39, 119, 122126, 128, 174178,
199n11; cotton production, 40, 41, 47, 199n11, 203nn28,29; Okinawan mi-
206n47; Hawaii, 199n7; Okinawa, 31, gration to (before 1950s), 2223,
32, 198n6, 202n22; soybean produc- 2629; racialized categories, 3738,
tion, 4243, 47, 5051, 67f. See also 41, 7482, 125132, 139140, 144;
CAICO; farm laborers; farm owners Revolutionary Nationalist Movement,
altiplano, 10, 200n14; agrarian reform, 33, 6061, 202n25; rubber industry,
3334, 38; ethnoracial categories, 2627, 199n11, 200n12; social infra-
37, 76, 195n19; migration to Colonia structure, 207n4; yobiyose to, 27, 27t,
Okinawa from, 3942, 203n33 28. See also farm aid; migrations; non-
Amemiya, Kozy, 25, 201n21 Nikkei Bolivians; Okinawan-Bolivians;
Argentina, Okinawan-Bolivians migrating population; Santa Cruz Prefecture
to (1960s1970s), 40, 204n37 Bolivianization, 119120, 139140, 144,
autonomy: Okinawan-Bolivian laborers 158, 171; embodiment, 121, 122, 173.
in Yokohama, 98101; Ryky king- See also stereotypes
dom, 24 Boribiajin, 7579, 111, 120, 158, 160161.
See also non-Nikkei Bolivians
barbaros, 80, 208n12 Boribia Shinboku-kai/Bolivia Friendship
Bhabha, Homi, 76, 198n5 Association, 17, 214n8
blanco, Bolivian, 3738, 4142, 81, 203n31 boundaries, 9; cultural, 9, 184, 186; em-
bodies. See embodiment; racialization; ployers and workers, 9, 65, 102, 155
sexuality 157, 181, 188, 208n8; gendered, 20,
Bolivia, 11map; agrarian reform (1953), 171, 188; inside-purity and outside-
3334, 38, 61; economy, 27, 33, 45, 47, impurity, 192n4; spatial/deference, 5,


20, 155157, 181, 188, 208n8. See also Colegio San Francisco Xavier, 114115
racialized boundaries colonialism: embodiment of colonized,
Brazil: Nikkei-jin in Japan, 56, 103, 107 7, 23, 7677; Japanese, 23, 2426, 30,
108, 174175, 192n4, 210n13; Oki- 198n4, 199n10; unconscious, 198n4
nawans in, 2526, 40, 199n9 Colonia Okinawa, 3, 1016; dekasegi mi-
grating to Japan from, 3, 8, 1618, 22
CAICO/Cooperativa Agropecuaria Inte- 23, 4253, 43f, 63, 83112, 146147,
gral Colonias Okinawa/Colonia Oki- 163182, 186, 188, 209n1; Dos, 34,
nawa Integral Agricultural Coopera- 5657, 212n11; economy, 41, 45, 47,
tive: centro office, 6869, 212n11; em- 50; farm laborers, 35, 3842, 5758,
ployees, 12, 58, 76, 116, 163164; farm 6582, 68f, 156157, 185; floods and
laborers sought by, 4041; farm pro- droughts, 39, 40, 5859, 114; Hospi-
duction reports, 4243; loans, 4751, tal, 73; housing, 5455, 55f; Issei, 3,
207n51; membership of male-headed 12, 3031, 33, 40, 41, 4548, 5253,
households, 149; men congregating 111145; non-Nikkei Bolivians mi-
at, 68, 154; Okinawan-Bolivians land- grating from altiplano to, 3942,
ownership, 61 203n33; Okinawan-Bolivian socio-
camba, 37, 38, 74, 75, 7980, 185, economics, 3942, 45, 5358, 57t,
204n38; stereotypes, 4142, 205n39, 6282, 185; Okinawan enclave, 55,
208n11 56f; Okinawan migrations to (1950s
capital, symbolic, 7, 14, 1718, 38, 42 1970s), 2223, 2834, 201n21; pa-
capitalism, 44 trones, 1819, 35, 3839, 42, 5482,
Catholic school, Colegio San Francisco 139140, 185; returnees from Japan
Xavier, 114115 to, 22, 31, 49, 5152, 75, 103, 146, 149,
cattle ranchers, 12, 55, 66, 70, 75, 208n7 161, 166182, 205n42, 206n43; sec-
children: dekasegi in Japan, 170; mixed- ond anniversary of the foundation of,
heritage, 160165, 171172. See also 36, 203n30; Trs, 34, 5657, 6061,
schools 212n11; Uno, 2f, 34, 5657, 58, 114
citizenship, 5, 89, 20, 195nn1417; Japa- 145, 212n11; USTAM, 3940. See also
nese, 3940, 44, 63, 108, 184; nation- farm owners; gender relationships;
less, 23, 29, 35, 52, 178, 184, 186, labor/laborers; population; racializa-
194n14, 198n4; Okinawan, 32, 39 tion; schools
40; Okinawan-Bolivian, 3536, 44, communist threat: East Asia, 29, 30, 32,
63, 108, 185; racialized belonging, 184; South America, 202n25
210, 1920, 53, 55, 183189, 192n3, community events: Colonia Okinawa,
195n16; U.S., 184. See also transna- 3637, 48, 64, 118119, 125, 127,
tionalization 132133, 136138, 137f, 140142,
class: in domestic sphere, 155157; racial- 152; gender roles, 152165, 168, 179
ization of, 59, 3739, 4142, 6582, 180; Japanese culture in Bolivia and,
161162, 185; transnational transitions, 130131; Okinawan-Bolivian in Ja-
4, 83112, 188189. See also labor/ pan, 17, 168169, 180, 214n8; schools
laborers; patrones; socioeconomics roles in, 118119, 125, 127, 132133,
Colegio Evangelica Metodista Colonia 140142, 152; track meet, 136138,
Okinawa, 114116, 115t, 123f 137f; young Nisei, 48, 64

competitiveness: Okinawan values, 133, 210n13; non-Nikkei Bolivians vs. Oki-

136138, 139, 144; speech contest, 134 nawans, 200n14, 201n21; Okinawan
136, 138; track meet, 136138, 137f migrs vs. non-Japanese/Okinawans,
construction: Okinawan-Bolivian labor in 26; U.S. vs. Okinawans, 3031. See
Japan, 83112; subcontracting in Ja- also Others; racialization; stereotypes
pan, 8486. See also electricians disease, Uruma, 34
Cornelius, Wayne, 44 dka policies, 25, 30
cotton production: in Colonia Okinawa, domestic workers, 155157, 213n4
40, 41, 47, 206n47 Douglas, Mary, 192n4
cultural capital, symbolic, 7, 14, 1718, drinking: camba, 41; gender and, 179; stereo-
38, 42 type of Okinawans in Micronesia, 25
drum. See shimedaiko drum
dance. See Eis dance
debt: farm owners, 5051, 52, 57, 79, economics: Japanese aid to Colonia Oki-
206n47, 207n50; Okinawan-Bolivian nawa, 3942, 4751, 5862, 59t, 65,
household, 207n3 78, 207n51; schools, 114, 115116,
deference/spatial boundaries, 5, 20, 155 210n2, 212n11; transportation costs
157, 181, 188, 208n8 from Okinawa to Bolivia, 34; U.S. aid
dekasegi, 15, 191n2, 206n43; community to Bolivia, 33, 202n25. See also debt;
events in Japan, 168169, 180, 214n8; economy; farm aid; labor/laborers;
gender relationships, 146147, 165 socioeconomics; wages
178, 188; interactions with domestic economy: Bolivia, 27, 33, 45, 47, 62,
Okinawans, 210n14; labor, 8, 4553, 200n12, 206n44; Colonia Okinawa,
83112, 165176, 186, 209nn2, 8; 41, 45, 47, 50; Japan, 4546, 49, 52
marriage with other foreign immi- 53; Okinawa, 25, 30, 201n19. See also
grants in Japan, 214n9; migrating economics
from Colonia Okinawa, 3, 8, 1618, education. See schools
2223, 4253, 43f, 63, 83112, 146 Eis dance, 141144, 142f, 212nn1214
147, 163182, 186, 188, 209n1; pass- electricians, South American Nikkei-jin
ing as domestic Okinawans, 108 in Japan, 1718, 84108, 174176,
112, 186; returnees from colonies of 209nn2, 8
Japan, 31; returnees from Japan, 22, embodiment: Bolivian characteristics, 121,
31, 49, 5152, 75, 103, 146, 149, 161, 122, 173; of colonized, 7, 23, 7677;
166182, 205n42, 206n43; socializa- gendered and sexual, 147, 154, 174,
tion in Japan, 17, 168169, 174178, 176; Japaneseness, 14, 126, 185186;
180181, 210n14, 214n8 Okinawanness, 128, 129, 141, 185
discrimination: Bolivian Okinawans vs. 186, 199n10; racialized belonging,
non-Nikkei Bolivians, 29; Microne- 210, 1920, 53, 55, 183189, 192n3,
sian Okinawans vs. native Micro- 195n16; socioeconomic, 55, 81, 84,
nesians, 26, 199n10; toward mixed- 157; South American, 176, 186. See
heritage children, 160161; Naichi- also racialization
jin vs. Okinawans, 2528, 105106, ethnic absolutism, 6, 193n6
110, 199n10, 210n14; Naichi-jin vs. eugenics, 6, 193n5
South American Nikkei-jin, 105106, extranjeros, Bolivians, 38, 42

family, 20; dekasegi in Japan, 169, 171 Japan, 165182, 188; domestic work-
172; mixed-heritage children, 160 ers, 155157, 213n4; household roles,
165, 171172; patrilineal succession 147, 149, 154157, 179, 181, 182,
to family property, 148. See also chil- 187188, 213n1; inheritance by, 148;
dren; gender relationships; household intermarriage issues, 158159, 163
unit; marriage 165, 172, 177, 201n16; interviews
family state, Japanese multiethnic, 24 with, 15, 146; Japanese-language class
25, 197n3 students, 166, 214n7; in paid labor
farm aid: from Japan to Okinawan-Bolivi- market, 148151, 165168, 169, 179,
ans, 3942, 4751, 5862, 59t, 65, 78, 180, 209n5; public gender regime,
207n51; from Okinawa to Okinawan- 147, 148152, 165168, 180, 182
Bolivians, 58, 59t; from U.S. to Boliv- finca system, 38, 71, 72
ia, 33, 202n25 floods, Colonia Okinawa, 39, 40, 5859, 114
farm laborers: Colonia Okinawa, 35, food supply: in Bolivia, 33, 202n24; for
3842, 5758, 6582, 68f, 156157, farm laborers, 7273. See also agri-
185; exploited, 6971, 78; hazards, culture
70; Micronesia, 26; non-Nikkei Bo- Foucault, Michel, 5, 7, 8, 195n17
livians, 5758, 6582, 68f, 156157,
185; Peru, 26; resistance by, 7374, genchi-jin, 7579, 208n10. See also non-
7879, 208n9; rotated, 7071; theft Nikkei Bolivians
by, 7374, 7879; wages, 69, 207n7; gender relationships, 20, 148182, 187
wives, 156157 188; communal gender regime, 147,
farm owners, 3282; Bolivian agrarian 152165; domestic spheres of influ-
reform (1953), 3334, 38, 61; British- ence, 154157, 181; public gender re-
owned sugarcane plantations in Peru, gime, 147, 148152, 165168, 180, 182;
26, 199n11; cotton production, 40, 41, returned dekasegi, 146, 149, 161, 166
47, 206n47; debt, 5051, 52, 57, 79, 182. See also females; males; marriage
206n47, 207n50; everyday production, Genovese, Eugene, 72
6569; expenses, 206n49; exploita- Gilroy, Paul, 6, 193n6
tion of laborers, 6971, 78; finca sys- good Nikkei Bolivian and Okinawan
tem, 38, 71, 72; income, 57, 57t; Nich- diasporic subjects, 20; education for,
ibo Kykai membership fee, 207n2; 4, 19, 20, 113145, 187
non-Nikkei Bolivian, 7172, 139; Gushi Kanch, 28
Okinawa, 31, 32, 202n22; Okinawan- Gushiken Ktei, 4849, 206n49
Bolivian, 8, 12, 1819, 35, 3839, 42,
5482, 156157, 184, 185; patrones, hakujin, 75, 7982
1819, 35, 3839, 42, 5482, 67f, Hawaii: Naichi-jin, 199n7; Okinawan mi-
139140, 185; semisubsistent farm- grs, 25, 27, 199n7
ing, 3439; size of farm, 207n2; soy- Herzfeld, Michael, 9
bean production, 4243, 47, 5051, household unit, 24, 148; debt, 207n3;
67f; wives, 156157. See also farm aid; womens roles in, 147, 149, 154157,
farm laborers 181, 182, 187188, 213n1
females, 213n3; community events roles, housing: Colonia Okinawa, 5455, 55f.
152165, 168, 179180; dekasegi in See also Okinawan enclaves

identities, 115, 26; fieldworker, 12, 9, 14 industries, 90; U.S. relationship, 36;
15; government-issued certificate of, World War II surrender to Allies (Au-
202n27; of interviewees, 21; Okinawan- gust 15, 1945), 29. See also dekasegi;
Bolivian transformations, 22, 37; Oki- Japanese language; Japan Interna-
nawan/Japanese, 4, 23, 25, 110111; tional Cooperation Agency (JICA);
schools shaping, 34, 19, 20, 113145, South American Nikkei-jin in Japan;
187. See also Bolivianization; embodi- Yokohama
ment; Japaneseness; Okinawanness; Japanese Association, La Paz, 28
racialization; subject positions Japanese language, 197n25; standard Japa-
Ikuno Eriko, 177, 214n9 nese, 1516, 1718, 22, 36, 83, 191n1.
immigrants. See migrations Japanese-language classes, 114115, 117
Inca Rubber Company, U.S., 2627 118, 211n4, 213n7; female students,
income: Okinawan-Bolivian, 57, 57t. See 166, 214n7; parents view of, 140141;
also wages speech contest, 133136, 138, 212nn9,
indio, 3738 10; teachers, 1213, 15, 17, 113, 119,
interviews, 1317; with women, 15, 146 120126, 130
Issei, 2829, 31, 196n20; in Bolivia (1952), Japanese Language Education Study Group
27; citizenship, 36; in Colonia Oki- of the Region of Santa Cruz, 130
nawa, 3, 12, 3031, 33, 40, 41, 45 Japanese mainlander. See Naichi-jin
48, 5253, 111145; languages, 15, Japaneseness: boundaries with Okinawan-
197n25; in Okinawa (prewar and war- ness, 26, 186; embodied, 14, 126, 185
time), 23 186; Japanese Naichi-jin teachers in
Bolivia, 124; Okinawan-Bolivian, 52,
Japan: colonialist, 23, 2426, 30, 198n4, 65, 102103. See also racialization
199n10; constitution, 25; construction, Japan International Cooperation Agency
83112; dka policies, 25, 30; econo- (JICA), 39, 177, 211n6; Colonia Oki-
my, 4546, 49, 5253; government- nawas education, 117, 119, 123125;
sponsored settlement programs, 11, Colonia Okinawas labor relations,
29, 3536; imperial rule over Oki- 56; financial assistance for Colonia
nawans, 23, 24, 25, 30, 3536, 184, Okinawa, 47, 4849, 50, 5862, 79,
191n1; labor deficit, 4546, 4950; 207n51; senior volunteer, 121, 123
manufacturing, 4553, 83, 89112, 124, 152, 211nn5, 7; youth volunteer,
166167, 206n46; multiethnic family 150, 152, 205n41, 211n6
state, 2425, 197n3; Naichi-jin in, 25, japoneses, patrones, 3839, 5482
101112, 174178, 181182, 199n10;
nationality law, 44; Okinawan-Boliv- kenjinkai, 28, 206n46
ian aid from, 3942, 4751, 5862, Kibria, Nazli, 158
59t, 65, 78, 207n51; Okinawan-Boliv- kolla, 4142, 75, 80, 185, 204n38, 205n39
ian community events, 17, 168169, Kondo, Dorinne, 79
180; Okinawan migration to (1920s),
198n6; Okinawan rights in, 25, 198n4; labor/laborers, 19, 23; abstract, 195n15; avail-
Okinawas repatriation to (1972), 29, ability of work in Japan, 8889; Bolivian
40; Overseas Migration Agency, 39 rubber industry, 2627, 199n11; CAICO
40; Plaza Agreement (1985), 46; service employees, 12, 58, 76, 116, 163164;

construction in Japan, 83112; dekasegi marriage: disapproval of intermarriage,

in Japan, 8, 4553, 83112, 165176, 186, 147, 157158; Okinawan-Bolivians
209nn2, 8; domestic workers, 155157, and Naichi-jin, 28, 147, 174178, 181;
213n4; electricians, 84108, 174176, Okinawan-Bolivians and non-Nikkei
209nn2, 8; gendered division of labor, Bolivians, 20, 28, 116, 146, 158165,
152168, 179180, 187188; household, 171174, 201nn1516, 213n5; Oki-
147, 149, 154157, 181, 182, 187188; nawan-Bolivians and other foreign
Japans deficit in, 4546, 4950; manu- immigrants in Japan, 214n9; womens
facturing in Japan, 4553, 83, 89112, livelihood, 148
166167; Nichibo Kykai employ- Massay, Douglass, 44
ees, 12, 76, 150151; Nisei educated, medical care, for farm laborers, 73
6264, 207n6, 209n1; Okinawa under Meiji Colonization Company, 26
U.S., 30, 31; physical and mental hard- mestizos/mixed heritage, 37, 160165,
ships, 70, 9197; U.S. military bases in 171172, 203n31
Okinawa, 31, 201nn2021; women in Methodist Church, 13, 119; Colegio Evan-
paid labor market, 148151, 165168, gelica Metodista Colonia Okinawa,
169, 179, 180, 209n5; younger Nisei, 64. 114116, 115t, 123f
See also farm laborers; teachers; wages Micronesia: Issei, 31; Okinawans, 25, 26,
land ownership: Bolivian agrarian reform 27, 199n10
(1953), 3334, 38, 61; Colonia Okina- migrations: gender, 146, 180; Naichi-jin to
wa, 6062; Okinawa, 3032. See also Bolivia, 203n28; non-Nikkei Bolivians
farm owners from altiplano to Colonia Okinawa,
languages: interview, 1516; Issei, 15, 197n25; 3942, 203n33; Okinawan-Bolivians
Nisei, 1516, 197n25; Spanish, 1516, to Brazil/Argentina/Okinawa (1960s
1718, 171, 196n25. See also Japanese 1970s), 40, 204n37; Okinawans to
language; Okinawan language Bolivia (19681984), 205n41; Oki-
La Paz: Japanese Association, 28; Oki- nawans to Colonia Okinawa (1950s
nawans marrying non-Nikkei Boliv- 1970s), 2223, 2834, 35t, 201n21;
ians (1952), 201n15; Okinawan socio- Okinawans to Japan (1920s), 198n6;
economics, 28, 29, 200n14 Okinawans to overseas destinations
laziness: Bolivian, 7779, 139, 144; cam- (18991927), 25; Okinawans to west-
ba, 41; Naichi-jin, 103105 ern Bolivia (before 1950s), 2223,
Lifestyle Reform Movement, Brazil, 2526 2629; U.S.-sponsored Okinawans to
Louie, Andrea, 15 Bolivia, 2936, 202nn25, 27. See also
dekasegi; returnees
males: community events roles, 152165; military, U.S. See U.S. military in Okinawa
dekasegi in Japan, 146, 165182, 188; morals: Japanese culture, 117, 132, 144
domestic workers, 213n4; inheritance 145; non-Nikkei Bolivian, 120, 158159,
by, 148; intermarriage issues, 159, 165; Okinawan-Bolivian, 79, 141; ste-
162165, 172, 174177, 201n16 reotypes about, 120, 144145, 158, 165
Malik, Kenan, 8 Mori Kichi, 25, 199n9
Malkki, Liisa, 23
manufacturing, Japan, 4553, 83, 89112, Naichi-jin, 12, 191n1; Bolivia, 27, 27t,
166167, 206n46 36, 39, 119, 122126, 128, 174178,

199n11, 203nn2829; Brazil, 2526; Nomura Kya, 23, 198n4

discrimination vs. Okinawans, 25 non-Nikkei Bolivians, 12; Boribiajin, 75
28, 105106, 110, 199n10, 210n14; 79, 111, 120, 158, 160161; camba, 37,
discrimination vs. South American 38, 4142, 74, 75, 7980, 185, 204n38,
Nikkei-jin in Japan, 105106, 210n13; 205n39; Colonia Okinawa population,
Hawaii, 199n7; internment camps 40t, 42, 52; domestic workers, 155157;
in U.S., 200n13; Japan, 25, 101112, farm laborers, 5758, 6582, 68f, 185;
174178, 181182, 199n10; marriage genchi-jin, 7579, 208n10; hakujin, 75,
with Okinawan-Bolivians, 28, 147, 7982; in Japan, 171174; kolla, 41
174178, 181; Nihonjin, 101112, 42, 75, 80, 185, 204n38, 205n39; land
174178, 181182; Okinawa, 2425; ownership, 6061; marriage with Oki-
Okinawan-Bolivian dekasegi and, nawan-Bolivians, 20, 28, 116, 146, 158
105112, 166168, 170172, 174 165, 171174, 201nn1516, 213n5;
178, 181182, 186; pan-Nikkei orga- migrating from altiplano to Colonia
nizations, 28, 203n29; stereotypes of, Okinawa, 3942, 203n33; patrones,
103108, 128, 147, 174178; teach- 7172, 139; racialized categories,
ers, 119, 122126; womens status, 7482; social divide with Okinawan-
213n3 Bolivians, 14, 29, 4142, 5462, 55f,
nationality, 23, 44, 198n4; nationlessness, 6582, 148152, 185; socioeconomics,
23, 29, 35, 52, 178, 184, 186, 194n14, 4142, 5474, 7682; stereotypes, 20,
198n4. See also citizenship; colonial- 7782, 107, 111, 120, 131132, 139
ism; nation-states; transnationalization 140, 154, 158165, 201n16, 208n11;
nation-states: Bolivia, 3, 192n3; citizen- students, 115116, 119120; teachers,
ship, 9, 44, 195nn14, 17; Japan, 3, 119, 120122; thefts by, 7374, 7879,
2425, 44, 192n3; transmigrants in 115, 212n8
multiple, 35, 9. See also transnation- Nueva Esperanza School, 113, 128, 139,
alization 210n1, 211n7
Nichibo Kykai, 11, 16, 54, 56; commu- Numero Uno Japanese-Bolivian School,
nity events, 152, 153; employees, 12, 116145, 152, 211n3
76, 150151; farm aid from Japan, 58,
60, 61; mail, 150, 213n2; male-headed occupations: military bases in Okinawa,
households as members, 149; mem- 31, 201nn2021; Okinawan-Bolivian
bership fee, 207n2; school finance, in La Paz, 200n14. See also farm own-
212n11 ers; labor/laborers; teachers
Nihonjin, 101112, 174178, 181182. Oguma Eiji, 24
See also Naichi-jin Okinawa, 4, 24, 191n1; agriculture, 31,
Nikkei-jin, 4; pan-Nikkei organizations, 32, 198n6, 202n22; annexation to Ja-
28, 203n29; population in Bolivia, 12, pan (1879), 25; Battle of (1945), 29,
27t, 203n29. See also South American 30, 197n3, 198n4; economy, 25, 30,
Nikkei-jin in Japan 201n19; Government of the Ryky
Nisei, 12, 26, 27, 6264; higher education and Islands (after 1952), 2933, 35t,
job opportunities, 6264, 208n6, 209n1; 201n22, 202n27; in Japanese family-
languages, 1516, 197n25; teachers, 119, state, 2425, 197n3; Japanese im-
129132. See also dekasegi perial rule, 23, 2425, 30, 3536,

184, 191n1; land ownership, 3032; values, 125126, 133, 136138, 139
Okinawan-Bolivian farm aid from, 140, 144, 209n8. See also competitive-
58, 59t; repatriation to Japan (1972), ness; racialization
29, 40; USCAR, 3034, 201nn18, 22, Okinawans, domestic: dekasegi passing
202n25. See also Okinawan language; as, 108112, 186; in Japan, 102
Okinawanness; Okinawans, domes- 112, 210n14; stereotypes, 108112,
tic; U.S. military in Okinawa 127129, 186; teachers in Colonia
Okinawa Kenjinkai, 206n46 Okinawa, 119, 126129, 139140,
Okinawan-Bolivians: as ethnic minor- 141. See also Okinawa; Okinawan
ity in Bolivia, 52, 183; farm owners, language
8, 12, 1819, 35, 3839, 42, 5482, Okinawa Numero Uno Japanese-Bolivian
156157, 184, 185; genchi-jin, 208n10; School, 116145, 152, 211n3
marriage with non-Nikkei Bolivians, Ong, Aihwa, 9, 195n17
20, 28, 116, 146, 158165, 171174, Osterweil, Marc, 81
201nn1516, 213n5; marriage with OSullivan, Tim, 4
other foreign immigrants in Japan, Others: Bolivian racialized categories,
214n9; Nikkei-jin laborers in Japan, 7475, 82, 185, 188; dekasegi in Ja-
8, 83112, 165174, 186; pan-Nikkei pan, 181; gender regime, 147; Japa-
organizations, 28; passing as domes- nese colonized, 24, 199n10. See also
tic Okinawans in Japan, 108112, boundaries; discrimination; stereo-
186; population, 12, 27, 27t, 34, 39 types
44, 40t, 44f, 52; racialized categories
in Bolivia, 7482; racialized catego- Palumbo-Liu, David, 7
ries in Japan, 102112; social divide paternalism, patrones, 7174, 78
with non-Nikkei Bolivians, 14, 29, patrones, 1819, 35, 3839, 42, 5482,
4142, 5462, 55f, 6582, 148152, 139140, 185. See also farm owners
185; socioeconomics in Colonia Oki- Paz Estenssoro, Victor, 34, 61, 206n44
nawa, 3942, 45, 5358, 57t, 6282, Peru: British-owned sugarcane planta-
185; stereotypes, 77, 82, 105108, tions, 26, 199n11; migration to Boliv-
125126, 147, 174178. See also Co- ia from, 26, 199n11; Nikkei-jin, 56,
lonia Okinawa; dekasegi; gender rela- 103, 197n1, 199n8
tionships; Issei; Nisei; schools physical skills, Okinawan-Bolivians valu-
Okinawan-Brazilians, 2526, 40, 199n9 ing, 125126, 138, 209n8
Okinawan enclaves: Colonia Okinawa, 55, politics, 26; communist threat, 29, 30,
56f; Hawaii, 27; Micronesia, 27; Tsu- 32, 184, 202n25; dka policies, 25,
rumi, 206n46. See also housing 30; Japan imperialist rule over Oki-
Okinawan language, 191n1, 196n24; in nawans, 23, 24, 25, 30, 3536, 184,
Colonia Okinawa, 35, 3637, 39; 191n1
dekasegi in Japan, 22, 36; interviews, population: Bolivian national/Santa
1516; prohibited in Brazil, 26; teach- Cruz Prefecture whites, 37, 203n32;
ers from Okinawa, 127128 Bolivian nationals in Japan, 16; Co-
Okinawanness, 4, 127129; boundaries lonia Okinawa, 12, 34, 3944, 40t,
with Japaneseness, 26, 186; embod- 44f, 52; Colonia Okinawa students,
ied, 128, 129, 141, 185186, 199n10; 115116, 115t, 211n3; Naichi-jin in

Bolivia, 27t; Nikkei-jin in Bolivia, 12, 149, 161, 166182, 205n42, 206n43;
27t, 203n29; non-Nikkei Bolivians in to Japan after U.S. occupation, 31; to
Colonia Okinawa, 40t, 42, 52; Oki- Okinawa from former Japanese colo-
nawa, 29, 32; Okinawan-Bolivians, nies, 3132
12, 27, 27t, 34, 3944, 40t, 44f, 52; Riberalta: immigrant population, 12, 200n12;
Okinawans and Japanese ordered Okinawans, 27, 28, 29, 200n15
by U.S. to return to Japan, 31; Riber- Roediger, David, 76
alta immigrants, 12, 200n12. See also Rollins, Judith, 155
migrations rubber industry: in Bolivia, 2627, 199n11,
race concept, 13, 194nn10; anthropologi- Ryky, 191n1; annexation of (1879), 25;
cal, 56, 192n5; Japanese, 192n3; sym- Government of the Ryky Islands (af-
bolic capital, 7, 14, 1718, 38, 42 ter 1952), 2933, 35t, 201n22, 202n27;
racialization, 59, 19, 5556, 183184; kingdom, 24; USCAR, 3034, 201nn18,
Bolivian categories, 3738, 41, 74 22, 202n25. See also Okinawa
82, 125132, 139140, 144; of class,
59, 3739, 4142, 6582, 161162, Sanchez de Lozada, G., 6162
185; of culture, 59, 4142, 193n6; Sansei: in Colonia Okinawa, 12, 64
gender and, 146147; Nihonjin in Ja- sanshin music, 13, 26, 141
pan, 101112; Okinawan-Bolivians in Santa Cruz Prefecture, 10, 12, 2829, 33
Yokohama, 8, 102112, 174178, 186; 34, 195n19; agriculture, 41, 202n25;
Okinawans from Okinawa Prefecture Nikkei-jin population, 12, 203n29; Oki-
in Japan, 103112; racialized belong- nawan-Bolivians changing socioeco-
ing, 210, 1920, 53, 55, 183189, nomic status, 185; Okinawans marrying
192n3, 195n16. See also racialized non-Nikkei Bolivians (1952), 201n15;
boundaries; stereotypes racialized class structure, 37; Santa Cruz
racialized boundaries, 9, 71, 103106; de la Sierra, 10, 12, 34, 6264, 207n6,
colonizers and colonized, 4, 23, 24, 209n1; unpredictable local weather, 50;
29, 7677, 198n5, 199n10; Japanese white population, 37, 203n32. See also
and Bolivians/South Americans, 110, Colonia Okinawa
192n4; Japanese Naichi-jin supervi- Saucedo, Diego, 37
sors and Okinawan-Bolivian work- schools, 19, 113145, 187, 210n1; chores,
ers, 102; Japanese and non-Nikkei 139141; Colegio Evangelica Me-
Bolivians, 14; Japaneseness and todista Colonia Okinawa, 114116,
Okinawanness, 26, 186; Okinawan- 115t, 123f; Colegio San Francisco
Bolivians and non-Nikkei Bolivians, Xavier, 114115; in community
29, 65, 155157, 188, 208n8; Oki- events, 118119, 125, 127, 132133,
nawan-Bolivians and their Others, 140142, 152; dekasegi in Japan, 170;
7475, 82, 185, 188; Okinawans and economics, 114, 115116, 210n2,
Japanese, 110, 186 212n11; fieldworker as postgraduate,
resistance: by farm laborers, 7374, 78 15, 17; Japanese culture, 34, 19, 117,
79, 208n9 132; key actors, 119132; Nisei higher
returnees: to Colonia Okinawa from Ja- education, 6264, 208n6, 209n1; non-
pan, 22, 31, 49, 5152, 75, 103, 146, Nikkei Bolivian students, 119120;

Nueva Esperanza School, 113, 128, 8, 83112, 186; Peruvian, 56, 103,
139, 210n1, 211n7; Okinawa Numero 174, 197n1, 199n8; stereotypes, 107
Uno Japanese-Bolivian School, 116 108, 209n8. See also dekasegi
145, 152, 211n3; racialized catego- soybean production, Okinawan-Bolivian,
ries, 125132, 139140, 144; shaping 4243, 47, 5051, 67f
good Nikkei Bolivian and Okinawan Spanish language, 1516, 1718, 171, 196n25
diasporic subjects, 4, 19, 20, 113145, spatial/deference boundaries, 5, 20, 155
187; student populations, 115116, 157, 181, 188, 208n8
115t, 211n3. See also teachers speech contest, Japanese language, 133
sexuality, 147; racialized stereotypes, 136, 138, 212nn910
107108, 154, 158165, 174178, stereotypes, racialized, 144145; of Na-
181182, 188, 201n16, 208n11. See ichi-jin, 103108, 128, 147, 174178;
also gender relationships of non-Nikkei Bolivians, 20, 4142,
shimedaiko drum, 141144, 143f 7782, 107, 111, 120, 131132, 139
Shishi-Mai/Lion Dance, 142f 140, 154, 158165, 201n16, 205n39,
Siles Zuazo, Hernn, 45 208n11; of Okinawan-Bolivians, 77,
Skuse, Paul H., 32 82, 105108, 125126, 147, 174178;
Small, Stephen, 65 of real Okinawans, 108112, 127
socialization: dekasegi in Japan, 17, 168 129, 186; sexualized, 107108, 154,
169, 174178, 180181, 210n14, 158165, 174178, 181182, 188,
214n8; between Okinawan-Bolivian 201n16, 208n11
and non-Nikkei Bolivian students, subject positions, 2, 4, 8, 2223, 53,
120. See also community events; mar- 195nn1617; colonized, 4, 23, 24, 29,
riage; schools 184, 198n5, 199n10; defined, 4; edu-
socioeconomics, 3, 26; Bolivia, 62; em- cation as good Nikkei Bolivian and
bodied, 55, 81, 84, 157; host socie- Okinawan diasporic subjects, 4, 19,
ties, 26; Japan, 4546, 53; non-Nikkei 20, 113145, 187; everyday practices,
Bolivians, 4142, 5474, 7682; Oki- 2, 8, 9, 18, 20, 53, 55, 6569, 157, 180,
nawan-Bolivians in Colonia Okinawa, 185; gender regimes, 147, 165, 174,
3942, 45, 5358, 57t, 6282, 185; 178, 180181; nationless, 23, 29, 35,
Okinawan-Bolivians in Japan, 4647, 52, 178, 184, 186, 194n14, 198n4;
9091; Okinawan-Bolivians in La Paz, Okinawa-Bolivian farmers and non-
28, 29, 200n14; Okinawan-Bolivian Nikkei laborers, 82, 185; polluted,
urban-rural contrasts, 28, 29, 6265; 192n4; state institutions and, 55. See
social divide between Okinawan-Bo- also citizenship; dekasegi; embodi-
livians and non-Nikkei Bolivians, 14, ment; labor/laborers; nationality; ra-
29, 4142, 5462, 55f, 6582, 148 cialization; transnationalization
152, 185. See also class; economics; sugarcane plantations: British-owned in
farm owners; labor/laborers Peru, 26, 199n11
South American Nikkei-jin in Japan, 8, symbolic capital, race as, 7, 14, 1718, 38, 42
83112, 186, 197n1, 209n2; Brazilian,
56, 103, 107108, 174175, 192n4, Takezawa Yasuko, 6, 8, 194n13
210n13; Naichi-jin discrimination vs., T Denki, 1718, 8688, 90, 91108, 174
105106, 210n13; Okinawan-Bolivian, 176, 209n8

teachers, 113, 116, 117, 119132; field- 27; Technical Assistance Mission
worker as, 1213, 15, 17, 113, 120, 124, (USTAM) in Colonia Okinawa, 39
125, 133134, 138, 211n7; Japanese- 40. See also U.S. military in Okinawa
language, 1213, 15, 17, 113, 119, Urciuoli, Bonnie, 8
120126, 130; JICA senior volunteer, Uruma Agricultural Society, 2829, 34,
121, 123124, 152, 211nn5, 7; Naichi- 201n17, 203n30
jin, 119, 122126; Nisei Okinawan- Uruma disease, 34
Bolivian, 119, 129132; from Okinawa U.S. military in Okinawa, 197n3, 198n4,
Prefecture, 119, 126129, 139140, 201nn1921; occupation (19451972),
141; Spanish-class, 119, 120122 23, 2934, 3940, 52, 191n1, 201n19
thefts, 212n8; by farm laborers, 7374,
7879; in schools, 115 wages: farm laborers in Colonia Okinawa,
Tigner, James L., 32 69, 207n7; in Japan, 8689, 90; U.S.
Tomiyama Ichir, 23, 199n10 military bases in Okinawa, 201n20.
track meet, 136138, 137f See also income
transnationalization, 45, 9, 29, 35, 52, Walby, Sylvia, 147
183189; class transitions, 4, 83112, whites, 67, 193n7, 194n9; Bolivian
188189; gender and, 146147, 165 blanco, 3738, 4142, 81, 203n31;
182; racialized belonging, 39, 19 Bolivian hakujin, 75, 7982; Santa
20, 53, 55, 183189. See also dekasegi; Cruz Prefecture/Bolivian national
migrations population, 37, 203n32
Tsuda, Takeyuki, 6, 15, 192n4, 210n13 Willis, Paul, 101, 194n8
Tsujimoto Masahiro, 167, 177, 206nn43, women. See females
45, 209n8, 210n14, 214n8 work ethic: Japanese, 104, 170; Okinawan,
Tsurumi Ward, 1618, 46, 8386, 166 127129, 139140, 144; Okinawan-
174, 206n46, 214n8 Bolivian, 105, 122, 133, 136, 139
World War II: Battle of Okinawa (1945),
Uchinguchi. See Okinawan language 29, 30, 197n3, 198n4; internment
United States: aid to Bolivia, 33, 202n25; camps in U.S., 200n13; Japans surren-
Civil Administration of the Ryky der to Allies (August 15, 1945), 29
Islands (USCAR), 3034, 201nn18,
22, 202n25; and communist threat, yobiyose, to Bolivia, 27, 27t, 28
29, 30, 32, 184; fieldworker time in, Yokohama, 1415, 214n8; dekasegi, 3, 8,
195n18; Inca Rubber Company, 26 1618, 2223, 43f, 4653, 83112,
27; internment camps for Japanese, 160, 162, 166176, 195n16, 209nn1,
200n13; sponsoring migration of Ok- 8; Tsurumi Ward of, 1618, 46, 83
inawans to Bolivia, 2936, 202nn25, 86, 166174, 206n46, 214n8

Taku Suzuki received his Ph.D. in anthropology from the

University of Minnesota and is now an assistant professor in the international
studies program at Denison University in Ohio. He teaches courses in intro-
ductory international studies, globalization and diversification of Japanese
society, trans-Pacific Asian communities and identities, race and class forma-
tions in a global perspective, and comparative Asian immigrant experiences in
the Americas.
Production Notes for Suzuki | Embodying Belonging
Cover design by Wilson Angel
Text design by University of Hawaii Press production staff
with display type in Seria Sans and text type in Warnock Pro
Composition by Julie Matsuo-Chun
Printing and binding by Edwards Brothers, Inc.
Printed on 60# EB Opaque, 500 ppi
(Continued from front flap)
self-represented by Okinawan-Bolivians Embodying Belonging is the first full-length
themselves as the physical embodi- Of related interest: study of an Okinawan diasporic commu-
ment of a generalized and naturalized nity in South America and Japan. Under
culture of Japan, Okinawa, or Bolivia. Okinawan Diaspora extraordinary conditions throughout the
Racializing narratives and performances Edited by Ronald Y. Nakasone twentieth century (Imperial Japanese rule,
ideologically serve as both a cause and the brutal Battle of Okinawa at the end
2002, 216 pages
result of Okinawan-Bolivians social and of World War II, U.S. military occupa-
Paper: ISBN 978-0-8248-2530-0
economic status as successful large-scale tion), Okinawans left their homeland
farm owners in rural Bolivia and struggling and created various diasporic communi-
manual laborers in urban Japan.
Okinawa, Japan ties around the world. Colonia Okinawa,
The first Okinawan immigrants arrived in Honolulu in January 1900
a farming settlement in the tropical plains
As the most comprehensive work availa- to work as contract laborers on Hawaiis sugar plantations. Over
of eastern Bolivia, is one such community
ble on Okinawan immigrants in Latin time Okinawans would continue migrating east to the continental
that was established in the 1950s under
America and ethnic Okinawan return U.S., Canada, Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, Cuba,
the guidance of the U.S. military adminis-
migrants in Japan, Embodying Belonging Paraguay, New Caledonia, and the islands of Micronesia. The essays
tration. Although they have flourished as
is at once a critical examination of the in this volume commemorate these diasporic experiences within
farm owners in Bolivia, thanks to generous
contradictory class and cultural identity the geopolitical context of East Asia.
support from the Japanese government
(trans)formations of transmigrants, a rich
Using primary sources and oral history, individual contributors since Okinawas reversion to Japan in
qualitative study of colonial and post-
examine how Okinawan identity was constructed in the various 1972, hundreds of Bolivian-born ethnic
colonial subjects in diaspora, and a bold
countries to which Okinawans migrated, and how their experiences Okinawans have left the Colonia in the
attempt to theorize racialization as a
were shaped by the Japanese nation-building project and by last two decades and moved to Japanese
social process of belonging within local
globalization. Essays explore the return to Okinawan sovereignty, cities, such as Yokohama, to become
and global schemes.
or what Nobel Laureate e Kenzabur called an impossible manual laborers in construction and
TAKU SUZUKI is assistant professor of possibility, and the role of the Okinawan labor diaspora in Japans manufacturing industries.
international studies at Denison University, imperial expansion into the Philippines and Micronesia.
Based on the authors multisited field
Granville, Ohio.
Okinawa City research on the work, education, and
community lives of Okinawans in the

Cover art: Monumento al Colono de Okinawa

Racializing Colonia and Yokohama, this ethnog-
raphy challenges the unidirectional
sculpted by Germn Garcia Miranda Okinawan model of assimilation and acculturation
commonly found in immigration studies.
Cover design: Wilson Angel Diaspora in In its vivid depiction of the transnational

Bolivia and
experiences of Okinawan-Bolivians, it
UNIVERSITY of HAWAII PRESS argues that transnational Okinawan-

Honolulu, Hawaii 96822-1888 Bolivians underwent the various racial-
ization processes in which they were
ISBN 978-0-8248-3344-2
90000 portrayed by non-Okinawan Bolivians
living in the Colonia and native-born
Japanese mainlanders in Yokohama and
9 780824 833442
www.uhpress.hawaii.edu TA K U S U Z U K I
(Continued on back flap)

Suzuki-Embodying_jktMech.indd 1 5/6/10 12:10:31 PM