Gender and the Social Imaginary in Japanese Lifestyle Migration to Europe | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online


While studies on Japanese migration to the non-European, English-speaking West abound, there have been none on Japanese choosing Continental, non-English-speaking Europe so far. The current research aims to address this gap. Based on in-depth qualitative interviews with Japanese lifestyle migrants in Austria and Bulgaria, as well as several experts, this paper investigates how and why gender affects engagement with the social imaginary about Europe. The research argues that gender inequality and gendered socialization provide an additional layer of motivation for Japanese women to engage with the social imaginary about Western destinations and to actually act on their imaginings much more freely than men do, especially when it comes to Western Europe. The paper demonstrates that Western Europe is perceived by Japanese (upper-)middle-class women as even more attractive than the non-European West because it is imagined as offering not only Western social norms and opportunities unavailable in Japan, but also “high culture” which they are socialized to value. This helps explain why Japanese lifestyle migration to Western Europe is skewed more heavily in favor of women than in the rest of the West. The research also shows that Western Europe is imagined as a place to experience a type of lifestyle migration that has not been examined so far: the combination of bourgeois bohemian and experiencing the West.


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