Institutional Barriers, Marginality, and Adaptation Among the American-Japanese Mixed Bloods in Japan

Institutional Barriers, Marginality, and Adaptation Among the American-Japanese Mixed Bloods in Japan

The Journal of Asian Studies
Volume 42, Number 3 (1983)
pages 519-544
DOI: 10.2307/2055516

William R. Burkhardt, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Ohio University

Guided by the perspective of marginality theory, the author examines the problems that have faced the mixed-blood progeny of Japanese women and American military servicemen who were reared in father-absent homes and institutions in Japan. The group has experienced discrimination according to racial, class, and family background characteristics and has encountered barriers in the areas of education, employment, marriage, and citizenship or legal status. Although culturally Japanese, mixed bloods are often stereotyped by Japanese as cultural oddities or aliens. Black Japanese have been especially victimized by discrimination and negative stereotypes. Although most American-Japanese have accepted their marginal situation with a fate-orientation common among Japanese, some have responded maladaptively with deviant patterns of aggressive or self-destructive behavior. Others have sought emigration, and a few may have “passed” into Japanese society. The author places these findings in the context of existing research on the Burakumin and Korean minorities in Japan, Korean Amerasians, and Eurasians in East and South Asia.

This study examines the extent to which the American-Japanese or Amerasian mixed-blood group in Japan has been in a marginal situation relative to the larger society. This is accomplished by an historical sketch of the problems faced by mixed bloods in Japan; an examination of specific institutional areas in which opportunities have been blocked and marginality has resulted; and a discussion of three types of adaptations to marginal status, which is based on a review of some case examples of mixed bloods. The research is grounded on unstructured interviews with eight American-Japanese mixed bloods, interviews with several Japanese who have had professional or personally intimate relationships with Amerasians, and a review of the existing literature, including the translation of biographical materials published in Japanese.

The focus of the research is on father-absent Amerasians who have spent at least their childhood and adolescence in Japan. As the Japanese government has never officially identified Amerasians as a distinct racial or societal group, there is no accurate way to estimate their total number, which, according to various sources, probably ranges between ten and sixty thousand. The research will not be concerned with mixed-blood children who were adopted at an early age,  usually by families of American military servicemen, or with the several thousand progeny of Japanese women who married U.S. military personnel or civilians and have a family and cultural life that is characteristically American…

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