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Identity Formation

Neither the Japanese government nor the Chinese government allows dual citizenship. Living and working in Japan as a Chinese citizen can be inconvenient. A Chinese citizen who wishes to pursue Japanese citizenship will be required to renounce their Chinese citizenship. The issue of nationality has long perplexed new Chinese migrants in Japan. China is where they were born and raised, where their childhood memories lie, and where their family and friends are. They identify with their Chinese heritage at a certain level. On the other hand, Japan is where they live and work, and where their offspring are born and raised. The future wellbeing of these migrants is intertwined with the prosperity of Japan, and this contributes to their sense of identity and belonging. Furthermore, as residents of Japan, they absorb the Japanese language and culture. They originate in China, yet they have adapted to the way of life in Japan. Their sense of belonging is complicated and multifaceted, and it can be influenced by factors such as their earlier experience in China; their age when they left China; the nature of their migration; their status in Japan; their life after arrival; the extent to which they speak Japanese; and their social circle, profession and level of achievement. A person’s sense of belonging is fluid and dynamic. It is influenced not only by recognition from others but also by personal awareness (Shao 1996, 2000). The sense of identity among the Chinese in Japan can be categorized roughly as follows: (1) I am Chinese; (2) I am Japanese; (3) I am a Chinese that lives in Japan; (4) I am an international citizen. New migrants, regardless of whether they have been granted permanent residency or have been naturalized, are essentially Chinese in the cultural sense (Shao 2013), whereas the younger generation born, raised and educated in Japan considers itself culturally Japanese, despite perhaps having Chinese citizenship.

New migrants who have moved to Japan, and in some cases even their offspring, often occupy a nebulous, ambivalent position within Japanese society. They get labeled as “Chinese” in Japan and as “foreigners” in China. This perpetuates a sense of displacement. They feel to some extent that they belong to mainstream society in both countries, yet they are fully recognized by neither. Unstable Sino-Japanese relations also affect their sense of belonging. Ultimately, they are “overseas Chinese” (Ш^ЬФВА) who live in Japan.

 
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