Newspaper Discourses on the Acceptance of Refugees in Japan from the 1970s to the 1980s

Publication Name

Japanese Studies


Japan has been criticised internationally for its reluctance to accept refugees. In the late 1970s, however, the Japanese government decided to implement special measures to accept refugees from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Between 1978 and 2005, 11,319 Indo-Chinese refugees were resettled in Japan. In this article, I analyse newspaper discourses on the acceptance of Indo-Chinese refugees and the subsequent arrivals of Chinese asylum seekers in Japan. While opening Japan’s borders and accepting Indo-Chinese refugees was perceived favourably as a process Japan should experience from the 1970s to the late 1980s, asylum seekers arriving by sea in Japan were perceived as a threat in 1989, when many Chinese were found to be included among them. I explore these changing newspaper discourses with reference to the concepts of national identity, kokusaika and governmental belonging. Any discussion of the acceptance of others into a nation becomes inextricably bound up with the notion of national identity. In the case of Japan in the 1970 and 1980s, the concept of kokusaika (internationalisation) was pertinent because it intersected with such discussions. A theoretical perspective is offered by Ghassan Hage’s notion of ‘governmental belonging’, whereby those in a dominant position claim the power to position others in the nation.

Open Access Status

This publication is not available as open access





First Page


Last Page




Link to publisher version (DOI)