Home Away from Home

Japanese Corporate Wives in the United States

Home Away from Home

Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: Published: December 2005

Author: Sawa Kurotani

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Asian Studies > East Asia, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies

Drawing attention to domestic space as the critical juncture between the global and the local, Home Away from Home is an innovative ethnography of the daily lives of middle-class Japanese housewives who accompany their husbands on temporary corporate job assignments in the United States. These women are charged with the task of creating and maintaining restful Japanese homes in a foreign environment so that their husbands are able to remain productive, loyal workers for Japanese multinationals and their children are properly socialized and educated as Japanese citizens abroad. Arguing that the homemaking components of transnational communities have not received adequate attention, Sawa Kurotani demonstrates how gender dynamics and the politics of the domestic sphere are integral to understanding national identity and transnational mobility.

Kurotani interviewed and spent time with more than 120 women in three U.S. locations with sizable expatriate Japanese communities: Centerville, a pseudonymous Midwestern town; the New York metropolitan area; and North Carolina’s Research Triangle area. She highlights the contradictory situations faced by the transient wives. Their husbands’ assignments in the United States typically last from three to five years, and they frequently emphasize the temporariness of their situation, referring to it as a “long vacation.” Yet they are responsible for creating comfortable homes for their families, which necessitates producing a familiar and permanent environment. Kurotani looks at the dynamic friendships that develop among the wives and describes their feelings about returning to Japan. She conveys how their sense of themselves as Japanese women, of home, and of their relationships with family members are altered by their personal experiences of transnational homemaking.


“An incisive and even affecting work that situates home life as a nexus for global forces and local practices. . . . This fine ethnography should contribute to debates in Japanese studies as well as to broader ones surrounding gender and transnationalism.” — David Leheny, Journal of Anthropological Research

“For anyone interested in transnational identities and the domestic work of globalisation this book makes fascinating reading. . . . A tantalising invitation to explore further the intimates spaces of dislocation and transnational angst, particularly as felt by women.” — Cory Taylor, Asian Studies Review

“Sawa Kurotani offers an engaging and persuasive account of how the kaigai-chûzai experience, or corporate overseas posting, affects Japanese housewives. . . . There is much to recommend in this enjoyable and elegantly written study.” — Ronald P. Loftus, Journal of Gender Studies

“This well-written book offers us detailed ethnographic descriptions about Japanese women in a particular group outside Japan who are reexamining their lives as wives and mothers.” — Ayumi Sasagawa, Social Science Japan Journal

"Home Away from Home offers an interesting and highly readable account of small communities of Japanese expatriate wives in the United States. . . . These are indeed interesting findings which add to our understanding of aspects of the very complex phenomenon of globalisation." — Rumi Sakamoto, The Australian Journal of Anthropology

"Given the lack of attention afforded to privilege migrants, and women's roles in the corporate assignments described here in particular, Kurotani's study is a timely and important contribution to an emerging field." — Anne-Meike Fechter, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"Sawa Kurotani's ethnographic work . . . is . . . a delightfully easy read for anyone interested in the ideology of Japanese domestic life. . . . Revealing. . . . Fascinating." — Colin Donald, Daily Yomiuri

“Sawa Kurotani reveals the centrality of women’s domesticity to transnational mobility among Japanese families and families everywhere. She has a fine and affectionate ethnographic eye.” — Karen Kelsky, author of Women on the Verge: Japanese Women, Western Dreams

“Sawa Kurotani’s absorbing study offers new ethnographic insight into a common manifestation of globalization—the social bubbles created by corporate, government, and military families on foreign assignments. She sensitively analyzes how Japanese company wives in the U.S. work hard to maintain Japanese domesticity and how these efforts inadvertently but powerfully forge a new self-awareness. Home Away from Home teaches us a valuable lesson about how the local is constituted within the global.” — William W. Kelly, editor of Fanning the Flames: Fans and Consumer Culture in Contemporary Japan


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Sawa Kurotani is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Redlands in Redlands, California.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

1. Domesticating the Global 1

2. Managing Transnational Work 41

3. Homemaking Away from Home 71

4. Playing Her Part 113

5. On Vacation 152

6. Home Again 195

Notes 221

References 225

Index 235
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3622-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3630-3
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