Since the late 1980s, the population of Filipinas married to Japanese men has increased in Kyoto. Numerous women had initially entered Japan as entertainers, later found partners, and built families in the city. The growing numbers of resident Filipinas led to the organization of the local Pag-asa Filipino community. Considering migrants as city-makers, we explore how Filipina residents together with residents springing off earlier cohorts of migrants have contributed to the emergence of new socialities, among others by providing the (infra)structure for newly arriving migrants to access substantial citizenship rights and to foster ties with local residents. We look at these encounters, ties, and relationships forming on the premises of the Kyoto City Multicultural Exchange Networking Salon in terms of socialities as this allows us to avoid reifying the cultural essentialism that undergirds both Japanese nationalism and multiculturalism, while acknowledging the social and institutional constraints within which these socialities emerge and are made sense of. Empirically drawing upon data collected among the Kyoto Filipino community, we use the conceptual lens of hosting to capture how multiculturalism is made in Kyoto City, while challenging dichotomous conceptions of the host versus the migrant.

This article is part of the Global Perspectives Media and Communication special issue on “Media, Migration, and Nationalism,” guest-edited by Koen Leurs and Tomohisa Hirata.


Migration across and within borders has always been at the heart of the creation of urban life (Caglar and Glick Schiller 2018); cities host a multitude of people of different backgrounds, bringing together various cohorts of migrant populations. Considering mobility as the norm means recognizing contexts of reception, and thus the host society, as in flux, constituted through movement within and across boundaries and territorial borders. These empirical realities of mobility in urban spaces thus challenge the dichotomous differentiation of hosts from migrants (or guests). In contrast to the “host,” migrants frequently remain treated as transient and out of place, as revealed by the vocabulary identifying people as first or second generation (and so forth), as individuals “of migrant background,” or as either “newcomers” or “old-comers,” as in the case of Japan. While these biographical characteristics certainly are important conceptual handles that allow the description, understanding, and explaining of patterns regarding the political, economic, and sociocultural processes involving people who arrived in a place at a given point in history, othering also reveals a normative stance on who belongs and who remains tolerated (cf. Boersma, this issue). The empirical case presented in this article shows how the many different periods of immigration to Kyoto have brought together various cohorts of migrants that now co-constitute the “context of reception” (Portes and Rumbaut 1996) for newer arrivals.

In “traditional” immigration countries, such as the United States, scholarship on migrant settlement has been more sensitive to the role of earlier generations of migrants that are part of the “context of reception” (ibid.) found by newcomers upon arrival. However, the acknowledgment of their role in a given destination has not disrupted the host/migrant divide; “ethnic community” is often used interchangeably with “migrants” and “host” with “the mainstream” (see Lancee 2010; Takenoshita 2017). Moreover, the centrality of ethnicity as a vector of social organization has largely remained unquestioned in this line of scholarship; Portes and Rumbaut, who coined the concept, specifically highlight the positive function of ethnic communities as cushions against the impact of culture shock and as resources for finding jobs and housing. Indeed, studies of migrant settlement frequently tackle migrant incorporation by focusing on one particular group defined by ethnicity or nationality without giving relationships across ethnic groups sufficient attention. This tendency is also prevalent in Philippine migration studies (cf. 2008; Lopez 2012; Tondo 2014; Nagata 2017) and underpins most research on migration to Japan.

Nevertheless, the effects of ethnic networks are not always positive (Menjívar 2000), and, most importantly, settlement and incorporation are not always facilitated along ethnic lines (Caglar and Glick Schiller 2018). Caglar and Glick Schiller (ibid.) urge us to drop the “ethnic lens” and to acknowledge that relationships and ties are formed across ethnic groups and migrant cohorts. Also, negotiations of belonging and identity do not only (and always) pivot around ethnicity or ancestry: as Ho (2018) shows in her study of various cohorts of Chinese migrants, including mainland Chinese migrants in Singapore and “ethnic returnees” in China, other markers such as migration biographies and habitus can become important signifiers of difference.

Jaworvsky et al. (2012, p. 80) highlight the importance of considering locality when observing processes of settlement and incorporation as the “[c]ontext of reception is conceived as national even though immigrant incorporation, as well as the promulgation of policies and community responses to immigrants, varies considerably across physical and political spaces within nations.” Jaworvsky et al. (ibid.) thus suggest including cities’ “cultural armature”1 when speaking of the context of reception. By being sensitive to historically and politically shaped attitudes to immigration and diversity, they bring the conversation on contexts of reception closer to discussions of urban diversity. The latter have been tackled in terms of conviviality (Gilroy 2004; Neal et al. 2019; Wise and Velayutham 2014), everyday multiculturalism (Wise and Velayutham 2014), rubbing along (Watson 2017), place-making, and throwntogetherness(Massey 2005), as well as cosmopolitanism (Noble 2013; Kendall, I., and Skrbis 2009), which highlights a sense of global humanity transcending national identities and an openness to cultural difference (Noble 2013, 165).

In our discussion of urban diversity, we draw upon the above-mentioned ideas to move away from an understanding that paints the host population as the passively receiving embodiment of a static cultural norm, and from the notion of newcomers as actively assimilating. In doing so, we hope to challenge the host/guest dichotomy erected around ideas of ethnic, cultural, or religious difference. Nevertheless, we remain mindful of the migration experience, as the latter entails instances of displacement and “barriers to and modes of emplacement” (Caglar and Glick Schiller 2018, 5). Moreover, we drop the “ethnic lens.” This is not to deny the centrality of notions of nationality and ethnicity along which people have organized in the specific case presented below, but to look at community built beyond these confines. In offering a more (inter)action-focused understanding of hospitality, we challenge the host/migrant dichotomy prominent in studies on migrant integration (e.g. Grajzl, Eastwood, and Dimitrova-Grajzl 2018; Rohmann, Florack, and Piontkowski 2006) by arguing that migrant and host, local and stranger, are not mutually exclusive categories; they can and do coexist.

Taking as an empirical point of departure our research with Filipino migrants in the Kansai area in Japan, we focus on conviviality in Kyoto to show how migrant incorporation has involved community organization within and across ethnic boundaries and migrant cohorts. Notably, personal relationships and cooperation at organizational levels have facilitated the formation of sociality enabling language learning, educational support, and support in accessing social services; creating spaces of encounters; and feeding into practices and notions of multiculturalism in Japan. As our data shows, such endeavors are often intertwined with ideas of empowerment and care, the reduction of inequality, and access to social and political rights.

In this article, we focus on the practice of hosting as a mechanism in the process of multicultural and cosmopolitan place-making in Japan and beyond. The clear distinction between hosts and guests, locals and strangers, upon which debates over urban and migrant political integration are frequently premised has been questioned (see Landau 2014, 2017). We thus build on these existing critiques and suggest an alternative understanding of the “host” focused on the practice of hosting. David Bell’s (2012) conception of “hosting” and “guesting,” or the performance of “hostness” and “guestness,” captures the importance of specific moments and places via which these subject positions can emerge.2 But more than a subject position, we understand hosting as an act of place-making; hosting produces place via social relations and has political implications. Understanding hosting in this way allows us to speak of everyday multiculturalism in terms of micro-level interactions and of practices, as well as in terms of their institutionalization, thereby acknowledging hosting as part of a political project. Hosting can be considered a form of place-making, straddling the individual and the institutional realms. In view of the overall theme of this special issue, this article may thus contribute to discussions of migration, nationalism, and place-making strategies beyond the confines of digital place-making practices, by offering an account of its non–digitally mediated forms as they occur via festivals; via the consumption of food; via clothing and dance; and via co-presence; as well as via the larger political narrative on diversity and belonging that the former draw upon and feed back into.

Each author collected ethnographic data in Kyoto and the larger Kansai area for over a decade. This article is notably based on data collected by Nagata through his continuous long-term fieldwork in Kyoto city, including participant observation, in-depth interviews, and casual conversations. Through this long-standing involvement, Nagata began to participate in the activities of the local Filipino community and at times provided support when members reached out.3 Indeed, ethnographers often become deeply immersed in the communities they work with, and so Nagata’s embeddedness is part and parcel of the interpersonal relationships and interactions analyzed. Nagata’s close ties with the Kyoto Filipino community also led him to forge closer ties with staff and members of the Kyoto City Multicultural Networking Salon, the site observed in detail in this article. This eventually led him to get involved in their activities and with the management of the salon. The latter remains a source of information about events taking place at the salon, notably those organized by Filipino residents of Kyoto. After some time, Nagata’s fieldwork became entirely based at the Multicultural Networking Salon as the local Filipino community shifted the location of their meetings and festivities to that place.

Migration and Diversity in Japan

Although the number of foreign residents in Kyoto is relatively low4 compared to the “super-diverse” (Vertovec 2007) cities typically studied, Kyoto city is home to residents with different migrant biographies and to various migrant cohorts. Locating this study in Kyoto is thus also a way of tackling everyday multiculturalism in the old capital of a nation-state that popularly remains understood—both from the inside and the outside—as ethnically homogeneous. The popular depiction of Japan as a homogeneous nation-state was an integral part of Japan’s nation-building process in the aftermath of World War II. Nihonjin-ron, or “theories on the Japanese,” is the term used to refer to an array of popular and academic media productions furthering the idea of Japanese exceptionalism. This intellectual current in search of Japan’s cultural core claims to identify the essence of “Japaneseness” and, in doing so, conflates nationality, ‘race’, ethnicity and culture (Sugimoto 1999, 81). The Nihonjin-ron discourse generally defines the Japanese ‘in racial terms with Nihonjin comprising most members of the Yamato race and excludes, for example, indigenous Ainu and Okinawans as groups who are administratively Japanese, but not ’genuinely’ so’ (ibid: 82).

In an effort to debate this myopic conception of Japanese society, a number of important scholarly contributions (Kajita 1994; Kajita et al. 2005; McVeigh 2004; Okuda and Tajima 1993; Takahata 2000; Tai 2009; Tani 2002; Lee 2016) pointed out the ethnic and cultural diversity within the Japanese territory that resulted from historical territorial expansions (to Okinawa and Hokkaido, as well as to Taiwan, the Korean peninsula, parts of China, and Southeast Asia), and from different migratory waves. Albeit hardly visible in popular depictions of Japan, these minorities are part of Japan’s population too, and by consequence co-constitute the social contexts of reception encountered by any newcomer. In this paper, we focus specifically on the social networks and organizational structures built by residents in Kyoto, and how these have contributed to the reception and hosting of migrants. Notably, many of the civic and civil society organizations catering to newcomers explicitly associated themselves with ideas of tabunka kyōsei, or multiculturalism in Japan, and grew out of Zainichi Korean (and/or Korean-Japanese) activism.

Zainichi literally translates into “residing in Japan”, and almost always refers to colonial-era migrants from the Korean peninsula to Japan and their descendants (Lie 2008, x). Until the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into force in 1952, Koreans in Japan were considered subjects of the Japanese empire. But as it came into effect, the Japanese government stripped them of their Japanese citizenship (ibid.). Suddenly non-citizens, they remained the largest group of foreigners in Japan for about three decades following the war.

Then, in the late 1970s, Japan became home to refugees from the Indochinese Peninsula. A decade later, performing artists and hostesses from the Philippines joined the migrations to Japan, as did many women from other Asian countries such as China, Thailand, as well as newer cohorts of Koreans, mostly in the context of marriage migration. As Japan experienced a shortage of factory workers in the automobile industry in the 1990s, predominantly Brazilians and Peruvians of Japanese descent benefitted from the creation of a new visa category privileging “ethnic returnees” (Tsuda 2001).

Commonly, Zainichi Koreans are spoken of as “oldcomers,” and migrants who arrived after the 1970s are referred to as “newcomers.” Oldcomers engaged in rights claims and activism have, in many ways, paved the way for newcomer migrants via their civil-society engagements. Indeed, Zainichi Koreans5 have a history of resistance against assimilationist policies dominating Japan’s approach to dealing with diversity before the onset of more recent migration (Chapman 2006). In their struggles against pressures to assimilate as well as legislative and social exclusion, Zainichi Koreans have been “at the forefront of pushing for social change and recognition of an ethnically diverse population” (ibid, p.90).

For example, contentions arose around the education of ethnic Korean children in Japan in the aftermath of World War II. Nearly five hundred Korean schools had been established in Japan to provide ethnic education for elementary and junior high school students of Korean descent. However, the Ministry of Education abolished these Korean schools in 1948, and their pupils subsequently had to transfer to Japanese public schools. In April 1948, an opposition movement gained ground among Zainichi Koreans with the aim of demanding rights and opportunities for ethnic education. This movement gained momentum notably in Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto, where larger numbers of Zainichi Koreans resided. Consequently, its representatives and the governor of Osaka Prefecture exchanged a “Memorandum” to establish “ethnic classes” at each public school.6 These classes usually involve cultural activities, such as musical performances, and are open to all students regardless of their background.

As Japan’s ethnocultural fabric diversified with the arrival of newer groups of migrants since the 1970s, institutional support and activities previously limited to Zainichi Koreans were extended to newcomers. These activities, which took place at public facilities as well as at places run by nonprofit or religious organizations, aimed to engage residents to foster mutual understanding and an awareness of human rights. Consequently, newcomer migrants began to benefit from local policies and resources that were initially designed to support Zainichi Koreans (Takachi 2008; Kim 2012). The institutional preparedness for newly arriving foreign residents was thus greater in cities where large populations of oldcomer Koreans had been residing, such as in Osaka, Kawasaki, Kobe, and Yamato, and where Zainichi Korean groups, too, started reaching out to newcomers.

One example is Fureaikan, a community facility located in the Sakuramoto area of Kawasaki city7 and operated by the Zainichi Koreans Christian Churches of Japan. The story of Fureaikan community center is exemplary for how the practice of multiculturalism on the ground has taken shape in various cities in Japan, notably through the presence of Koreans (Kim 2012). Fureaikan was founded in 1988 with the goal of providing Japanese-language literacy classes for elderly Zainichi Koreans and Korean ethnic cultural activities for younger people of Korean heritage. However, upon opening, literacy classes attracted an increasing number of newer migrants. This went hand in hand with the opening of a community café, with the purpose of facilitating exchange. The story of Hope-House, the social welfare organization operating the Kyoto City Networking Salon for Community Welfare and Multicultural Exchange (thereafter the Multicultural Exchange Networking Salon), follows a similar script; established upon the initiative of a faith-based civic-society organization in support of Kyoto’s marginalized residents—including Zainichi Koreans—the salon now hosts and services five dozen associations and communities, many of which are organized around ethnic and/or national identification.8

The community formation and engagements of migrants from the Philippines and Zainichi Koreans provide good examples of how these groups of people have not only diversified Japan’s ethnocultural fabric but also contributed to the institutionalization of support and services to immigrants and their descendants. As illustrated above, these have primarily taken shape either at the local level, via privately run civic- and civil-society groups, or in cooperation with city governments and local government arms. Although tabunka kyōsei (multicultural coexistence or multiculturalism) entered public discourse in the 1990s, the Japanese government never formulated a nationwide policy and instead tasked local governments to develop their own initiatives to accommodate foreigners. Municipalities with large numbers of Korean residents had developed human rights measures since the 1970s. Other municipalities have started doing so upon the influx of new residents from Latin America (Yamawaki 2008). By locating this study in Kyoto, we recognize the spatial variety in local service provision, in cooperation of city governments with faith-based, civic- and civil- society organizations, and in preparedness of local institutions for non-Japanese-speaking residents.

A Filipino community in Kyoto

The formation of the local Filipino community in Kyoto, which now is one of the oldest in Japan, began at a Catholic Church in the 1980s. Not only has the Catholic Church figured as a focal point in Kyoto, but Filipino communities all over Japan have developed through the regularity ensured by weekly mass (Shirahase and Takahashi 2012). This trend in Filipino community formation finds parallels in the United States (Okamura 2016), in Europe (Aguilar Jr., Filomeno V. 2009), and in other Asian migrant destinations such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and South Korea (Nagata 2017).

Prior to the arrival of Catholic migrants,9 only a small number of people in Japan were practicing Catholics. As the number of Catholics rose, the demand for mass in languages other than Japanese increased as well. In Kyoto, an additional English-language mass was initiated in 1985 and held at the Catholic kindergarten located beside the cathedral. This service attracted an increasing number of Filipino women whose weekly meetings resulted in the formation of an organizational structure that would manage the holding of recreational events and gatherings10 on top of the regular religious services. Since the 1980s, when the first cohorts of Filipino migrants arrived in Kyoto following their marriage to a Japanese national and/or bound for employment, this young and predominantly female population has become more diverse. Over the years, many Filipino women who initially entered Japan for work have found partners and started families, at times petitioning for their children from previous relationships to join them in Japan. University students and a small number of university staff, too, added to the sociocultural fabric of the Filipino population in Kyoto.

The community that formed in Kyoto city called itself the “Pag-asa Filipino community”—the Tagalog word pag-asa means “hope”—and has, over the years, developed into a support structure for Filipino migrants in the city. Moreover, it has become a vital node in facilitating some of the Philippine Consulate General’s work as well as in acting as a source of support for women who are separated, divorced, or suffering from domestic violence (Nagata 2017). Thus, while the migratory routes of the majority of Filipinos now based in the city were enabled by or subsequently led to membership in Japanese families, their incorporation into social life in Kyoto has not only taken place in relation to the “mainstream” Japanese population but has also been facilitated by local faith- and nationality-based communities.

Finding space, gaining a place

For the longest time, the Pag-asa community meeting spaces kept shifting, as migrant communities had no church they formally belonged to and consequently remained dependent on the willingness of existing local communities to lend them time and space for worship and communion. The Pag-asa community thus remained ambulant for many years, a circumstance that created uncertainties about its future and effectiveness as a group, before it found a more permanent home at the Kyoto City Multicultural Networking Salon for Community Welfare and Multicultural Exchange.

The turning point came rather suddenly, in December 2011, when a local urban sociologist who had been involved in the Multicultural Exchange Networking Salon approached Nagata and broached the idea of letting the Filipino group use the salon’s facilities. In February 2012, the Pag-asa community leaders visited the center upon Nagata’s suggestion and decided to apply for membership and use it for their activities. The availability of a permanent physical meeting place and an organizational infrastructure had an empowering effect as these resources enabled the community to hold new kinds of events. The latter included a briefing session on the change of the alien registration held by Kyoto Diocese Filipino Communities Core Group,11 a seminar on Filipino government-affiliated financial products for overseas Filipino workers and immigrants in Kyoto, organized in cooperation with the Commission on Filipino Overseas. Also, the spatial resources provided by the center enabled the community to host the singing contest “Utawit,” co-organized by Jeepney Press, a Philippine news outlet for Filipinos in Japan, and the Philippine Embassy.

Beyond gaining access to physical space, Pag-asa joined a network with an emplaced history. Higashikujō, the area in Kyoto where the Multicultural Exchange Networking Salon is based, used to be a severely impoverished part of Kyoto and home to Zainichi Koreans as well as Burakumin,12 a Japanese social minority group. Hope-House, the Catholic-run welfare organization operating the center since 2010, has been active in the area since the 1960s in an effort to improve the lives of its poor, elderly, or disabled residents.13 Initially, Hope-House offered assistance in learning and a lunch service to children in the Higashikujō area. Later, in 1967, the organization established a nursery. Until the 1980s, the nursery served mostly Zainichi Korean parents, but since the 1990s it has accommodated children with roots in Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Nepal. The diversification of the children’s ethnic and national backgrounds coincides with newer cohorts of migrants arriving in Japan from various parts of Asia and Latin America and therefore illustrates the central role played by such grassroots organizations in hosting and supporting the incorporation of newer members of society.

The Multicultural Exchange Networking Salon is an umbrella organization for currently five dozen member organizations. These groups use the facility rooms free of charge to carry out their activities. Besides childcare, the center offers a variety of services to residents, including meal delivery for the elderly, with support from the city of Kyoto. The center has thus figured as a means for local government and civil society groups to cooperate in serving marginalized residents and those living in precarity. This system has also facilitated the development of personal ties and relationships among members across ethnic communities via these forms of care, service, and cultural activities.

The activities organized at the center include Higashikujō Madang, an annual festival that started in 1986, focused on the cultural representation of the Korean peninsula and Zainichi Korean oral history. The center also manages weekly Japanese-language classes for foreigners, workshops, and lectures addressing different issues and concerns of the area’s residents. The center’s staff moreover provides counseling to foreign residents who live nearby. Three times a year, the center organizes seasonal celebrations, and it houses a cafeteria that serves lunch, mainly for the elderly in the area.

From Host to Hosting

Since the Pag-asa community started to conduct its activities at the center, community members living nearby have also become more involved. Participation in a larger network opened up job opportunities; some Filipino residents started working as translating assistants or as mother-tongue instructors for the city of Kyoto. Others began to devote their time to support groups for elderly residents, including Zainichi Koreans and newly arrived migrants. Many picked up hobbies and joined purpose-specific groups at the center. Moreover, the locational stability allowed for more long-term projects to take shape. For instance, Sama ka batang Pinoy, a group providing learning assistance to newly arriving migrant children from the Philippines in Kyoto, as well as the Filipino English Teacher Training Group, have started offering courses. These are supported by the Philippine Embassy in Japan, demonstrating the multitude of alliances enabled by the initiation of new projects, made possible because the community now has easy access to space.

A summer festival held in a park in Higashikujō in 2012 was the first in which the Pag-asa community participated as part of the Multicultural Network. Such summer festivals are an opportunity for local residents to work together and mingle as food stalls are set up and operated. These local residents include Japanese and Zainichi Koreans, nursery school teaching staff, and, since 2012, Filipino women from various parts of Kyoto. As the local population participating in these festivals was aging, the participation of Filipino women in their thirties and forties proved to be of great help in dealing with the logistics and with the operation of the stalls.

Busy selling draft beers from behind the counter of one such stall, a Zainichi Korean woman in her seventies and a Filipino woman chatted about their families, child-rearing, and postretirement plans while handing out cups filled with foam-topped golden liquid. Amid the buying and selling, eating, drinking, and busy chatter, different groups staged dance and musical acts. A group of Filipino women living in the area performed tinikling, a traditional Philippine dance using thick, long bamboo sticks. The women had been practicing their performance at the center for a month before the festival. During these months of preparation, visitors unfamiliar with tinikling initially thought of it as peculiar and surprising.

Among the people regularly gathering at the salon is Nancy,14 a woman in her early thirties. At the time when she began to join the activities, Nancy did not yet live in the Higashikujō area. She was a single mother to a three-year-old child and needed childcare support. It was the Hope-House nursery that initially attracted her. Upon enrolling her child in the nursery, she also learned of the band Japinong Sessionista, which she joined. Soon after, she moved to the Higashikujō district. Nancy’s sociable disposition gained her a number of friends as she frequented the center’s cafeteria and took part in activities. One person she became close to was a Japanese woman in her forties named Arika, who works at the center full-time. Arika has provided Nancy with advice and counsel whenever she needed it. At times, Arika feels she needs to curb Nancy’s enthusiasm for her own good, as illustrated in the following discussion:

Nancy: I do not know much about the history and difficulties, but I love the area and so I decided to raise my son here. Thus, I would like to participate in the Higashikujō Madang, which has been held here for a long time. Arika-san, you too have been participating for a long time, so please introduce me to them [the organizers]. Of course, I am also interested in foreign cultures.

Arika: That is good, but you are also a member of Japinong Sessionista, you are also working, and you are raising a child. Is it OK? There is no need to rush to adapt to this area.

Nancy: I have heard that Higashikujō Madang practice is only once a week. Moreover, the practice takes place only between July and November, right? Then, I think it is OK to participate as a performer.

Arika: I see. But I’m a little worried that you’ll be too busy, so how about inviting other Filipinos? Indeed, Higashikujō Madang is not just a festival for Zainichi Koreans. Many Zainichi Koreans and Japanese participate. However, there are not too many people of other nationalities. I guess members of Higashikujō Madang could also learn more about Filipinos living in Japan.

Nancy’s insistence set in motion the inclusion of Filipino performers at the festival. Arika supported the idea by organizing a meeting between the members of the band Japinong Sessionista and the organizers of the Higashikujō Madang festival. For their first meeting, the attendees had prepared Korean and Filipino dishes. Members of Japinong Sessionista gave a short presentation on Philippine history, focusing on its colonial history and on how migration established Filipinos as part of the Japanese social fabric. The organizers of Higashikujō Madang delivered a performance of percussion music typical of rural areas of the Korean peninsula. The attendees were familiar with each other from previous festivals but now had the opportunity to get to know each other more closely and work together on the entertainment program for the next Higashikujō Madang festival. Nancy indeed performed with the band during the 2016 Higashikujō Madang, and she joined in on the drums in the performance of music typical of Korean agricultural festivals. This experience has led not only to the inclusion of Filipino performers in the festival but also to new ties forged among participants. Nancy has benefited from help by a Zainichi Korean woman who has been active on the festival committee for almost twenty years. She provided Nancy with easy-to-understand Japanese explanations whenever Nancy had trouble understanding what was being said during meetings, as well as with careful instruction regarding the performances.

In Higashikujō, the salon is the place where new socialities can emerge at given times; by acting as an umbrella organization providing meeting space, the Kyoto City Multicultural Exchange Networking Salon contributes to new forms of sociality clustered around multicultural practices as set out by the center’s management and as interpreted by its individual members. Many of these practices involve the performance of multiculturalism via a sensorial display of diverse clothing, music, and food up for sampling (e.g., the spring and summer festivals or the world-cuisine cooking classes) while others are geared to mainstreaming inclusivity (e.g., lectures and training on community welfare and multicultural coexistence for volunteers as well as for students). Other activities provide platforms for support and self-help (e.g., against gambling addiction, or support for children in their schoolwork). Duffy (2019) encourages us to think of festivals as place-making events that construct identity and a sense of belonging. The intentional use of cultural practice results in performative, sensory, and affective occasions that provoke emotions, feelings, and senses that influence social interaction and thus contribute to the creation of place (ibid.).

More everyday forms of multiculturalism crystallize from shared physical space too. The presence of Filipino mothers sending their children off to nursery has become a common sight, the Filipino dish adobo has found permanency on the cafeteria’s menu (as opposed to being served only during festivities), and musicians of different roots and routes to Japan have joined the band Japinong Sessionista. Over the years, Filipino women and Zainichi Korean men have formed relationships and families. Indeed, the existence of a community able to cushion the initial shocks of transition can help newcomers ease into an unfamiliar cultural and social environment (Liu-Farrer 2020, 94), and as shown above, several cohorts of migrants can work together to create a welcoming environment for local residents irrespective of their migration biographies. On an interpersonal level, hosting has the potential to create social relations that bind people to a place. Reflecting on her research with foreign residents in Japan, Liu-Farrer (2020, p. 93) notes: “the experience of individual Japanese people’s kindness can lead to the forging of strong emotional ties” highlighting the power of social relations that produce emotional responses. Allowing individuals to form emotional ties to a place shows how hosting is indeed a means of place-making, at the individual level but also, as we will discuss below, at a broader societal level.

The existence of the Kyoto City Multicultural Exchange Networking Salon is part of a political project to foster inclusion. The social relations emerging through work undertaken at the salon make it a place where newcomers and other marginalized and vulnerable groups of people are hosted and become hosts, where they experience support and strive for emplacement, meaning to forge a place for themselves within Kyoto city.15 This emplacement work expresses struggles for social, political, and economic rights, for “the right to the city” (Lefebvre 1968), a claim to social justice in the urban setting of Kyoto via the promotion of a more inclusive environment and the alleviation of poverty and precarity. Indeed, the Networking Salon and its managing organization Kibo no Ie (House of Hope) are legacies of two important emancipatory movements that have taken shape in various parts of Japan: the Buraku liberation movement and the antidiscrimination movement of Zainichi Koreans. Notably, Zainichi Korean activism has collapsed the division between hosts and guests, as resident Koreans and their descendants have made Japan their home. In doing so, they have challenged ethnonationalist notions of ownership of a given territory, notions implicit in the host/guest differentiation. An investment in discourses of tabunka kyōsei, or multicultural coexistence, have played a crucial role in the process.

As hosting activities have gained regularity and institutionalized into organizations, the former need to be analyzed as part of such larger discourses. Dominant understandings of tabunka kyōsei in Japan in general remain underpinned by the idea of difference and a notion of the fixity of ethnicity (Okubo 2013, 1006). This has been observed in various other local contexts too (cf. Seiger 2019, writing about support groups working with migrant children in Osaka; Sakurada 2019, writing about Japanese “mixed” youth in Gunma Prefecture).

In Kyoto city, similar tendencies can be found in practices of multiculturalism; for instance, “ethnic classes” offered at a number of public elementary and junior high schools in Higashikujō are open to children with Korean roots only. Having grown out of a struggle against assimilation, these classes build upon fixed and bounded notions of ethnicity and ethnic identities. In contrast, numerous Zainichi Koreans nowadays grow up in Japan as Japanese, speaking Japanese rather than Korean, and with Japanese names. Moreover, 90 percent of third- and fourth-generation Zainichi Korean Japanese get married to non-Korean Japanese (Lee 2016), and 5,796 Filipino residents in Japan are married to permanent foreign residents.16 These societal developments call into question the purported stability of ethnicity undergirding the making of multiculturalism.


Hosting, as we understand it, takes place at various scales: at the micro-level, in the form of interpersonal relationships; at the meso-level, where hosting activities institutionalize as support groups, communities, networks, and regular events; and at the macro level, where hosting feeds into discourses of multiculturalism. Hosting is interaction that facilitates processes of arrival, place-making, and community building. Various cohorts of migrants whose migration occurred under differing historical and sociopolitical circumstances are co-creating the changing contexts of reception via their presence and via hosting. This entails that we need to think of the “host society” as a dynamic one, as opposed to an imagined homogenous whole against which foreigners are contrasted. Indeed, the political pressure to recognize social diversity in Japan “is coming from not only the new immigrant quarters (new-comers) but also from the old (old-comers), and quite often from both groups working together” (Chapman 2006, 89). Aside from interpersonal relationships and activities geared to fostering community and providing support, hosting also draws upon and feeds into multiculturalism as a political project.

Members of the Pag-Asa Filipino community have become active in supporting other Filipino residents in Kyoto, including newly arrived caregivers and nurses, and in providing educational support for newly arrived migrant children at elementary and junior high school levels. The community members themselves have benefited from work done by Zainichi Korean activists while also fostering ties with local residents and engaged academics. Looking at place-making processes and their multilevel entanglements via the lens of hosting puts into question the purported dichotomy between hosts and guests, locals and migrants, thus challenging nationalist ideas of control and ownership of a territory.

Author Biographies

Fiona Seiger is a sociologist by training who has worked with women, children, and youth in Japan and the Philippines. Her intellectual project centers on the politics of belonging in a world in flux, to which she now adds a burgeoning interest in urban spaces and in qualitative research involving “the digital.” Her education and research career brought her to Vienna, Paris, Kyoto, Tokyo, Manila, Singapore, and Antwerp before she joined Erasmus University Rotterdam. Atsumasa Nagata is associate professor in Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University, Faculty of Contemporary Business. He is a cultural anthropologist specializing in the study of social relationships of Filipino migrants in Kyoto, Japan, and in Seoul, Cheonan, and Jeju, South Korea. He is the author of Toransunashonaru Filipinjin no Minzokushi ( トランスナショナル・フィリピン人の民族誌 ) [An ethnography of transnational Filipinos] (The ethnography of transnational Filipino migrants) (Nakanishiya-shuppan, 2011), and he was a research fellow at the National Museum of Ethnology, Japan, from April 2015 to March 2018.



By “cultural armature,” the authors denote a city’s “(1) history and cultural geography, (2) urban self-presentation, (3) cultural responses to demography, and (4) prevailing ethos toward immigrants, which is particularly evident in municipal responses”(Jaworsky et al. 2012, 78).


Both Landau and Bell extend from Derrida’s (2000) writings on hospitality.


A number of local scholars are actively supporting the migrant organizations they also study (also see Kawakami 2014; Bell 2016).


As of June 2018, there are 45,752 registered foreign residents in Kyoto city and 58,947 in Kyoto Prefecture. There are 1,142 registered Filipino residents in Kyoto city and 2,338 in Kyoto Prefecture (, accessed June 21, 2019).


Here it is important to note that, although activism for a multicultural society was to a large extent led by Japanese residents of Korean descent, “we should not assume the existence of Koreans as a people-hood, a self-conscious group identity. The divides of social status, regional origins, gender, and generation, among many others, almost always imperil the attempt to depict a group as a coherent body” (Lie 2008, xi).


As of 2017, there are “ethnic classes” in 106 public elementary and junior high schools in Osaka city.


Kawasaki, a city near Tokyo, is an industrial area that has had a large number of factories since before World War II. Numerous Koreans had gone there in search of work.


See the list of members here (in Japanese):, accessed February 26, 2020.


Such as migrants from Latin America, the Philippines, and a sizeable number from Vietnam.


These events include the annual celebration of Philippine Independence Day, the organization of novenas, as well as the community’s participation in larger celebrations of multiculturalism in the Kansai region.


This group is an association of Filipino communities based in the Catholic Church in Kyoto dioceses. There are sixteen dioceses in Japan, and Kyoto dioceses are composed of Kyoto Prefecture, Shiga Prefecture, Mie Prefecture, and Nara Prefecture. As of 2017, there are nine Filipino communities.


Burakumin is the name given to a historical social minority in Japan, also referred to as Eta.


Today, 40 percent of the population in Higashikujō is aged sixty-five or older, and 30 percent of the population receives governmental livelihood assistance. Many of the member associations of the salon are active in the area of poverty reduction.


All names are pseudonyms.


Kibo no Ie (House of Hope) has become part of machizukuri processes and participated in city-planning efforts in Kyoto (Visočnik 2014). Machizukuri translates into “city-making” and refers to civil- and civic-society-led community building. This intercommunity dialogue was developed in the 1960s but gained momentum in Japan in the wake of the Great Hanshin Earthquake and the financial crisis of the 1990s (ibid.). The similarity of machizukuri to Caglar and Glick Schiller’s (2018) discussion of city-making is striking, but a thorough discussion of machizukuri processes and trends in Japanese towns in light of this concept would go beyond the scope of this article.


See e-stat, accessed June 26, 2019.


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