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Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)


International Studies

First Advisor

Janet Benner

First Committee Member

Robin Sakamoto

Second Committee Member

Joseph Shaules


This study explores the acculturation experiences of long-term Western residents in Japan using a broad intercultural studies approach. First, the historical context of Westerners coming to Japan is discussed. Next, literature from the field of intercultural studies is considered. This literature is used to provide a framework for analyzing Western sojourners’ acculturation experiences in Japan, as well as for choosing the research methods for conducting a qualitative analysis. The research involved interviewing 12 expatriates from English-speaking countries who have been in Japan for at least 10 years. Their acculturation experiences were analyzed, with a particular focus on finding hidden barriers to acculturation. The study concludes that numerous barriers to acculturation do exist. Commonly observable barriers included lack of employment security for some sojourners, and a poor fit between an individual’s personality and the host culture. These issues are applicable to anyone adapting to life in a different culture. However, this research also exposed a number of hidden barriers arguably unique to the Western sojourner’s acculturation experience in Japan. These barriers include the challenge of developing satisfying relationships with Japanese, due primarily to different expectations for psychological closeness and self-disclosure in Japan and the West. Another is the social effect of Othering, the centuries-old process where Japanese society divides things into those which are Japanese and those which are not, and the consequent empathy deficit that Japanese experience toward outsiders. The thesis concludes by offering recommendations for how long-term Western residents in Japan can improve their adaptation and acculturation experience. These include the obvious advantages of learning the Japanese language, and the less obvious benefits of learning and practicing mindful intercultural communication.





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