ABSTRACT. Countries of immigration are generally faced with a dilemma: they wish to accept immigrants for economic purposes, but also to restrict immigration for ethnonational reasons. This is especially true in ethnic nation-states, where immigration is seen as a threat to ethnonational unity more than in civic nation-states. However, in recent decades, various ethnic nation-states have adopted immigration policies that have encouraged their diasporic descendants born and raised abroad to return to their ethnic homeland. Ethnic return migration apparently solves the immigration dilemma by providing ethnic nation-states with a much-needed unskilled labour force without causing ethnonational disruption because the immigrants are co-ethnic descendants. After comparing ethnic return migration policies in European and East Asian countries, this article analyses the development of such policies in Japan and their eventual failure to solve the country's immigration dilemma. As a result, Japan (and other ethnic nation-states) have imposed restrictions on ethnic return migration.