Homeward bound: the circular migration of entertainers between Japan and the Philippines



One feature of globalization is the growing number of temporary labour migrants, but their experience of settlement does not always fit the dominant perspective of transnational migration. Unlike transnational migrants, circular migrants tend not to be equally entrenched in home and host societies, but instead hold feelings of greater affinity for the home society. They engage in repeated short periods of work abroad, an example being migrant Filipina entertainers in Tokyo, Japan. This article describes the settlement of these circular migrants and demonstrates how it is a process of returning to the home society that entails limited integration in the host society; they are routinely segregated in time and space. Migrant Filipina entertainers start thinking about their departure almost as soon as they arrive, and their departure is marked by a carefully-planned ceremony, or sayonara party. Questioning the assumption in the literature that circular migrants will eventually become permanent residents, in this article I call for the formulation of new theoretical frameworks that better capture the qualitatively distinct experiences of circular migrants.