Around 1880, a first generation of Japanese migrants settled in Tonkin, when the French colonial presence was expanding there, creating a specific and lasting link between the region of origin of migrants, Kyûshû in Japan, and Tonkin area, until the 1930s.
This migratory movement, which falls into the historiographical category of karayuki san, has at its economic heart the prostitution of young women from poor Japanese peasant families brought from Kyûshû Island by various means. From the end of the nineteen century, bazaar activities run by Japanese men were developing in connection with the economy of prostitution. The situation lasted until early 1920s, after the action led by the Japanese consul to remove
traces of Japanese prostitution. Despite this evolution and the arrival of new actors from other areas and working for large Japanese companies, the Japanese community in Tonkin remains structured around historical migrants from Nagasaki surroundings.
In this presentation we will briefly introduce this first generation of Japanese migrants in Tonkin, trying to make apparent both the local establishment in colonial society, but also the continuity of relations and exchanges with Japan. Then, we will address the question of the migratory logics of Karayuki, men and women, linked to a complex set of interpersonal relationships, shedding light on certain aspects of the system of social relations in which women’s
migration took place. We will end up discuss the similarities and differences with the situation in Singapore.
Frédéric Roustan is Associate Professor in Contemporary Asian History at the University of Lyon 2, France, attached to the Institut d’Asie Orientale research center. After his doctoral studies at Osaka University, he did several post-doctoral positions in Japan, including at the University of Tokyo and Hitotsubashi. After 10 years of studying and working in Japan, he returned to France where he taught Japanese at Aix-Marseille University before joining the history department of the University of Lyon. He currently works on the historical relations between Japan and Vietnam, particularly issues relating to the migration of Japanese to French Indochina.