SOKENDAI Review of Cultural and Social Studies


vol.19 (2023)

Collective Imaginings in the Interactions of a Lifestyle Migrant Community:

Japanese Retirees in Chiang Mai, Thailand


Department of Regional Studies,
School of Cultural and Social Studies,
The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, SOKENDAI

Key words:

Japanese retirees in Thailand, retirement migration, lifestyle migrant community, imaginings, interactive practice

It is increasingly common for elderly persons from relatively wealthy nations to cross borders to seek an enjoyable retirement overseas. This migratory flow can be categorized as a lifestyle migration in which the primary agenda of the migration is to pursue a better quality of life. In migration studies, the newly-arising phenomenon of lifestyle migration has been examined extensively from various perspectives. However, extant studies have not sufficiently delved into relationships within ethnic migrant communities at destinations and what factors are involved in constructing social contacts between migrants from the same country in transnational settings, even though many lifestyle migrants often congregate with persons from the same country and have little interaction with locals in the host society. Drawing upon the data from one year of fieldwork and follow-up interviews with a focus on Japanese lifestyle migrants living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, this article highlights what the author refers to as “collective imaginings of ethnic members,” which is a key to understanding the dynamics among those members. The term “collective imaginings of ethnic members” refers to the stereotyped representation of a migrating agency, i.e., who are the typical migrants, which is widely acknowledged within an ethnic community. Interacting with postmigration experiences, stereotyped imaginings arise from an assemblage of the global and bilateral histories of sending and receiving societies and structural conditions that enabled migration for self-fulfilment. The author argues that the imaginings powerfully operate to shape communal interactive practices in lifestyle migrant communities. This article suggests that the collective imaginings of ethnic members, rooted in cultural meanings of destinations, are a significant factor in establishing social practices in an ethnic community. The findings encourage scholars to pay close attention to migration tales widely believed within an ethnic community. By doing so, researchers have become able to better understand how dynamics are configured and ordered inside specific ethnic boundaries in relation to a given destination context.