3550 Trousdale Parkway, Los Angeles, CA 90089

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One of Japan's leading experts on migration within East Asia during the classical (kodai) period, Professor Fumio Tanaka (Kanto Gakuin University), provides an overview of the interregional movement of peoples and their integration into the Japanese archipelago. His lecture will focus on how the state developed an "immigration policy" that transformed those from beyond into the emerging Japanese polity, centered around the "civilizing" force of the tenno. 

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Based on historical documents from the classical period, we know that those who migrated to Japan from various regions of Asia can be roughly divided into the following categories of persons: 1) those who became related to the imperial family through their own volition (Kika); 2) those who visited as foreign emissaries (literally "barbarian guests"); 3) traders; 4) castaways; 5) hostages; 6) artisans and crafts workers offered to Japan by foreign states and; 7) artisans and crafts workers captured through pillaging. Among these migrants, only the Kika can be properly considered "immigrants." The term "Kika" received widespread usage in the latter half of the 7th century when this Chinese term was adopted by the Japanese in the process of adopting the Chinese model of a centralized state for their form of governance. In the late 7th century establishment of the Ritsuryo State and the adoption of Chinese political ideology and systems of governance, the world was divided into two—those within the boundaries of the "civilized" imperial realm (Kenai) and those who were outside that world (Kegai).

In this context, migrants from abroad were perceived to be assets in the process of "civilizing" the nation and were afforded high levels of respect by the Emperor. One can also see the connection between these Kikajin and the Ritsuryo State in the surnames migrants used. Generally, surnames in that period were considered privileges granted by the Emperor. For the Kikajin, they also used their surnames with imperial authorization, but were generally granted initial permission to use original Chinese surname. After some time in Japan through the process of "civilizing" the state, these Kikajin changed their surnames into Japanese ones, as evidence of Japan having shifted from a "barbaric" to a "civilized" place and paradoxically as the locus of "civilization" itself. This would continue until the 9th century with shifts in international relations and a move away from Chinese models of governance. This 9th-century shift would characterize Japan up into the early modern period and greatly define what the imperial system's worldview would consist of and who would be considered a legitimate member of the Japanese peoples.


Professor Tanaka received his PhD in history, and is a specialist in Ancient (Kodai) Japanese history. Through his research on the history of international exchange, Tanaka is working to elucidate the historical diversity, multiplicity, and the internationality of society in Japan. He has published a number of related works:

  • Foreigners and the Control of Ethnic Peoples in Ancient Japan (1997)*
  • Foreigners and the Wa State (2005)
  • Border Crossing in Ancient History: The Asian Network of Wa and Nihon (2009)**
  • International Trade and Ancient Japan (2012)

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