In Jesus Loves Japan, Suma Ikeuchi makes a valuable contribution to the ethnographic study of Nikkei Brazilians, the descendants of Japanese migrants in Brazil (Japanese-Brazilians), who “return-migrated” to Japan, their ancestral homeland. It examines, more specifically, the phenomenon that a sizable minority of Nikkei Brazilian migrants in Japan have converted to Pentecostalism, a charismatic denomination of evangelical Christianity, after spending some years in Japan. The book's thorough treatment of the transnational subjectivity formation of Nikkei Brazilians in Japan and their never-ending quest for “home” through religion has produced a compelling, even moving, account of how transmigrants construct their place in the world.

In part one, acknowledging that there already are a few book-length studies on Nikkei Brazilians in Japan that tend to focus on national and ethnic identity formations of the transnational Nikkei Brazilians through the lens of the labor market and work,1 Ikeuchi introduces her research topic by emphasizing the fact that their “generative self-making … [is] not limited to ethnic and national rhetoric. As participants in the global Pentecostal movements, they also claim a belonging in ‘the Kingdom of God,’ which supposedly transcends man-made ethnonational boundaries—the world where they have faced persistent racism due to their ambiguous hyphenated identity” (p. 7).

In addition to the Nikkei Brazilian diaspora's historical contexts of ethnonational identity constructions in Brazil and Japan, Ikeuchi maps out the religious landscapes of the two countries, including the meteoric rise of Pentecostalism in Brazil. Updating Roth's and Tsuda's pioneering works, Ikeuchi also crucially includes generational diversity among Nikkei Brazilians within her analytical scope. This is important because many fourth-generation (yonsei) Nikkei Brazilians are now born or raised in Japan, yet are ineligible for Japanese citizenship or the so-called Nikkei visas that automatically allow only up to third-generation (sansei) Nikkei Brazilians to live and work in Japan.

Part two of the book portrays the “suspended” lives of Nikkei Brazilians who are “stuck” in Japan as low-skilled laborers working gruelingly long hours in cities like Toyota, the hometown of Toyota Motor Corporation, while dreaming about returning to Brazil and restarting their lives there, a dream that proves elusive due to the political and economic instability that continues to plague Brazil. As a result, Nikkei Brazilians in Japan “put aside living” and labor for a future that might never be realized.

These discussions set the stage for parts three and four, which analyze Nikkei Brazilians’ conversion to Pentecostalism. According to Ikeuchi, the sense of estrangement (afastamento) among Nikkei family members due to “suspended living” and feelings of unbelonging—in neither Japanese nor Brazilian society—have driven them to charismatic Pentecostalism. For those who feel that they do not belong and perpetually yearn for the future return to “home,” “the charismatic temporality of ‘right now, right here’ [foregrounded by Pentecostalism] exerts tremendous appeal” (p. 84). Ikeuchi further argues that Pentecostalism offers Nikkei Brazilian migrants in Japan a way to overcome what they perceive to be the overly rigid and therefore “cold” Japanese culture and the “warm” but disorderly Brazilian culture and “transcend both ‘Japanese’ and ‘Brazilian’ cultures to constitute the basis for the third, transethnic, culture” (p. 109).

Part four continues to inquire into the Pentecostal faith and the sense of self it encourages in congregates. Ikeuchi claims that Nikkei Brazilian Pentecostals are of what she calls “two bloods”: one of Japanese family-state ideology that continues to pressure them to identify themselves as, however ambiguously, part of a “Japanese” nation and one of Christian “brothers and sisters” symbolically mediated by Jesus's blood.

Part four also reveals that Nikkei Brazilians’ conversion to Pentecostalism is often complex and contested. Even though Pentecostalism emphasizes individual autonomy and prohibits idolatry, such as praying before an ancestral altar, many Nikkei Brazilian Pentecostals follow the footsteps of converted family members, and some continue ancestral worship even after their baptisms at Pentecostal churches.

Before concluding in the final chapter, part five includes a chapter on the Nikkei Brazilian Pentecostals’ deep belief in a sincere and intimate relationship with God, which shapes the sense of self that Ikeuchi calls “accompanied self.” She claims that the “ideal self in Pentecostal culture is ‘accompanied’ by the Other,” such as God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit (p. 178).

Jesus Loves Japan is a fascinating study of the roles played by religion in a diasporic community. I would have liked to see the chapters on Pentecostal sense of self engage with Nikkei Brazilians’ migrancy and diasporic subjectivity in a more sustained manner, as these chapters veer from these issues and focus primarily on the Pentecostal conceptualization of individuality and sociality.

In this remarkably well-researched and well-written monograph, Ikeuchi introduces readers to the little-known Nikkei Brazilian Pentecostals and unpacks the never-ending process of subject-making of a diasporic group that is simultaneously spatial and moral. Jesus Loves Japan is valuable not only for those interested in immigrant minorities in Japan but also for, more broadly, those interested in contemporary evangelical Christianity in non-Western societies and subjectivity formations among diasporic populations.




Joshua Hotaka Roth ,
Brokered Homeland: Japanese Brazilian Migrants in Japan
Ithaca, N.Y.
Cornell University Press
Takeyuki Tsuda ,
Strangers in the Ethnic Homeland: Japanese Brazilian Return Migration in Transnational Perspective
New York
Columbia University Press