With the growth of immigrant population over the past couple of decades, a 'multicultural' discourse has emerged in Japan. A notable point is that immigrants are expected to be incorporated into the host society primarily as foreigners rather than as Japanese nationals with full citizenship rights. The purpose of this article is to understand this prevailing mode of immigrant incorporation and to consider the comparative implications. By examining the discursive aspects of claims-making on behalf of both old-timer and newcomer immigrants, I argue that the underlying opportunity structures have been reproduced in each phase of immigration-related development in Japan, facilitating the use of the 'foreigner' category in advocacy efforts. Official recognition of the category has also helped to further institutionalize it as the main target of immigrant policy. In comparative perspective, 'incorporation as foreigners' can be understood as a variant of the ethnic model of immigration regimes in that it tends to reinforce the dominant ethnocultural conception of Japanese nationhood.
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