Dipesh Kharel

Grant Type

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship

Institutional Affiliation

Independent Scholar

Grant number

Gr. 9719

Approve Date

October 10, 2018

Project Title

Kharel, Dr. Dipesh, Independent Scholar, Tokyo, Japan - To aid filmmaking on ''Little Japan' and 'Little Nepal': A Migration Story' - Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship

Preliminary abstract: Within the last decade, more than 1,800 Nepalis have migrated from a single rural village, Malma, located in the Western Hills of Nepal, to work as cooks in Nepali restaurants in Japan. So many people from the village are working in Japan that nowadays the local people have nicknamed the village ‘Little Japan’. These new economic opportunities became popular in Malma after 1990, and are now seen as the primary means of upward social mobility in the village. However, the process of migration is still difficult. With a few exceptions, each migrant pays 2 million Nepali rupees (US$20,000) to the restaurant owner to get a work visa. There are already more than 3,000 Nepali restaurants and over 85,000 Nepali migrants in Japan, making it the largest South Asian community in the country. Ram is one of restaurant workers who migrated to Japan seven years ago from Malma, quitting his occupation as a farmer hoping to lead his family to a better life. Ram was 14 when his future consisted only of two choices: escaping his village or joining the Maoist rebellion. He managed to flee to Kathmandu and worked there as a laborer for many years but he was still poor. Like other migrants from the village, Ram’s family managed to take a loan of $20,000 to pay an agent for a visa to enter Japan. There he was making the most delicious naan in Tokyo. At the same time at home his parents despised badly his wife who fall into a depression. Ram is facing a big dilemma similar to many migrants in the world — is his and the family situation better now? Based on visual ethnographic research in Japan and Nepal conducted from 2008 to 2016, this film explores the causes, processes, and consequences of migration from Malma to Japan.