Japanese Masculinity: Who Would be the Global Jinzai Power Rangers Fighting the Enemy in a Global Society?

Chika Kitano, Ritsumeikan University [About | Email]

Volume 23, Issue 3 (Article 9 in 2023). First published in ejcjs on 30 January 2024.


This study investigates how male Japanese students negotiate their masculinity during their studying abroad experiences. By reviewing the discourse around global jinzai (globally competitive human resources) and studying English abroad, this study found a single hegemonic masculine image of elite Japanese young men illustrated through the discourse of global jinzai namely that of Power Rangers (Super Heroes) battling with others in neoliberal society, who try ideologically to follow or overcome Western masculinity. The analysis of the three interviewees, who participated in a short-term study abroad (SA) programme in Australia, demonstrates that their masculine identities are complex conjunctures of ethnic, racial, and linguistic identities. The result showed each component was intensified or weakened through the interviewees’ SA experiences and opposite heterosexual interlocutors. The results reveal the importance of rethinking English language education in Japan, around ethnicity, race, and Western/Asian ideologies.

Keywords: study abroad; global jinzai; the English language; Japanese masculinity; West; Asia

Japanese Men as Global Jinzai Power Rangers in Study Abroad Discourses

The Japanese government encourages study abroad (SA) programmes in higher education to foster global jinzai (globally competitive human resources) in diverse and globalising marketplaces. The words global jinzai were firstly introduced in the Diet in 2006, in a statement made by a member of the National Diet of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (the minutes of the Diet sessions, 2006). The term was not used in the sense of Japanese people becoming globally competitive, but rather in the sense of how foreign workers can be utilised as competitive human resources for the economic development of Japanese society. However, in 2011, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), it has been assumed that global jinzai are Japanese people who can fulfil all of the following conditions (2011, p.7):

1)    People who have language and communication skills
2)    People who have initiative, proactivity, spirit of challenge, cooperativeness, flexibility, sense of responsibility, and mission
3)    People who have cross-cultural understanding and Japanese identity
                                                                                                                                        (METI, 2011, p.7)

Given the above definition, ideal workers, who are delineated from the global jinzai discourse, are people who can manipulate their English language skills for their communication across borders: elites. As a matter of fact, amongst various SA destinations, the countries where English is spoken as the first language have been the most popular destinations for Japanese college students. The English language is still strongly regarded as a tool which can be used to be competitive in a globalised-marketplaces (Goto Butler & Iino, 2005).
In addition, it is noteworthy that the concept of global jinzai ostensibly harmonises well with multiculturalism or diversity in a globalised society, as its definition includes the necessity of communicating with various nationalities other than Japanese. However, many researchers have criticised the ethnocentric direction hidden in the slogan (e.g. Yonezawa, 2013, 2014; Kawai, 2007; Kato, 2015; Kato & Kukimoto, 2016). Focusing on the discourse around ‘Japanese identity’ which is predominantly seen in the governmental document on global jinzai produced by the METI (2011), these researchers insist that the discourse surrounding ‘identity’ has been associated with the strong nationalistic identity of Japanese. To be specific, in the document, one of the significant elements consisting of global jinzai is that of ‘cross-cultural understanding and Japanese identity’ (METI, 2011, p. 7). Interestingly, there is the paradox of the coexistence of two ideas which oppose the global ‘jinzai’ concept: ‘global’ (which welcomes multiculturalism) and ‘Japanese identity’ (which accrues nationalism). Adopting the paradoxical context that globalisation looks to provide openness to various communities, but actually has a closed mindset, Kubota insightfully concluded, following analysis that Japanese English education ‘does not necessarily lead to constructive interaction among people across national and ethnic borders’ (2016, p. 468). This is due to the fact that the English language education only welcomes a standard English such as American or British English, as a global skill, ending up creating ‘hostility against certain groups of people’, and posing ‘potential obstacles for communication’ (Kubota, 2016, p. 471). Kubota continued arguing that neoliberalism, which is ‘based on the principle of free-market economy with unregulated competition and privatisation’ (Kubota, 2016, p. 469), puts enduring emphasis on knowledge and skills, which include the English language skill, and regards people who are equipped these skills as a human capital.
Kato (2015) also stated that the ideal image of global jinzai is highly masculine. For instance, Kato criticised the goals of global jinzai as being for masculine and elitist, as the words contain metaphors such as ‘“competition” (kyōsō), “battle strategy” (senryaku), “between a nation and a nation (kuni to kuni)” or “Japan as a whole” (ōru Japan)’ (Kato, 2015, p. 225).

Figure 1. Next Japan, Next You. It is only jibun (“me”) who can change the world, this country, and jibun (“myself”) (MEXT, 2018).

Indeed, the Japanese masculine image of global jinzai aligns with the visualised images of the SA students promoted by the Japanese government as globally competitive elites. Figure 1 displays a Web advertisement—one of the far-reaching SA projects under the global jinzai slogan, ‘Tobitate! Ryugaku JAPAN Nihon Daihyo Purogramu’ (Jump into the world! Let’s Study Abroad, JAPAN. Japanese Representative Programme), launched in 2014, the aim of which was to send 120,000 students abroad by 2020 (MEXT, 2018). In April 2023, the government put forward a second proposal regarding the promotion of studying abroad for young people. It is designed to promote globalisation; indeed, this is a further development of the ‘Tobitate! Ryugaku JAPAN’ project, with its goal being to increase the number of Japanese students studying abroad to 500,000 by 2033 (MEXT, 2023). In the image (Figure 1), six Power Rangers (super heroes) wearing special costumes are shown, alongside a strong message: ‘kono chikyu o, kono kuni o, kono jibun o kaerarerunowa jibun shika inai’ (It is only me who can change the world, this country and myself) (MEXT, 2018). In Japan, the Power Rangers series—tokusatsu (special effects) and super sentai (super squadron), both aimed mainly at boys—have a long history. The Power Rangers series has a format in which the protagonists, dressed in reinforced suits, team up to fight ‘monsters’. They have combined live action with models and computer-generated footage to create images that could not be obtained through normal filming. The first to gain national popularity was Ultraman (1966), which depicted the Ultraman brothers transforming into giants and fighting huge monsters. In 1971, Kamen Rider was aired, the star of which did not transform into a giant but was instead a ‘deformed’ hero resembling a grasshopper riding a motorbike and battling monsters. This was followed, in 1975, by the super sentai (known as Power Rangers in the US). What differentiates Power Rangers from the previous two examples is that Power Rangers fight in groups rather than alone.
These heroes are a reflection of Japanese society. Uno (2015) pointed out that Ultraman, which was created after the Second World War, projects the destruction of cities by giant monsters, which symbolise war caused by the state, and that Ultraman, the giant hero, symbolises the military. Conversely, however, he concluded, following analysis, that Kamen Rider is a character who reflects an era in which each individual is idealised to live a paternalistic life in the post-war time when ‘Grand Narratives’ no longer work. Uno (2015) also stated that the Power Rangers series do not undertake the politics of Ultraman as an army, but are not as anarchic as Kamen Rider. Narrative in the Power Rangers series, he further concluded, is often a growth tale defined by gaining approval within the team in a small publicness. This in-group recognition is one of the characteristics of Power Rangers and is consistent with Ito’s (2019) analysis of Japanese collectivism. Ito (2019) argues that collectivism in Japan is not the original collectivism that achieves its goals through individual individuality and group cooperation, but only group sympathy for private interests. Moreover, he continued in stating that this tendency is said to be stronger amongst men than amongst women. According to Ito (2019), Japanese men are, due to cultural customs, more likely to look around, be careful not to be outsmarted by others, and remain disciplined.
Another feature of the way Power Rangers are portrayed is the position of women. Although the majority of the Power Ranger heroes are male, a woman was indeed added to the group after the first broadcast in 1975 (Kazuki, 2008). For many years, the ratio of one woman to four or five men remained. However, in 1984, the number of women members was increased to two. This was a time when the enactment of the ‘Equal Employment Opportunity Law’, which was implemented in 1986, was being actively discussed (Kazuki, 2008), as the change in the number of women was reflective of the social position of women. Almost 40 years have passed since then, and the number of female Rangers has remained the same in the advertisement (Figure 1). Despite the presence of both women and men in the image (Figure 1), the men are problematically emphasised, positioned in the centre of the Power Rangers, facing forwards, whilst the women have their bodies turned sideways. Since the enactment of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law of 1986, women have been expected to play an active role in the economy and labour, but are only in a position where they are forced to aspire to be ‘honorary men’ (Uno, 2015) and to gain a high status in society by behaving like men (Kitano, 2021). 
The advertisement (Figure 1) promotes the idea that the Japanese man in male-centred Japanese collectivism and neoliberal society is an exemplary figure representing the global jinzai, the latter of whom are encouraged to undertake SA. It also evokes the impression that SA students need to be equipped with special costumes which metaphorically imply a variety of skills, including a language skill, to lead a globalising society. In addition, since all Power Rangers series portray enemies, the image (Figure 1) evokes enemies abroad; wherever they head, there is always a target to fight. The word ‘global’, which at first glance seems to welcome multiculturalism, is in fact associated with exclusivity. The image deploys a pre-existing trope that reflects military hegemonic views on masculinity.
Given the background of SA, i.e., a programme aimed at developing a global workforce that is portrayed as masculinised rangers fighting the enemy, as depicted by the advertisement (Figure 1), this study investigates how Japanese male SA students experienced their SA journeys in comparison to global jinzai discourse. First, the current study will review the literature on the gendered relationship between English education in Japan and the construction of Japanese masculinity in a neoliberal and globalised society. Specifically, linguistic, ethnic/racial, and social perspectives will be examined in terms of how Japanese masculinity is linked to the ideal global jinzai image fostered through English education in Japan. Using the data from semi-structured interviews with three young men, this study then scrutinises the gaps between male Japanese SA students’ voices and the images of global jinzai that have been depicted metaphorically as masculine rangers in SA settings.

Linguistic Aspect: Native-speakerism in Japan

Although the English language has been treated as a key for widening learners’ views regarding a diverse and globalising society, the discourse surrounding ‘the English language’ in Japan has been strongly linked to the monolingual idea that Japanese people should acquire the standardised and ‘beautiful’ English spoken by what is called a ‘native speaker’ from ‘Western’ society (Igarashi, 2020; Yamaji, 2019), particularly from countries in the inner circle (Kachru, 1985, 1992) where English is the first language. Kachru proposed the ‘world Englishes paradigm’ (Kachru, 1985) and investigated the global spread of various forms of English language spoken, and of English speakers. The paradigm consists of ‘three concentric circles’: the inner circle (English as a Native Language), the outer circle (English as a Second Language), and the expanding circle (English as a Foreign Language) (Kachru, 1992). There have taken place many discussions surrounding the interplay between power and politics within the paradigm of the above mentioned three circles. Including by Kachru (2005) himself, indeed, this model has been criticised over the decades. Such criticism includes, for example, its oversimplification (Crystal, 1995), its ignorance of the members of the concentric circles, and its reproduction of the ideological relationship between the coloniser and the colonised (see. Phillipson, 1992; Modiano, 1999). Although there have been convincing criticisms on the idea of three concentric circles, this study uses the term the inner circle strategically to focus on English language education in Japan, since the English language from the inner circle countries, such as the US, the UK and Canada, has been projected as the ideal English language, which has not even been focused on as a problematic issue in English language education in Japan.
In such a line of thought, the dichotomisation of ‘native’ vs. ‘non-native’ English speakers has also been problematised and argued over the last several decades (for an overview, please see Faez, 2011; Kubota, 1998; Rajagopalan, 2009; Yamagami & Tollefson, 2011; Phan, 2013; Pennycook, 2012; Phillipson, 1992; Davies, 2002). However, English language education in Japan has been heavily influenced by native-speakerism (Heimlich, 2013; Yano, 2011; Leong Ng, 2018; Rivers & Ross, 2013) whilst the common understanding is that there is no way to distinguish native speakers from non-native speakers in a diverse society where many people have multilingual backgrounds. A ‘native’ speaker exists only in people’s imagination; ‘the term native speaker suggests the existence of a single, idealised register of the target language’ (Saniei, 2011, p. 75).
In Japan, the idea of native English speakers is inextricably linked with linguistic components and race (whiteness), ethnicity (West) and nationality (the inner circle countries) (Kubota, 2002; Kubota & Fujimoto, 2013). The idea of native speaker is context-dependent and ambiguous, yet powerful. Kubota and Fujimoto’s study raises questions concerning the accuracy of the assertion that ‘whiteness’ is blindly preferred and represented as an ideal ‘native’ speaker in ELL settings. The aforementioned studies show that various characteristics of native speakers (e.g., language, race/ethnicity and nationality) are intertwined and negotiated as per the context in which they are contested, and some characteristics are intensified or weakened in complex ways.
Furthermore, the afore-mentioned intertwined process of constructing ideal English speakers as native speakers is interconnected to ethnic/racial aspects and is highly gendered.

Ethnic/Racial Aspect: Japanese Masculinity Differentiating from Asian Masculinity

Each factor—language, race/ethnicity, and social status—determines who has more power in our society. For instance, even amongst English speakers of the same inner circle with the same English proficiency, focusing on the ethnicity/race components, there exist studies which have examined how African-American men have been stereotypically portrayed as overly-powerful masculine figures, whilst Asian men are weak, asexual and effeminate (Lu & Wong, 2013; Tsuda, 2020), in contrast with the conformity of white masculinity. Lu and Wong (2014) concluded that the Asian-Americans surveyed in their study felt that they ‘lacked whiteness’ (2013, p. 355), an unresolved masculine ideal. Although Asian-Americans are categorised as native English speakers who are from the powerful ideological position of the inner circle, their inferiority complex of racial identity is intensified in relation to Western masculinity rather than to their linguistic ability. Ethnic stereotyping is consistent throughout Asia, where the same pervasive stereotype exists for Japanese men; Morinaga-Williams (2018) found that, in the process of learning English, young Japanese men tend to feel inferior to the images of Western masculinity, which are in stark contrast with the stereotypical physical characteristics of Japanese men: non-white, non-mature looking, short, and thin. Morinaga-Williams (2018) showed that the male Japanese’ inferior complex as East Asian predominantly appeared when romantic relationships between Japanese men and Western women were involved.
Whilst few studies have explored the idealisation of English speakers by Japanese men in relation to linguistic, ethnic, and racial concepts, there has been much research on the idealisation of Japanese women. In terms of the discourse of idealised English speakers, certain studies (Kitamura, 2016; Kitano, 2020a, 2020b) have critically discussed how linguistic (e.g., native speakerism), racial (e.g. whiteness), and ethnic (e.g. Western) factors are linked to the construction of idealised English speakers and how Japanese women are portrayed as submissive and enthusiastic learners of English. Also noteworthy is a study (Takahashi, 2013) which examines the identity conflicts of Japanese women in English-speaking countries where they study. With regard to Japanese women, the research has critically investigated how the image of what is termed a native speaker is linked to Caucasian and Western characteristics and ideally masculinised. Additionally, the SA market tends to portray Japanese women as the main target consumer, with Japanese men, on the contrary, tending to be portrayed as objects with a lack of foreign language communication skills. For example, the ‘Tobitate! Ryugaku JAPAN Nihon Daihyo Purogramu’ (MEXT, 2014) website introduces Japanese women’s ‘love stories’ as one of the focal points of their success stories in the private sphere in their SA destinations. The website, entitled ‘Tell us about your love stories from your study abroad!’ (MEXT, 2014), contains illustrations of a Japanese woman and a Caucasian man, and presents episodes conveying the love stories of Japanese SA students.  Amongst the nine episodes, four are stories of successful relationships between foreign men and Japanese women who met whilst studying abroad—but three are stories which tell of the heartbreak experienced by Japanese men when it comes to foreign women they met whilst studying abroad. The stories of romantic successes and failures are disproportionately published between Japanese men and Japanese women, which implies that the stories of female SA experiences of love romance are implicitly centred as Japanese women’s SA experience.
Although Japanese men, in terms of romance, have been portrayed as lacking the conformity of white masculinity in relation to white, Westernised English speakers, it is in relation to Asian ethnicity that Japanese men are more likely to identify their masculinity.
Ethnic/racial identity is the crucial feature of Japanese masculinity which is strongly related to the uniqueness of ‘Japanese identity’. The process of internalising admiration towards Western masculinity is historically linked to the way in which Japanese identity was differentiated from Asian identity. In Japan, the ethnicity concept then took a position, previously occupied by race, in a characteristic trajectory, that is inextricably linked to the concepts of the West and Asia. When the Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895) occurred, the concept of ethnicity grew, gradually differentiating the Japanese from ‘other’ yellow Asian people (Oguma, 1995; Kawai, 2014). Oguma (1995) stated that Japanese ethnicity, distinct from Asian ethnicity, positioned other Asian people as inferior to the Japanese. Such ‘“de-Asianisation”—Japan is “on the edge” of Asia and not of Asia’ (Buckley, 2000, p. 319)—is considered a process of Westernisation. Kamada added that ‘the inclusion of the “othered” Westerners in contrast to Japan’ (2010, p. 33) was central to Japanese identity. The concept of ethnicity was employed to define the Japanese themselves as superior to other Asians, in a male-centred age: a time of war. Even in the current society, the ideas of ethnicity, race, the West, and Asia have been developed inseparably (see Kubota, 1998; Kamada, 2010; Takahashi, 2013). It is thought that the attitude of trying to preserve Japanese identity in relation to the West by excluding Asia further solidifies Kubota’s assertion that neoliberal English education creates ‘hostility against certain groups of people’ and poses ‘potential obstacles for communication’ (2016, p. 471) when Japanese students encounter English-speaking Asians abroad. Whilst the Rangers’ portrayal as global jinzai implicitly indicates that they have enemies, the idea of Japanese identity as different from Asia may bring about the danger of creating enemies, especially in relation to Asian ethnicity.

Social Aspect: Global Jinzai and Masculinity Which Would Be Established by Women’s Evaluation

While the global jinzai discourse portrays a singular Japanese masculinity, Connell (2005 [1995]) states masculinity is plurally constructed according to the circumstances in which men are positioned. Connell (2005 [1995]) theorised such a plurality of the masculinity concept and considered that multiple social structures other than gender itself, such as class and racial categories, played a role in its formation. Referring to the specific type of masculinity that sustains a leading position in social life, Connell (2005 [1995]) defined hegemonic masculinity as a dominant position of men. According to Connell (2005[1995]), this hegemony is not a simple power based on force over women. One factor in determining whether men assume a hegemonic position is justified in relation to the subordinate position of women.
Japanese men’s social status has also been transforming the nature of their social position due to admiration from women and society. By the end of the period of rapid economic growth in the 1980s, sararīman (salarymen) had become a term used to refer to the standard male model. Whilst sararīman usually denotes male corporate employees who receive a monthly salary, the crux of sararīman masculinity ‘refers to middle-class white-collar workers who work for a large company’ (Hidaka, 2010, p. 1) and the ‘university-educated middle-aged man, with a dependent wife and children to support’ (Dasgupta, 2012, p. 1). The pivotal conditions for sararīman masculinity have been connected to labour, family, and responsibility (Cook, 2016). However, the ideal image of sararīman began to shake out significantly over time (Taga, 2011). For instance, a noteworthy feature of the current ideal sararīman is that men who take care of children and do housework receive admiration from women in the public eye. Dasgupta (2012) stated that marriage to a heterosexual partner has also been required to maintain hegemonic masculinity for Japanese men, in particular sararīman. However, in current society, not only getting married, but the way of behaving at home has received increasing attention as one of the important male social roles (Kawaguchi, 2014; Taga, 2018) because Japanese women have been increasingly entering the workforce, and the number of dual-earner households continues to rise. Instead of leaving home for an extended period, which is spent at the office, spending time with family members is appreciated more and more by women who work outside. As per the theory of hegemonic masculinity, it is convincing that winning the support of women who want to undertake housework and childcare jointly with their spouses is a critical aspect to maintain men’s current dominant position in relation to Japanese masculinity.
Given the literature reviews, this study explores how Japanese male students participating in an SA programme have been influenced by the discourse of global jinzai in Japanese society. Specifically, with a particular focus on linguistic, ethnic/racial and social aspects, the current study first examines, using semi-structured interview data, how future elite male students at Japan’s top national universities will construct the images of ideal English speaker and English-speaking self prior to SA between ideologies of the West and Asia, as well as how the images are relevant to their interpretation of their SA experiences during and after their SA period. The present work also explores how the perceptions of masculinities were highlighted in the SA settings in relation to the male interviewees’ opposite sex interlocutors.


This study used semi-structured interviews and added additional questions where needed according to individual interviewee statements. Interviewees were recruited during the guidance session for a 4-week SA programme for ELL, supported by a top-ranked national Japanese university in the Kansai area. As a postgraduate student and researcher, the author attended the session with the coordinator’s permission in order to recruit interviewees. The SA programme aimed to improve English language skills in Australia and provide students with a cultural experience whilst also allowing them to earn school credit. All the participants lived in homestays alone or with other international students from 19th February to 16th March 2018. The author personally recruited the SA students and invited them to participate in the research study. Seven students volunteered to participate (five male and two female students, aged 19–26). This study introduces data from three heterosexual male interviewees to illustrate the different types of Japanese masculinity according to their perspectives on ideal English speakers in terms of linguistic, ethnic/racial, and career prospects. The pivotal reason for choosing the three male interviewees was their desire actively to work abroad. This is linked to one of the necessary conditions of being global jinzai, as defined by the Japanese government. Indeed, they already belonged to one of the leading universities in Japan—a society which places a high value on academic credentials—and were likely to be active in the future as so-called elites—a condition for a global jinzai.
Individual interviews were conducted in the university cafeteria between 18th January and 18th April 2018. Each interviewee was interviewed twice—once during their pre-sojourn period in Japan, and a second time after returning to Japan. All narrative data were audio-recorded, transcribed, and translated from Japanese to English by the author. Their social media pictures and comments were collected as supplemental data, and all interviewees accepted the offer to connect on social media. Their host university was in a nearby city centre in Melbourne, approximately a 60-minutes bus journey away. Melbourne, in particular, is home to diverse immigrant communities where people with different cultures and backgrounds reside.

TABLE 1. Interviewee Profile (pseudonyms in order of age)

One limitation of this study is that the interviewees’ SA and ELL experiences were all self-reported. The author relied on their memories. However, their narrative about their SA experiences appeared reliable, as they provided photos or diaries as supplemental research data. Such visual data helped remind the participants of their experiences in vivid detail.
Another limitation is that the author shared the same racial/ethnic identity with the interviewees, as well as a similar experience of studying abroad in English-speaking countries and a similar social position. The author was confronted with the difficulty of remaining in one position: the insider position as a researcher. The limitations became apparent when the author, as a female researcher, questioned the interviewees on their ideal romantic partners. One male interviewee hesitated in responding, citing embarrassment. Thus, the author explained her marital status and parenthood before talking about romantic issues so as not to make the male interviewees uncomfortable when discussing their idealised romantic partners because of the author’s gender (i.e., a heterosexual woman). The outsider position, as a female heterosexual researcher, enabled the author to recognise the importance of balancing between being an outsider and insider. Teusner states that ‘the insider-outsider status is better described in terms of a continuum rather than a dichotomy’ (2016, p. 93); indeed, the author shares the same view on the continuum of being an insider or an outsider across time and space.
The data and analysis that follow are organised chronologically. The data are presented with parenthetical identifiers; for example, (1st i22january18kei) indicates that the narrative is quoted from the first interview with Kei on 22nd January 2018. This study has been approved by the Committee of Ethics of the Schools of Human Sciences of Osaka University in 2017.

Pre-sojourn Period

Here, the interviewees’ narratives prior to studying abroad are focused on. In particular, the discussion aims to outline their perceptions of studying in English-speaking countries as Japanese men, considering social, linguistic, and racial/ethnic perspectives. Particular attention is paid to narratives related to global jinzai, the English language and gender issues.
Social Aspect: The Dilemma of Global Jinzai—Want to Be Globally Competitive, but Also Be Domestically Approved by Women
This section introduces the interviewees’ narrative data in terms of career aspects. All three of the interviewees had a strong desire to work abroad actively using their English skills, which is the reason why the author chose them as the interviewees for this study. For instance, Hajime and Hiro showed their strong desire to acquire the English language skills needed to be globally competitive. Since Hajime had already received a job offer from a foreign company, his willingness to work abroad seemed potent because working hard in an English environment was his priority. Additionally, in his view, the English language was strongly regarded as ‘an indispensable tool’ (1sti18january18hajime) and he thought ‘we can’t even get on stage if we can’t use it (the English language)’ (1sti18january18hajime).
As a graduate student in the medical field, Hiro was likely to have opportunities for training abroad in the future, mainly in the US or UK. He cited improving his presentation skills there as one of the purposes of his SA this time, although it was not his main objective. Hiro said with a laugh, ‘I’ve been told by the graduate students around me that I need to develop my presentation skills to the level of Steve Jobs’ (1sti29january18hiro). This suggests that there is a common understanding amongst those around Hiro that studying abroad in an English-speaking country is connected to acquiring the skills needed in a neoliberal society. 
In addition, all of the interviewees wanted to be the primary breadwinners for their families, which shows that they accept the social expectations of hegemonic masculinity supporting their spouses financially. For instance, Kei, a 19-year-old college student majoring in economics, shared his vision that he wanted to work globally when the author asked about his future career prospects. At the same time, he had the idea that getting married was important for him. When the author asked him about the division of earnings between him and his spouse after marriage, he replied as follows:

Author: Do you want your partner to work when you get married?
Kei: Ah, I don’t know. Well, if she wants to work, then it’s perfectly fine if she works. But financially speaking, I don’t want her to work.
Author: I see, like you’re the one who’s going to earn the money.
Kei: Yes, yes, I will.

 Like Kei, Hajime, a 23-year-old graduate student majoring in biology, expressed a desire to be married and to be the breadwinner rather than taking a supplemental financial position in his family. When asked about work-life balance with his spouse, he replied, ‘I want to work hard, but I want my partner to be able either to work or not work’ (1sti18january18hajime).
With regard to the ideal self-image, like Kei and Hajime, Hiro, a 26-year-old postgraduate student studying in the medical field, took it for granted that he would provide for his marriage partner and believed that he, as a man, should be the breadwinner. Although his stable salary seemed to be guaranteed, he was willing to work hard in the future. When I enquired about his and his potential marriage partner’s financial positions in his future family, he gave the following answer: ‘I think I definitely work hard. (…) Literally, I think I can make a lot of money. So I will let my partner work if she wants. Even if she doesn’t want, I’m fine with it’ (1sti29january18hiro).
Judging from their narratives, uniformly, they were more or less trying to position their prospective SA experiences as preparation for working abroad. In addition, from a career perspective, their ideal self-image is reminiscent of global jinzai active in a neoliberal society.
However, when it came to balancing work and family, Kei hesitated about working overseas. Simultaneously, he felt a responsibility to take care of his family members, which caused him to second-guess his dreams of working abroad.

Author: If you work abroad, do you want to go there with your family members?
 Kei: Well, I’m not sure at all, so far. I won’t know until the time comes, but I’d prefer to go alone rather than going together.
Author: Okay. Do you think going together is not possible?
 Kei: Well, it’s a lot of work when it comes to going around the world. If I could work for a long time in one country other than Japan, I would bring my own family. I would be hesitant to go to many different countries.

Kei was somewhat concerned about how working would interfere with family life. This shows that taking care of his family is a high priority. As Connell (2005 [1995]) stated, hegemonic masculinity is not simply about having power over women; indeed, Kei considered his position in relation to a potential spouse—a woman who would hope for him to stay with the family longer. As Kawaguchi (2014) and Taga (2018) declared after pointing to the evolving social role of men at home, it is crucial to consider how male involvement in housework and childcare would change the image of the required masculinity. Upon examining Kei’s narrative, it is observed that he wants to be a man who crosses borders, speaks English, and works hard as a global jinzai with an income high enough to support his family on his own. However, he also wants to be a man who can take care of childcare and housework, which is the ideal image of the kind of man needed by women in modern Japanese society. Although the government’s definition of global jinzai does not mention domestic work, Kei’s case illustrates one example of the differences between the ideal way of working for young elite Japanese men and the global jinzai image. Taking into account the approval from women, it is clear that he himself sees the way men behave at home as one of men’s important social roles (Kawaguchi, 2014; Taga, 2018), rather than working outside the home for a long period.
Ethnic/Racial and Linguistic Aspects: Japanese Masculinity -Highlighted by the People with Whom They Interact in English and with Whom They Are Romantically Involved
This section delineates the interviewees’ narrative data in terms of linguistic and ethnic/racial aspects. In particular, as previous research (Lu & Wong, 2013; Morinaga-Williams, 2018; Tsuda, 2020) reported the characteristics of men, whereby ethnic and racial aspects stand out in romantic relationship situations with their partners, the author conducted interviews concerning issues pertaining to romantic and marriage partners in terms of ethnic, racial, and linguistic aspects.
Each interviewee had different perspectives towards their ideal English speakers, linguistically and ethnically/racially. For instance, Kei, a 19-year-old college student majoring in economics, had a wide range of ethnic and racial ideas about both his ideal English interlocutor and romantic partner. Since high school, he had always wanted to go to the US. After graduating from high school, he went on a week-long sightseeing trip to Hawaii. For him, the image of English speakers was not strongly associated with whiteness since he had communicated with English-speaking Americans from a non-white ethnic/racial background. For instance, he remembered his junior high school assistant language teacher from the US as an impressive memory. According to Kei, his English teacher was kind enough to speak to him in English as a junior high school student. When asked about the racial/ethnic background of his teacher, he did not care about this, answering as follows.

 Author:       He (his English teacher) was friendly. There are various American people in terms of race or ethnicity. He was..?
Kei:             Ah, he was Black.
Author:       Uh-huh.
Kei:             Or Asian mixed. Maybe half Asian and half American.

For Kei, racial components such as ‘whiteness’ were not blindly preferred in terms of his ideal English-speaking interlocutors.
However, in terms of interlocutors in English learning situations, it was apparent that English speakers in the inner circle were considered ideal for Kei. Although he was not particularly concerned with the racial/ethnic aspects of English speakers, he showed a desire to be friends with a ‘native English speaker’ of the inner circle. When asked about potential interlocutors with whom he wanted to be friends in Australia, Kei replied as follows.

 Kei:          I wanna have friends, two or three friends.
Author:    Ok, I see. Are they supposed to be the people who speaks English and who are living in Australia?
Kei:          Yeah. Well, but, they don’t necessarily have to be Australian. But they’re better to be the people whose native language is English.

It is derived that Kei’s ideal English speakers’ images are not associated with ethnic/racial aspects, but instead linked to speakers whose ‘native’ language is English. In addition, as Kubota’s research revealed, it is interpreted that Kei had ‘the idea that studying abroad [would] provide students with opportunities to interact with native speakers of the local language’ (Kubota, 2016, p. 351).
Like Kei, Hajime, a 23-year-old graduate student majoring in biology, also saw racially and ethnically diverse English speakers as interlocutors in English language learning. Unlike Kei, however, Hajime also saw others from diverse linguistic backgrounds, not just English speakers from the inner circle, as interlocutors in English language learning. This could be attributed to Hajime’s international experience in Asia. Compared to other interviewees, Hajime had more experience communicating in English with East Asian people. For instance, he participated in a 3-week SA programme in Taiwan as an undergraduate student. In a previous SA programme, he took an English debate class with Thai, Taiwanese, and Japanese students. Moreover, he gained specific knowledge from Taiwanese engineers working at a Taiwanese semiconductor company. During this experience, English played an important role and helped him communicate with the East Asian interlocutors in Taiwan. He remembered his stay in Taiwan.

 Hajime:    In Taiwan, since the native language of both Japanese and Taiwanese is not English, people tend to escape into their native language or stay with friends who are comfortable in their native language. I thought it was uninteresting to see that, so I decided to go sightseeing with my Taiwanese friends.

Judging by his experiences, he firmly believed that English was pivotal to him being able to open up his perspectives and connect to various people with different cultural backgrounds. He supported the idea that the English language in particular will put him ‘in touch with more people than any other language’ (Crystal, 2003[1997]).
Hajime was more willing to use English with others regardless their nationality, first language, and ethnicity/race, since his aim, in terms of the SA in Australia, was ‘to reduce the feeling of resistance against speaking English’ (i18january18hajime). He mentioned his intention with the SA experience.

Hajime:    Of course, I’d like to improve my English, and I want to make friends with the local people there. I mean, of course, I really welcome Japanese people there and Australian friends.

 He presented an idea which is at odds with the exclusive Japanese ethnicity, and which is differentiated from Asian ethnicity.  Having a good relationship with his Asian friends, he believed that a diverse society is characteristic of English-speaking countries and communities. His ideal self-image was based on multicultural and multilingual communities.
Hiro, a 26-year-old postgraduate student, had an ethnically/racially and linguistically narrower view of English speakers than did the other interviewees, which was not observed in the other interviewees. His reasons for taking the SA programme were to develop practical English skills and enjoy Australia fully. He had travelled abroad to many places, such as Europe and Southeast Asia; however, he had formed no close friendships with people from other countries. His ethnically/racially narrow view was firstly observed in relation to his ideal romantic partner. Hiro explicitly showed romantic interest in white or Western women and viewed East Asians from other countries as subordinate to Japan and the West. When asked about his ideal marriage partner, he explicitly described, ‘I’m totally happy with tall, nasal, blue-eyed women’ (1sti29january18hiro).
Additionally, he assertively stated that he does not have a desire to marry women from a certain East Asian country, in particular. His preference for Westerners was evident in his admiration for his romantic partner and his taste in potential friends in Australia. When talking about his ideal interlocutors in Australia, he gave the following response:

Author:    When you go to Australia, who do you want to communicate with?
 Hiro:        Of course, I want to hang out with ‘hip-hop boys’ on local beaches. I wanna have a BBQ with them.
 Author:    (laughter) Really?
 Hiro:        But is it allowed (BBQ) on Australian beaches?
 Author:    With ‘hip-hop boys’? (laughter)
 Hiro:        On the beach.
 Author:    Do you think about it seriously? To be honest?
 Hiro:        Yes. I’m serious. I wanna have a BBQ with party people.

His answer seemed non-serious and unexpected to the author; thus, the author could not ask in detail about his potential interlocutors’ ethnicity, race and language in this first interview session. Additionally, the author felt that he may have deliberately expressed a light-hearted purpose for his SA in order to avoid the impression that he was too hardworking. However, in a post-sojourn interview, analysed later in another section, Hiro’s narrative showed that he had been honest and that his targeted interlocutors were exactly white Western people. Compared to Kei and Hajime, Hiro’s narrative indicates that ethnic/racial components of potential interlocutors in Australia were more emphasised and connected to Hiro’s interests of Westerners.
Whilst what has been discussed during the interviewees pertained to their ideal partner or interlocutors, they also shared a common idea of how they saw themselves, as Japanese men, in terms of ethnicity and race. The noteworthy point commonly seen in the three interviewees is that they recognised their racial/ethnic identity negatively in the pre-sojourn period. They were worried about racial/ethnic discrimination in English-speaking countries.
Kei’s sensitivity to his own racial/ethnic identity contradicts his openness towards ideal English speakers’ multiracial or multi-ethnic backgrounds. When talking about his most desirable SA destination, other than Australia, he listed the east coast of the US because he thought ‘there are a lot of people who seem to have some Asian blood’ (1sti22january18kei) and he heard that east coast is ‘easier for Japanese people to get used to it’ (1sti22january18kei).
Similar to Kei, Hajime felt anxious about ethnic/racial discrimination. When asked about the positive aspects of Australia, Hajime changed the topic to a negative one: a topic about racists in Australia. He heard from his friends who went to Australia that they are treated badly by some racists during their stay. It appears that he was not concerned about his interlocutor’s racial/ethnic aspects; however, he was conscious about his own racial/ethnic identity, as was Kei.
Hiro also revealed anxiety about his Japanese ethnic/racial identity. When talking about the impression of Japan and Japanese people, he stated that Japanese are ‘closed, uninteresting, cowardly people’ (1sti29january18hiro). He continued to talk about a socially conscious film that he had seen a couple of days before the interview.

Hiro:       In the movie, a Japanese man asked a Caucasian whether the Japanese man looked black or white. The Japanese subtitle for the white man’s line read, ‘you are cowards’. But, I heard the white man exactly say, ‘you are yellow’ in English. I felt really shocked.
 Author:    That’s shocking.
 Hiro:        Well, the movie was set soon after the Cold War, and I really felt it was natural for Americans to use ‘yellow’ as a synonym for a coward.

He was emotionally influenced primarily by the racial/ethnic depiction of Japanese people in the movies. He did not get angry about the negative impressions of Japanese people expressed in the American film he watched. Rather, he accepted the negative descriptions as they were, and added them into his anxiety about being Japanese.
This anxiety regarding one’s ethnic and racial identity, as seen in the male interviewees, has not previously been evident amongst Japanese female SA students. For example, the Japanese female students were positive about romantic relationships with male English speakers at the beginning of their SA period (Takahashi, 2013). No studies have reported that Japanese female SA students perceived their ethnicity and race negatively, in the pre-sojourn period, in romantic relationships with male English speakers (see. Kitamura, 2016; Kitano, 2020a, 2020b). This is one of the characteristics of Japanese male SA students. Narratives in the collectivist Power Rangers series are analysed as growth stories defined by gaining approval within the team in a small public space (Uno, 2015). Although in the pre-sojourn period, it has been possible for Japanese men to be hegemonic in the Japanese group, they tend to feel more anxious than Japanese women about leaving from Japan.
Ambivalent Feelings towards the English Language and the US As a Japanese Man
The final notable point, which was commonly observed in the narrative of the two interviewees (Hiro and Kei), was ambivalent feelings towards the English language and the US. Kei had a feeling of longing towards the US which was represented through his post on LINE—a well-known Japanese social media site. On the top page, he posted ‘Wait for me! America! (Mattero! America!)’, alongside his picture which he used to introduce himself. His words contain a provocative and challenging meaning rather than simply an aspiration. Additionally, using the masculine Japanese word, ‘tero’, shows that he tried to display his masculinity to his friends on social media. His comment also reflects an ambivalent feeling towards America; although the US is an opponent he would like to play against, he wants to learn the English language of America.
Like Kei, Hiro had a longing towards the English language, in particular American English. However, for him, the English language was not a language to be learned purely out of admiration, but rather a language that had to be mastered while behaving in a way that was not perceived as showing off. When asked how often he studied English in his school days, he answered as follows:

Hiro:        I’ve been listening to Western music, mainly American pop music, since I was in the third grade junior high school student.
 Author:    So you thought it was kind of nice?
 Hiro:        Ah, but listening to that kind of Western music was a little kishoi (embarrassing or uncool) in my opinion.
 Author:    Oh, I see.
 Hiro:        So I listened to about half Western music and half Japanese music. I didn’t want people to think I was getting cocky by listening to Western music.

In addition, when he described English speakers in Japan, he used the word ‘gaijin’, which has a derogatory tone, meaning ‘outsiders’. When the author asked about his impression of English speakers, he answered, ‘gaijin (foreign people) should speak Japanese if they come to Japan’ (1sti29january18hiro).
Hiro expressed several contradictions and a complex desire, beyond idolising the West, in particular America, to take an equal position to the West. Specifically, he wanted to get in touch with the English language or the English world by listening to Western music, but at the same time subordinated “native” English speakers or foreign people who—in his opinion—should speak Japanese in Japan by using the derogatory term ‘gaijin’.
These ambivalent feelings between the West and Japan seem to reflect the sentiments of the above-mentioned Power Rangers illustrated as masculine global jinzai: The language they should learn is the language spoken by those they fight against.

During and Post-sojourn Period

This section introduces how the interviewees interacted with their interlocutors in Australia.
All of the interviewees completed separate homestays. As the interviewees participated in the same SA programme, they attended the same university for English lessons but took different classes as per their English language skill level. Their classmates were primarily Japanese. Despite participating in the same SA programme, their attitudes towards their interlocutors were surprisingly different owing to their ways of thinking about the English language, their prior international experiences, and their thoughts on ideal English speakers.
Being Aware of the Asian Man: Kei’s Story
One of the noteworthy points from Kei’s experiences is that the SA programme induced a greater affinity to Asia. In the post-sojourn interview, he stated that ‘Asian students were easy to talk to’ (2ndi18april18kei). Kei dared to focus on the ethno-racial aspect of Asia, whereas, before his SA experience, he had not shown interest in the ethnic aspect of English speakers. In the early stage of his sojourn, Kei spent his time talking to, and hanging out with, his Japanese friends. Almost at the end of his SA experience, he met a Japanese male college student who was staying in Australia for one year. Kei was very much influenced by the Japanese man, whom he strongly wished to befriend. Because of this encounter, his desire to go abroad for work and study intensified.
He seemed even more conscious of his ethnic identity when thinking about romantic relationships than when it comes to establishing friendships. When the author asked him about the most shocking thing that happened to him during his SA programme, he mentioned the romantic relationship between Japanese and English speakers.

Kei:          What the most shocking was […] when we talked to my friends about a romantic relationship with foreign women. Like, we wish we could date foreign women. Cause we can improve our English dramatically. And foreign women are really beautiful. We said it’s best to have foreign girlfriends.
 Author:    (laughter)
 Kei:          But we felt Japanese men are clearly not considered as romantic targets by foreign women.
 Author:    Really? Why do you say that?
 Kei:          Sorry?
 Author:    Were you told that directly by someone?
 Kei:          No. It’s from our experiences. We all felt like that. We are not targeted at all. Japanese women seem to be popular.

He said that he had seen some Japanese women on a bus talking to white men, although he never saw Japanese men talking to white women. He mentioned the reasons why Japanese men are not attractive to foreign women because ‘Japanese men are short and skinny. And their faces look flatter compared to foreigners’ (2ndi18april18kei).
Considering the content of his narrative, the word ‘foreigners’ means non-East Asian. Presumably, his inferiority complex towards non-East Asians made him hesitant to interact with non-East Asian women in English. When the author asked him why he did not ask foreign women out on dates, he also listed his insufficient English skills.

Kei:          The biggest problem is that I am not confident with my English ability. If I am spoken to in English… If I can speak to a person in English, I would change my idea. But I need the courage to speak to a woman in English. Even if I talk to her, I can’t understand what she’s saying… Thinking about it, I said to my Japanese male friends, ‘No, we can’t talk to women, can we’?

Kei’s views imply that his ethnic/racial inferiority complex is inextricably linked to his English language confidence. In SA environments, out-of-classroom activities are usually inevitable. SA students need to eat, shop, commute to campus, go home, and sleep. Through such social activities, it is predictable that SA students may get involved in romantic affairs. According to Connell, masculinity is ‘a place in gender relations, the practices through which men and women engage that place in gender, and the effects of these practices in bodily experience, personality and culture’ (Connell, 2005 [1995], p. 71). In the romantic situation, his masculinity as a Japanese man, which seemed inferior to Western English-speaking men for him, came to the fore in his power dynamic with her in terms of ethnicity/race and language.
Oneself as One of a Diverse Group of English Speakers: Moving Away from Japaneseness and Masculinity: Hajime’s Story
Compared to Kei, Hajime had broader views on ideal English speakers, linguistically and ethnically/racially. During his sojourn, he participated in many activities, including volunteering work. There was only one host family member—his host mother from Australia. As she was always busy, he did not have much chance to speak with her. Instead, he made a close friend from Australia—a white, male college student named Danny. Because he was interested in Japanese culture and language, Hajime and Danny met at a Japanese club held on Hajime’s host campus. Hajime was confident in his friendship with Danny. Even after going back to Japan, they kept in touch, and they became friends to the point where Danny asked Hajime what colour he should dye his hair. Hajime also established a good friendship with a Korean international student, although it was not as close as his friendship with Danny. His experience indicated that he did not hesitate to communicate with others in English, no matter what their ethnic/racial background. Although, like Kei, Hajime also had an inferiority complex towards his own Asian ethnic identity in his pre-sojourn period, he was ambitious enough to take on any challenge during the sojourn period. For instance, he actively tried to speak to others on campus for his assignment. It is presumed that his successful experiences in communicating with many other English speakers in his pre-sojourn days inspired the success that he experienced during his Australian sojourn.

Hajime:       I approached students walking around campus. Both men and women. It took courage to do so (talking to others in English). They then responded in kind and I found that they could understand my English relatively well. From then on, I had little hesitation in speaking English.

Whilst Kei found it easier to talk to Asian people in English learning situations and lost confidence in his English in romantic situations due to his Asian physical appearance, Hajime took action by talking to Australian college students no matter what their ethnicity/race is.
When the author asked about the most shocking occurrence during his stay, Hajime said he had been the victim of pickpocketing in the city centre. However, he did not blame Australian security or the fact that he is Asian/Japanese—people who are stigmatised by the ethnic stereotype that they can be easily pickpocketed—saying that ‘it is a good lesson for my life’ (i28march18hajime). Rather than constraining one position as Japanese or Asian, he tried to understand people’s lives in Australia.
During his sojourn, he expanded his horizons outside the confines of ethnicity or having a static identity as a Japanese person caught between Asia and the West. This could be a way of avoiding the constraints and pressures of stereotypical masculinity, such as the need for men to lead conversations when conversing with English-speaking women which Kei thought about during his sojourn.
Japanese Masculinity Full of Fighting Spirit: Hiro’s Story
Hiro, who expressed a complex longing towards Western people and had a narrower view of ideal English speakers, had some initial trouble with various English speakers. His host mother was from India, and his English teacher was from Greece. The first trouble he had with his host mother pertained to laundry. One day, she complained due to how he asked about his laundry, although he intended to help her do the laundry. He did not like how she was complaining, and he promised himself that he would say what he wanted to say to her. He explained his feeling as follows.

Hiro:           I said to her, ‘sorry’. But I couldn’t understand why I had to say that.
 Author:       I see.
 Hiro:           I thought that way. And I thought she said what she wanted to say.
 Author:       How did you feel when you experienced it?
 Hiro:           Well, I thought I definitely had to speak my mind in this country. I thought I shouldn’t be defeated.

He had several fights with his host mother about dinner, sharing each other’s information, turning off the lights, and other nuisances. The conflicts may have been exacerbated by his host mother’s character. However, the salient point is that he tried to adopt a thinking style which revolved around a combative posture—’I shouldn’t be defeated’ (i5april18hiro)—when confronting difficulties, which is precisely shown in the hidden message of global jinzai Power Rangers: the existence of enemies. This is consistent with a combative posture in the discourse of global jinzai, such as battle, as Kato (2015) pointed out. His battles at schools also intensified at school as well. He got in trouble with an English teacher from Greece. His other English teacher was from Indonesia. He mentioned that the Indonesian teacher was really good, and subsequently, the Greek teacher became aloof. According to Hiro, although he was actively trying to participate in class, the Greek teacher treated him as though he was disrupting the class. She called him in after class to warn him about his attitude. He was not satisfied with her attitude or both teachers’ English pronunciations as English teachers.

Hiro:        Both teachers have a dialect.
 Author:    You mean, they speak Australian English?
 Hiro:        Well, Australian English, and they have the dialect of their languages. I think our English also has our dialect. But I thought English in Australia was really difficult to listen to. Specifically, the teachers’ English was hard to hear. They told us that they had completed a lot of exams and taken training to be English teachers. Despite that, their English is not very good at all.
 Author:      Oh, really? Like, pronunciation?
 Hiro:          Yes, pronunciation. They always told me to please pay attention to English pronunciation. But I thought, ‘No, no, no! You’re the one who should pay attention to your pronunciation’.

He judged his teachers’ English based on the notion that ideal English speakers should be those who speak standardised English from the inner circle. It is assumed that his ideal English speakers’ images impacted his attitudes and feelings towards his English teachers from non-English-speaking countries during his stay.
Although he had difficulty in constructing good relationships with his teachers and host mother, he kept trying to be friends with Western English speakers. Before going to Australia, he had stated that he wanted to go to a beach and be friends with ‘hip-hop boys’. He accomplished his goal and did indeed go to a beach to meet people, who were, in his words, ‘white American and French’ (i5april18hiro). Like Kei, Hiro was aware of romantic relationships with non-East Asian women. He recalled the day when he suddenly went up to a group of young American and French people drinking beer and frolicking on the beach.

Author:       What did you say to them?
 Hiro:           I said, ‘Hey!’. I had a beer in my hand. So, beer in hand, ‘Cheers!’. And I went to make a toast. For me, it’s easier to talk to groups of young women and men. It’s harder to talk to groups of women.
 Author:       Was it like picking up women?
 Hiro:           I couldn’t. Honestly, I really wanted to talk to a group of women only, but I couldn’t go and talk to a group of women because I was embarrassed by my body shape. Like my legs are short and my torso is long and saggy.

Although he was taller than the average Japanese man and appeared well-built, he felt inferior to the stereotypical physical characteristics of Western men. When asked why he could not talk to Western women, he answered as follows:

 Hiro:        If I had communication skills, I would go and talk to beautiful and cheerful women. I have talked about it to my friends. But it didn’t seem to happen. I went up to a cheerful group of women and men who were dancing to music because it seemed they would accept me.

Interestingly, and as in Kei’s case, Hiro’s narrative shows that his sense of inferiority intensified when trying to communicate with the opposite gender in an English-speaking environment.
Hiro’s narrative reflects highly-problematic and stereotypical views of a particular ethnicity/race. Like Kei, he mentioned his appearance, being Japanese or East Asian, based on the perception that Asian people are stereotyped negatively as asexual and feminine (Lu & Wong, 2013). Hiro and Kei’s image of the ideal male in an English-speaking environment was more strongly connected to physical characteristics and leadership when speaking in English with the opposite gender. Whilst daring to choose Westerners as conversation partners represented a desire to be equal to white masculinity, the inferiority of Japanese ethnic and racial physical characteristics made Hiro lose confidence in his masculinity. This prevented him from communicating with women via language.

Who would be Global Jinzai Power Rangers?

The discourse and image of a global jinzai in the Japanese governmental document brought to light the singular image of white-collar Japanese men as Power Rangers who are representative of Japanese masculinity in neoliberal society. It was premised on a masculinity that was maintained within Japanese groups that shared the same ethnic and racial aspects. This study also found, after examining the literature, that in English learning situations in Japan, an ambivalent struggle between Western and Asian consciousness is likely to develop, especially for men, in the context of a native-speakerism orientation.
Given this background, the analysis in the current work focused on the actual narratives of future elite Japanese male students in terms of how they perceived themselves, what they experienced, and how they negotiated their masculinity when they went abroad to learn the English language. As the interviewees in this study belonged to a leading Japanese university and all wanted to work abroad, they are precisely the ideal global jinzai as envisaged by the Japanese government. The results revealed that some of them retained a Japanese masculinity that overlaps with that of the global jinzai Rangers, whilst the other was not limited by his masculinity and tried to communicate in English.
Firstly, from the social perspective, in terms of what masculinities were evident in the interviewees’ narratives of their SA experience, all the interviewees wanted to work abroad and had the masculine idea that they wanted to be breadwinners. In contrast, another male figure was observed to have internalised, within his own desires, the social demand for men to spend time with the family, rather than just working globally, as was indicated in the definition of global jinzai. Spending time with his potential family weighed against working hard overseas and creating an international career. This contradicts the image of the global jinzai, who work hard overseas, and reflects the changing social role of Japanese men (Kawaguchi, 2014; Taga, 2018).
In addition, the interviewees’ views on ethnicity/race and English were highly gendered and influential in the process of learning English. It is assumed that, particularly for male students, English is not simply a subject to be studied in general, but that specific ideologies and societies influence their motivation to learn. For example, in the pre-sojourn period, Hiro wanted to listen to Western/English music, but was deterred from doing so by his concern regarding how he would be seen in the group, which is a collectivism that can be observed in male cultures (Ito, 2019). The collectivist mindset, in the pre-sojourn period, may contribute to the Japanese men’s anxieties about their own ethnic and racial identity—something which has not been reported in the research on Japanese women. Furthermore, interviewees’ anxieties in their pre-sojourn period regarding ethnic and racial identity were either intensified or weakened during their studies, particularly through their interactions with interlocutors of the opposite sex. For Kei, in terms of the struggle between the West and Asia, a sense of inferiority as an Asian fostered a sense of empathy and solidarity with his similar or same ethnic groups. For Hiro, the conflict with his English teachers and host mother became a battle against non-native English speakers. For Hiro and Kei, a sense of inferiority as Japanese men and the stereotype that men must take the lead in romantic situations made them feel uncomfortable communicating with opposite heterosexual interlocutors in English.
Hajime, conversely, did not need to intensify specific components, such as his ethnic/racial identity, to interact with others. He experienced continuous success in establishing relationships throughout his SA time. Hajime had sufficient experiences in communicating with others who were not limited to Westerners from the inner circle in the pre-sojourn period. From these results, it is presumed that previous international experiences and beliefs regarding ideal English speakers largely impacted the interviewees’ ways of thinking, their positions on their masculinity, and their attitudes towards their interlocutors. Specifically, the current study showed that, if these students’ ideal English speakers are not limited to English speakers linguistically and ethnically/racially, then their own identities are not constrained by static Japanese masculinity. This result implies the importance of ensuring that English education does not contribute to the development of an insular, masculine identity that is hostile to certain groups of people in a neoliberal and globalised society with a diverse range of English speakers. It is important to rethink the perception that English education in Japan and global jinzai discourse are built around ethnicity, race and Western/Asian ideologies. Pre- and post-sojourn educational support needs to be provided so that Japanese male students critically observe the discourse of global jinzai, do not develop an inferiority complex, and are not overwhelmed by various English speakers in neoliberal society.


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About the Author

Chika Kitano is a research fellow affiliated with the Ritsumeikan Global Innovation Research Organization (R-GIRO), based at Ritsumeikan University in Osaka, Japan. Email address: dekura23@fc.ritsumei.ac.jp

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