All Japanese children and youth who have lived abroad in connection to their parents' job transfers, are, upon their return to Japan, categorised as kikokushijo (returnee children).
The Japanese educational system is rigid, with much focus on entrance examinations to universities and other educational institutions, and for a person who has been socialised into a non-Japanese society and school system it is difficult to adjust to a Japanese classroom situation. Also, because an entrance examination candidate is expected to be able to reproduce memorised facts, a person who has studied a similar curriculum, but with a different focus, will be at disadvantage in the competition for entrance to an educational institution.
Beginning in the1960's, the kikokushijo's situation has gradually become a topic of discussion in Japanese educational and political circles, and they can now take special adapted entrance exams to most educational institutions, and many schools have specially designed programmes to make the kikokushijo's adjustment to Japan easier.
Accompanying the category 'kikokushijo' there are certain notions concerning what a person belonging to the category should be like. A kikokushijo is, among other things, perceived as someone who is fluent in English, not afraid of saying his or her opinion, and has certain problems with the Japanese language and customs. These expectations are almost ubiquitous, both in school and in society in general, therefore the kikokushijo cannot avoid being confronted with and relating to them. The kikokushijo thus create their self-images in relation to the image of kikokushijo that they meet in dialogues with others.
The category kikokushijo is first and foremost important within the school system. I therefore look at the Japanese school system and three special schools for kikokushijo in Part I of this thesis. The special schools are balancing between being 'international' alternatives to mainstream Japanese education, and integrated parts of the Japanese educational system.
In Part II I present individual kikokushijo and examine similarities and differences in their experiences. Further, I look more closely at the image of the typical kikokushijo as it is represented in media, and show that the kikokushijo's own images of 'typical kikokushijo' strongly correlate with this. Because many of the persons categorised as kikokushijo do not have the skills or problems which they, according to the popular image, are expected to have, they have problems identifying with that image. Some feel that they do not 'qualify' as kikokushijo, because they cannot live up to others' expectations concerning for instance English knowledge.