Megha Wadhwa

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Free University of Berlin

Indian Professionals in Japan and Singapore: Migration Trends, Labor Integration and Challenges

In recent years, new graduates and working professionals in India have started to consider Japan as an option for migration. Yet building a life and career and growing professionally in the country have long been considered major challenges for migrants moving to Japan. This project investigates the experiences of skilled Indian migrants working in different companies and professions in Japan. In addition, it examines the hiring process through interviews with agency staff in Japan and India who are involved in supporting the new graduates and Indian professionals as they move to Japan. After a decade-long period of ethnographic research on the identity of the Indian Diaspora in Tokyo and its vicinity, Dr. Wadhwa dives deeper into the structural changes and (in)stability in the migration trends of Indians to Japan. To what extent does their ‘fairytale’ image of Japan match the reality, leading to a happy migratory experience? Or does it turn out to be closer to a ‘nightmare,’ leaving them questioning their choice of migration destination?
This project will be conducted over a period of four years and will use visual ethnographic methods involving life-history interviewing with Indian migrants, and the agencies and the fieldwork will be conducted in Tokyo and its vicinity, and in India, where the regions covered will be Delhi, Gurgaon, Chennai, Pune and Bangalore.
As a side-project, Dr. Wadhwa will also do research amongst the Indian professionals in Singapore and Berlin, following the same methodology as for her Japan-based project. Through this side-project she aims to examine similarities and differences between the experiences of the Indian migrants to different host destinations, which will help in understanding the traits of Indian migrants and also contribute to comprehending the concept of skilled migration to Japan from a comparative perspective.
Dr. Megha Wadhwa is a migration researcher and Japanese and South Asian Studies scholar. She is a Research Associate at Free University of Berlin, and a visiting scholar at Sophia University, Tokyo, which is also her alma mater. Her research passion lies in understanding the similarities and differences in the migration trends of Indians in Japan, Germany and other places around the globe. Her research focuses on identity, ethnicity, race, social class, women, and skills in migration. She is originally from New Delhi and was a resident of Tokyo for about 15 years before she moved to Berlin in 2021. She is the author of the book ‘Indian Migrants in Tokyo: A Socio-Cultural, Religious and Working Worlds’ (Routledge:2021). She is also trained in fieldwork filming, and her recent documentaries are ‘Daughters from Afghanistan’ (2019) and the 7-minute documentary ‘Indian cooks in Japan.’ (2020)
Indian Migrants in Tokyo: A Study of Socio-Cultural, Religious and Working Worlds, Oxan and New York:Routledge (Published: 30 October 2020). Reviewed by The Japan Times, Nikkei Asia., Social Science Japan Journal, International Institute of Asian Studies Reviews
In the age of COVID-19 – Indian restaurants and the Indian cooks in Japan, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Japan Focus.
Opportunities and Challenges in a Foreign Land: A Study of Indian Resident Community in Tokyo and its Vicinity, Occasional Papers(Monograph Series), Institute of Asian Cultures, Sophia University.
Binding Indians Abroad: Religious Participation of Indian Migrants in Tokyo, The Journal of Sophia Asian Studies No. 34, 113-134.
The Plight of Women in India, The Journal of Sophia Asian Studies No. 29, Sophia University, 85-92.
Discriminatory re-entry ban scars Indian migrant’ love for Japan, Medium, June 28.

‘Immigrant Japan’ : An expansive account of the migrant experience, a book review, The Japan Times, March 20.


Keerthana Mariappan: ‘People recognize the potential of India as an economic and cultural partner’, The Japan Times, September 13.

Cyril Veliath: ‘As Indians, we have plenty to be proud of’, The Japan Times, August 23.

Re-entry ban horror stories pile up in Japan’s Indian community, The Japan Times, August 10.

Pandemic leaves Indian cooks in Japan dependent on bosses and the state, The Japan Times, June 21.

Yogendra ‘Yogi’ Puranik – The first Indian voice in Tokyo politics, Published in The Japan Times, February 6.

An Indian take on Japanese film, Published in The Japan Times March 18.


Indian women in Japan struggle to find their niche, The Japan Times, October 28.

Chandru G. Advani, 1924-2018: ‘Uncle’ to Japan’s Indian community, The Japan Times, March 21.


Surviving sexual assault in Japan, then victimized again, The Japan Times, September 28. (co-authored with Ben Stubbings).


How Modi-Abe bonhomie is giving a boost to India-Japan ties, The Mail Today, India, August 26.

Sikhs hope temple in Tokyo sets the stage for tolerance and understanding, The Japan Times, August 25.


Indians in Japan: A love story beset with challenges, The Japan Times, June 17.


Academic Conferences/Workshops/ Talks


‘A love story beset with Challenges – Indian Migrants in Japan’, Book Discussion, Institute of Asian, African and Middle Eastern Studies, Sophia University, January 9.

Book Discussion – ‘Indian Migrants in Tokyo’, Institute of Comparative Culture, Sophia University, November 28.,

‘Amidst COVID-19 – Struggles of Indian cooks and Indian Restaurant owners in Tokyo’, A talk at ICU PRI, Peace and COVID-19 Series, International Christian University, December 11.

‘Good, Bad or Worst? Reproductive Health Challenges for Indian Migrant Women in Japan’, Sophia Open Research Week, November 7.

Special Lecture Series: Vulnerable Populations in Japan under Covid-19, Discussion on ‘In the age of COVID-19 – Indian restaurants and the Indian cooks in Japan’, October 28.


‘A part, yet apart: The story of Indian migrant cooks in Japan’, ICAS 11, Leiden, Netherlands, July 15-19.


‘Tales of Business Entrepreneurs and Professionals: Exploring the Working Experiences of Indian Immigrants in Japan’, The Global Conference on Indian Diaspora, The Hague, October 5-7.


‘Challenges of Making Home Away From Home: Life of Indian Migrants in Tokyo’, Workshops of Graduate School of Global Studies, Sophia University, Tokyo, Japan, December 19.

‘Lives, Fears, Relations and Expectations – A Study of Indian Resident Community in Tokyo, Japan’, International Academic Conference on Social Science, Hong Kong, December 16-18.

‘Being Indian, Becoming Japanese: Reflecting on the Shifting Identities and Challenges Faced by the Indian Migrants in Tokyo, Japan’, Indian Food Kaken ‘Food and Identity’, (近現代インドにおける食文化とアイデンティティに関する複合的研究), November 15.

‘Redefining Indian Traditions & Creating New Spaces – Migrant Women of Indian Origin in Tokyo, Japan’, The 28th Annual Conference of Japanese Association for South Asian Studies (JASAS), Tokyo, Japan, September 26-27.

‘Opportunities and Challenges in a Foreign Land: A Study of the Indian Resident Community in Tokyo’, The International Convention of Asian Scholars, ICAS9, Adelaide, Australia, July 5-9.

‘Redefining Traditions and Creating New Spaces –Migrant Women of Indian Origin in Tokyo, Japan’, 5th Asia and Pacific Studies Congress, Paris, France, September 9-11.


‘The Indian Community in Japan: A focus on the Lives, Fears, Problems, Relations, and Expectations of Indians in Tokyo’, The 27th Annual Conference of Japanese Association for South Asian Studies (JASAS), Tokyo, Japan, September 27-28.




TINDAS International Workshop: Religion, Nation, and State in Modern India, Tokyo, Japan,March 27.


‘Commodities in Motion: Objects in (Trans)local Connections in Asia’. Association of Asian Studies (AAS in Asia), New Delhi, India, July 5-7. (Chair and Commentator for the Panel).


Workshops Organized

‘Migrant Stories of Indian Cooks and Afghani Women in Japan’. Workshop at Sophia University. Presentation paper title, ‘Labor laws vs the reality: Reflecting on the narratives of Indian cooks and Indian restaurant owners in Japan’ and Documentary Screening – ‘Daughters from Afghanistan’ by Megha Wadhwa in collaboration with Masako Tanaka and David H. Slater, 15 November, 2019.(


‘Uprooting, Redefining, Resettling: A Graduate Student Workshop on Women Migrant Lives in Japan.Presentation paper title, ‘Striking a Balance in Negotiating Identities – Indian Migrant Women Creating New Spaces in Tokyo, Japan’, Workshops of Graduate School of Global Studies, Sophia University, 16 January, 2016.(


Guest Lectures


‘Fieldwork Experiences – Ethnographic Research on Indian Migrants in Tokyo’, Ph.D Seminar in Ethnographic Writing, Department of Social Anthropology, Tokyo Metropolitan University, May 14.

‘Life Stories of Indian Migrants in Tokyo: Fairy Tales and Nightmares’, Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies, Oxford School of Global and Area Studies, May 7.

‘Indian Cooks in Japan at the mercy of their bosses and the state?’ – Impacts of COVID-19, GEAS Digital Lecture Series: East Asian Responses to Crisis, April 29.


‘Indian migrants in Tokyo’, Ryukoku University (龍谷大学国際学部), October 27.

『インドと日本の間の異文化体験』, Nanzan University, October 16.


‘Finding their Niche in Japan– Inspiring Stories of Indian Migrant Women’, 2019年度 第一回FINDAS若手研究者セミナー「南アジアの宗教コミュニティと生活世界―ジェンダーの観点から」October 26.


‘Indian Community in Japan’, Toyo University. (Invited by Prof. Sumiko Yamamoto).

‘National Cuisine of India?’, Sophia University. (Invited by Prof. Takefumi Terada)


‘Identifying India: Social Stratification, Education, Religion, Women’, Faculty of Global Studies, Sophia University (Invited by Prof. Masako Tanaka).

‘Indian Community in Japan’, Seisen University.  (Invited by Prof. Takefumi Terada)


‘Women in India – Life and Traditions’, Sophia University. (Invited by Prof. Cyril Veliath)


Contributions and Acknowledgements

Published photographs in インドを知る事典 Encyclopedia of India (2016)  by Yamashita Hiroshi and Okamitsu Nobuko

Subtitled an academic  documentary ‘A Kali Temple Inside Out’ (2018) by Dipesh Kharel


Teaching Experience 

2020 -2021 Center for Language Education and Research, Sophia University, Tokyo (Lecturer)

2016 – 2021  Global Studies in English, Kyoritsu Women University, Tokyo (Lecturer)

2017 – 2018  Japan College of Social Work, Tokyo (Lecturer)



Daughters from Afghanistan (2019)

A 7 minute documentary – Indian cooks in Japan (2020)

Finding their niche: Unheard stories of migrant women (2022)