Commonplace and out-of-place diversities in London and Tokyo: migrant-run eateries as intercultural third places

Susanne Wessendorf, James Farrer

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    3 Citations (Scopus)
    100 Downloads (Pure)


    In global cities such as London and Tokyo, there are neighbourhoods where ethnic, religious, cultural and other forms of diversity associated with migration are commonplace and others where migrants are regarded as unusual or even out-of-place. In both types of contexts, migrant-run eateries are spaces in which people of various backgrounds interact. In some contexts, eateries may serve as ‘third places’ in which regular forms of intercultural conviviality occur, yet in others, interactions are civil but fleeting. This comparative paper is based on findings from two ethnographic neighbourhood studies in West Tokyo and East London. The Tokyo neighbourhood of Nishi-Ogikubo is one of emerging diversity, in which migrant entrepreneurship is rather new and uncommon, whereas East London has seen immigration for decades and migrant-run businesses are so common as to be taken-for-granted. In Tokyo the Japanese norms of ‘drinking communication’ in small eating and drinking spots inevitably involve migrant proprietors and their customers more deeply in social interactions. In East London, in contrast, intercultural interactions are much more commonplace in public and semi-public spaces, but in the case of migrant-run eateries, they are characterized by somewhat superficial encounters. This paper contributes to scholarship on the role of third places for intercultural relations, highlighting the importance of established cultural norms of interaction in specific third places. By comparing two vastly different contexts regarding the extent of immigration-related diversity, it demonstrates how encounters between residents of different backgrounds are deeply embedded in cultural norms of interaction in these places, and how migrant entrepreneurs in each context adapt to these established norms.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number28
    JournalComparative Migration Studies
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    The workshop where this paper was first presented was funded by NODE New and Old Diversity Exchange, UK – Japan.

    Funding Information:
    The research in London was funded by the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, and the International Inequalities Institute, London School of Economics. The research in Tokyo was funded by Sophia University Research Institute and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (kaken).

    Funding Information:
    We would like to thank Jenny Phillimore and Gracia Liu-Farrer for the organisation of the workshop on old and new migration, Tokyo, December 2019. We would also like to thank Nando Sigona, Jenny Phillimore and two anonymous reviewers for comments on earlier versions of the paper.

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2021, The Author(s).


    ESRC Collaboration Grant: ES/S013245/1


    • Contact zones
    • Ethnic businesses
    • Intercultural relations
    • London
    • Third places
    • Tokyo

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Demography
    • Geography, Planning and Development
    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty
    • Law


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