Migration and Shukatsu: Japanese individual strategies in the third age and beyond

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Sutpratana Duangkaew
Kanokwan Tangchitnusorn


Globalization has made it easier for retirees to select their desired place to live. International retirement migration (IRM) has become an exclusive activity of retirees from the First World countries. Many of them ventured to spend their retirement years or even the rest of their lives in less developed or developing destinations overseas. Though the idea of Shukatsu or the preparation for the end of life of an individual is nothing new in Japan, the term was just covered in the media recently and garnered attention both domestically and internationally. This article aimed to address two later-life strategies employed by Japanese retirees in response to Japan's super-aged population structure, including IRM and Shukatsu. The practices of Shukatsu (e.g., self-management of one’s last will and funeral arrangements) stemmed from the idea of Japanese people not wanting to become a burden to others, even after they have departed from life. On the other hand, IRM is a long-term or permanent move involving searching for a better way of life at a new destination abroad during the third age and beyond. Like Shukatsu, IRM is a popular alternative among younger old persons to financially, physically, and emotionally sustain their independence. Many Japanese retirees and senior citizens of Western countries chose to retire in Southeast Asia, especially in Thailand and Malaysia. Due to unclear timing requirements for the Japanese people retiring abroad, IRM could be considered a pre-episode of Shukatsu before returning to Japan or a part of Shukatsu for those who intended to spend the rest of their life at the destination abroad. The authors reviewed the literature on IRM and Shukatsu regarding Japanese retirees in light of the nexus of these two strategies and policy implications in both sending and receiving countries. Suggestions for further research were also discussed.


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