Dr. Momo K. Shibuya

Exploring Communication strategies for Intergroup Conflicts, from Immigrants’ Acculturation Process to International Political Dispute – How can we make things better and escape from conflict situations?

Once boundaries between groups are drawn and perceived, it itself provides an enough environment where conflicts occur. In other words, we humans cannot stay far away from facing conflicts – no matter how good and nice you are. Within the framework given by communication studies, I study how to manage inter-group conflict situations arising from seemingly irreconcilable differences in their values and cultures.

Domestic Conflicts: Immigrants’ Acculturation Process

It is often the case that people’s ignorance about and prejudice or discrimination against immigrants and ethnic minorities will lead to ethnic conflicts, and to violence. However, it is also true that we manage to make an inclusive society by changing behaviour or attitudes towards other groups each other through a series of ‘negotiations’ conducted in the course of daily life. My contribution to the conflict studies would be to explore and gather information from field work and document analysis to enhance insight.

International Conflicts: Communication through Media

Compared with the case of immigrants’ acculturation, international conflicts have fewer opportunities for direct contact, and communication behaviours there tend to be more politically controlled. Countries may intentionally choose to maintain a conflict. Even in such a case, it is critical for them to understand their internal and external information strategy to create a desirable situation for themselves. My study, therefore, focuses on media discourse analysis within the development of conflict situations.


Research process

Catalyst for Thought

Growing up in a multicultural community, ethnic relations has been always a centre of my interest, but not in an academic sense. My encounter with media and communication studies at the university, however, became a springboard for a serious study on the issue. Since then, I have studied about the impact of mass media in shaping ethnic relations.

Interethnic Conflicts (Acculturation Process)

Question Mark
How are the adaptation strategies of minority groups selected? Do they decide in the relationship with the majority group?

Research Approach
To see whether an ethnic group takes the same acculturation strategy in different countries seemed to be a good approach for the research question.

Selected study population and method, and conducted


International Conflicts (Whaling Issue b/w Japan and Australia)

Question Mark
Why does the gap between Japan and Australia remain on whaling issue?

Preliminary Research
Noticed that there seemed to be a perception gap between two countries.

Research Question & Approach
Conducted a comparative research of media contents, where people can get information to shape the framework of the issue and images of the other.

> Analysing and Sociologising Research Data

> Identifying Further Questions and Problems

> Shifting towards a New Phase of the Research


1. Adaptation Strategy of Overseas Japanese

When I was a postgraduate student, I had a chance to experience and look into two overseas Japanese communities. These were uniquely localised in their own way, while some similarity as Japanese community were also observed. This fact inspired me and I decided to write about it in my PhD thesis. Once field studies were done, I understood that the attitude of the Japanese communities towards their host countries was related to the degree, scope, and method of their localisation. In order to support this findings, I then collected empirical data, not only by general survey method, such as questionnaires and interviews, but also content analysis of ethnic media. The field study findings were supported by empirical study, and my PhD study could confirm the relevance of group acculturation strategy to shared image of host country and/or perceived ethnic relation among the group.


*Overseas Japanese communities are often ‘invisible’, but they are loosely formed through ethnic media or similar. The content of ethnic media varies depending on community members and host society, which allows us to grasp what is going on in the community.



*Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations and Uno’s Transcultural Refraction provide a theoretical framework I use in my research. The core part of the research is collecting ‘evidence’ of localization in imported cultural elements. Localisation is a result of ‘negotiation’ in a society, and I observe what parts of cultures has been changed/unchanged in what way, and to what degree. For instance, localised sushi has become popular fast-food among Sydneysiders – the society changed sushi and sushi changed the society.

2. Nikkei Identity

My research on overseas Japanese communities then brought me to interest in the Nikkei (Japanese-Americans) communities, as a form of highly localised ethnic. From my field studies of Nikkei communities in North America, I have learned that the war experience gave a significant impact on the communities to change what they used to be, as well as that new generations have induced further changes for now. Japanese ethnicity was used to be negatively perceived, though young generations have been re-defining being Nikkei, and trying to create a new image and meaning of Nikkei identity. What is interesting is that there are common characteristics in efforts Nikkei communities in different areas make to revitalise their ethnic culture. Fieldworks in Los Angeles, Hawaii, and Vancouver revealed some similarities in the way of using cultural elements for identity formation, maintenance, and revitalisation. Nikkei communities are now in the new stage of ‘negotiation’ in their acculturation strategy, accepting ethnicity and communicating with the society at large: establishing Nikkei museums and organising cultural events are facilitating the communication and ‘negotiation’.


*Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, indeed represents fusion of Japanese culture and American culture. The area has been redeveloped as an ethnic district. (Photo left: the corner refurbished with ethnic taste; right: ‘koban’ information centre)



*A wall painting in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles
Little Tokyo in Los Angeles is the ‘home sweet home’ of our hearts – This reflects a special feeling of the Nikkei community members for being ethnic Japanese and being Americans.



*The Powell Street Festival started in 1977 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Japanese immigration. The festival is held on and around Powell Street in Vancouver, which was known as Japan Town in pre-war period. It showcases a wide range of Japanese culture, from a mikoshi sacred palanquin, to Iaido, street food, or other Japanese goods sold at stalls. Japanese drums are one of the important culture for Nikkei identity, and the performances are quite popular. (Photo left: Chibi-Taiko; right: LOUD).



*The 442nd Regimental Combat Team Memorial, Los Angeles. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team composed of Nisei Japanese Americans during World War II, and achieved remarkable combat records with their motto ‘GO FOR BROKE’. Although their sacrifices were huge, they successfully prevailed over racial discrimination in the United States. The Regimental Combat Team is a significant part of history for Japanese American identity.

3. International conflict and mass media

Some years in Australia made me feel how the information provided by media would affect one’s worldview. Although it has not resulted in bloody violence, the conflict between Japan and Australia over whaling issue does not seem to be heading towards a better settlement, when seen from the dispute in the International Whaling Commission or the International Court of Justice. Actions Australian government has taken are considered to come from its political judgement supported by public opinion, and the source of public opinion is mainly media information. In fact, I began to somewhat understand Australian version of argument as I had seen continuously exposed to Australian media, and got confused by Japan’s claim instead. I therefore analysed the newspaper articles in collaboration with an Australian researcher to clarify how the media message in the two countries frame public opinion (see figures). The results show significant differences between Japan and Australia in terms of the quality and quantity of information. I am still working on this research project to explain the mechanism how framing effect actually affects public opinion, puts pressure on political decisions, and influences the government policies.


Structure of Australian newspaper articles
Structure of Japanese newspaper articles
*Newspaper articles can be analysed through the structure – what aspects of the issue are emphasised, how the issue is explained, or whether the issue is linked with other issues – by using text mining method. These two graphs show the result of analysis of newspaper articles on whaling issue in Japan and Australia. We can see differences in how articles are structured.



Momo K. Shibuya

(BA, MA, TWCU, PhD Macquarie)

Associate Professor, Faculty of Economics

A Tokyo-born Japanese.
She obtained BA and MA degrees in Communication Studies from College of Culture and Communication, Tokyo Women’s Christian University, Japan. Then she moved to Australia and received her PhD degree in International Communication from Macquarie University in 2004, under the supervision of Prof. Naren Chitty.
After moving back to Japan, she worked for Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) Special Program Center and Benesse Corporation Educational R&D Center. She joined Saitama University in 2007.

Interethnic Attitude that Matters: The Structure of Japanese Ethnic Distance in the Global Context (2010, LAP)