How women conceptualise their cultural identities, gender perceptions, and their presentations of self in the wider world in the context of globalisation and internationalisation, is significant and is the focus of this thesis. This study of 17 Japanese women enrolled in postgraduate programs in three Australian universities presents the women's lived cross-cultural experiences and their interpretations of how overseas higher education influenced the recrafting of both their identity and their Japanese femininity. This study is based on a sociological 'multiple-case approach' using the process of ‘reflective conversations'. Conversational semi-structured individual interviews were combined with focus groups and personal reflective journaling to explore the meaning and context of the participants' narratives.
By linking globalisation, higher education, and the transformation of Japanese women's femininity and identity, this thesis investigated: i) women's subjective understandings of Japanese cultural and gender identity and its relation to their motivations to study in Australia; ii) the personal and professional influences of their cross-cultural and educational experiences; iii) their transforming gender perceptions; and iv) their perceptions of their recrafted selves. A feminist, postmodern position on identity and concepts of self is taken, arguing that the self is socially, culturally and historically (re)constructed, unfixed and multi-dimensional.
The women's narratives illustrate how they creatively manoeuvre and make choices to craft a new self that accommodates both the local and the global in their lives. The analysis of the women's narratives reflects new and distinctive features of an emerging Japanese cosmopolitan woman. The women see the world as a place for experimentation where they can develop their multi-dimensional identities through their own creative adaptation of self. This ultimately leads them to create for themselves alternative images of the ideal Japanese women. The women's sense of femininity and Japaneseness are no longer seen as pre-determined and immutable, but malleable and open to choice. Such women's intentional unfixity of self highlights the discursive, and hence political, phenomenon of the women experimenting with an expanding sense of self by moving from an externally defined identity constructed in Japanese society, to a self-crafted hybridised identity. I argue that this emergent identity has the potential to provide new directions and new maps for understanding and managing women's transforming selves that go beyond those static images of Japanese women which have historically dominated research as well as Japanese women's lived experiences of normative femininity.