I'm often asked by people who have read my articles or my book, Deaf in Japan, if I could introduce them to people who are engaged in disability or deaf studies in Japan. Unfortunately, I cannot do this because introductions in Japan are considerably more fraught than in the United States:
An introduction in Japan has two dimensions:
- Guarantee: By introducing someone to one of my informants, I am serving as their guarantor and vouching for them. If there are any problems or difficulties, it then becomes my responsibility to resolve any social or financial damage that might be caused by them.
- Reciprocity: By introducing someone to one of my informants, I am asking my informant to do a favor on my behalf -- to take care of the visitor and to make sure that their needs are met. The assumption is that this favor will be reciprocated by me at a later date.
While I will do introductions for my students and people that I meet and know, I cannot vouch for or ask favors of my informants for people that I have not met and do not know. Instead, I will usually refer people to google or use the white pages and to cold call people (or more appropriately, to use their own letterhead in a formal letter of self-introduction).
This is definitely one of more stuffy and formalistic aspects of doing fieldwork in Japan.