I examine the art labour of three Japanese women butoh artists living and working internationally. They are foreign at home and abroad: when these artists return to Japan, they are erased from the current arts scene or they are cast as outsiders in a separate category from ‘Japanese artists’; they are also compelled to keep their butoh designation in foreign places because it lends an exotic, economically viable Japanese-ness to their art labour. The artists complicate any simple outsider/resident status or national/cultural representation. They also take on an in-transit-ness, in which they are always on the move and always ‘at work’. I argue that their art-labour-under-duress amplifies their physical intensity, arising from interrelated pressures such as economic conditions and relationships with butoh and Japanese art labour practices. This art labour intensity sustains creativity and initiates a ‘stranger community’ that is a vital part of their radical art labour and survival.