Japanese community of Mexico City

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Japanese artist Fumiko Nakashima with two of her works at the Garros Galería in Mexico City

Mexico City has a community of Japanese Mexican people and Japanese expatriates that is dispersed throughout the city. Many Japanese persons had moved to Mexico City in the 1940s due to wartime demands made by the Mexican government. Multiple Japanese-Mexican associations, the Japanese embassy, the Liceo Mexicano Japonés, and other educational institutions serve the community.


In 1941 there were 602 Japanese nationals living in Mexico City. That year, the Japanese began forcing Japanese from a zone in northern Mexico near the U.S. border and along the Pacific Ocean to move out.[1] They were permitted to move to Guadalajara or Mexico City, so the Mexican government could more easily control them and engage in surveillance. The Mexican government required all Japanese immigrants to move to either Guadalajara or Mexico City after it declared war against Japan in 1942. Most Japanese moved to Mexico City instead of Guadalajara because there was a pre-existing Japanese community. Japanese were allowed to have any type of employment and the government allowed the establishment of a Japanese-language school in Mexico City.[2]

Officially the Japanese were allowed to leave Guadalajara and Mexico City in 1945 but many had left earlier than that to go to their prewar communities.[3] Daniel M. Masterson, author of The Japanese in Latin America, wrote that many of the Issei stayed after the war ended because they became used to contact with the Japanese community and that many Issei were too old to restart their lives on the former seized lands.[4] Masterson wrote that many Nisei stayed because Mexico City had schools catering to Japanese people which reinforced Japanese culture in Sansei and younger Nisei.[5]


Since the post-World War II era there has been no specific "Japantown" in Mexico City.[5] Japanese people live in many places in the Mexico City area.[6]


Asociación México Japonesa[edit]

The Asociación México Japonesa A.C. ("Mexican Japanese Association"), called the Nichiboku Kyōkai (日墨協会) in Japanese, hosts Japanese diplomats and dignitaries, organizes cultural and sporting events, and promotes positive international relations between the governments of Japan and Mexico. The events organized by the association include baseball games and sumo matches. It assisted the Embassy of Japan in Mexico in gathering census information on the Mexican Japanese population.[5]

It was formed by the 1961 merger of a Japanese association for Japanese who had moved to Mexico City in World War II and one for Japanese who had already lived in Mexico City during World War II. As of 1983, there were over 500 Japanese families on its membership roster.[7]

The Asociación México Japonesa owns a cultural center, the Nichiboku Bunka Kaikan (日墨文化会館 "Mexican Japanese Cultural Center"),[5] located on land with 4.5 acres (1.8 ha) of space,[8] within the Las Águilas colonia of the Álvaro Obregón borough.[9] The building has three stories and houses a 500 person banquet hall, meeting rooms, a Japanese restaurant, and offices.[10] The premises also include athletic facilities and playgrounds for children.[5] The parking lot has space for 150 vehicles.[8] The athletic facilities include baseball, soccer, tennis, and volleyball facilities. After Mexican government released assets that it had seized from Japan during World War II, the Japanese government donated the funds to have the cultural center built. Daniel M. Masterson, author of The Japanese in Latin America, wrote that the cultural center serves as a "home away from home" for elderly Issei living in Mexico.[5]

A board with 42 members and 13 committees and an elected president control the association. As of 1983, the association's main source of operational funds was profits of the on-site restaurant, which made $20,000 U.S. ($47357.17 according to inflation) monthly as of that year.[11]

Diplomatic missions[edit]

Embassy of Japan in Mexico

The Japanese government operates an embassy in Mexico City.

Voluntary associations[edit]

As of 1983 there were several voluntary associations for the Issei, Nisei, and Sansei. Chizuko Watanabe Hougen (千鶴子 ホーゲン・渡邊 [12][13]), the author of the master's thesis "The Japanese Immigrant Community in Mexico Its History and Present" at the California State University, Los Angeles, stated that the Sansei "are more active in getting together" while using one blanket organization while the Issei have more associations.[14]

The kenjin-kai (県人会 "prefectural associations") had memberships depending on the prefectures of origin. The meishin-kai (明申会 "Year of the Monkey Club") was founded by people born in 1908, which according to the Chinese zodiac is the year of the Monkey, and by 1983 anyone born in the Meiji era was eligible to join.[15] The Bokuto Sogo Fujo-kai ("Association for Mutual Aid") opened in 1949 and by 1983 had about 76 members.[16] The Nisei-kai (二世会) is the Nisei association.[17] The Nisei also operate a mutual financing club known as the Nisei Mujin-kai (二世無尽会 "Mutual Loan Club"). The Grupo Sansei ("Sansei Group") is the Sansei association,[18] known by its Spanish name instead of by a Japanese name.[19]

The Kokusui Doshi-kai ("Ultra-Nationalist Comrades Association") was established by Japanese who celebrated a Japanese victory in World War II and did not accept Japan's loss in the war, and originally had 352 members.[20] By 1983, the organization consisted of three surviving original members and some Nisei. Watanabe stated that by 1983 the community had "almost[...]forgotten" the existence of that association.[17]

Hobby groups[edit]

As of 1983 there were several Nikkei hobby groups serving the Nikkei.[21] Buddhist branches have churches in Mexico. The Azteca League organizes baseball games with Nikkei players. Activities by groups include tea ceremony, Haiku, dance, shigin, and golf tournaments.[22]


The Liceo Mexicano Japonés ("Japanese Mexican Lyceum") is located in the Pedregal neighborhood of the Álvaro Obregón borough in southern Mexico City.[23][24][25] Over one decade of organizational activity occurred before the school's opening.[5] The merger process forming the school began in 1974, and the school opened in September 1977.[26]

Prior to the formation of the LMJ there was a preparatory school for Japanese and five schools operated by Mexican Nikkei. As part of the merger, the preparatory school,[26] and three of Mexico City's four part-time Japanese schools were combined.[27]

Chuo Gakuen, A.C. was founded in 1944.[28] The LMJ did not absorb Chuo Gakuen, which as of 1983 had 70 students and gave after-school lessons to students attending Mexican schools.[29] It is located in the Cuauhtémoc district.[30]

Instituto Cultural Mexicano-Japonés A.C. (ICMJ), operated by the Nisei-kai, provides courses in the Japanese language and culture to adults.[31] It is located in Coyoacán.[32]

Notable residents[edit]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Kashima, p. 95.
  2. ^ Kashima, p. 96.
  3. ^ Kashima, p. 97.
  4. ^ Masterson, p. 213-214.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Masterson, p. 214.
  6. ^ Masterson, p. 266.
  7. ^ Watanabe, p. 147.
  8. ^ a b Watanabe, p. 148.
  9. ^ "CONTÁCTENOS" (Archive) Asociación México Japonesa. Retrieved on January 24, 2014. "Dirección: Calle Fujiyama No. 144, Col. Las Águilas C.P. 01710 México, D.F. " Map (Archive)
  10. ^ Watanabe, p. 148-149.
  11. ^ Watanabe, p. 149.
  12. ^ Obituaries, The Oregonian February 4, 2005.
  13. ^ グランマと私―アメリカで認知症老人と暮らす Amazon.com. Retrieved on July 18, 2014.
  14. ^ Watanabe, p. 154.
  15. ^ Watanabe, p. 155.
  16. ^ Watanabe, p. 156.
  17. ^ a b Watanabe, p. 157.
  18. ^ Watanabe, p. 158.
  19. ^ Masterson, p. 215.
  20. ^ Watanabe, p. 157-158.
  21. ^ Watanabe, p. 159.
  22. ^ Watanabe, p. 160.
  23. ^ "At the Liceo: Where Two Cultures Meet." Mexico Journal (Information). Demos, Desarrollo de Medios S.A. de C.V., 1989. p. 22. "In southernmost Mexico City, nestled within the upscale neighborhood of the Jardines del Pedre- gal, is the private campus of the exclusive Liceo Mexicano Japones. In Japan, it is believed to be the best school in Mexico because Mexico because President Salinas' two sons and daughter attend classes there. Headmaster Arturo Zentella prefers to refrain from making such a boast, but he does admit that "it is a school that[...]"
  24. ^ "Inicio." Liceo Mexicano Japonés. Retrieved on January 21, 2014. "Camino a Santa Teresa No.1500, Col. Jardines del Pedregal C.P. 01900 México D.F."
  26. ^ a b Kikumura-Yano, Akemi. Encyclopedia of Japanese descendants in the Americas: an illustrated history of the Nikkei. AltaMira Press, 2002. ISBN 0759101493, 9780759101494. p. 218 (View #2). "Beginning in 1974, the Japanese Mexican School (Liceo Mexicano Japones, A.C.) merged five Nikkei-run schools and a preparatory school for the children of temporary residents and thereby became the first transnational educational venture of its first kind in the history of any Nikkei community. Accredited by the governments of Mexico and Japan, the school formally opened its doors in September 1977, offering regular classes, based on a Mexican curriculum, taught in Spanish for[...]"
  27. ^ Watanabe, p. 149-150. "It originated in 1977 by absorbing three out of four existing part-time Japanese schools."
  28. ^ "Principal." Chuo Gakuen. Retrieved on May 25, 2014.
  29. ^ Watanabe, p. 165 (footnote No. 17): "One part-time school, Chuo Gakuin, was not absorbed and is still giving Japanese lessons to about seventy school children after their Mexican schools are dismissed."
  30. ^ "Contacto." Chuo Gakuen. Retrieved on May 25, 2014. "Dirección 5 de Febrero No. 426 Col. Algarín, casi esq. eje 3 Sur (a 5 minutos del Metro Chabacano Linea 2)"
  31. ^ Watanabe, p. 158-159.
  32. ^ Home page. Instituto Cultural Mexicano-Japonés A.C.. Retrieved on May 25, 2014. "Mártires Irlandeses #62-B Colonia Parque San Andrés, Coyoacán, C.P. 04040 México, D.F."
  33. ^ García, Jerry. Looking Like the Enemy: Japanese Mexicans, the Mexican State, and US Hegemony, 1897-1945. University of Arizona Press, February 27, 2014. ISBN 0816530254, 9780816530250. p. 153.
  34. ^ Suárez, Gerardo. "Galería de la Roma Norte rinde homenaje al gato." El Universal. Wednesday March 6, 2013. Retrieved on January 23, 2014. "También destacan las pinturas de Fumiko Nakashima, una artista japonesa que llegó al DF e hizo la primera pieza de arte urbano en México al pintar un trolebús donado por el Sistema de Transportes Eléctricos del DF."

Further reading[edit]

  • (Spanish) Misawa, Takehiro. "Familia como Institución de Seguridad Transgeneracional: Reprodución Social y Cultural de los Descendientes Japonesas en Mexico" (thesis, El Colegio de México, Centros de Estudios Demográficos, 1996)
  • (Spanish) Farrera, Eloísa. "Comparten educación y tradición." Diario Reforma. December 1, 2013. News: p18. Suplemento Hardnews. Gale Group Informe Académico. GALE Document Number: GALE|A355024858.
  • (Spanish) "Organizaciones públicas japonesas en México. Diario Reforma. October 28, 1998. Regional News: p6. Más Cerca. Gale Group Informe Académico, GALE Document Number: GALE|A129678698.

External links[edit]