Japanese Peruvians

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Japanese Peruvians
Total population
300,000 by self-reported ancestry (2024)[1]
[note 1]
Regions with significant populations
Lima, Trujillo, Huancayo, Chiclayo
Predominantly Roman Catholicism,
Buddhism, Shintoism[4]
Related ethnic groups
Chinese Peruvians, Japanese Americans, Japanese Canadians, Japanese Brazilians, Asian Latinos
A poster used in Japan to attract immigrants to Peru and Brazil. It reads: "Join your Family, Let's Go to South America."
Arrival of the Sakura Maru to Peru with the first 790 new immigrants, 1899

Japanese Peruvians (Spanish: peruano-japonés or nipo-peruano; Japanese: 日系ペルー人, Nikkei Perūjin) are Peruvian citizens of Japanese origin or ancestry.

Peru has the second largest ethnic Japanese population in South America after Brazil. This community has made a significant cultural impact on the country,[5] and as of the 2017 Census in Peru, 22,534 people or 0.2% of the Peruvian population self reported themselves as having Nikkei or Japanese ancestry.[6] Though the Japanese government estimates that at least 100,000 Peruvians have some degree of Japanese ancestry.[7] The Peruvian Congress indicated that the emigration of Peruvian Nikkeis to Japan began in the 1980s, and the Japanese government estimates that around 300,000 Peruvians of the Peruvian-Japanese community, 40,000 Nikkeis went to work in Japan.[8]

Peru was the first Latin American country to establish diplomatic relations with Japan,[9] in June 1873.[10] Peru was also the first Latin American country to accept Japanese immigration.[9] The Sakura Maru carried Japanese families from Yokohama to Peru and arrived on April 3, 1899, at the Peruvian port city of Callao.[11] This group of 790 Japanese became the first of several waves of emigrants who made new lives for themselves in Peru, some nine years before emigration to Brazil began.[10]

Most immigrants arrived from Okinawa, Gifu, Hiroshima, Kanagawa and Osaka prefectures. Many arrived as farmers or to work in the fields but, after their contracts were completed, settled in the cities.[12] In the period before World War II, the Japanese community in Peru was largely run by issei immigrants born in Japan. "Those of the second generation [the nisei] were almost inevitably excluded from community decision-making."[13]

Peru and Japan celebrate the 140th anniversary of diplomatic ties (2013).
Embassy of Peru in Japan
Embassy of Japan in Peru

Japanese schools in Peru[edit]

Peru's current Japanese international school is Asociación Academia de Cultura Japonesa in Surco, Lima.[14]

World War II[edit]

Although there had been ongoing tensions between non-Japanese and Japanese Peruvians, the situation was drastically exacerbated by the war.[15] Rising tensions ultimately led to a series of discriminatory laws being passed in 1936, the results of which included stigmatization of Japanese immigrants as "bestial," "untrustworthy," "militaristic," and "unfairly" competing with Peruvians for wages.[15]

Fueled by legislative discrimination and media campaigns, a massive race riot (referred to as the "Saqueo") began on May 13, 1940, and lasted for three days. During the riots Japanese Peruvians were attacked and their homes and businesses destroyed.[15] Despite its massive scale, the saqueo was underreported, a reflection of public sentiment towards the Japanese population at the time.[15]

By 1941, there were around 26,000 immigrants of Japanese nationality in Peru. In December of that year, the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor, would mark the beginning of the Pacific war campaign for the United States of America in World War II.[16] After the Japanese air raids on Pearl Harbor and the Philippines, the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS), formed during World War II to coordinate secret espionage activities against the Axis Powers for the branches of the United States Armed Forces and the United States State Department, were alarmed at the large Japanese Peruvian community living in Peru and were also wary of the increasing new arrivals of Japanese nationals to Peru.[citation needed]

Fearing the Empire of Japan could sooner or later decide to invade the Republic of Peru and use the Southern American country as a landing base for its troops and its nationals living there as foreign agents against the US, in order to open another military front in the American Pacific, the U.S. government quickly negotiated with Lima a political–military alliance agreement in 1942. This alliance provided Peru with new military technology such as military aircraft, tanks, modern infantry equipment, and new boats for the Peruvian Navy, as well as new American bank loans and new investments in the Peruvian economy.[citation needed]

In return, the Americans ordered the Peruvians to track, identify and create ID files for all the Japanese Peruvians living in Peru. Later, at the end of 1942 and during all of 1943 and 1944, the Peruvian government on behalf of the U.S. Government and the OSS organized and started the massive arrests, without warrants and without judicial proceedings or hearings and the deportation of many of the Japanese Peruvian community to several American internment camps run by the U.S. Justice Department in the states of Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Georgia and Virginia.[17]

Racism and economic self-interest were major motivating factors in Peru's eager compliance with American deportation requests.[18] As noted in a 1943 memorandum, Raymond Ickes of the Central and South American division of the Alien Enemy Control Unit had observed that many ethnic Japanese had been sent to the United States "... merely because the Peruvians wanted their businesses and not because there was any adverse evidence against them."[19]

The enormous groups of Japanese Peruvian forced exiles were initially placed among the Japanese Americans who had been excluded from the US west coast; later they were interned in the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) facilities in Crystal City, Texas; Kenedy, Texas; and Santa Fe, New Mexico.[20] The Japanese Peruvians were kept in these "alien detention camps" for more than two years before, through the efforts of civil rights attorney Wayne M. Collins,[16][21] being offered "parole" relocation to the labor-starved farming community in Seabrook, New Jersey.[22] The interned Japanese Peruvian nisei in the United States were further separated from the issei, in part because of distance between the internment camps and in part because the interned nisei knew almost nothing about their parents' homeland and language.[23]

The deportation of Japanese Peruvians to the United States also involved expropriation without compensation of their property and other assets in Peru.[24] At war's end, only 790 Japanese Peruvian citizens returned to Peru, and about 400 remained in the United States as "stateless" refugees.[25] The interned Peruvian nisei who became naturalized American citizens would consider their children sansei, meaning three generations from the grandparents who had left Japan for Peru.[26]

Post-war Japanese Peruvians[edit]

Alberto Fujimori[edit]

First Japanese Peruvian President of Peru, Alberto Fujimori. October 1991.

Alberto Fujimori was born in Peru on 28 July 1938 to Japanese parents who immigrated to Peru from Japan and was the 54th President of Peru from 1990 until his downfall in 2000.

Dekasegi Japanese Peruvians[edit]

In 1998, with new strict laws from the Japanese immigration, many fake-nikkei were deported or went back to Peru. The requirements to bring Japanese descendants were more strict, including documents as "zairyūshikaku-ninteishōmeisho" [27] or Certificate of Eligibility for Resident, which probes the Japanese bloodline of the applicant.

With the onset of the global recession in 2008, among the expatriate communities in Japan, Peruvians accounted for the smallest share of those who returned to their homelands. People returning from Japan also made up the smallest share of those applying for assistance under the new law. As of the end of November 2013, only three Peruvians who had returned from Japan had received reintegration assistance. The law provides some attractive benefits, but most Peruvians (as of 2015, there were 60,000 Peruvians in Japan)[28] were not interested in returning to Peru.

Peruvians in Japan came together to offer support for Japanese victims of the devastating March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. In the wake of the disaster, the town of Minamisanriku in Miyagi Prefecture lost all but two of its fishing vessels. Peruvians raised money to buy the town new boats as a service to Japan and to express their gratitude for the hospitality received in Japan.[29]

The Japanese press in Peru[edit]

In June 1921, Nippi Shimpo (Japanese Peruvian News) was published.[30]


The cuisine of Peru is a heterogeneous mixture of the diverse cultural influences that enriched the South American country. Nikkei cuisine, which fuses Peruvian and Japanese cuisine, has become a gastronomic sensation in many countries.

The origins of Nikkei cuisine relied on the wide variety of fresh ingredients in Peru, the prosperous fishing industry of Peru, the Japanese know-how using fresh seafood, and adopting ceviche, which is the Peruvian flag dish, and Chifa dishes as well (fusion cuisine that came from the Chinese community in Peru). Japanese fusion dishes like Acevichado maki sushi rolls were created by incorporating the recipes and flavors from the indigenous Peruvians. Some examples of chefs who use Nikkei cuisine include Nobu Matsuhisa, Ferran Adrià and Kurt Zdesar.

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Other estimates, including from the Japanese government themselves, state that Peru has at least 300,000 Japanese descendants.[2][3]
  1. ^ "Perú: Perfil Sociodemográfico" (PDF). Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informática. p. 214.
  2. ^ [1] Embassy of Peru in Japan
  3. ^ [2] Peruvian Japanese NewsPaper PeruShimpo
  4. ^ Masterson, Daniel et al. (2004). The Japanese in Latin America: The Asian American Experience, p. 237., p. 237, at Google Books
  5. ^ Takenaka, Ayumi. “The Japanese in Peru: History of Immigration, Settlement, and Racialization.” Latin American Perspectives 31, no. 3, 2004, pp. 77–98
  6. ^ "Perú: Perfil Sociodemográfico" (PDF). Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informática. p. 214.
  7. ^ "Japan-Peru Relations (Basic Data)". Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Retrieved 2023-08-24.
  8. ^ "Celebran 110° aniversario de la inmigración japonesa al Perú". www2.congreso.gob.pe. Retrieved 2023-08-24.
  9. ^ a b Palm, Hugo (March 12, 2008). "Desafíos que nos acercan – El capitán de navío de la Marina Peruana Arturo García y García llegó al puerto de Yokohama hace 135 ańos, en febrero de 1873" [Challenges that bring us closer – Peruvian Navy captain Arturo García y García arrived at Yokohama port 135 years ago, in February, 1873] (in Spanish). Lima, Peru: universia.edu.pe. Archived from the original on April 15, 2009.
  10. ^ a b Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), Japan: Japan–Peru relations (in Japanese)
  11. ^ "First Emigration Ship to Peru: Sakura Maru," Archived 2005-11-05 at the Wayback Machine Seascope (NYK newsletter). No. 157, July 2000.
  12. ^ Irie, Toraji. "History of the Japanese Migration to Peru," Hispanic American Historical Review. 31:3, 437–452 (August–November 1951); 31:4, 648–664 (no. 4).
  13. ^ Higashide, Seiichi. (2000). Adios to Tears, p. 218., p. 218, at Google Books
  14. ^ "リマ日本人学校の概要" (Archive). Asociación Academia de Cultura Japonesa. Retrieved on October 25, 2015. "Calle Las Clivias(Antes Calle"A") No.276, Urb. Pampas de Santa Teresa, Surco, LIMA-PERU (ペルー国リマ市スルコ区パンパス・デ・サンタテレサ町クリヴィアス通り276番地)"
  15. ^ a b c d DuMontier (2018). Between Menace and Model Citizen: Lima's Japanese Peruvians, 1936–1963 (Doctor of Philosophy thesis). University of Arizona.
  16. ^ a b Densho, Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. "Japanese Latin Americans," c. 2003, accessed 12 Apr 2009.
  17. ^ Robinson, Greg. (2001). By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans, p. 264., p. 264, at Google Books
  18. ^ Weglyn, Michi Nishiura (1976). Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America's Concentration Camps. New York: William Morrow & Company. pp. 60–61. ISBN 978-0688079963.
  19. ^ Weglyn, Michi Nishiura (1976). Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America's Concentration Camps. New York: William Morrow & Company. p. 64. ISBN 978-0688079963.
  20. ^ Higashide, pp. 157–158., p. 157, at Google Books
  21. ^ "Japanese Americans, the Civil Rights Movement and Beyond" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-14. Retrieved 2009-04-10.
  22. ^ Higashide, p. 161., p. 161, at Google Books
  23. ^ Higashide, p. 219., p. 219, at Google Books
  24. ^ Barnhart, Edward N. "Japanese Internees from Peru," Pacific Historical Review. 31:2, 169–178 (May 1962).
  25. ^ Riley, Karen Lea. (2002). Schools Behind Barbed Wire: The Untold Story of Wartime Internment and the Children of Arrested Enemy Aliens, p. 10., p. 10, at Google Books
  26. ^ Higashide, p. 222., p. 222, at Google Books
  27. ^ "法務省:在留資格認定証明書交付申請". www.moj.go.jp. Archived from the original on 26 January 2021. Retrieved 25 November 2018.
  28. ^ [3] Ministry of Foreign affairs of Japan
  29. ^ [4] Your Doorway to Japan
  30. ^ Sep 2010, Michael M. Brescia / 20. "The Japanese Press in Peru – Part 1". Discover Nikkei. Retrieved 2020-11-24.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)

Other cited works[edit]

External links[edit]