Japanese diaspora

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Japanese diaspora
Total population
About 2,600,000[1]
Regions with significant populations
 Brazil 600,000–1.6 million (estimated)[2][3][4]
 United States 1,404,286[5]
 China 127,282[6]note
 Philippines 200,000[7][8]
 Canada 109,740[9]
 Peru 100,000[10]
 United Kingdom 63,011[11]
 South Korea 58,169[12]note
 Australia 54,830[13]
 Thailand 47,000[14]
 Mexico 35,000[2]
 France 30,947[6]note
 Singapore 27,525[15]
 Argentina 23,000[16]
 Hong Kong 21,297[17]
 Malaysia 21,000[18]
 Micronesia 20,000[19]
 Indonesia 14,720[20]
 New Zealand 14,118[21]
 Bolivia 14,000[22]
 Germany 8,141[6]note
 New Caledonia 8,000[23]
 Italy 7,556[24]note
 Paraguay 7,000[25]
 Belgium 6,519
 Marshall Islands 6,000[26]
 India 5,554[citation needed][27]
 Sweden 5,235
 Palau 5,000[28]
  Switzerland 4,071[6]note
 Uruguay 3,456[29]note
 Colombia 3,000[30]note

^ note: The population of naturalized Japanese people and their descendants is unknown. Only the number of the permanent residents with Japanese nationality is shown.

The Japanese diaspora, and its individual members known as nikkei (日系?), are Japanese emigrants from Japan and their descendants that reside in a foreign country. Emigration from Japan first happened and was recorded as early as the 12th century to the Philippines,[31] but did not become a mass phenomenon until the Meiji Era, when Japanese began to go to the Philippines,[32] North America, and beginning in 1897 with 35 emigrants to Mexico;[33] and later to Peru, beginning in 1899 with 790 emigrants.[34] There was also significant emigration to the territories of the Empire of Japan during the colonial period; however, most such emigrants repatriated to Japan after the end of World War II in Asia.[35]

According to the Association of Nikkei and Japanese Abroad, there are about 2.5 million nikkei living in their adopted countries. The largest of these foreign communities are in Brazil, the United States, Peru and the Philippines. Descendants of emigrants from the Meiji Era still hold recognizable communities in those countries, forming separate ethnic groups from Japanese peoples in Japan.[36]


Nikkei is derived from the term nikkeijin (日系人?) in Japanese,[37][38] used to refer to Japanese people who emigrated from Japan and their descendants.[38][39] Emigration refers to permanent settlers, excluding transient Japanese abroad. These groups were historically differentiated by the terms issei (first-generation nikkeijin), nisei (second-generation nikkeijin), sansei (third-generation nikkeijin), and yonsei (fourth-generation nikkeijin). The term Nikkeijin may or may not apply to those Japanese who still hold Japanese citizenship. Usages of the term may depend on perspective. For example, the Japanese government defines them according to (foreign) citizenship and the ability to provide proof of Japanese lineage up to the third generation - legally the fourth generation has no legal standing in Japan that is any different from another "foreigner." On the other hand, in the U.S. or other places where Nikkeijin have developed their own communities and identities, first-generation Japanese immigrants tend to be included; citizenship is less relevant and a commitment to the local community becomes more important.

Discover Nikkei, a project of the Japanese American National Museum, defined nikkei as follows:

We are talking about Nikkei people - Japanese emigrants and their descendants who have created communities throughout the world.

The term nikkei has multiple and diverse meanings depending on situations, places, and environments. Nikkei also include people of mixed racial descent who identify themselves as Nikkei. Native Japanese also use the term nikkei for the emigrants and their descendants who return to Japan. Many of these nikkei live in close communities and retain identities separate from the native Japanese.[40]

The definition was derived from The International Nikkei Research Project, a three-year collaborative project involving more than 100 scholars from 10 countries and 14 participating institutions.[40]

Early history[edit]

Overseas Japanese have existed since the 15th century.

After the Portuguese first made contact with Japan in 1543, a large scale slave trade developed in which Portuguese purchased Japanese as slaves in Japan and sold them to various locations overseas, including Portugal itself, throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.[41][42] Many documents mention the large slave trade along with protests against the enslavement of Japanese. Japanese slaves are believed to be the first of their nation to end up in Europe, and the Portuguese purchased large amounts of Japanese slave girls to bring to Portugal for sexual purposes, as noted by the Church in 1555. King Sebastian feared that it was having a negative effect on Catholic proselytization since the slave trade in Japanese was growing to massive proportions, so he commanded that it be banned in 1571[43][44]

Japanese slave women were even sold as concubines to black African crewmembers, along with their European counterparts serving on Portuguese ships trading in Japan, mentioned by Luis Cerqueira, a Portuguese Jesuit, in a 1598 document.[45] Japanese slaves were brought by the Portuguese to Macau, where some of them not only ended up being enslaved to Portuguese, but as slaves to other slaves, with the Portuguese owning Malay and African slaves, who in turn owned Japanese slaves of their own.[46][47]

Hideyoshi was so disgusted that his own Japanese people were being sold en masse into slavery on Kyushu, that he wrote a letter to Jesuit Vice-Provincial Gaspar Coelho on 24 July 1587 to demand the Portuguese, Siamese (Thai), and Cambodians stop purchasing and enslaving Japanese and return Japanese slaves who ended up as far as India.[48][49][50] Hideyoshi blamed the Portuguese and Jesuits for this slave trade and banned Christian proselytizing as a result.[51][52]

Some Korean slaves were bought by the Portuguese and brought back to Portugal from Japan, where they had been among the tens of thousands of Korean prisoners of war transported to Japan during the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–98).[53][54] Historians pointed out that at the same time Hideyoshi expressed his indignation and outrage at the Portuguese trade in Japanese slaves, he himself was engaging in a mass slave trade of Korean prisoners of war in Japan.[55][56]

Fillippo Sassetti saw some Chinese and Japanese slaves in Lisbon among the large slave community in 1578, although most of the slaves were blacks.[57][58][59][60][61]

The Portuguese "highly regarded" Asian slaves like Chinese and Japanese, much more "than slaves from sub-Saharan Africa".[62][63] The Portuguese attributed qualities like intelligence and industriousness to Chinese and Japanese slaves which is why they favored them more.[64][65][66][67]

In 1595 a law was passed by Portugal banning the selling and buying of Chinese and Japanese slaves.[68]

From the 15th through the early 17th century, Japanese seafarers traveled to China and Southeast Asia, in some cases establishing early Japantowns.[69] This activity ended in the 1640s, when the Tokugawa shogunate imposed maritime restrictions which forbade Japanese from leaving the country, and from returning if they were already abroad. This policy would not be lifted for over two hundred years. Travel restrictions were eased once Japan opened diplomatic relations with western nations. In 1867, the bakufu began issuing travel documents for overseas travel and emigration.[70]

View of passengers arriving in Vancouver aboard the Kumeric

Before 1885, relatively few people emigrated from Japan, in part because the Meiji government was reluctant to allow emigration, both because it lacked the political power to adequately protect Japanese emigrants, and because it believed that the presence of Japanese as unskilled laborers in foreign countries would hamper its ability to revise the unequal treaties. A notable exception to this trend was a group of 153 contract laborers who immigrated—without official passports—to Hawai'i and Guam in 1868.[71] A portion of this group stayed on after the expiration of the initial labor contract, forming the nucleus of the nikkei community in Hawai'i. In 1885, the Meiji government began to turn to officially sponsored emigration programs to alleviate pressure from overpopulation and the effects of the Matsukata deflation in rural areas. For the next decade, the government was closely involved in the selection and pre-departure instruction of emigrants. The Japanese government was keen on keeping Japanese emigrants well-mannered while abroad in order to show the West that Japan was a dignified society, worthy of respect. By the mid-1890s, immigration companies (imin-kaisha 移民会社), not sponsored by the government, began to dominate the process of recruiting emigrants, but government-sanctioned ideology continued to influence emigration patterns.[72]

Asia (except Japan)[edit]

To 1945[edit]

Japanese emigration to the rest of Asia was noted as early as the 12th century to the Philippines;[73] early Japanese settlements included those in Lingayen Gulf, Manila, the coasts of Ilocos and in the Visayas when the Philippines was under the Srivijaya and Majapahit Empire. In the 16th century the Japanese settlement was established in Ayutthaya, Thailand.,[74] and in early 17th century Japanese settlers was first recorded to stay in Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). A larger wave came in the 17th century, when Red seal ships traded in Southeast Asia, and Japanese Catholics fled from the religious persecution imposed by the shoguns, and settled in the Philippines, among other destinations. Many of them also intermarried with the local Filipina women (including those of pure or mixed Spanish and Chinese descent), thus forming the new Japanese-Mestizo community.[75] In the 16th and 17th centuries, thousands of Japanese people traders from Japan also migrated to the Philippines and assimilated into the local population.[76] pp. 52–3

Karayuki-san (唐行きさん?, literally "Ms. Gone-to-China" but actually meaning Ms. Gone Abroad") were Japanese women who traveled to or were trafficked to East Asia, Southeast Asia, Manchuria, Siberia and as far as San Francisco in the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century to work as prostitutes, courtesans and geisha.[77] In the 19th and early 20th centuries, there was a network of Japanese prostitutes being trafficked across Asia, in countries such as China, Japan, Korea, Singapore and British India, in what was then known as the ’Yellow Slave Traffic’.[78]

Many of the women who went overseas to work as karayuki-san were the daughters of poor farming or fishing families. The mediators, both male and female, who arranged for the women to go overseas would search for those of appropriate age in poor farming communities and pay their parents, telling them they were going overseas on public duty. The mediators would then make money by passing the girls on to people in the prostitution industry. With the money the mediators received, some would go on to set up their own overseas brothels.[citation needed]

The end of the Meiji period was the golden age for karayuki-san, and the girls that went on these overseas voyages were known fondly as joshigun (女子軍), or "female army."[citation needed] However the reality was that many courtesans led sad and lonely lives in exile and often died young from sexual diseases, neglect and despair. With the greater international influence of Japan as it became a Great Power things began to change, and soon karayuki-san were considered shameful. During the 1910s and 1920s, Japanese officials overseas worked hard to eliminate Japanese brothels and maintain Japanese prestige,[79][80][81] although not always with absolute success. Many karayuki-san returned to Japan, but some remained.

After the Pacific War, the topic of karayuki-san was a little known fact of Japan's pre-war underbelly. But in 1972 Tomoko Yamazaki published Sandakan Brothel No. 8 which raised awareness of karayuki-san and encouraged further research and reporting.[citation needed]

The main destinations of karayuki-san included China (particularly Shanghai), Hong Kong, the Philippines, Borneo, Sumatra,[82] Thailand, Indonesia, and the western USA (in particular San Francisco). They were often sent to Western colonies in Asia where there was a strong demand from Western military personnel and Chinese men.[83] There were cases of Japanese women being sent to places as far as Siberia, Manchuria, Hawaii, North America (California), and Africa (Zanzibar). In Karachi and Bombay there were Japanese prostitutes to be found.[84][85]

Japanese prostitutes role in the expansion of Meiji Japan's imperialism has been examined in academic studies.[86]

In the Russian Far East, east of Lake Baikal, Japanese prostitutes and merchants made up the majority of the Japanese community in the region after the 1860s.[87] Japanese nationalist groups like the Black Ocean Society (Genyōsha) and Amur River Society-(Kokuryūkai), glorified and applauded the 'Amazon army' of Japanese prostitutes in the Russian Far East and Manchuria and enrolled them as members.[88] Certain missions and intelligence gathering were performed around Vladivostok and Irkutsk by Japanese prostitutes.[89]

The Sino-French War led to French soldiers creating a market for karayuki-san Japanese women prostitutes, eventually prostitutes made up the bulk of Indochina's Japanese population by 1908.[90]

In the late 19th century Japanese girls and women were sold into prostitution and trafficked from Nagasaki and Kumamoto to cities like Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore and then sent to other places in the Pacific, Southeast Asia and Western Australia, they were called Karayuki-san.[91] In Wetsern Australia these Japanese prostitutes plied their trade and also entered into other activities, alot of them wed Chinese men and Japanese men as husbands and others some took Malay, Filipino and European partners.[92][93]

Among the immigrants coming to northern Australia were Melanesian, South-East Asian, and Chinese who were almost all men, along with the Japanese, who were the only anomaly in that they included women, racist Australians who subscribed to white supremacy were grateful for and condoned the immigration of Japanese prostitutes since these non-white labourers satisfied their sexual needs with the Japanese instead of white since they didn't want white women having sex with the non-white males, and in Australia the definition of white was even narrowed down to people of Anglo Saxon British origin.[94] Italian and French women were also considered "foreign" prostitutes alongside Japanese women and were supported by the police and governments in Western Australia to ply their trade since these women would service "coloured" men and act as a safeguard for British white Anglo Saxon women with the Honourable R.H. Underwood, a politician in western Australia, celebrating the fact that there were many Italian, Japanese, and French prostitutes in western Australia in an address to the Legislative Assembly in 1915.[95]

In Western and Eastern Australia, gold mining Chinese men were serviced by Japanese Karayuki-san prostitutes and in Northern Australia around the sugarcane, pearling and mining industries the Japanese prostitutes serviced Kanakas, Malays, and Chinese, these women arrived in Australia or America via Kuala Lumpur and Singapore where they were instructed in prostitution, they originated from Japan's poor farming areas and the Australian colonial officials approved of allowing in Japanese prostitutes in order to sexual service "coloured' men, otherwise they thought that white women would be raped if the Japanese weren't availible.[96]

Port towns experienced benefits to their economies by the presence of Japanese brothels.[97]

In eastern Australia Chinese men married European women, and Japanese prostitutes were embraced by the officials in Queensland since they were assumed to help stop white women having sex with nonwhite men, Italian, French, and Japanese prostitutes plied their trade in Western Australia.[98]

On the goldfields Japanese prostitutes were attacked by anti-asian white Australians who wanted them to leave, with Raymond Radclyffe in 1896 and Rae Frances reporting on men who demanded that the Japanese prostitutes be expelled from gold fields.[99]

Japanese women prostitutes in Australia were smuggled there and it was the 3rd most widespread profession, it was said that they were "a service essential to the economic growth of the north", "made life more palatable for European and Asian men who worked in pearling, mining and pastoral industries" and it was written that "The supply of Japanese women for the Kanaka demand is less revolting and degrading than would be the case were it met by white women" by the Queensland Police Commissioner.[100]

Between 1890-1894 Singapore received 3,222 Japanese women who were trafficked from Japan by the Japanese man Muraoka Iheiji, before being trafficked to Singapore or further destinations, for a few months, the Japanese women would be held in Hong Kong, even though the Japanese government tried banning Japanese prostitutes from leaving Japan in 1896 the measure failed to stop the trafficking of Japanese women and a ban in Singapore against importing the women failed too, and in the 1890s Australia received immigration in the form of Japanese women working as prostitutes, in 1896, there were 200 Japanese prostitutes there, in Darwin, 19 Japanese women wre found by the Japanese official H. Sato in 1889, from Nagasaki the Japanese man Takada Tokujiro had trafficked 5 of the women via Hong Kong, he "had sold one to a Malay barber for £50, two to a Chinese at £40 each, one he had kept as his concubine; the fifth he was working as a prostitute".[101][102] Sato said that the women were living "a shameful life to the disgrace of their countrymen'.[103]

Around areas of work such as ports, mines, and the pastoral industry, numerous European and Chinese men patronized Japanese prostitutes such as Matsuwe Otana.[104]

During the late 1880s to the 20th century Australian brothels were filled with hundreds of Japanese women, those Japanese overseas women and girl prostitutes were called karayuki-san which meant 'gone to China'.[105]

Japanese prostitutes initially showed up in 1887 in Australia and were a major component of the prostitution industry on the colonial frontiers in Australia such as parts of Queensland, northern and western Australia and the British Empire and Japanese Empire's growth were tied in with the karayuki-san, in the late 19th century Japan's impoverished farming islands provided the girls who became karayuki-san and were shipped to the Pacific and South-East Asia, the volcanic and mountainous terrain of Kyushu was bad for agriculture so parents sold their daughters, some of them seven years old to "flesh traders" (zegen) in th prefectures of Nagasaki and Kumamoto, four-fifths of the girls were involuntarily trafficked while only one-fifth left of their own will.[106]

The voyages the traffickers transported these women on had terrible conditions with some girls suffocating as they were hidden on parts of the ship or almost starving to death, the girls who lived were then taught how to perform as prostitutes in Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, or Singapore where they then were sent of to other places including Australia.[107]

A Queensland Legislative Assembly member in 1907 reported that Japanese prostitutes in the small town of Charters Towers lived in bad conditions while in 1896 in the larger town of Marble Bar in Western Australia Albert Calvert reported that the conditions in Japanese brothels were good and comfortable.[108]

After the First Sino-Japanese War a celebration was held at an open-air concert by Japanese prostitutes who performed a dance in Broome in 1895.[109][110][111]

The development of the Japanese enclave in Singapore at Middle Road, Singapore was connected to the establishment of brothels east of the Singapore River, namely along Hylam, Malabar, Malay and Bugis Streets during the late 1890s.[112] The Japanese prostitutes or Karayuki-san dubbed Malay Street as Suteretsu, a transliteration of the English word "street". A Japanese reporter in 1910 described the scene for the people of Kyūshū in a local newspaper, the Fukuoka Nichinichi:

During the Meiji era, many Japanese girls from poor households were taken to East Asia and Southeast Asia in the second half of the 19th century to work as prostitutes. Many of these women are said to have originated from the Amakusa Islands of Kumamoto Prefecture, which had a large and long-stigmatised Japanese Christian community. Referred to as Karayuki-san (Hiragana: からゆきさん, Kanji: 唐行きさん literally "Ms. Gone-overseas"), they were found at the Japanese enclave along Hylam, Malabar, Malay and Bugis Streets until World War II.[114]

The vast majority of Japanese emigrants to Southeast Asia in the early Meiji period were prostitutes (Karayuki-san), who worked in brothels in Malaya, Singapore,[115] Philippines, Dutch East Indies and French Indochina.

Most early Japanese residents of Singapore consisted largely of prostitutes, who would later become known by the collective name of "karayuki-san". The earliest Japanese prostitutes are believed to have arrived 1870 or 1871; by 1889, there were 134 of them.[116] From 1895 to 1918, Japanese authorities turned a blind eye to the emigration of Japanese women to work in brothels in Southeast Asia.[117] According to the Japanese consul in Singapore, almost all of the 450 to 600 Japanese residents of Singapore in 1895 were prostitutes and their pimps, or concubines; fewer than 20 were engaged in "respectable trades".[118] In 1895, there were no Japanese schools or public organisations, and the Japanese consulate maintained only minimal influence over their nationals; brothel owners were the dominating force in the community. Along with victory in the Sino-Japanese War, the Japanese state's increasing assertiveness brought changes to the official status of Japanese nationals overseas; they attained formal legal equality with Europeans.[119] That year, the Japanese community was also given official permission by the government to create their own cemetery, on twelve acres of land in Serangoon outside of the urbanised area; in reality, the site had already been used as a burial ground for Japanese as early as 1888.[120]

However, even with these changes in their official status, the community itself remained prostitution-based.[121] Prostitutes were the vanguard of what one pair of scholars describes as the "karayuki-led economic advance into Southeast Asia".[122] It was specifically seen by the authorities as a way to develop a Japanese economic base in the region; profits extracted from the prostitution trade were used to accumulate capital and diversify Japanese economic interests.[117] The prostitutes served as both creditors and customers to other Japanese: they loaned out their earnings to other Japanese residents trying to start businesses, and patronised Japanese tailors, doctors, and grocery stores.[122] By the time of the Russo-Japanese War, the number of Japanese prostitutes in Singapore may have been as large as 700.[117] They were concentrated around Malay Street (now Middle Road).[123] However, with Southeast Asia cut off from European imports due to World War I, Japanese products began making inroads as replacements, triggering the shift towards retailing and trade as the economic basis of the Japanese community.[121]

The Japanese film studios shot a number of films in Shonan (what the Japanese renamed Singapore during the occupation in World War II) depicting the area as a sort of Japanese frontier. Films such as Southern Winds II (続・南の風, 1942, Shochiku Studios), Tiger of Malay (マライの虎, 1942, Daiei Studios) or Singapore All-Out Attack (シンガポール総攻撃, 1943, Daiei Studios) presented the area as a land rich in resources, occupied by simple but honest people, and highly exotic.[124] Japanese colonial films also associated the region with sex as many "Karayuki-san", or prostitutes had been either sold to brothels or chosen to go to Southeast Asia to earn money around the turn of the century. Karayuki-san (からゆきさん, 1937, Toho Studios), Kinoshita Keisuke's Flowering Port (花咲く港, 1943, Shochiku Studios), and Imamura Shohei's Whoremonger (女衒, 1987, Toei Studios), which were all or at least partly shot on location, are examples of the extent to which this subgenre dominates the representations of Malaysia in Japanese cinema.[125]

During the American period, Japanese economic ties to the Philippines expanded tremendously and by 1929 Japan was the largest trading partner to the Philippines after the United States. Economic investment was accompanied by large-scale immigration of Japanese to the Philippines, mainly merchants, gardeners and prostitutes ('karayuki san'). Japanese immigrants Davao in Mindanao, had over 20,000 ethnic Japanese residents.

Between ca. 1872 and 1940 large numbers of Japanese prostitutes (karayuki-san) worked in brothels of the Dutch East Indies archipelago.[126]

The 1975 film Karayuki-san, the Making of a Prostitute directed by Shohei Imamura, the 1974 film Sandakan No. 8 directed by Kei Kumai,[127] and the Shimabara Lullaby by Kohei Miyazaki were about the karayuki-san.

The memoir of Keiko Karayuki-san in Siam was written about Karayuki-san in Thailand.[128] Ah Ku and Karayuki-san: Prostitution in Singapore, 1870–1940 was written about karayuki-san in Singapore.[129]

Postcards were made in French colonial Indo-China of Japanese prostitutes,[130][131][132][133][134][135][136][137] and in British ruled Singapore.[138][139][140]

Harry La Tourette Foster wrote that 'in years past, old-timers say, the entire Orient was filled with Japanese prostitutes, until the Japanese had much the same reputation as the French have in foreign cities elsewhere'.[141]

The experience of Japanese prostitutes in China was written about in a book by a Japanese woman, Tomoko Yamazaki.[142][143][144][145][146][147][148][149][150][151][152]

During her years as a prostitute, Yamada Waka serviced both Chinese men and Japanese men.[153]

Japanese girls were easily trafficked abroad since Korean and Chinese ports did not require Japanese citizens to use passports and the Japanese government realized that money earned by the karayuki-san helped the Japanese economy since it was being remmitted,[154][155] and the Chinese boycott of Japanese products in 1919 led to reliance on revenue from the karayuki-san.[156] Since the Japanese viewed non-westerners as inferior, the karayuki-san Japanese women felt humiliated since they mainly sexually served Chinese men or native Southeast Asians.[157][158] Borneo natives, Malaysians, Chinese, Japanese, French, American, British and men from every race utilized the Japanese prostitutes of Sandakan.[159] A Japanese woman named Osaki said that the men, Japanese, Chinese, whites, and natives, were dealt with alike by the prostitutes regardless of race, and that a Japanese prostitute's "most disgusting customers" were Japanese men, while they used "kind enough" to describe Chinese men, and the English and Americans were the second best clients, while the native men were the best and fastest to have sex with.[160] The nine Japanese managed brothels of Sandakan made up the bulk of brothels in Sandakan.[161] Two Japanese brothels were located in Kuudatsu while no Chinese brothels were to be found there.[162] There was hearsay that a Chinese man married the older sister of Yamashita Tatsuno.[163]

Non-Japanese Asian women working in Japan as dancers, singers, hostesses, and strippers from the second half of the 20th century are sometimes called japayuki-san (ジャパ行きさん, lit. "Miss Gone-to-Japan") and have become the subject of much controversy.[citation needed] The word itself is derogatory.

In 1898 the Dutch East Indies colonial government statistics showed 614 Japanese in the Dutch East Indies (166 men, 448 women).[119] During the American colonial era in the Philippines, the number of Japanese laborers working in plantations rose so high that in the 20th century, Davao City soon became dubbed as a Ko Nippon Koku ("Little Japan" in Japanese) with a Japanese school, a Shinto shrine and a diplomatic mission from Japan. There is even a popular restaurant called "The Japanese Tunnel", which includes an actual tunnel made by the Japanese in time of the war.[164]

There was also a significant level of emigration to the overseas territories of the Empire of Japan during the Japanese colonial period, including Korea,[165] Taiwan, Manchuria, and Karafuto.[166] Unlike emigrants to the Americas, Japanese going to the colonies occupied a higher rather than lower social niche upon their arrival.[167]

In 1938 about 309,000 Japanese lived in Taiwan.[168] By the end of World War II, there were over 850,000 Japanese in Korea[169] and more than 2 million in China,[170] most of them farmers in Manchukuo (the Japanese had a plan to bring in 5 million Japanese settlers into Manchukuo).[171]

In the census of December 1939, the total population of the South Pacific Mandate was 129,104, of which 77,257 were Japanese. By December 1941, Saipan had a population of more than 30,000 people, including 25,000 Japanese.[172] Over 400,000 people lived on Karafuto (southern Sakhalin) when the Soviet offensive began in early August 1945. Most were of Japanese or Korean descent. When Japan lost the Kuril Islands, 17,000 Japanese were expelled, most from the southern islands.[173]

After 1945[edit]

After World War II, most of these overseas Japanese repatriated to Japan. The Allied powers repatriated over 6 million Japanese nationals from colonies and battlefields throughout Asia.[174] Only a few remained overseas, often involuntarily, as in the case of orphans in China or prisoners of war captured by the Red Army and forced to work in Siberia.[175] During the 1950s and 1960s, an estimated 6,000 Japanese accompanied Zainichi Korean spouses repatriating to North Korea, while another 27,000 prisoners-of-war are estimated to have been sent there by the Soviet Union; see Japanese people in North Korea.[175][176]

There is a community of Japanese people in Hong Kong largely made up of expatriate businessmen. There are about 4,018 Japanese people living in India who are mostly expatriate engineers and company executives and they are based mainly in Haldia, Bangalore and Kolkata. Additionally, there are 903 Japanese expatriates in Pakistan based mostly in the cities of Islamabad and Karachi.[177]


The Japanese community of the city of São Paulo, Brazil, traditionally lived in the Liberdade neighbourhood.

People from Japan began migrating to the U.S. and Canada in significant numbers following the political, cultural, and social changes stemming from the 1868 Meiji Restoration. (See Japanese American and Japanese Canadians).

Japanese woman on board Kumeric en route to Vancouver

In Canada, small multi-generational communities of Japanese immigrants developed and adapted to life in outside Japan.[178]

In the United States, particularly after the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, Japanese immigrants were sought by industrialists to replace the Chinese immigrants. In 1907, the "Gentlemen's Agreement" between the governments of Japan and the U.S. ended immigration of Japanese workers (i.e., men), but permitted the immigration of spouses of Japanese immigrants already in the U.S. The Immigration Act of 1924 banned the immigration of all but a token few Japanese, until the Immigration Act of 1965, there was very little further Japanese immigration. That which occurred was mostly in the form of war brides. The majority of Japanese settled in Hawaii where today a third of the state's population are of Japanese descent, and the rest in the West Coast (California, Washington and Oregon), but other significant communities are found in the Northeast and Midwest states.

The Japanese diaspora has been unique in the absence of new emigration flows in the second half of the 20th century.[179] However, research reports that during the post-war many Japanese migrated individually to join existing communities abroad.[180]

View of Ujo Nakano's farm house at Port Hammond, B.C.

With the restrictions on entering the United States, the level of Japanese immigration to Latin America began to increase. Mexico was the first Latin American country to receive Japanese immigrants in 1897,[181] when the first thirty five arrived in Chiapas to work on coffee farms. Japanese immigrants (particularly from the Okinawa Prefecture, including Okinawans) arrived in small numbers during the early 20th century. Japanese Brazilians are the largest ethnic Japanese community outside Japan (numbering about 1.5 million,[182] compared to about 1.2 million in the United States), and São Paulo contains the largest concentration of Japanese outside Japan. The first Japanese immigrants (791 people, mostly farmers) came to Brazil in 1908 on the Kasato Maru from the Japanese port of Kobe, moving to Brazil in search of better living conditions. Many of them ended up as laborers on coffee farms. (see also Shindo Renmei)

Japanese Peruvians form another notable ethnic Japanese community with an extimated of 6,000 Iseei, and 100,000 Japanese descendants (Nissei,Sansei,Yonsei) with a former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori as one of the most recognisable faces, also Japanese Food known as Nikkei cuisine is part of the richness of Peruvian-Japanese culinary.

The first Japanese Argentine Nisei (second generation), Seicho Arakaki, was born in 1911.

See also Japanese Paraguayan.

There was a small amount of Japanese settlement in the Dominican Republic between 1956 and 1961, in a programme initiated by Dominican Republic leader Rafael Trujillo. Protests over the extreme hardships and broken government promises faced by the initial group of migrants set the stage for the end of state-supported labour emigration in Japan.[183][184]

The Japanese Colombian colony migrated between 1929 and 1935 in three waves. Their community is unique in terms of their resistance against the internal conflict occurring in Colombia during the decade of the 1950s, a period known as La Violencia.[180][185]


The Japanese in Britain form the largest Japanese community in Europe with well over 100,000 living all over the United Kingdom (the majority being in London)[citation needed]. In recent years, many young Japanese have been migrating from Japan to Britain to engage in cultural production and to become successful artists in London.[186] There are also small numbers of Japanese people in Russia some whose heritage date back to the times when both countries shared the territories of Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands; some Japanese communists settled in the Soviet Union, including Mutsuo Hakamada, the brother of former Japanese Communist Party chairman Satomi Hakamada whose daughter Irina Hakamada is a notable Russian political figure.[187] The 2002 Russian census showed 835 people claiming Japanese ethnicity (nationality).[188]

There is a sizable Japanese community in Düsseldorf, Germany of nearly 8,000.[189]


Early Japanese immigrants lived in Broome, Western Australia, and were involved in the pearl fishing business.

In recent years, Japanese migration to Australia, largely consisting of younger age females, has been on the rise.[190]

Return migration to Japan[edit]

Main article: dekasegi

In the 1980s, with Japan's growing economy facing a shortage of workers willing to do so-called three 'K' jobs (きつい kitsui [difficult], 汚い kitanai [dirty], and 危険 kiken [dangerous]), Japan's Ministry of Labor began to grant visas to ethnic Japanese from South America to come to Japan and work in factories. The vast majority — estimated at roughly 300,000 — were from Brazil, but there is also a large population from Peru and smaller populations from Argentina and other Latin American countries.

In response to the recession as of 2009, the Japanese government has offered ¥300,000 ($3,300) for unemployed Japanese from Latin America to return to their country of origin with the stated goal of alleviating the country's soaring unemployment. Another ¥200,000 ($2,200) is offered for each additional family member to leave.[191] Emigrants who take this offer are not allowed to return to Japan with the same privileged visa with which they entered the country.[192] Arudou Debito, columnist for the Japan Times, an English language newspaper in Japan, denounced the policy as "racist" as it only offered Japanese-blooded foreigners who possessed the special "person of Japanese ancestry" visa the option to receive money in return for repatriation to their home countries.[192] Some commentators also accused it of being exploitative since most nikkei had been offered incentives to immigrate to Japan in 1990, were regularly reported to work 60+ hours per week, and were finally asked to return home when the Japanese became unemployed in large numbers.[192][193] [194]

In popular culture[edit]


See also[edit]


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