Section 5.  One Hundred Years of Government-endorsed Emigration


1.  Centenary of Government-endorsed Emigration to Hawaii

The year 1985 is a milestone year marking the centennial of the start of large-scale Japanese emigration -- one hundred years since the City of Tokyo left the port of Yokohama for Honolulu in January 1885 with 945 Japanese emigrants aboard under an agreement between the governments of Japan and Hawaii. 

From 1885 until emigration pursuant to the agreement between the two governments was cut off in 1894, a total of 29,132 Japanese emigrated to Hawaii.

Overcoming the many difficulties which they and later emigrants faced, these people meshed with other ethnic groups to settle in Hawaii and lay the foundations for the prosperity presently enjoyed by the Japanese-American community there. At present, it is estimated that about one-fourth of the population of Hawaii is of Japanese ancestry.


2.  Prewar Emigration

Once government-endorsed emigration was started, Japanese spread out to emigrate to continental United States, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Southeast Asia, and other lands of opportunity. There was an especially sharp increase in Japanese emigration to the United States in the late 1890s and early 1900s, with over 20,000 people emigrating in a single year. Yet this strong influx of Japanese aroused antagonism in many parts of the United States and fanned anti-Japanese sentiment, such that emigration to the United States and Canada was subsequently restricted.

Shut out from the North American continent, Japanese emigration turned to South America, especially to Brazil. Starting with the 781 Japanese aboard the Kasado Maru when it docked in Santos in June 1908, Japanese emigration to Brazil continued until the cumulative total was approximately 190,000 in 1941.

Worldwide, total Japanese emigration from the time of the Meiji Restoration until it was halted by the Second World War was over 770,000, even excluding the people who had emigrated to the areas of Manchuria under Japanese control. By region, the totals were about 370,000 to North America (including Hawaii), about 240,000 to Latin America, and about 160,000 to Southeast Asia and other regions.


Japanese Prewar Emigration


3.  Postwar Emigration

Interrupted by the war, Japanese emigration resumed after the war with 17 families (54 persons) who emigrated to the Amazon Basin in 1952. As such, the resumption of emigration revived Japanese interest in foreign lands as a possible escape from the crowding and hardships which unavoidably resulted from wartime defeat. With the government adopting a policy of actively supporting this emigration, Japanese emigration quickly spread in the 1950s from Brazil to Paraguay, Bolivia, Argentina, and the Dominican Republic. In 1955, only four years after the resumption of emigration, the number of emigrants topped 10,000 per year and was continuing to rise. Most of the emigration during this period was for agricultural purposes, the emigrants either going to work on farms already established by earlier Japanese emigrants or going to develop new agricultural lands as arranged by the Japan Emigration Promotion Co., Ltd.

The promotion of emigration was an important government policy during this period as a way to alleviate the population pressures and absorb the labor that Japanese industry was not yet sufficiently redeveloped to employ. In 1955, the Federation of Associations for Japanese Emigration was established to handle the recruiting of emigrants, arranging for their acceptance, and lending emigrants the money for passage, and this policy was further strengthened in 1954 with the founding of the Japan Emigration Promotion Co., Ltd. to purchase and distribute land and to provide financing for emigrants. Both of these operations were later merged into the Japan Emigration Service established in 1963 and later transferred to the Japan International Cooperation Agency established in 1974. Also during this period, the government established the Emigration Council in 1955 to deliberate issues of importance to emigration and emigrants. Emigration agreements were signed with a number of host countries (e.g., Bolivia in 1956, Paraguay in 1959, and Brazil in 1960) in an effort to smooth the process of emigration and protect the interests of emigrants.

After topping 10,000 every year since 1955, with the peak recorded in 1957 at 16,620, Japanese emigration began tapering off as the Japanese economy got back on its feet and expanded employment opportunities were available in Japan. By 1962, the number of emigrants dropped below 10,000, and it has held at about 3,000 per year recently. At the same time, the emigration pattern has changed from one dominated by agricultural emigrants to Latin America to one of technical experts emigrating to Canada, Australia, the United States, and elsewhere in hopes of going into business for themselves. All told, the total postwar emigration has been approximately 250,000 -- including 100,000 to Latin America, 140,000 to North America, and 10,000 to Australia and other regions.


Japanese Postwar Emigration


4.  Issues in Emigration

There are today approximately 250,000 Japanese emigrants and about 1.5 million people descended from earlier Japanese emigrants. Contributing to the development of their host countries, these people not only promote better relations between their host countries and Japan but also make an important contribution to the efforts of Japanese companies overseas and other overseas activities by Japanese. Emigration to the developing countries is also an excellent form of international cooperation, both for the skills that Japanese emigrants take with them and for the investment that accompanies their emigration. Nevertheless, there are still some emigrants who, given the harsh conditions in the lands they have emigrated to, are not yet able to stand on their own, and it is imperative that efforts be made to assist them with their basic livelihood needs and to help them become self-sufficient.

Although there are not many emigrants now, increasing numbers of Japanese are living overseas for work, study, or other reasons, many of whom end up spending most of their lives overseas. It is important that Japanese emigration policy be flexible enough to help this new breed of emigrant with its problems too. There should also be serious consideration given to what the government can and should do in response to the situation created by the fact that, largely as a result of earlier emigration, there are 1.5 million people of Japanese ancestry living overseas.


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