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Study Tour of the JICA Yokohama Japanese Overseas Migration Museum


(Head researcher Kojima lectures on the participation and contribution
of Japanese emigrants to their destination countries)

I took part in a field trip to the Japanese Overseas Migration Museum at the JICA Yokohama International Center on November 23, 2013. The visit began with a lecture on the history of Japanese emigrants and their descendants or Nikkei people by the head researcher of the museum, Mr. Shigeru Kojima. We then toured the exhibits with an explanation provided by a volunteer, Mr. Isao Kaburaki. Emigration from Japan grew active in the Meiji era (1868-1912) with Japanese emigrating to destinations all over the world including Hawaii, North America, South America, and Southeast Asia. It is estimated that a total of about 760,000 Japanese left Japan, and there are reportedly about 2.5 million Nikkei people worldwide today. Mr. Kojima explained that the sixth generation of Japanese counting from the generation which emigrated is already being born, which I found most surprising.

(Mr. Kaburaki explains the display materials
at a permanent exhibit)

A unique aspect of this museum is that by viewing the exhibits in order, it is possible to comprehensively and sequentially follow the history of wide-ranging people who emigrated from Japan to all parts of the world. The display begins from emigration to Hawaii in the Meiji era, and it is arranged so viewers can understand how the destinations changed over time proceeding to the West Coast of the US and then to South America after World War II. Moreover, I think learning the history of Nikkei people provided a new perspective on modern Japanese history as a history of overseas migration.

(This display of mixed plates shows the exchange of
culinary cultures that began from farm laborers
sharing their boxed lunches)

What I found particularly impressive among the exhibits was a single photograph of a Nikkei family that currently lives in Hawaii. This photograph-which has the title “Family bonds” -shows over 40 people of various generations from the elderly through babies, and one can see that the family is not purely of Japanese descent but includes members with diverse ethnic backgrounds. I felt this single family photo captures the essence of Hawaii’s multi-ethnic culture.

Through this study tour, I came to truly understand that a new culture of Nikkei is emerging in countries around the world. It was a great opportunity to learn the history of how Japanese emigrants have struggled, survived, and settled in countries around the world.

(Miyuki Daimaruya, Interdisciplinary Gender Studies Doctoral Program,
3rd year Graduate School of Humanities and Sciences)

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