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Japanese Peruvian

Japanese Peruvians
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Total population

3,949 Japanese nationals

109,000 Peruvians of Japanese Descent
1.2-1.4% of the Peruvian population
Regions with significant populations
Lima, Trujillo, Huancayo, Chiclayo,
Spanish, Japanese
Predominantly Roman Catholicism,
Buddhism, Shintoism,[1]
Related ethnic groups
Chinese Peruvian, Japanese Americans, Japanese Canadians, Japanese Brazilian, Asian Latinos

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.

File:Affiche émigration JP au BR-déb. XXe s..jpg
A poster used in Japan to attract immigrants to Peru and Brazil. It reads: "Let's go to South America .

The Japanese began arriving in Peru in the late 1800s. Many factors motivated the Japanese to immigrate to Peru. At the end of the nineteenth century in Japan, the rumor spread that a country called Peru somewhere on the opposite side of the earth was "full of gold". This country, moreover, was a paradise with a mild climate, rich soil for farming, familiar dietary customs, and no epidemics, according to advertisements of Japanese emigration companies (Konno and Fujisaki,1894). A Japanese immigrant in Peru, in her late 80s, said, "I came here because I heard there was gold and no snow in this country". Another in his 90s, said that he had followed his uncle to Peru because "I wanted to become a farmer. Owning land was my dream". With various dreams in mind, some 790 Japanese, all men between the ages of 20 and 45, left Japan in 1898 to work on Peru's coastal plantations as contract laborers, Their purpose was simple: to earn and save money for the return home upon termination of their four-year contracts. The 25 yen monthly salary on Peru's plantations was more than double the average salary in rural Japan(Suzuki,1992). in four year's time, then they expected their savings to amount to 860 yen. At the time of the Sino-Japanese war, the economic state of Japan was poor. Japanese immigrated to Peru to find new job opportunities. Because of the poor economic conditions in Japan, a surplus of skilled farmers in Japan occurred. Peru provided a new job market that was accommodating to the Japanese farmers. When the Japanese first arrived in Peru, the Peruvians welcomed the hard-work ethic of the Japanese worker. They provided the Peruvians with a cheap and productive labor source. After the population of Japanese immigrants grew in Peru, many Peruvian Japanese began opening small businesses and became entrepreneurs. Peru has the second largest ethnic Japanese population in South America (Brazil has the largest) and this community has made a significant cultural impact on the country today approximately 1.4% of the population of Peru.[2] Peru was the first Latin American country to establish diplomatic relations with Japan,[3] in June 1873.[4] Peru was also the first Latin American country to accept Japanese immigration.[3] The Sakura Maru carried Japanese families from Yokohama to Peru and arrived on April 3, 1899 at the Peruvian port city of Callao.[5] 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.[4]

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.[6] 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."[7]


The Japanese Peruvian community began in 1899 when some 800 contract workers arrived in Callao Seaport in Lima. The Japanese migrants suffered from serious tropical diseases such as malaria, typhoid, and yellow fever, as well as discrimination due to race, language, and culture. Within a year, 143 had died and 93 fled to Bolivia (becoming the first Japanese immigrants in that country). A second ship, which brought over one thousand new Japanese immigrants, arrived four years later, and a third—with 774 Japanese immigrants—arrived in 1906 (Gardiner 1981: 3-4). By 1941 some 16,300 Japanese were living in Peru (10,300 from Okinawa and 6,000 from mainland Japan). Of these, only 3300 were women (Masterson 2007: 148). Thus, unlike Brazil where farming family immigration was encouraged by the Brazilian authority for the migratory workers to settle in coffee plantations, single Japanese men but few women migrated to Peru. Most Japanese men married local women. Today, there are about 100,000 people of Japanese descent living in Peru, about 0.4 percent of population. The majority are descendants of pre-war immigrants.

Unlike many other countries in Latin America, most Japanese immigrants did not settle on farms and plantations in Peru. They were able to moved around to seek better opportunities and many migrated to the cities. Some worked for Japanese proprietors or started their own small businesses. By 1930, 45 percent of all Japanese in Peru ran small businesses in Lima. As in California, economic conflicts with local businesses quickly arose. The Eighty Percent Law passed in 1932 required that at least 80 percent of shop employees be non-Asian Peruvians. Furthermore, the Immigration Law of 1936 prohibited citizenship to children of alien parents, even if they were born in Peru. Peru was hardly the only country in the New World to take such actions. The United States prohibited citizenship for Asians at its inception in 1790, and reiterated it for Japanese in 1908 and 1924.

In 1940, an earthquake destroyed the city of Lima. By this time the community of Japanese and their wives and children was about 30,000 in Peru. Rumors spread that Japanese were looting.[1] As a result, some 650 Japanese houses were attacked and destroyed in Lima, an event resonating with the attack on Koreans in Japan at the time of the 1923 Kanto earthquake. Other harsh measures against Japanese-Peruvians followed. For example, in 1940 it was decreed that Japanese-Peruvians who went abroad to study in Japan would lose Peruvian citizenship.

In 1941, Peru broke off diplomatic relations with Japan after the Pearl Harbor attack and social and legal discrimination towards Japanese-Peruvians increased. All Japanese community institutions were disbanded, Japanese-language publications prohibited, and gatherings of more than three Japanese could constitute spying (Peru Simpo 1975 in Takenaka 2004:92). Japanese were not allowed to open businesses, and those who had a business were forced to auction them off. Japanese-owned deposits in Peruvian banks were frozen (Takenaka 2004:92). By 1942, Japanese were not even allowed to lease land (enacting laws jointly with the United States) (Gerbi 1943 in Takenaka 2004:92). The freedom of Japanese to travel outside their home communities was also restricted (Takenaka 2004:92).

These draconian measures were the result of agreements among the foreign ministers of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, the United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela in meetings in Rio de Janeiro. To bolster the security of all North and South America, they also recommended (1) the incarceration of dangerous enemy aliens, (2) the prevention of the descendants of enemy nationals to abuse their rights of citizenship to do things like criticize the government, (3) the regulation of international travel by enemy aliens and their families, and (4) the prevention of all acts of potential political aggression by enemy aliens, such as espionage, sabotage, and subversive propaganda (Gardiner 1981: 17).

Japanese Schools in Peru

27 Japanese schools were founded in Peru (before the Second World War), which used school curricula created especially for overseas Japanese. The first Japanese school in Peru was founded in 1908 inside the Santa Barbara in the province of Canete. Many Japanese immigrants, with enough economic resources (or, in some cases, with little money but many children), could afford to send their children to Japan to study. This "exodus" of children prompted Andes Jiho newspaper to suggest, in 1914, the foundation of a local Japanese school in Lima in order to decrease the number of children who were sent to Japan to study. Six years later, in 1920, Lima Nikko was founded, which was the most important school in the Japanese society in Peru, because it was the first Japanese school with authorization to operate in Latin America given by the Ministry of Education of Japan. In Lima Nikko, as well as other local Japanese schools, classes were given both in Japanese and Spanish, and teaching, especially, Japanese history and culture.

Japanese-Peruvians and the United States

According to Gardiner (in Hirabayashi and Yano 2006: 160), 2,264 Latin Americans of Japanese descent were deported to the United States in 1942. Among those, at least 1,800 people were from Peru. Those Japanese who were on a “blacklist” at the American embassy in Peru were kidnapped and deported at gunpoint by the Peruvian police to internment camps in Texas and New Mexico. These deported “Japanese” included many people born in Peru (Gardiner 1981: 14-15; Hirabayashi and Kikumura-Yano 2007: 157). At these camps, the Japanese-Peruvians were joined by some 500 Japanese immigrants and their children from eleven other Latin American nations, (i.e., Bolivia,[2] Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama).[3] It is hard today to discern the precise reasons for these deportations. Patriotic wartime hysteria and political pressure from the United States were major contributing factors, but these simply added to the already extensive patterns of discrimination found in Peru. According to California Democratic congressman Xavier Becerra, one motive behind this action was to use these people as bargaining chips. Becerra and members of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Latin Americans of Japanese Descent Act (S 381 and H.R. 662) claim that some 800 Japanese Latin Americans in these camps were sent to Japan in exchange for captured American soldiers.[4] However, substantive evidence that these exchanges actually took place remains to be documented.

Life in the camps was not only a physical and economic struggle for Japanese-Peruvians, it also involved conflict with both non-Japanese Americans and Japanese Americans. Physically, the internment camps in the United States were like prisons, with residents surrounded by barbed-wire fences with armed guards. Physical conditions, especially at first, were stark. Each camp housed about 10,000 people, and conditions were often crowded. However, the residents gradually organized themselves, and by the end of the war something of a community had grown in each camp. There were newspapers, amateur theaters, schools, and sports teams. Many people had jobs, such as cooks, janitors, or health-care workers. As time passed, some Japanese were given a chance to be released temporarily from the camps to engage in agricultural work in local areas. But these opportunities were mostly limited to Japanese Americans, most of whom were either first-generation Japanese or their Nisei second-generation children born in the United States. They knew almost nothing about Peru or the Japanese Peruvians, and showed little interest in learning more. The feelings seemed mutual. This was especially true for the Nisei, most of whom thought of themselves simply as Americans or Peruvians and identified with the cultural and social values of their respective host nations. The Japanese minority from Latin America, then, was a minority even in the internment camps.

Japanese-American infantrymen of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team hike up a muddy French road in the Chambois Sector, France, in late 1944. In 1943 President Roosevelt suggested to the War Department that Japanese-Americans join the U.S. Army in an all-Japanese-American unit as one means to prove the loyalty of the Japanese-American community. This unit became known as the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and demonstrated great bravery and skill. About 3,000 men from Hawaii and 800 men from the mainland served in the armed forces at the time the unit was formed.

Italian, German and Japanese residents of Latin America leaving a temporary internment camp in the Panama Canal Zone to join their male relatives in U.S. internment camps. April 7, 1942. Toward the end of the war the War Relocation Authority asked all internees over the age of 18—this time including Japanese from Peru—if they were loyal to the United States, and would defend the country against Japan if called upon to do so. Many of the Issei (first generation immigrants), who had been denied American citizenship because of their race, agonized at the prospect of facing parents, friends, and relatives in Japan at gunpoint. However, if they refused to declare loyalty to America they could become stateless. Some second generation Nisei, too, were suspicious of a government that had taken away their rights as American citizens. Not surprisingly, Japanese Peruvians, whose only American experience was their internment, were equally, if not more, hostile. By 1943, after many Japanese Americans had proved loyal to the US by enlisting, the US began drafting Japanese-American men including those who had been denied most of the rights enjoyed by US citizens and been imprisoned. As a result by the end of the war more than 33,000 Japanese-American men and women had served in the American armed forces. The West Coast exclusion orders that had barred Japanese Americans from living on the coast were terminated in December, 1944, and the last camp was closed in March 1946. Although no provisions were made to compensate them for the losses they incurred during the war or as a result of internment (except for the $25 that each was given when leaving the camps), Japanese-Americans were free to go anywhere in the country. Many returned to the West Coast. But Japanese-Peruvians who were detained in the United States were neither allowed to return to Peru until 1948. Nor were their belongings returned to them by the Peruvian government following return. Although a few managed to return to Latin America, many were either deported to Japan or reentered the United States from Mexico and applied for a visa to stay in the United States. In 1988, over 110,000 Japanese Americans who were interned during the war received an official apology from the American government and $20,000 compensation for being incarcerated. However, Japanese Latin Americans who were interned received no apology or compensation. This was because when they were deported from Peru, their passports were taken away by the Peruvian government, and they were classified as "illegal aliens" upon their arrival in the States. Being neither U.S. citizens nor permanent residents at that time, they failed to qualify for reparations even though the majority eventually became American citizens after the war. Finally, after a class-action lawsuit, in June 1998 American-interned Latin Americans received an official apology from the U.S. government and nominal compensation of $5000. However, only about 800 Latin Americans accepted this offer, the others simply rejecting it outright. As mentioned, in summer 2007 a US Senate committee formed a commission to investigate the relocation, internment, and deportation of Latin Americans of Japanese descent during World War II. It estimated that the cost of the investigation would be about $500,000. The sponsors included Senators Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka from Hawaii, Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski from Arkansas, Carl Levin from Michigan, Patrick Leahy from Vermont, and Congressmen, Xavier Becerra, Dan Lungren, and Mike Honda of California and Chris Cannon of Utah. The investigation was originally initiated in 2006 by the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Latin Americans of Japanese Descent Act. It remains to be seen if the commission will come up with a solution that is acceptable to both the US government and the Latin American Japanese victims.

World War II

There were around 26,000 immigrants of Japanese nationality in Peru in 1941, the year of the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor, marking the beginning of the Pacific war campaign for the United States of America in World War II.[8] 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.

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 America, 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; 1,799[8]

This political-military 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.

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 almost all 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.[9]

The enormous groups of Japanese Peruvian forced exiles were initially placed amongst 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[10] 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,[8][11] being offered "parole" relocation to the labor-starved farming community in Seabrook, New Jersey.[12] 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.[13]

The deportation of Japanese Peruvians to the United States also involved expropriation without compensation of their property and other assets in Peru.[14] At war's end, only 79 Japanese Peruvian citizens returned to Peru, and about 400 remained in the United States as "stateless" refugees.[15] 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.[16]

Japanese-Peruvians in the Post-War Period

Alberto Fujimori (First President of Japanese origins)

File:Alberto Fujimori October 1998.JPEG
First Japanese Peruvian President of Peru. October 1998.

Although anti-Japanese discrimination in Peru was among the worst in Latin America, in 1990 Alberto Fujimori was elected President, and was reelected in 1995. He was the first person not only of Japanese descent, but of Asian descent, to be elected president outside Asia. In late 2000 Fujimori’s administration was rocked by scandal, and accusations of corruption and human rights violations. While Fujimori was visiting Japan, the Peruvian authorities indicted him. Fujimori’s resignation was announced while he was in Japan. Receiving a faxed resignation letter, the Peruvian Congress refused to accept his resignation, and instead removed him from office. It then barred him from holding any elective office for 10 years and the Congress requested the Japanese government to deport Fujimori to Peru for investigation of his crimes.

Protesters in Peru are demanding Fujimori's return, Dec. 2000. While Japan was negotiating his relocation, in spite of the 10-year ban, in 2005 Fujimori sought to run in the presidential election of 2006, but the Peruvian authorities officially disqualified him. After traveling to Chile in 2005, Fujimori was detained by the Chilean authorities. He was released from prison in 2006 but placed under house arrest. The Peruvian government formally requested extradition to face human rights and corruption charges, but the Chilean government rejected the request in 2007 (his extradition is still being decided in the courts). In summer 2007, Fujimori tried to run for a seat in Japan’s Upper House. Running under the banner of the small People’s New Party, he called himself “the last samurai” in campaign videos, and pledged to restore traditional values to government. His 51,411 votes fell far short of winning. These political incidents seem to have set back social progress for people of Japanese descent in Peru.

Fujimori called himself "the last Samurai" in a campaign video

Dekasegi Japanese-Peruvians

Main article: Dekasegi

In the 1980s, the Peruvian economy suffered a number of setbacks, and inflation soared as high as 2000% a year at times. In Japan, however, with the economic boom many factories were short of labor. Around this period, the average wage for an unskilled laborer in Japan was about $20,000 per year (Tsuda 1999: 693). This was over 40 times the minimum wage in Peru, and over eight times the salary of many in management.[5] These economic conditions led many people from Peru to seek work in Japan.

Japanese companies in the 1980s hesitated to hire people of different ethnic backgrounds. It was felt that such people might not adapt well to Japanese labor practices. The Japanese government proposed avoiding some of these problems by employing Nikkei (people of Japanese descent born and raised outside Japan) returnees from Latin America, who, it was thought, shared racial and cultural affinities with Japanese. The government issued special work permits to people of Japanese descent going back three generations. These guest workers are commonly called dekasegi[6] (lit. “migratory earners”) workers in Japan. The results were not quite those anticipated. In the case of Peru, in 1992 Victor Aritomi, the Peruvian ambassador to Japan, said that although it was reported that among the almost 40,000 Japanese-Peruvians—that is, half of the Japanese-Peruvian population—who were then living in Japan, only 15,000 at most were “real” Japanese descendants. The rest—that is, almost two thirds of the “Japanese-Peruvians” in Japan at the time—not only had no primordial tie with Japan, but many did not even “look” particularly Asian.

Part of the reason for this was that many dekasegi workers of Japanese descent in Peru had non-Japanese spouses. Since the Japanese government had issued work permits to nuclear family members of dekasegi workers in 1990, the actual composition of the group was not limited to people of Japanese descent. According to Yanagida (1997: 297), about 30% of Nikkei couples in Peru with a spouse of Latin American origin had dekasegi experiences in 1995. This compares with only 9% of couples in which both partners were Nikkei who had dekasegi experiences at that time. Hearing of the high wages in Japan, many non-Nikkei Peruvians also wished to go to Japan to work. These non-Nikkei people used one of three strategies to obtain dekasegi work permits: (1) become a spouse of a Nikkei, (2) become an adopted child of a Nikkei family, or (3) become Nikkei through use of false or spurious documents—usually Japanese koseki (the Japanese registration of one’s birth and parentage). According to a Spanish correspondent in Tokyo, Montse Watkins, her non-Nikkei Peruvian interviewees paid between one and three thousand US dollars to “become” an adopted child of a Nikkei Peruvian (Watkins 1994: 112, 131, 135). The price of adoption differed depending on the family; however several thousand dollars seems to have been common.

In 1990 one municipal office of a township in Lima received 2,000 adoption registration documents and 500 marriage certificates—including one woman who adopted 60 children in one year (Watkins 1994: 131). Though it is obvious what is going on, the mayor claims that there is no way to stop these irregularities as these Nikkei are not breaking the law: they are free to adopt children or marry who they wish. Even selling and purchasing old koseki birth documents (say, at auction) is not illegal: antique dealers or collectors may simply wish to buy old documents, or papers from a foreign nation written in a foreign language (Fuchigami 1995: 26). Some people who newly and successfully became Nikkei in this way went to Japan to work. Others, however, have been swindled; criminals take their money but never produce the promised documents. [7]

From the beginning of dekasegi in Japan, however, these Nikkei Peruvians were thought to look a little different from Japanese, or even other Nikkei such as those from Brazil (the largest Nikkei community in Japan). This is because of the high rate of inter-racial mixed-marriages from the early period of Japanese-Peruvian history. Such children differ physically from those of Nikkei who married other Nikkei. It is true that it is thought that even Brazilian Nikkei, the majority of those who have both Japanese descent parents, may look different from Japanese in Japan having grown up in a different social, cultural, and physical environment (Saito 1984). However, the physical distinctions of Peruvians are at a different level as they may not even look like Asian at all.

Aoki Morihisa, a Japanese ambassador and plenipotentiary in Lima, admitted responsibility for sending many “fake” Japanese Peruvian Nikkei to Japan. But he spoke of the embassy’s other difficulties: Peruvian municipal officials have been involved in forging documents (Aoki 1997: 96-97). The officials can retype identifications (such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, or military documents) for their “customers” using a Japanese koseki birth and parentage registration document which was brought over by real Japanese immigrants over a century ago (Watkins 1994: 129). Since municipal officers are involved in this process, the paperwork brought to the embassy looks—and indeed, is—legal.

Such well-organized corruption has never been thought to be a criminal offense in Peru, but rather, a social issue. According to Watkins (1997:128), “dekasegi people sent 120 million dollars to Peru from Japan in 1992. ... This is about 3.5 % of the total exports of Peru of that year.” Since the nation’s economy has been helped by these dekasegi workers, the Peruvian government has been reluctant to prosecute Nikkei impostors. They do not even think of this situation as criminal; instead, they feel the Japanese government should open up this work opportunity to everyone.

One social issue centers around the “Nikkei-ness” of members of Japanese-Peruvian society. Due to racial discrimination in Peru, some people of Japanese-descent left the Japanese-Peruvian community and assimilated in Peruvian society (Aoki 1997: 96). However, others have remained, worked hard for over a century to maintain Nikkei culture and society, and strived to be both model citizens of Peru and good Japanese. The issue of fake Nikkei has undermined their reputation. It is well known in all Nikkei communities in the world and by Japanese in Japan that some Nikkei have been involved in creating fake Japanese-Peruvians. This comes at a time when many members of Nikkei society all over the world have become newly aware of their Japaneseness, as their dekasegi experience made them suddenly identify as Japanese. Those who sell their Nikkei legacy to non-Japanese are thought to be contemptible. As a result the reputation of Nikkei has been undermined in Nikkei societies worldwide, particularly in Peru and Japan.

People with strong Nikkei associations have negative opinions about those who are “Peruvians who just happen to have Japanese ancestors” or are fake Nikkei Japanese. They call the latter Nikkei-chicha. Chicha is a locally made beverage using sugar cane, the cheapest available ingredient to make an alcoholic beverage in Latin America. The word, chicha was formerly used to criticize a Nikkei who became Peruvianized. Now, Nikkei people use this term to criticize Peruvians who seek to buy someone else’s ethnic background.

Nikkei people blame Nikkei-chichas for the bad time Nikkei often experience in Japan. They also accuse them of illegal activity, such as over-staying their visa in Japan, robbery, or pick pocketing. This social boundary created between Nikkei and non- Nikkei Peruvians is also caused by the denial of their Japanese-ness by the Japanese government. Although many Nikkei-chichas have obtained dekasegi work permits and are working in Japan under the pretext of being Japanese descendants, many biologically legitimate Nikkei have had their applications rejected. A Nikkei woman was refused a dekasegi visa by an immigration officer in Japan because her mother’s marriage license had been corrected with an eraser. This type of correction is very common in Latin American nations; however, in Japan documents corrected in such a way are not accepted.

Another case involved neglecting to report a marriage to the Japanese government. Since the documents the Nikkei-chichas obtain are made with care, they are more likely to be seen as authentic in the eyes of Japanese immigration officials than the papers of Nikkei whose documents were not prepared especially to obtain special working visas. After 1993, the Japanese economic bubble having burst, many dekasegi lost their jobs. Some stayed on in Japan (but were unable to renew their visas) while others returned to Peru. Japanese-Peruvian Nikkei now face the problem of how to treat the returning Nikkei-chicha. Upon returning to Peru, some Nikkei-chicha tried to become members of Nikkei institutions like sport clubs, cultural centers, and financial cooperatives like “La Cooperativa de Ahorro y Crédito Pacífico.”

By 1992, this cooperative had become the biggest financial cooperative in Peru due to the support of dekasegi Nikkei who sent their wages to be saved in La cooperativa de Ahorro y Crédito Pacífico. These savings were borrowed by other Nikkei people to build businesses in Peru. In this way, many Nikkei Japanese Peruvians gained economic power in mainstream Peruvian society. For instance, currently about 10% of the stock of Banco del Sur is held by Nikkei.

The problem for these Nikkei is what to do when Nikkei-chichas apply to become members of these Nikkei cooperatives? Nikkei in Peru have adapted the so-called tanomoshikō (mutual financial assistance system) that has long been used by many overseas Japanese immigrants. In this credit-union-like system members deposit money into the pool in the expectation of being able to borrow money later. As members may borrow and return money with little interest, the system relies on trust; if a member fails to return his or her loan, other members would not only lose money but be deprived of later opportunities to borrow themselves. The qualification for being a member is that one has to be of Japanese descent. From the Nikkei viewpoint, the Nikkei-chicha see this financial-cooperative system of Nikkei as just another capital institution and do not recognize it as a manifestation of Nikkei-ness. And Nikkei suspect that Nikkei-chicha might not help other Nikkei, honor the cooperative rules which are not based on written agreements, or make financial investments for the larger good of Nikkei society. Fearing that the Nikkei community would be destroyed, they question the commitment of the Nikkei-chichas.

However, these emigration trend is now changing. After 2011, many Japanese Peruvians are now coming back to Peru.

The Japanese Press in Peru

The need to obtain information about what was happening in Japan and, at the same time, the will to share it with the Japanese immigrants, were the motives for the founding of the Japanese press in Peru. In 1909, ten years after the official start of Japanese immigration to Peru, the Japanese knew very little or nothing about events that had happened in their home country. The few bits of news that arrived in letters always came late; sometimes news arrived via radio when there was short-wave available and no atmospheric interference.

At the time the Japanese settlement in Peru was small when one considers that, in general, its population grew to 6290, the majority of whom worked on sugar plantations. Some finished their four-year contracts, while others had simply run away to Lima, the Peruvian capital. Many opened their own businesses there. By 1909, there were some fifty Japanese hair salons and only thirty-five owned by Peruvian nationals. Among those who lived in Lima there were those who stood out for their intellectual prowess and assumed positions of leadership within the Japanese community, while others achieved financial success due to their economic activities. It was those folks, in particular, who decided to call upon the print media, albeit modest and very limited, as a way to achieve their ends.

A print medium was a necessary step for the burgeoning Japanese community to take, especially as some Japanese began to open their own businesses and wanted to establish relationships with local authorities. In general, it not only served to keep the community informed of events in Japan but also as a means to keep abreast of local events, publicize municipal ordinances, as well as laws that applied to all of Peru, not to mention the dissemination of information regarding individuals and businesses in the Japanese community. Without doubt, the most important significance was that the print medium served as the primary mechanism to inform the Japanese community of possible attacks due to the general atmosphere of discrimination against them at the time. Copy of Jiritsu, a handwritten and printed on mimeograph paper, published as a homage to Emperor Meiji who died in July 1912.


In 1909, therefore, Nipponjin (The Japanese) was founded, a handwritten newspaper edited by someone with the surname Seki, who was a graduate of the University of Waseda, and who, as a free immigrant, worked at the Cerro de Pasco Corporation in La Oroya. The newspaper appeared about four times. It was written on sulfite paper or “office paper,” which was similar to the wrapping paper used in small businesses. The edition consisted of only one copy of thirty to forty pages that was held together by a string that served as a fastener of sorts. Seki brought his newspaper to the Japanese hair salons and then to several other businesses. As such, passing from hand to hand, the Japanese were informed of the latest news.


Between 1910 and 1913, when 2473 Japanese arrived in Peru, there appeared another handwritten newspaper that was printed and distributed on mimeograph paper: Jiritsu (The Independent), whose format was 18x23 centimeters with each edition averaging some seventy-two pages, which also were fastened together with a string. Its printing on mimeograph made it possible for greater distribution than its predecessor. It ended in 1913, the same year that the emperor Taisho, grandfather of the current Japanese emperor, celebrated one year on the throne.

Andes Jiho

The newspaper Andes Jiho was published for almost sixteen years. Nevertheless, some years later, criticisms flared up that accused the newspaper of defending the interests of only those who had attained a good economic position in the community, while marginalizing the majority of immigrants. Therefore, in June 1921, Nippi Shimpo (Japanese-Peruvian News) appeared on the scene and was published by Jutaro Tanaka, Teisuke Okubo, Noboru Kitahara, Kohei Mitsumori and Chijiwa, as the newspaper in opposition to Andes Jiho and defender of those who had yet attained favorable economic conditions.

Nichi Shimbun

Eight years later, on January 1, 1929, another newspaper was founded, Perú Nichi Nichi Shimbun (Daily News of Peru), with the goal of taking part in the debate. It was understood that the Japanese readership should neither be polarized nor silent witnesses in the polemic that had sustained the other two newspapers. This new publication was directed by Susumu Sakuray who had been the editor of . It was distinguished for having a more modern look and for including the most recent news that were received via cable and radio. After a short time Tanaka had to leave his post because he was named an official of the Punizas Settlement in the Perené Zone (the jungle sector of Peru), a project that had been created by Minister Saburo Kurusu with an eye toward decentralizing the Japanese community in Lima. Sakuray assumed the leadership of the newspaper, while his brother, Hiromu Sakuray, took up a managerial post and Akio Hanno became chief editor.

Lima Nippo

At the end of five years and under the charge that the Okinawans had influenced the editorial line of the newspaper, changes began to take place in the company, obliging the Sakuray Brothers to quit. Choko Shinjo, who had studied economics at the University of Meiji in Tokyo, and who had journalism experience working at various Japanese newspapers, assumed the leadership of Lima Nippo, a position that he maintained for several years until he returned to his native land. After his experience with Punizas, Tanaka returned to Lima and once again took charge of the newspaper.

Nippi Shimpo

Six months later, Jutaro Tanaka, one of the publishers of Nippi Shimpo, managed to merge the three newspapers and publish a new one, Lima Nippo (Daily Bulletin of Lima). He argued that for such a small community it was not necessary to waste such efforts publishing three newspapers; rather, it was better to save supplies and offer the readership one good newspaper. This is how the newspaper was born in July 1929; Tanaka himself was named manager of the new company, and Sakuray, the former manager of Andes Jiho and Perú Nichi Nichi Shimbun, was named editor.

Peru Jiho

After only a month had passed since the debut of Lima Nippo another newspaper, Peru Jiho (Chronicles of Peru), began to circulate in the city, and it was supported by those who had opposed the merger of the original three newspapers. Kuninosuke Yamamoto assumed the leadership for two years, and in 1931, it passed to Hisao Ikeyama, a graduate of the University of Tokyo, who, thanks to his editorials that made the newspaper competitive, managed to stamp his own personal seal on the newspaper. Thereafter, a portion of the paper was published in Spanish, while some of the first Peruvians of Japanese descent worked on the newspaper, including Víctor Tateishi, Luis Okamoto, Julio Matsumura, Alberto Mochizuki, Enrique Shibao and Chihito Saito. In July 1941, Susumu Sakuray, who had earlier left the paper Lima Nippo, published the Peru Hochi (Reports of Peru), which now brought the number of newspapers circulating in the community back to three. It was World War II, and there was great interest in getting the most recent news coming out of Europe and then Asia. However, when Japan became involved in the war and Peru declared war against Japan, the Peruvian government closed down and confiscated Japanese newspapers. The government also deported the major players in the Japanese community, including those Japanese who had become Peruvian citizens, as well as Peruvians of Japanese descent.

Peru Shimpo

For almost a decade there were no Japanese-language newspapers circulating in Peru until July 1, 1950, when Peru Shimpo (Recent News from Peru) appeared, which remains in circulation today, and whose publication was authorized by Ministerial Resolution 107 of July 1, 1948. Peru Shimpo, just like Andes Jiho in 1913, was a product of donations gathered from among the members of the Japanese community. The organization for fundraising, as well as the donations lasted two years. With the proceeds the editors purchased machinery and the necessary typography, both of which arrived in Peru in February 1950. Diro Hasegawa was elected president of the board of directors, Masao Sawada as manager and Hiromu Sakuray as administrator and translator. The head of workshop was Kaname Ito, while some of the writers were Junji Kimura, Giei Higa, and Chihito Saito. Saito was also in charge of the Spanish section of the newspaper. After a year in circulation, Peru Shimpo Press acquired office space in Lima downtown. At the end of the 1990s, the Japanese philanthropist, Ryoichi Jinnai, donated to the press a second-hand offset machine that remains in use today. At the start of the new century, the press relocated to Bellavista, Callao. The publication was printed in the standard format and had four pages. In the beginning moveable type characterized the process. Later, the publication increased to eight pages. In 2006 a new design system was introduced along with color pages and in 2010 Peru Shimpo became a tabloid. In 2006 Peru Shimpo modernized its design and introduced color. Alan García, the president of Peru, sent prepared remarks to the Nikkei community that was published there. On October 1, 1955, which is to say, five years after the start date of Peru Shimpo, a second Japanese newspaper appeared in the post-war era: Peru Asahi Shimbun (Morning in Peru). Ryoko Kiyohiro was in charge of editing the Japanese sections and Víctor Hayashi the Spanish ones. The newspaper circulated until March 1964 when it shut down due to financial problems.

Prensa Nikkei

Since the publication of that first newspaper until now, the Japanese-Peruvian community has had eleven newspapers, of which two continue to circulate today: Peru Shimpo (Latest News from Peru) and Prensa Nikkei (The Nikkei Press). The community also published numerous magazines, of which only the institutional ones remain. There also were two radio programs for the Japanese community. Prensa Nikkei (Nikkei Press) appeared in 1985 and remains as the only Spanish-language tabloid in circulation. Toward the end of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s other periodicals appeared, many of them of great prestige, including Puente, Juventud Nisey, Nikko, and Sakura. These publications also enjoyed a modicum of success, but, unfortunately, they disappeared one by one, fundamentally because of a lack of financing. At present, only the institutional periodicals remain, such as Kaikan, which is the news branch of the Peruvian-Japanese Association and AELU, a branch of the Stadium Association La Unión, among others.

The Japanese-Peruvian Culinary

Peru’s culinary tradition is a smorgasbord of the various cultural influences which have swept over the South American country. One such cultural influence was Japan, and the combination of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine known as Nikkei has become the latest gastronomic sensation to hit Europe’s culinary capitals. Peru has the second largest ethnic Japanese population in South America (Brazil has the largest) and this community has made a significant cultural impact on the country since the Japanese first began to immigrate in the late 19th century. One of the most evident manifestations of their influence is of course Nikkei, the Japanese-Peruvian fusion food which is starting to sweep the globe. The particular roots of this fusion lie in the significance both traditions give to fresh fish, as Japanese sushi, buoyed by Peru’s thriving fishing industry, mixes perfectly with the ceviche which is at the centre of many Peruvian menus. As with Chifa, the fusion cuisine which emerged from the Chinese community in Peru, Japanese dishes were combined with the flavours and cooking techniques of the indigenous Peruvians to remarkable effect. Thus fresh fish was combined with limes, corn, aji peppers, yucca and the many varieties of potatoes which Peruvians prize so highly. These flavour combinations bring together the best of the elegant and delicate cuisine of Japan with the freshness and spicy punch of Peru, and the possibility of experimentation which the synthesis offers is now being exploited throughout the world.

The most notable purveyor of Nikkei is perhaps Nobu Matsuhisa, who has been using elements of this fusion cuisine since the late 1980s in his various Nobu restaurants throughout the world. Although he was an early exponent of Nikkei it has only recently been picked up by several high profile chefs in Europe, thanks partly to the success of Peruvian food throughout the continent. The most famous of these chefs is Ferran Adrià, the former El Bulli chef whose ‘molecular gastronomy’ revolutionised the culinary scene. He has now opened Pakta in Barcelona, where Nikkei is used as the basis for a range of culinary experimentation. Pakta offers diners either the Fujiyama menu or the Machu-Picchu menu, depending on which side of the culinary divide they want to emphasize, and standout dishes include Squid nigiri with huacatay salt, Tuna te-maki with puffed quinoa and shichimi and Sea Bass ceviche with kumquats leche de tigre. London also has its own Nikkei restaurant with the recently opened Chotto Matte from restaurateur Kurt Zdesar, which offers a range of dining options across its three floors, including a Robata Grill which is garnering rave reviews. However Lima remains the home of Nikkei, and as these three restaurants reveal, is still the best place to experience the best that this fusion cuisine has to offer.

Notable figures




  • Alberto Fujimori: agronomist, former university rector, former president of the Republic, prison inmate convicted of murder, bodily harm, and two cases of kidnapping.
  • Keiko Fujimori: former First Lady, Congresswoman and businesswoman (daughter of Alberto Fujimori)
  • Kenji Fujimori: Congressman (son of Alberto Fujimori)
  • Santiago Fujimori: lawyer (younger brother of Alberto Fujimori)
  • Susana Higuchi: politician, former First Lady, ex-spouse of Alberto Fujimori
  • Augusto Miyashiro: Mayor of the City of Chorrillos since 1999, an important middle class southern suburban district of Metropolitan Lima.
  • Marco Miyashiro: Top-General of the Peruvian National Police. Former National Police Chief. Former Minister of Homeland Security (Interior). One of the founders of GEIN, the elite police task force that successfully masterminded and captured Abimael Guzman and Elena Iparraguirre founders and former leaders of the Shining Path guerilla.
  • Rafael Yamashiro: Peruvian Congressman and politician
  • Jaime Yoshiyama: Former Prime Minister, former cabinet minister, former vice president and former president of the Peruvian Congress.
  • Francisco Okada: Former President of the Japanese Peruvian Association
  • Joaquín Maruy : Former Minister of Agriculture
  • Víctor García Toma: Former Minister of Justice



See also

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Notes and references


  1. ^ Masterson, Daniel et al. (2004). The Japanese in Latin America: The Asian American Experience, p. 237., p. 237, at Google Books
  2. ^ Lama, Abraham. "Home is Where the Heartbreak Is," Asia Times.October 16, 1999.
  3. ^ a b Palm, Hugo. "Desafíos que nos acercan," El Comercio (Lima, Peru). March 12, 2008.
  4. ^ a b Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), Japan: Japan-Peru relations Invalid language code.
  5. ^ "First Emigration Ship to Peru: Sakura Maru," Seascope (NYK newsletter). No. 157, July 2000.
  6. ^ 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).
  7. ^ Higashide, Seiichi. (2000). Adios to Tears, p. 218., p. 218, at Google Books
  8. ^ a b c Densho, Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. "Japanese Latin Americans," c. 2003, accessed 12 Apr 2009.
  9. ^ Robinson, Greg. (2001). By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans, p. 264., p. 264, at Google Books
  10. ^ Higashide, pp. 157-158., p. 157, at Google Books
  11. ^ "Japanese Americans, the Civil Rights Movement and Beyond" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-04-10. 
  12. ^ Higashide, p. 161., p. 161, at Google Books
  13. ^ Higashide, p. 219., p. 219, at Google Books
  14. ^ Barnhart, Edward N. "Japanese Internees from Peru," Pacific Historical Review. 31:2, 169-178 (May 1962).
  15. ^ 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
  16. ^ Higashide, p. 222., p. 222, at Google Books
  17. ^ Adios to Tears


External links