Immigration to Hawai'i
The Japanese

Some myths
Sugar cane
The Caucasians
The Chinese
The Japanese
The Koreans
The Filipinos
The Portagee
Daily Life
Labor Unions
The War
Post WW2

My Hawaii
City Lights


The Japanese were  imported to counterbalance the Chinese during the 1880s. The number of Japanese vs Chinese was important to keep a balance in case of a dispute .Several letters (from planters) in the 1890s show that they encouraged as many nationalities as possible to prevent one dominant ethnic group from getting too much power.

In 1900, the planters had a problem to counterbalance the Japanese. Hawaii had become a territory and thus limiting the number of Chinese workers. The planters had to seek for other Asian nationalities, Europeans, Negroes etc.

What was the situation like in Japan:

Japan had been isolated from 1650 to 1850. In the 1880s the Japanese government introduced heavy taxation on the people. 300000 inhabitants in Japan lost their land.

Dekaseginin: to work abroad for some years and then return – rich. Many planned to come home and regain lost land, richness would also lift them  into a better/higher social class and status. The value of work was 1-6 in favour of Hawaii.

The first shipment: 600 vacant seats on the boat. 28000 applied for the first shipment.

In 1894 30 000 Japanese had left as government-sponsored sojourners/ contract labor.

1885-1924: 200 000 to Hawaii. Predominantly young men. The Japanese were quite well educated – actually better than their European counterparts. 9,2% illiterate vs 12,7% foreign born whites.

The Japanese show quite a different attitude compared to e.g. Chinese. The Japanese are used to a strong central government. They were streamlined and looked upon themselves as representatives of the Japanese nation. And to represent the Jap national honor. The Japanese authorities selected who were allowed to leave. They did not want to send people of the same quality as the Chinese.

The Japanese female contribution was large. In 1929 46% of the Japanese in Hawaii were females.

Another interesting phenomenon was the picture brides. 20 000 came by 1920. Jap government stopped the emigration.

Women in Japan were industry worker to a far larger extent than the Chinese (who were linked to the family and the farm.)

The proletarisation of the work force in Japan is reflected in the %age of women sent abroad.

In 1876 English was a major subject in Japanese schools. Female education was promoted by the authorities.

The Japanese also has a saying: ‘one to sell, one to follow and one in reserve.’ (more coming)

In Hawaii the immigration of Japanese women was encouraged (not so on the mainland). A governmental decree in 1879 wanted 40% to be female. The planters (as well as the Hawaiian govt) saw the female element as one factor to control the labor force.

After 1900 the need for women was larger. Federal law abandoned  the contract workers system . Also : Men with wives were more likely to remain on the farm. Transport agencies in Honolulu were encouraged to get men with families.

1908: gentleman’s agreement a shift from the sojourner’s attitude to the settler’s attitude.

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