Wakayama University

Over the Sea...Wakayama as Emigrants' Country

Did you know that Wakayama is one of top prefectures that sent emigrants overseas?

There are many Wakayama associations overseas in North and South America and elsewhere. Some of them have a history of more than 100 years. Wakayama City Library is the only library in the country to have a dedicated "Emigrants Information Room" with numerous data and literature.

Here is some information that may enable you to experience a part of the emigrants' new land.

From Northern Wakayama to North America

Emigration started originally from the area of the River Ki to the US. After the 1880s many Japanese went to Hawaii and the US mainland, and further to Brazil. However Wakayama was sending emigrants before that period. Honda, Kazuichiro of Kinokawa City opened an "Advisory Service on Emigrating to the US" at his private school, and sent young emigrants to the US. (Today, there is a Honda Monument at Amida Temple in the City.) Further, an increasing number of people went to the US through their own networks, and so too those returning.

However, there were numerous problems facing those emigrants such as the bleak economic reality back home and harsh working conditions. Further, the relatively sudden influx of cheap labor created discrimination and anti-Japanese sentiments in the US. In the 1920s, a law was enacted to ban immigration into the US. A similar experience was also seen in Manchuria where the national policy encouraged emigration from Japan. Despite these setbacks, overseas Japanese continued to lay the foundation in their new country. However, once war broke out between Japan and the US, Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps.

Henry Sugimoto

The life in internment camps was described in pictures by Henry Sugimoto. He was born in Wakayama City, and became a painter after going to the US where his parents were living. However, he too was not able to escape the fate being Japanese at the time in the US. Sugimoto's pictures are available for viewing at Emigrants' Information Room at Wakayama City Library. (5 min. by walk from Wakayama City Station)

Henry Sugimoto

Taiji Cho (Taiji Township)

Speaking of successful Japanese American painters in the US, the famous Ishigaki, Eitaro was one of them. Ishigaki was from Taiji Cho, and together with his wife, Ryoko, was also active in social and peace activism/movement. There is an Ishigaki Memorial built by the Taiji Township. (JR Railway Taiji Station)

Taiji Cho is also known for emigration to Australia. In the northern part of Australia, Thursday Island and Broome were the places where these emigrants created their base for pearl diving for the button industry. Taiji Cho produced a great number of highly skilled pearl divers. In Broome, a museum and grave site were built for those who lost their lives due to the harsh working environment and decompression illness caused by deep diving. The museum displays information about pearl divers of that era.

America Village

"America Village" is located in Hidaka-gun Mihama Cho. Kouno, Gihei from a poor village of Mio, (today it is called Mihama Cho), went to Canada alone and found abundant Salmon there. He called for village people to join, and soon it became the emigration, and they created "the second Mio village" in Canada. Returnees built western style houses and lived in that style, thus the Mio village is called "America Village". (40 min. by bus from JR Railway Gobo Station to the picturesque Cape Hino where the Emigrants' Museum is located)

America Village America Village

Kitabayashi, Tomo

"Returnees from the US" included the peace activist, Kitabayashi, Tomo. She went to the US to marry her husband, originally from Wakayama, whose photo only she had seen before marriage. Influenced by a Japanese painter living in the US, Miyagi, Yotoku, she became a social activist. She settled down in her husband's hometown of the Kokawa Temple town in Wakayama after returning from the US. Just before the war broke out between Japan and the US, she participated in a demonstration related to the "Sorge Incident", and was captured by police, and practically died in prison. (The poster on the left was from the exhibition organized by Wakayama University. On the right, is the house site where Tomo lived -- near the Kokawa Station.)

 Kitabayashi, Tomo

Back to Top