Hiroshima Insight

Japanese immigrants to Hawaii

70% of Japanese immigrants were from Hiroshima and Yamaguchi prefectures

Japanese immigration to the Hawaiian Islands began in the year 1885. An agreement between the Japanese government and the King of Hawaii led to immigrants from Japan working in Hawaiian sugarcane fields.

Both Hiroshima and Yamaguchi prefectures promoted the move by their residents. Because of a rising population along coastal areas, and an economic depression, people believed that working in Hawaii would enable them to bring money back to Japan and live a more affluent life. Hiroshima and Yamaguchi prefectures already had a history of residents heading elsewhere to earn a living, so a wave of immigration to Hawaii now took place.

From 1885 to 1894, the Japanese encouraged immigration, and about 29,000 people left Japan. Of this number, 38%, the largest percentage, were from Hiroshima Prefecture; right behind was Yamaguchi Prefecture, at 36%.

Immigration from Japan to the United States continued until 1924, when it then became forbidden. In 1920, more than 40% of the Hawaii’s entire population, around 256,000 people, were Japanese.

When World War II broke out, the Japanese immigrants in Hawaii, among them teachers and journalists, were detained in internment camps. The sons of immigrants were assembled into units to fight on the front lines in Europe.