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Speech Transcripts

June 6, 2018

Commemorative Speech at the 59th Convention of Nikkei & Japanese Abroad

Sheraton Waikiki, Honolulu, Hawaii

Let me first start by expressing my hearty congratulations to the holding of the 59th Convention of Nikkei & Japanese Abroad. I am very happy to see that almost 300 people from 15 countries have gathered here in Hawaii, which is the site of the first mass immigration from Japan 150 years ago.

1. Encounters with Mr. Ninomiya and Mr. Fujita

My first encounter with Nikkei and Japanese abroad goes back about 40 years to 1973. I was in graduate school at the University of Tokyo back then, and I was called on by a professor to take care of two students who were coming from Brazil.

They were two young men sent from the Brazilian government in a program to train experts on Japan.

One of them was a diplomat, Edmundo Susumu Fujita, and the other was an aspiring scholar named Masato Ninomiya. I was assigned to Mr. Fujita as his Japanese language tutor.

In Brazil, the social status of a diplomat is very high. Before him, there were many Nikkei that became medical doctors, but none were able to become diplomats. Mr. Fujita broke that barrier and became a diplomat with flying colors. He was later promoted to the position of ambassador to Indonesia and South Korea. Unfortunately, he passed away a few years ago.

Now about Mr. Ninomiya. Back then, the doctoral thesis for the graduate school at the University of Tokyo was perhaps the most challenging in the world. This is because one had to thoroughly learn the laws of Germany, France, the UK and USA on which Japanese law was based, and then learn Japanese law and show originality. Previously, there were overseas students from South Korea and Taiwan who wrote doctoral thesis, but none from non-Chinese character countries. Mr. Ninomiya was the first, a feat that could only be achieved by a genius who put in tremendous effort.

Since then, he was not only successful as a professor at the University of Sau Paulo and as a lawyer, but it is no exaggeration to say that anyone who was involved in Japan-Brazil relations received help from Mr. Ninomiya.

These two gentlemen deserve tremendous praise. But I would like to see more people follow in their footsteps, and we also intend to assist in those efforts.

Note: A name referred in this speech posted on June 6 was incorrect. It has been corrected, and we apologize for the error.
[Incorrect] Susumu Leonardo Fujita
[Correct] Edmundo Susumu Fujita

2. About Kiyosawa

I was also involved with Nikkei and Japanese abroad through a biography on Kiyoshi Kiyosawa that I wrote in 1987. Kiyosawa was the most prominent critic on diplomatic relations before the war, and he continued to be critical of Japan's diplomacy in the Showa era (1926–1989) with his sharp and realistic commentaries.

Kiyosawa traveled to America in 1905 at age 16. His family was poor, and not being able to obtain higher education, he studied in a small school in a neighborhood church. There he was strongly influenced by Christianity, and with the wish to strengthen his religious faith and to study more, he went to Seattle in 1905.

The period when Kiyosawa traveled to America corresponded with a rise in anti-Japanese immigration movements in the west coast. Kiyosawa had a lot of hardships in going to school, but then began to work at a Japanese language newspaper. There his writing won high praise, and eventually he desired to write for more Japanese readers, returning to Japan in 1918.

Kiyosawa became a newspaper reporter, then a critic, and started travelling to Korea and Manchuria. There, he realized that the foundation of Japanese people's activities in Korea and Manchuria were not very solid. In America, Japanese had a solid footing and were active, without any assistance from the Japanese government. In comparison, he felt that the Japanese in Korea and Manchuria were at risk without the support of the Japanese government.

From this viewpoint, Kiyosawa was vocally criticizing Japan's expansion into the mainland China in the 1930's. His basis was the Japanese immigrants who were paving their own destiny without relying on the government.

Through my research on Kiyosawa, I painfully realized the importance of Japanese language newspapers in foreign countries. That is why I would like to express my deepest respect to all the people who have kept publishing Japanese language newspapers abroad.

3. The significance of the Meiji Restoration and Japanese Immigrants

This year, 2018 marks the 150th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration, which also happens to be the 150th anniversary of when 153 Japanese immigrants travelled on board the Scioto and first set foot here in Hawaii.

Since the theme of this convention is to "Share the worldwide Nikkei legacy for the future! – Commemorating the 150th anniversary of GANNENMONO in Hawaii", I would like to heartily celebrate this occasion in Hawaii, which is the first emigration location.

When the Meiji era ended, many people talked about the significance of that era. At age 26, Taizan Ishibashi-who would later become the Prime Minister-said, "The most significant accomplishment of the Meiji era was not the victory of the Sino-Japanese war or the Russo-Japanese war, or the expansion of Japanese colonies, but it was the democratic reform that took place throughout every system and thought in politics, law, and society." And I strongly agree with that statement.

What was great was not the victory itself, but the fact that the country built the strength to be victorious just 30 years after the Meiji restoration.

In 1871, only 3 years after the Imperial restoration, the Meiji government abolished all domains, including the Satsuma and Choshu Domains which had been instrumental in overthrowing the shogunate. It later abolished the samurai class as well. In 1885, Hirobumi Ito at 44 years of age became our nation's first Prime Minister. In the Edo era (1603–1868), his heritage and status as a low-ranked foot soldier would have not even allow him to speak about politics.

In short, the reform from the restoration to the establishment of the cabinet system was a democratic revolution that abolished privileged classes with established interests, and gathered all of the people's energy to deal with the Western world. It was also revolutionary in terms of how the people participated.

There were also significant reforms in the areas of economy and society. People were free to choose their occupation, and trade expanded due to the dramatic deregulation. Compulsory education was introduced, which superseded the class system.

The greatness of the Meiji era was that it unleashed the free energy of the people by opening up the country and conducting democratic reform.

An example of unleashing people's energy is how, starting with Hawaii, the early Japanese emigrants traveled to North America, Central and South America, and Asia to build new civilized societies in conjunction with other immigrants.

The basic philosophy of our Japanese Overseas Migration Museum in Yokohama, and the Historic Museum of Japanese Immigrants in Brazil is, "We participate in the New World." We place a historic civilization meaning to the Japanese emigrants who played an important role in forming new civilizations.

Tadao Umesawa, Director-General of the National Museum of Ethnology, used "We have believed in this land" as the basic philosophy for the 150th anniversary of Germany immigrants in Brazil. Our slogan takes this meaning for Japanese immigrants.

I believe it can be said that Japanese immigrants participated in forming new civilizations in new worlds as an expression of the people's free energy during the Meiji period.

In the 150 years since immigration, we all know that people have encountered unimaginable hardships. In times, they have been confronted to severe situations such as natural disasters and diseases like malaria.

I once visited a Japanese cemetery in Colorado. One tombstone included inscriptions of not only the names of the people buried there, but their parents' origins too. I learned that the family left Hiroshima and travelled across the Pacific to Hawaii, then to the US mainland, and after settling down in the west coast, was put in the Granada Relocation Center (Amache Camp Site). And although they were released after the war, they have chosen Colorado as their resting place. I was deeply moved by their long journey and hardships.

However, many immigrants and Nikkei overcame hardships. They have contributed to the host countries' developments, and have earned great trust. I am proud of the fact that as a result, people have developed an understanding of Japan and we are now in a pro-Japanese society that feel friendship towards Japan.

4. Nikkei and Japan

In 150 years, there have been approximately 3.6 million Nikkei abroad.

In those 150 years, many Nikkei have been and are successful in the fields of politics, academia, business, sports and entertainment, starting with Senator Daniel Ken Inoue who was born in Hawaii as a Nisei (second generation Nikkei). He was the first Nikkei to become a House and Senate member and served on the Senate for almost 50 years.

During the Pacific War, Japanese and Nikkei were isolated in concentration camps in the US as well as Central and South America. Japan offered aid, sending books and food through the Japan Red Cross.

On the other hand, after the Japanese defeat in 1945, Nikkei in the US and Central and South America who were concerned about Japan got together and sent powdered milk, food and clothing through LARA (Licensed Agencies for Relief in Asia).

To show gratitude for this effort, the Nikkei Friendship Convention celebrating the joining of the United Nations, or the first Convention of Nikkei and Japanese Abroad was held in May 1957.

On March 11, 2011, when the Great East Japan earthquake occurred, Japan received aid from many countries, and also money and supplies from Nikkei communities abroad which continue to this day.

The feeling of sympathy and care even when you are far away, connecting people's hearts, is the starting point of international cooperation. I am very proud that we have been connecting these starting points with Nikkei and Japanese abroad.

In February 2017, I visited Argentina and Brazil and exchanged views with the Nikkei communities there.

In Brazil, I visited the port of Santos where the first immigration vessel Kasato Maru arrived in 1908, and a nursing home in that area, and heard about the tough experiences from the people there.

I also visited the Tome Acu Immigration site in the Amazons, and was extremely impressed by the Nikkei community that, in a tropical land which is completely different from Japan, has worked together with the agricultural cooperatives to develop the town.

5. Outlook on JICA's Nikkei Efforts

JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) finds its origin in promoting emigrants to Central and South America in conjunction with the government and local municipal organizations.

Our present activities in supporting Nikkei societies include, firstly, medical care for the aged and welfare; secondly, support for human development for Nikkei mainly on Japanese language education; and thirdly, the spreading of knowledge regarding overseas migration, including public awareness and relations activities regarding overseas migration and Nikkei communities, and academic research, utilizing the Japanese Overseas Migration Museum as a base.

For example, we dispatch volunteers or accept trainees for areas from which we receive many requests for Japanese language teachers, nurses, nursing staff in nursing homes, sports such as baseball, judo, volleyball, and Japanese cultural activities like Yosakoi Soran, kimono dressing, and koto playing.

We also bring Nikkei junior high school, senior high school and college students to Japan to study for approximately one month, and have them experience Japanese school life. We also provide opportunities to enroll to graduate schools.

After the training or studying, the attendees will leverage this experience back in their country. In some cases, they will work as Nikkei experts when JICA works with countries such as Brazil and Mexico when offering them assistance.

The Japanese Overseas Migration Museum in Yokohama displays collected material on the history and lifestyles of Japanese and Nikkei who have immigrated to countries around the world, and also distributes information through mail magazines, etc. We are also attempting to conduct a caravan of the museum's special exhibitions in local prefectures to develop people's interest on migration around the country.

Recently, we took the special exhibit at our Yokohama museum on emigrants from Fukuoka to a museum in Fukuoka, as well as to a Fukuoka prefectural convention held in Mexico, and had people learn about the active migration history of people from Fukuoka.

In 2014 and 2016, Prime Minister Abe visited Central and South America, and emphasized the strengthening of ties with the Nikkei community. In 2017, an "Experts meeting on the ties with the Nikkei community in Central and South America" was held under the direction of the Foreign Minister, and I also attended the discussion as a committee member along with scholars, the Chairman of the National Governors' Association, and members from the Japan Business Foundation. In light of these discussions, JICA intends to make its existing activities even more attractive-not only strengthening ties with the Nikkei community, but also leveraging the Nikkei community to increase the interest of non-Japanese people toward Japan and to increase the number of people who are knowledgeable and feel close to Japan.

Specifically, we are thinking of the following:

The first is to strengthen the network between the Nikkei museums in each country with the JICA Japanese Overseas Migration Museum. We will try to improve the access to its content.

The second is to build a curriculum on the development history of Japan's modernization in conjunction with universities, and to spread the contents around the world in English and Spanish.

In addition, Japanese private companies will be critical partners in expanding our activities globally as they know local situations very well. JICA will further promote the building of networks between Japanese private companies and the local Nikkei companies.

6. In closing

In 2017, JICA set forth a new vision with the following keywords: "Leading the world with trust." The concept of trust is the backbone of Japan's development cooperation. We foster trust with a range of domestic and international partners by putting ourselves in our partners' shoes and thinking with them as equal partners. JICA will explore the various potentials of people, countries and private enterprises for a better future. And JICA, with its partners, will create a world where all people and countries are bound together by trust.

As the Nikkei people in each country have built trust over many generations, JICA also intends to unite the world with trust.

All of you in the Nikkei community are important partners in this endeavor.

By the way, recently there was an interesting case which illustrates the high praise for Japan.

Two years ago, the President of Egypt came to Japan, and said he wanted to build 200 Japanese-style schools. When I asked him, "Are you sure? In Japan, students clean the schools," he said that that's exactly what he wants to do.

When I visited Egypt this year, a pilot school had already begun, with class meetings, music classes, physical education, and home economics operating smoothly. There was soap in the bathrooms, and children were cleaning the floors. When I told the President how impressed I was, he agreed and added that he definitely wanted it to succeed, so he asked to send 200 Japanese principals. I told him that having Egyptian principals would be a better idea, but it is great to know that the discipline of Japanese schools is highly recognized.

In 1905 when Japan won the Russo-Japanese war, an elderly statesman, Aritomo Yamagata, said that it was merely a victory of Japan, that had studied Western civilization well, versus Russia that did not. He added that it did not indicate Japan's fundamental superiority, and that Japan should not be arrogant and needed to strive further. However, since the Russo-Japanese victory, Japan became over-confident, which led to the defeat in the Pacific War.

In the late 1980's, Japan was experiencing a peak in terms of economic prosperity, and many people believed that there was nothing to learn from other countries. That kind of arrogance led to the economic downturn. We are currently in the process of getting out of that downturn, but we are not completely out of it yet.

However, the fundamental strength of Japan that impressed the President of Egypt is still alive and well. Now is the time to recall the Meiji restoration of 150 years ago, and start a dynamic step. We must always have the Nikkei people abroad see its home country as a great country. In the 150th anniversary of the Meiji restoration and the 150th anniversary of Japanese emigrants, I believe Japan must recall the energy that it once had, and put every effort into meeting the expectations of Nikkei and Japanese people abroad.

Thank you.


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