The Bonds between Peru, Japan and the Nikkei people: In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations
- Nishimura Takashi Chief Representative JICA Peru Office
Peru is a South American country which is known in Japan for its ancient civilizations such as Machu Picchu “the City in the Sky” and the Nazca Lines. The country‘s gastronomy is its another attraction found recently. Furthermore, Peru and Japan have a deep long relationship: exactly 150 years ago on August 21, 1873 (Meiji 6), the two nations have concluded diplomatic relations. On the same day in 2023, a ceremony was held to commemorate the 150th anniversary, to which H.E. Ms. Ana Cecilia Gervasi Diaz, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Peru, H.E. Dr. Katayama Kazuyuki Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to Peru, and JICA’s Senior Vice President Miyazaki Katsura were present.
After the diplomatic relations were established, on April 3, 1899, the immigrant ship Sakura Maru that carried 790 immigrants arrived at Callao port, Peru. Since then, many people have immigrated to Peru and have integrated into the society by overcoming various hardships.Today, there are about 200,000 Japanese-Peruvians globally that is the third largest Nikkei (Japanese descendants) population after Brazil and the United States. They are the important bridge between Japan and Peru.
Today, many Nikkei people in Peru operate hospitals and elderly care facilities. A number of non-Japanese Peruvians go to these hospitals, too. The Nikkei communities also support primary and secondary schools, and various cultural events. Through these efforts, they have contributed greatly to Peru's socioeconomic development and the spread of Japanese culture. These efforts are in line with one of Japan's priority assistance areas to Peru, "improving socioeconomic infrastructure and narrowing economic disparities." We have been working together to resolve these issues by dispatching Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers to these facilities as well as providing subsidies to support facility development and other activities. The trust developed between JICA and the Nikkei people and the communities over the years in Peruvian society has become the base for JICA's operations in Peru. Thus, the Nikkei community is an important partner for JICA's operations in Peru.
The Peruvian Nikkei community is well organized and active. Still, there are Japanese descendants who don’t belong to any Nikkei community or organization. This is because the time of immigration, and how to relate to Japan after arrival differ from person to person. JICA hopes that these people can have access information about Japan so that they can learn more about their ancestors’ country through our activities. For example, JICA has a program for the younger generation called Education Program for Nikkei Next Generation. For the trainees, it gives good opportunity to learn about Japan: how to search for their roots in Japan, Japanese culture, and science and technology. They can also interact with Japanese students of the same generation. After participation, the trainees came back to Peru with a sparkle in their eyes, coming to like Japan more, and having found something they would like to engage in the future. At present, the program targets people who have a high interest in Japan, since the number of participants is limited. In the future, however, we would like to broaden the target to those who are not so interested in Japan.
Although the Peruvian (and especially Lima's) Nikkei community seems to be successfully shifting generations, it is generally considered that in recent years, even as the generational shift progresses, the number of people with little interest in Japan is further increasing. Then one day, out of my curiosity, I asked a young Nikkei person as to how actual Peruvian youth would feel. According to her, many young people are interested in foreign countries; however, Japan isn’t always the option. He pointed out some factors such as the difficulty of learning the language and the livelihood in Japan (study, employment, etc.). This is just an opinion that doesn’t represent the young people as a whole. Nevertheless, I reaffirmed the importance of Japanese language learning support. At the same time, I also felt that promoting the connection between Peruvian Nikkei communities to the rest of the world has a potential to enhance the Nikkei communities’ attractions.
In Peru, an international exchange event called "Lidercambio" is held mainly by young Japanese descendants. The objective is to improve leadership and strengthen values to lead an ever-changing world. Such an initiative to which the young people play a central role to strengthen cooperation among the Nikkei community across borders is very encouraging. I expect that it will promote the globalization of the Nikkei community in the future.
JICA will also begin a project this year to strengthen horizontal Nikkei community networks within the Latin American region beyond national borders (third country training). This will be promoted through international seminars for teaching Japanese language learning methods. We have also started projects to support the promotion of culturally varied and inclusive society in Japan. To be specific, we will have technical training participants living in Japan to support Nikkei residents in Japan (Nikkei supporters). We hope that these initiatives will help increase the number of young human resources who are interested in Japan, and we will continue developing new initiatives.
The current situation and challenges of the Nikkei communities vary from country to country, and what is described here is only one aspect. The Nikkei communities also serve as the bridge between Japan and Peru and the important partners in Peru's development. As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, JICA looks forward to taking on many challenges together with the Nikkei communities in Peru in the future.