posted by John Spacey, Japan Talk, September 05, 2012
It’s a lot easier to find a Chinatown in most countries than a Japantown.
There are more than 50 million people of Chinese descent living outside China. There only 2.6 million people of Japanese descent living outside Japan.
Like immigrants everywhere, the Japanese left their homeland in search of a better life for their families. Much of this immigration happened from 1868 ~ 1912.
Despite these great challenges Japanese communities have survived and thrived — building goodwill within their respective countries over the years (e.g. with Japanese cultural and friendship festivals).
These 6 countries have the largest Japanese populations (outside Japan).
1. Brazil ~ 1,500,000
Japan and Brazil have a long history of cultural and economic exchange. Today, Brazil has the largest Japanese community outside of Japan.
There are also many Brazilians living in Japan. In fact, Brazilians represent the biggest non-Asian ethnic group inside Japan (312,582 people).
Japanese immigration to Brazil began in 1908. At first, Japanese immigrants were resigned to low paid farming jobs. With each generation, the Japanese have improved their lives in Brazil.
In recent years, Japanese culture is wildly popular in Brazil. Each year, there are dozens of Japanese festivals held all over Brazil (e.g. Bon Festival in São Paulo).
Brazilian culture is equally popular in Japan. The Asakusa Samba Carnival is one ofTokyo’s biggest summer festivals.
2. United States ~ 1,204,205
About 1/3 of the population of Hawaii identifies themselves as having Japanese heritage. Japanese culture has had a great influence in Hawaii. Japanese food, festivals and customs are easy to see in everyday life in Hawaii.
Hawaiian and Japanese culture have fused together in interesting ways. Spam musubi is a Hawaiian food that uses a popular local ingredient (spam) prepared as a onigiri (Japanese rice ball).
There are also large Japanese populations in California, Washington and Oregon.
3. Philippines ~ 120,000
The Philippines was the first country to experience Japanese immigration (as early as the 12th century). Many Japanese Catholics fled to the Philippines in the 17th century to avoid religious persecution.
4. United Kingdom ~ 100,000
As early as 1867, Japanese students studied at Cambridge University and Oxford university. Japanese have immigrated to the UK for studies or business reasons ever since.
Several Japanese cultural and friendship festivals are held each year in London (e.g. London Japan Matsuri).
5. Peru ~ 90,000
Peru was the first South American country to establish ties to Japan. It was also the first South American country to accept Japanese immigration (1899).
In WWII, Japanese-Peruvians were sent to internment camps in the United States en mass (their property was confiscated). Very few of these internees ever returned to Peru.
Despite these hardships, the community has survived. Alberto Fujimori was the son of Japanese immigrants to Peru. He served as the controversial president of the country from 1990 – 2000.
6. Canada ~ 81,300
Japanese immigration to Canada is focused on the West Coast (mostly Vancouver). A great number of second and third generation Japanese-Canadians have chosen to marry non-Japanese. Canada is a multi-cultural country that is accepting of interracial marriage.