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Japan Gotoarrow.png Emigration and Immigration


Japanese Diaspora

Today, there are about 2.5 million Japanese emigrants and people of Japanese descent living in countries around the world. The modern waves of Japanese emigration began in 1868, when 153 Japanese journeyed to Hawaii to work on sugar plantations. But the Meiji government prohibited such emigration because these first Japanese migrants were treated like slaves. A new treaty with Hawaii in 1885 provided for better work conditions and three-year contracts and over the next nine years about 29,000 Japanese went to Hawaii to work on sugar plantations. In 1899, 790 people left for contract work in Peru, starting a wave Japanese emigration to Latin America, particularly to Brazil. There are now roughly 1.5 million Latin Americans of Japanese ancestry, at least half of whom trace their ancestral origins to Okinawa prefecture. Brazil has the most: 1.3 million. Peru has about 100,000. Argentina has about 50,000. Mexico is estimated to have 30, 000. Japanese immigration to the United States and Canada was subject to severe restrictions until after the Second World War. North America today has nearly 1 million Japanese immigrants and people of Japanese descent.[1]

Emigrant Passenger Lists and Assorted Papers on Emigrant Shipping (Ryokaku Meibo to Imin Unsosen Mondai Zakken)

What they are

These records were generated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japanese Diplomacy office at the time when people emigrated from Japan. They cover the time period of 1868—1940. This is a very reliable source.

Use these records to

These records are used to identify the permanent domicile of the head of the household, which is helpful in obtaining the koseki. These records are good linkage records. They are particularly helpful for American researchers who are trying to determine where their Japanese ancestor came from.


It is almost impossible, however, to find information on these records because they are listed by the shipping company name and some of the destinations where people are going. If you search by the name of the author (Diplomacy Record Office), you will get a list of the records by title (for example, List of Workers Going to Hawaii). These records are in Japanese. Ask someone who knows Japanese to help you search them by rolling through the microfilm one entry at a time. Once they are indexed, these records will be much easier to use.


  • Lists of emigrant travelers
  • Papers on emigration policies
  • Business activities and agents
  • Lists of emigrants who died abroad
  • Passport applications
  • Emigrant travel permits
  • Passports issued
  • Lists of names of Japanese emigrants, as well as fields on foreigners in Japan

The kind of information varies. Most include:

  • Emigrants’ names, ages, and places of origin
  • Permanent domicile and temporary residence
  • Emigration dates, birth dates, and birth places
  • Destinations and passport numbers
  • Applications by Japanese abroad inquiring after the well-being of their families in Japan
  • Many provide specific birth dates and even marriages or death dates.

How to obtain them

The Family History Library has all of these records on microfilm.

Immigration Records (Passenger Lists and Ship Manifests in the Language of the Port Where They Arrived)
75th anniv of Japanese emigration to Hawaii.JPG

Immigration records must be searched by locality for lists. For example, search by California, San Francisco – Emigration and immigration records.

Most incoming passenger arrival lists for the United States have been indexed and are available online at [FamilySearch Catalog] and Ancestry.com ($), a subscription website, such as:


  1. The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Japan,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1986-2001.


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  • This page was last modified on 5 November 2015, at 16:39.
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