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September 12, 2020: Wednesday World Blog Post #2

Written by Megha and Cami; IG: @patelvmegha, @camiamayaaa

The Japanese in South Africa and Latin America

During the Meiji era, the first half of the Empire of Japan, Japan underwent many socio-economic changes which led their population to migrate to other continents. The Japanese diaspora had traveled to the United States and Canada. However with tighter immigration policies, the Japanese needed other places to go; these places ended up being South Africa, and countries in Central and South America such as Brazil, Peru, and Mexico.

So what are the reasons for this increase? The South African Migration Project has claimed that the country is more opposed to immigrants than anywhere else in the world. However, in 2008 it was revealed that over 200,000 refugees applied for asylum in South Africa, more than four times the number declared the year before. The major part of the South African Asian population are descendants from India with an estimated population of 1.2 million or 2.5% of the South African population; many of them descended from indentured workers brought in the nineteenth century to work on the sugar plantations of the eastern coastal area then known as Natal. There is also a significant group of Chinese South Africans (approximately over 300,000 individuals) and Vietnamese South Africans (approximately 50,000 individuals). Asian South African extends to those of Japanese, Korean, Pakistani and many other South Africans of Asian descent. The total population of Japanese people living in South Africa is 1.4 thousand.

The Japanese first started immigrating to South Africa when it became it’s largest trading partner when it was under apartheid, meaning it was a system of institutionalized racial segregation that existed in South Africa. South Africa accepted Japan because they would trade natural resources with them since the 1960’s. In return they would get granted with the honorary white status, they were granted with special privileges. In 2013, Japan was South Africa's 3rd largest export destination and 6th largest import source.

Many Japanese immigrants after passing through South African ports, made their way to South and Central America.

Brazil has the largest population out of Japan with 1.5 million Japanese. Around 1908, Japan had ended feudalism and was in poverty, many tried to immigrate to the US and Australia but were barred with the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1907 and the White Australia Policy in 1901. Both were meant to restrict immigration of Japanese and other non-British immigrants. Brazil, in need of labor workers, in 1907 Brazil and Japan governments signed a treaty with Japan that allowed 800 Japanese, mostly farmers, to arrive on the Kasato Maru to Brazil.

In addition to Brazil, Mexico and Peru also have a large population of Japanese people. Mexico needed laborers for modernization and in between the 1900’s and World War 2 received many Japanese immigrants. Ever since the 1800’s, rumors of wealth, gold, and work in Peru swirled around Japan. Pay in Peru was 4 times that of Japan's, many travelled to Peru to work and planned to return with their savings. Peru eventually became the 1st country in Latin America to have diplomatic ties with Japan and accept Japanese immigration.

Although many Japanese returned to Japan since the 1980’s, Japanese ancestry is still very much alive in South Africa and Latin America.


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