Japan Emigration and Immigration

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Online Records[edit | edit source]

British Overseas Subjects[edit | edit source]

Finding the Town of Origin in Japan[edit | edit source]

If you are using emigration/immigration records to find the name of your ancestors' town in Japan, see Japan Finding Town of Origin for additional research strategies.

Japan Emigration and Immigration[edit | edit source]

"Emigration" means moving out of a country. "Immigration" means moving into a country.
Emigration and immigration sources list the names of people leaving (emigrating) or arriving (immigrating) in the country. These sources may be passenger lists, permissions to emigrate, or records of passports issued. The information in these records may include the emigrants’ names, ages, occupations, destinations, and places of origin or birthplaces. Sometimes they also show family groups.

Immigration to Japan[edit | edit source]

  • During the 16th century, Portuguese traders and Jesuit missionaries reached Japan for the first time, initiating direct commercial and cultural exchange between Japan and the West. [1]
  • Due to geographic remoteness and periods of self-imposed isolation, the immigration has been comparatively limited.
  • Historian Yukiko Koshiro has identified three historically significant waves of immigration prior to 1945:
  • the 8th-century settlement of Korean artists and intellectuals;
  • the asylum offered to a small number of Chinese families in the 1600s; and
  • the forced immigration of up to 670,000 Korean and Chinese laborers during the Second World War.[2]

Japanese Diaspora: Emigration From Japan[edit | edit source]

  • 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 of 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 emigration 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.[3]
  • Japanese diaspora: - Brazil (see Japanese Brazilian), the United States (see Japanese Americans), Canada (see Japanese Canadian) and the Philippines (see Japanese Filipinos), as well sizable communities in Peru (see Japanese Peruvian), Argentina (see Asian Argentine), Chile and Ecuador, and smaller numbers of Japanese in Australia, New Zealand, Cuba, Venezuela and Mexico are the countries with the highest numbers of Japanese people outside Japan.
  • The largest community of ethnic Japanese is in Hawaii where they make up a quarter of the state's population.
  • However, there are smaller Japanese communities around the world that developed in the late 20th century such as throughout western Europe (esp. the Japanese expatriate colony in Düsseldorf, Germany), eastern Russia and South Africa.
  • The Japanese population used to have nicknames to indicate generational levels: "Issei"-foreign born parents, next is "Nisei"-1st generation born outside Japan or children, and "Sansei"-2nd generation born outside Japan or grandchildren.[4]

Japanese Passenger Lists[edit | edit source]

This collection contains a list of Japanese emigrants from the country as recorded by the Diplomatic Record Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. The records are from an index of overseas travelers processed through Japanese emigration agents and related immigration papers for the years 1893-1941.

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

Japanese emigration records were generated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japanese Diplomacy office at the time when people emigrated from Japan.


What Can these Records Tell Me?[edit | edit source]

The following information may be found in these records:

Passenger lists

  • Full name of passenger
  • Address
  • Date of birth
  • Date of departure
  • Gender
  • Destination
  • Residence


  • Passport Number
  • Full Name
  • Prefecture
  • Birth Date
  • Gender
  • Residence before departure
  • Date of Departure
  • Departure Age
  • Destination Place

Help Reading Japanese Records[edit | edit source]

Records of Japanese Emigrants in Their Destination Nations[edit | edit source]

Dark thin font green pin Version 4.png One option is to look for records about the ancestor in the country of destination, the country they immigrated into. See links to Wiki articles about immigration records for major destination countries below. Additional Wiki articles for other destinations can be found at Category:Emigration and Immigration Records.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Japan", in Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan, accessed 3 July 2021.
  2. "Immigration to Japan," in Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_to_Japan, accessed 3 July 2021.
  3. 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.
  4. "List of diasporas", in Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_diasporas#J, accessed 3 July 2021.