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Daniel Saucedo Segami, Connecting Research in Peru and Japan — Part 1


Daniel Saucedo Segami

In late February of this year [2024], Daniel Saucedo Segami, a fourth-generation Peruvian Nikkei who holds a doctorate in archaeology and anthropology, led a project of special interest to the academic community focused on Nikkei studies.

Ritsumeikan University, through its Research Center for Pan-Pacific Civilizations, signed two agreements with two well-known Peruvian institutions: the Riva-Agüero Institute of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru and the Japanese-Peruvian Association, which operates the Carlos Chiyoteru Hiraoka Museum of Japanese Immigration to Peru. These agreements, which will give a strong boost to research projects on immigration between Japan and Peru, are the result of the initiative and engagement of Dr. Daniel Saucedo Segami.

Who is Daniel Saucedo Segami?

Daniel was born in Peru and for the past 22 years he has been living in Japan, where he is a university researcher and professor. As he remarked in a previous interview1, his interest in Nikkei studies dates back to high school when he began noticing that using Nihongo terms such as bakatare and talking about butsudan made him different from his classmates, who asked, “What is that?”

In his university years, his interest in Nikkei studies continued, but not just in relation to his family’s history, but also the broader Japanese migration and diaspora in Peru. He decided to focus his research on those topics.

An archaeology graduate of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru and now a tenured associate professor at Ritsumeikan University, Daniel also coordinates the Riva-Agüero Institute in Lima, Peru. In addition, Daniel is the only Peruvian living in Japan who is a member of the Japanese Archaeological Mission in the Andes, created 65 years ago and known as the “Japanese Mission.”

Two Scholarships Before Settling in Japan

Daniel traveled to Japan for the first time in 2001 as an undergradate studying archaeology, with a one-year scholarship to study at the University of Osaka as part of an exchange program between the two universities.

Daniel remembers Professor Hidefuji Someda, a prominent historian whose research focused on the Andes region. He took classes with Professor Someda, who introduced him to Dr. Yuji Seki of the Japanese Mission. Although both professors recommended that Daniel continue his research in graduate school, at the time Daniel wasn’t sure what to do next and he returned to Peru to finish his undergraduate degree.

After graduating in 2003, Daniel spent two months on the Ship for World Youth and a short time later was awarded a prefecture scholarship to study at the University of Kumamoto for one year. After these experiences, Daniel decide to obtain a master’s degree in Japan and enrolled at the University of Okayama.

Daniel together with the other members of the Peruvian delegation, posing in front of the Nippon Maru, the ship of the 16th edition of the Ship for World Youth program (2004).

His Greatest Concern: Scholarships and Employment

“I mistakenly believed that I could get a scholarship to study for a master’s degree,” he remarks, until he realized that scholarships were only available for undergraduate degrees and doctoral studies. Nevertheless, Daniel was awarded a scholarship for the final year of his master’s program. “It was the smallest scholarship I’ve ever gotten,” he recalls. Because of the lack of funds, Daniel looked for a part-time job, “like so many Japanese students,” and also received some help from his family to continue his studies.

Daniel was a research assistant in archaeological excavations in Japan, organized by Okayama University (Shobuzako Kofun, Okayama, 2006).

But Daniel's luck changed when he began studying for his PhD. He was awarded a scholarship that he considers superior to the Monbusho scholarship or the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) fund, since it enabled him to study and do field work in Japan at the same time. “The ‘Research Fellowship for Young Scientists’ grant from JSPS, which I applied for under the Doctoral Course (DC) category, finances two years of salaried doctoral studies, and in addition to that, gives you a research fund,” he explains.

After obtaining his PhD, his main concern was finding employment. The National Museum of Ethnology, where Daniel earned his doctorate, did not have undergraduate or master’s students, so there were no positions for teachers or internship coordinators. But in 2013 Daniel was hired as a Spanish professor at Doshisha University in Kyoto, thanks to a contact he made through a friend.

The Only Peruvian Living in Japan Who is a Member of the Japanese Mission

Daniel and Dr. Yuji Seki, after receiving the SOKENDAI Research Award for his doctoral thesis, granted by the SOKENDAI University of Advanced Studies (2015).

Japan is among the countries that have invested the most in research, fieldwork, and conservation of archaeological sites in Peru, including sending experts to support the work.

The Japanese Archaeological Mission in the Andes is the longest-running, continuous academic research mission focused on archaeology in Peru and has been operating since 1958. Daniel is the only member who is a Peruvian citizen and lives in Japan.

Daniel learned about the Japanese Mission through Dr. Yuji Seki, the mission’s current leader and professor emeritus of the National Museum of Ethnology of Japan, where Daniel studied for his PhD from 2008 to 2014.

Although doctoral programs typically last three years, they can be extended up to seven years for students doing fieldwork abroad. This was Daniel’s situation, as he traveled regularly to the Sican Museum in Lambayeque, Peru while studying in Japan.

“I’m Like an Octopus”

Daniel is currently working on several projects simultaneously. These include the Pacopampa project (Cajamarca Department, Peru) where he is collaborating with Dr. Yuji Seki on building a community interpretation center, and his own project, “Huacas de La Molina” (La Molina District, Peru), which is focused on telling the history of the district, as well as other projects connected to institutions. As an archaeologist, cultural anthropologist, and professor specializing in Spanish as a foreign language, Daniel’s research touches a variety of topics, mostly related to areas within his specialization.

Ritsumeikan University

Through his research specialties in different areas, Daniel has taught at several universities, including Kwansei Gakuin University, Setsunan University, the Kobe City University of Foreign Studies and Ritsumeikan University, where he is now a professor and researcher.

He joined Ritsumeikan as a full-time instructor (shokutaku) of Spanish and Latin American culture in 2017 and since 2020 has been a tenured (junkyouju) associate professor in the Political Science Department. His background as a researcher and the fact that he is a native speaker of Spanish fit perfectly with the profile sought by the university for that position.

This year, Daniel was named head of the Spanish Department at Ritsumeikan. The department is comprised of 32 professors, of which nine are from Spain and Latin America, while the rest are from Japan. Of the five Latin American professors in the department, Daniel is the only Peruvian with tenure.

In addition to teaching, Daniel belongs to two research centers at Ritsumeikan University, one of which focuses on Pacific Rim civilizations and another that is dedicated to the legacy and mitigation of natural disasters.

The Pacific Rim Civilizations Research Center (Ritsumeikan PRCRC) is the one that has signed two agreements with Peruvian institutions.

Part 2 >>


1. Interview by Enrique Higa for Kaikan magazine and published in Discover Nikkei.


© 2024 Milagros Tsukayama Shinzato

academics (persons) anthropology archaeology Daniel Saucedo Segami Japanese Peruvians Nikkei in Japan Ritsumeikan University social sciences
About the Author

Sansei whose paternal and maternal grandparents were from the town of Yonabaru, Okinawa. She now works as a freelance translator (English/Spanish) and blogger at Jiritsu, where she shares personal stories and research on Japanese immigration to Peru and related topics.

Updated December 2017

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