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Japanese American History from Early Immigration to Present Time


Immigration: Early Visitors

1841- Fourteen-year old Japanese fisherman, Manjiro Nakahama, was shipwrecked and rescued by an American whaler ship and ends up in Bedford, Massachusetts. Nakahama is considered one of the first visitors to the United States, and also the first Japanese to speak English effectively. Eventually he returned to Japan in 1852 and assumed various diplomatic posts.

1850- Hamada Hikozo, also know as “Joseph Heco” is rescued by an American ship and deported back to Japan, although his trip back to Japan was intercepted by a Hong Kong ship and he is taken to the United States. On July 7, 1858, Joseph Heco became the first person of Japanese descent to become a naturalized citizen of the United States.

1854- Commodore Matthew Perry of the U.S. Navy sails to Tokyo Bay and on March 31st, the Convention of Kanagawa or Kanagawa Treaty was concluded between the Commodore and the Empire of Japan. The treaty opened the Japanese ports of Shimoda and Hakodate to U.S. trade, guaranteed the safety of shipwrecked U.S. sailors and established a permanent consul.

1860’s- The feudal system in Japan came to an end and “restoration” of the Imperial rule in Japan began, a time period known as the Meiji Restoration. This economic and political change resulted in an increase of land tax, which caused loss of farms, which in turn affected unemployment. The Meiji Restoration set the stage for a many Japanese to leave the country and find other places to live in hopes of a better life.

This image was taken from the National Archive website, for more information please refer to this website:

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