The Perspective of the Emigrated From a Nisei: JICA Japanese Overseas Migration Museum

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Answering the Question at Hand: Where Did The Emigrants Go? 

Similar to how I feel about my life right now is how I feel about my cultural identity…it’s complicated. My identity is made up of two (more or less) equal parts: geographical and biological. I am a Nisei (second generation) Okinawan Japanese local American. My birth place of Hawai’i plays a huge role in my identity. Imagine learning about the bombing of Pearl Harbor when you live less than 20 miles (~32 km) away while having “the face of the enemy.” Furthermore, the Hawai’i Nisei-ers of World War II is still to this day considered as superheroes, to the point that I don’t think any younger Nisei-ers like myself can ever be as good as they were to the community of Hawai’i. And don’t get me started on the sordid history of the Okinawans and the Japanese people. It’s complicated. Nevertheless, I embrace my cultural identity and its dualistic, contradictory baggage. The only time that I am conflicted by my identity is when I am reminded of it, which happened at the Japanese Overseas Migration Museum.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa Students Learning About the Nikkei Experience. Photo Credit: Alvin Phouksouvath

The Japanese Overseas Migration Museum (JOMM) is located in the JICA Yokohama International Centre building (Kanagawa Prefecture), overlooking the beautiful bay. This is the most fitting place to have an emigration museum close to one of the four ports used to transport the Japanese to all across the world. Similar to the Japanese Cultural Center’s Okage Same De: I am what I am because of you exhibit, patrons are shown the historical progression of Japanese emigration from the Pre-Meiji era to present day. The two differences between the displays are (1) JOMM focuses on the global migration patterns of the Japanese, which includes countries like, but not limited to Brazil, Canada, and the United States of America, and (2) JOMM’s admission is free. However, their mission statements are similar, which is to “promote greater understand of the history of Japanese overseas migration” (JOMM).

Our Japanese Tour Guide Looking at a Japanese Store in the Americas. Photo Credit: Alvin Phouksouvath

The museum has five sections: History of Overseas Migration, Nikkei in Japanese Society/Nikkei in Global Setting, Nikkei Life: Four Stages, Digital Migration Space, and Dedication to those Japanese who have taken part in molding new civilizations in the Americas.


Items that the Japanese Brought with Them. 


Although the museum is on a single floor, every inch is filled with large displays, wall-to-wall memorabilia, interactive movies, and personal correspondences. I could have spent hours looking and reading every single thing in there; however, my group only had an hour.

A Touching Letter Written By a Husband to his Wife During World War II

Because the museum was overflowing with visual stimulating material from many points of view, I could tell the curators were not only dedicated, but also passionate about collecting, recording, and sharing the historical and personal accounts of the Nikkei. It was as if these curators, as well as JICA (and maybe Japan as well), were proud of them–I mean, us. They did not shy away from showing the harsh treatment the Issei had to endure in their new country, but at the same time sharing the triumphs of the Nisei, Sansei, and Yonsei. It was fascinating and empowering.


A Hawai’i Immigration Story: Five Generations of Nikkei


As someone who is graduating with a B.A in English, everybody expects you to know your exact life’s plan. However similar to the Issei, I’m just trying to live my life to make someone else’s life better. I believe that I have the ability to change this world, but how (and when) exactly? I’m not too sure yet, but being a part of the Tomodachi Kakehashi Inouye program and seeing the Japanese Overseas Migration Museum it gave me great comfort to see others who didn’t know what they were doing, who were working hard, and still made a huge positive impact in the world.


Address: 2-3-1 Shinko Naka-ku, JICA Yokohama 2nd Floor, Yokohama 231-0001, Kanagawa

Phone Number: +81 45-663-3257

Hours: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM (Subject to Change)

Allotted Time Needed: ~ 90 mins or more

Admission: FREE!


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