Yokohama is aptly seen as the traditional gateway to Japan, the funnel through which Japan welcomed foreign ideas, technology, and people. Sometimes we forget that the port is also a point of embarkation. This makes Yokohama an appropriate home for the Japan Overseas Migration Museum, which celebrates the history of Japanese that left their home islands to start new lives and new communities across the oceans.

The story of Japanese overseas migration began in the 19th century when farmers started to trickle into Hawaii to work on sugar plantations. The early migrants were some of the first modern Japanese to leave their country. The work was intense, but some were able to save enough money to return to their villages to live well and tell their stories. As the migrant life became more popular, Japanese started settling the western United States and Canada. Many came to the New World as laborers or as students seeking skills that they could use to help along the modernizations of the Meiji period. Immigration into the United States was effectively halted in response to widespread anti-Japanese sentiment, and later, war and internment. Japanese migrants then began to seek their fortunes in Latin America, where they introduced very useful Asian crops such as pepper and formed successful urban and agricultural communities that still exist today.

The history told here is a people’s history. Although the Japanese Diaspora has born many notable leaders such as Patsy Mink and Alberto Fujimori, the exhibition here focuses on the daily lives of a people in a different context. Visitors really get a sense of what sorts of lives these migrants and the subsequent generations of Nikkei lived, struggled, and prospered in their chosen homes.

The museum is free to enter. All exhibits are extensively explained with adequate historical context in both Japanese and English with some parts offered in Portuguese and Spanish. There is enough information here to enthrall even the most seasoned history buff. The museum is housed on the second floor of the Japan International Cooperation Agency’s Yokohama office, so if the exhibit dredges up some wanderlust in you, you can head downstairs for information about becoming an Overseas Volunteer.





Japan Overseas Migration Museum

Address 住所:
Naka-ku Shinko 2-3-1
Tel: 045-663-3257

Hours/営業時間: 10:00-18:00
(入館は17:30まで/last entry at 17:30)


Closed Mondays and Dec. 29-Jan. 3. When Monday falls on a holiday, the museum will be closed on Tuesday. Admission is free.