Japanese Journeys to America and Hawaii, 1850-80
The first full-length transnational and crosscultural examination of the earliest Japanese settlers in Hawai’i and the United States.
Shipwrecked sailors, samurai seeking a material and sometimes spiritual education, and laborers seeking to better their economic situation: these early Japanese travelers to the West occupy a little-known corner of Asian American studies. Pacific Pioneers profiles the first Japanese who resided in the United States or the Kingdom of Hawaii for a substantial period of time and the Westerners who influenced their experiences.
Although Japanese immigrants did not start arriving in substantial numbers in the West until after 1880, in the previous thirty years a handful of key encounters helped shape relations between Japan and the United States. John E. Van Sant explores the motivations and accomplishments of these resourceful, sometimes visionary individuals who made important inroads into a culture quite different from their own and paved the way for the Issei and Nisei.
Pacific Pioneers presents detailed biographical sketches of Japanese such as Joseph Heco, Niijima Jo, and the converts to the Brotherhood of the New Life and introduces the American benefactors, such as William Griffis, David Murray, and Thomas Lake Harris, who built relationships with their foreign visitors. Van Sant also examines the uneasy relations between Japanese laborers and sugar cane plantation magnates in Hawaii during this period and the shortlived Wakamatsu colony of Japanese tea and silk producers in California.
A valuable addition to the literature, Pacific Pioneers brings to life a cast of colorful, long-forgotten characters while forging a critical link between Asian and Asian American studies.
"This excellent study of the first Japanese sojourners to America and Hawaii places them within the context of national developments on both sides of the Pacific. . . . Van Sant wonderfully narrates and analyzes their engaging stories, those of ship-wrecked sailors, college students, workers, and even some utopians." -- Choice
"Van Sant has the language skills to do archival work, coupled with a solid grasp of Japanese history. He has produced a small but important work." -- Paul Spickard, American Historical Review
"A solid, well-written study. Featuring splendid biographical profiles, it provides excellent insight into Japan's modernization and the origins of Japanese immigration to the United States." -- Robert D. Parmet, International Migration Review
"This well-written and skillful blend of Japanese and Japanese American history fills a gap in our understanding of the formation of the Nikkei community in the United States. It provides us with a new appreciation of these early pioneers and their impact on both Japan and the United States." -- Wayne Patterson, Harvard University
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