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Exporting Japan: Politics of Emigration to Latin America (review)
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Reviewed by
Toake Endoh. Exporting Japan: Politics of Emigration to Latin America. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009. 267 pp. ISBN 978-0-252-03402-2, $50.00 (cloth).

Japan sent two waves of state-sponsored immigrants to Latin America before and after its entanglement in wars in China and the Pacific. During the two decades from 1921 to 1941, 183,000 Japanese departed for Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Argentina, Paraguay, and Bolivia. This accounts for 75 percent of the total number of Japanese immigrants to Latin America before 1937, the year Japan struck war with China. In 1952, after seven years' military occupation by the United States, Japan returned to the international world. Wasting no time, the Japanese government resumed its project to send immigrants to Latin America. Between 1953 and 1970, a total of 56,000 Japanese left for Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, Dominican Republic, and Argentina. Half of these immigrants to Latin America during both periods originated from Japan's southwestern region, including the prefectures of Hiroshima, Kumamoto, Fukuoka, and Okinawa.

In Exporting Japan political scientist Toake Endoh addresses two major issues regarding Japan's state-officiated programs for emigration to Latin America in both pre- and post-WWII periods. The first one concerns the social identity of the Japanese emigrants, together with the sociopolitical context in which their emigration occurred in each period. The second one concerns the perceptions, goals, and ideologies of the sending state and its agencies that orchestrated and executed the national emigration policy (including local governments, immigration organizations, immigrants' associations, and private corporations).

Endoh observes that for both periods these state-backed programs were full of contradictions. Specifically, for both periods, she examines how and why the state so eagerly promoted, and tenaciously clung to, emigration programs that sent its people to isolated, often dangerous, hinterlands of developing Latin American countries. Consequently, [End Page 664] a large proportion of Japanese emigrants suffered devastating circumstances, while many defected from their projects. Despite these alarming results, the government continued its program until post-WWII economic development made it irrelevant for all parties. Endoh contends that something else, beyond the demographic pressures and socioeconomic insufficiencies that have usually been cited as the main causes of the emigration, has been responsible for the state's enduring commitment to Japanese emigration to Latin America. These are the focus of Exporting Japan.

The book comprises three parts. Part 1 describes history, statistics, and other facts of Japanese emigration to Latin America during the pre-WWII period (Chapter 1) and the postwar period (Chapter 2). Part 2 discusses the political contexts in which emigration emerged among influential Japanese politicians, officials, and corporations as a national strategy to cope with increasing population and impoverishment among socioeconomic lower classes. It also addresses how the state developed its ideas and policies of emigration, while organizing institutional machineries to recruit emigrants during the pre- and post-WWII periods (Chapters 3 and 4, respectively). Part 3 identifies the social origins of emigrants (Chapter 5), and investigates the social, economic, and political contexts within which these emigrants chose to participate in the emigration program in the midst of Japan's national crisis before and after WWII (Chapter 6). Chapter 7 discusses the political ideologies behind the state's forceful promotion of emigration policy and unspoken goals of constructing a Japanese diaspora in Latin America before and after the war.

The heart of this book rests in Chapter 6 in which Endoh analyzes Latin American emigration policies as state responses to rising social unrest during both periods. Forty years after the Meiji Restoration, by the early 1910s a breakdown of national cohesion, that underlay the rapid modernization and militarization, became evident to state leaders. This was especially conspicuous among working classes of the southwestern region where distribution of land was highly skewed and large industrial complexes, including coalmines and shipyards, were heavily concentrated. Among them, the author identifies four groups as being the most oppressed and impoverished: peasants, industrial workers, coalminers, and Burakumin (the outcaste population, a legacy of feudalism). Although specific contexts and causes of impoverishment differed, each group became increasingly agitated and radicalized, resulting in riots, protests, rallies, and strikes. In the wake of...