Between 1889 and 1940 more than 40,000 Okinawan contract laborers emigrated to plantations in Hawaii, Brazil, the Philippines, and Peru. In 1912 seventeen-year-old Hana Kaneshi accompanied her husband and brother to South America and dreamed of returning home in two years’ time a wealthy young woman. Edited by her daughter Akiko, Hana’s richly detailed memoir is a rare, first-hand account of the life of a female Okinawan immigrant in the New World. It spans nearly a century, from Hana’s early life in a small village not long after the Ryukyu Kingdom’s annexation to Japan; to a sugar plantation in Peru and its capital, Lima; to her dangerous trek through Mexico and the California desert to enter the U.S. and start a new life, this time in the Imperial Valley and finally Los Angeles. Hana’s story comes full circle when she returns briefly, after forty-seven years, to Okinawa during the postwar American Occupation.
From Okinawa to the Americas will appeal to not only students of Asian American and disapora studies, but also those seeking to understand the complexity of Okinawan culture and the networks of family relationships in Okinawa and in its overseas immigrant communities.