After years of isolation, immigration from Japan was legalized in 1885 and about 1000 people left Japan to perform contracted work on sugar plantations in Hawaii. Although contract immigration was prohibited in the mainland United States, many “free immigrants” arrived, paying their own passage. Other countries with significant Japanese immigration around the turn of the century were:  Canada, Australia, Mexico, Peru, New Caledonia, and the Fiji Islands.

In the early 20th Century, following passage of restrictive legislation on Asian immigration to the United States, Mexico, Hawaii, Canada, Australia, and South Africa, there was a  shift in Japanese emigration to Latin America, particularly to Brazil and Peru.

With a reputation for honesty and hard work, Japanese immigrants were initially well received in Latin America. However, their lack of assimilation, coupled with rising military imperialism in Japan, soon compromised their acceptance. By the mid-1930s, Japanese migration to Latin America was drastically curtailed and the emigrants turned toward East Asia, particularly to Manchuria and China.

Source: Tigner JL. Japanese immigration into Latin America: A survey. Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs. 1981; 23:4:457-482