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, From Okinawa to the Americas, 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.
“Hana Yamagawa’s book is full of stories of disappointment, loss, and struggle. But it is also inspiring: Hana is high-spirited and stubborn and truly a memorable character. Hers is a remarkable tale, told with honesty.”—Edith Kaneshiro, Department of History, National University of Singapore
Intersections: Asian and Pacific American Intercultural Studies
October 2010 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3551-4 / $25.00 (PAPER)