LIMA, Peru – Japan’s Prince Masahito Hitachi and his wife, Princess Hanako, visited Lima to take part in celebrations marking the 110th anniversary of Japanese immigration to Peru. The royal visitors were received by President Alan Garcia at Lima’s Government Palace. The prince, who is the younger brother of Emperor Akihito, later met members of the large Japanese community at the Peruvian-Japanese Centre.
One of the most moving moments of the 14 June visit took place, according to EFE, when Hitachi left a floral tribute at a Lima monument commemorating the centenary of the arrival of the Sakura Maru, the first Japanese immigrant ship, which brought young adventurers and traders from Yokohama to Peru in 1899.
Almost 100,000 strong, the Japanese community plays an important part in Peru’s economic, political, and social life. When they first arrived, most of the new immigrants worked in agriculture before branching out into trade in the country’s major cities.
Amelia Morimoto, a Peruvian historian who specialises in Japanese immigration, told AP that “the mingling of Japanese culture with Peruvian culture has had a great impact on literature, sculpture and food”.
In Word War II, the Japanese were persecuted by native Peruvians, and, according to El Comercio, dozens of families of Japanese origin left the country. The overwhelming majority, however, stayed on, with many of them doing valuable scientific work.
One of the best-known descendants of Japanese immigrants is undoubtedly Alberto Fujimori, the mathematician-turned-politician who became president of Peru in 1990 after an election victory over distinguished author Mario Vargas Llosa.
Peru’s current administration has, according to Andina, shown special interest in strengthening relations with Tokyo and is in the process of negotiating a free trade agreement with Japan.
El Comercio reminded its readers that Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso visited Peru in November 2008, while Peruvian Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Garcia Belaunde visited Tokyo at the beginning of the year for the opening of a Peruvian trade fair. The agendas of both visits focused on bilateral trade and Japanese investment in Peru.