The little known story of Japanese migration, assimilation, suffering and identity in Mexico
By Lorraine Orlandi Original Print Publication: July, 2007
7th - Japan’s foreign investor rank in Mexico.
1888 - Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation signed between Mexico and Japan.
1952 - Octavio Paz travels to Japan to reestablish the Mexican Embassy.
1977 - Opening of the Japan-Mexico Lyceum. Plan got a boost when Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka visited Mexico in 1974.
2004 - Mexico-Japan Agreement for Strengthening of the Economic partnership signed.
4,100 Japanese nationals residing in Mexico (1999).
15,650 - population of Japanese descendants living in Mexico (1999).
109,000 - approximate number of Japanese tourists to visit Mexico in 2007.
27.81% - growth in trade between Japan and Mexico inform 2005 to 2006.
10.56% - increase in Mexican exports to Japan in 2006.
34.14% - increase in Japanese exports to Mexico in 2006.
60.9% of Mexican exports to Japan are manufactured products.
95.3% of Japanese exports to Mexico are manufactured products.
$85,112,000 USD of fresh fish sold to Japan from Mexico (2005).
$176,329,000 USD of pork sold to Japan from Mexico (2005).
Francisca Ono , 80, is the child of Japanese emigrants to Mexico. She lives near Tapachula, Chiapas, close to where the first Japanese colony settled.
Francisca Ono de Takemura was 14 and the eldestof seven children when her father was forcedto sell his Mexican restaurant in Tepic, Nayarit,and move his family to Mexico City.
“All of us who lived in Tepic left; we were sixfamilies. Each one looked for a place to live,” saysTakemura, now 79. “My mother was very sad. Butshe kept it to herself.”
A delicate, gracious woman with a readylaugh, Takemura hesitates when asked aboutthe relocation. It was traumatic, she admits,but she now believes it was for the best thather family moved to the city. Like other Japanesedescendants, she is quick to point out thegenerosity that Mexico has shown the Japanesecommunity over the years.
“They say that in some countries in SouthAmerica the Japanese were not treated well. InMexico we are held in high esteem. I am Mexicanby birth and it is an honor because Mexico is avery worthy country. We are happy our parentscame to Mexico, because here we have lived contentedly.”
Meanwhile, Nishimura, who spent years tryingto get out of Japan, finally got home in 1948,a decade after he was sent away.
“A week after I got back [to Mexico] they sent amessenger from the National Palace,” he recalls.Nishimura was informed he was being draftedinto the Mexican army. “Again I picked up agun,” he says. But before he was dispatched tothe northern city of Monterrey, the draft endedand he was excused from service. In his early20s, he repeated primary and secondary schoolin Mexico. He finished his engineering degree atthe UNAM when he was 31 and went to work forthe electric utility.