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Encyclopedia of Nikkei Migration

Argentina - Migration Historical Overview

Argentine Nikkei history began in 1908-09 with the arrival of immigrants from Okinawa and Kagoshima—the major prefectural origins of Argentine Nikkei. The first Japanese entered the country via Brazil, and succeeding groups of immigrants tended to reach Argentina through the neighboring nations.

Japanese immigrants making the difficult trek through the Andes Mountains to enter Argentina after arriving in Chile in 1915. (Collection of Asociación Japonesa en Argentina)

In the prewar years, Nikkei were concentrated in urban small businesses, especially dry cleaning and cafes in Buenos Aires, while some worked as domestic servants, factory workers, and longshoremen. A minority of Japanese also engaged in horticulture, floriculture, and fishery. In regions with a substantial Japanese population, institutions such as prefectural associations and Japanese language schools were established and served as loci of Nikkei community formations and ties.

In the 1920s, the dry cleaning business was highly popular among Japanese residents. The Japanese owner of the “Kioto” drycleaners located at 2047 Lavalle, in Buenos Aires, arrived in Argentina in 1914. (Collection of Sato Family)

Impact of World War II

During the U.S.-Japanese conflict of World War II, Argentina remained neutral until 1943, which limited the impact of war on the lives of Nikkei. However, restrictions included the ban on meetings, Japanese education, newspaper publication, as well as a freeze on Japanese assets—which remained effective between 1944 and 1946. Meanwhile, Japanese residents strove to become more integrated into society and to make Argentina their permanent home.

Influx since 1960s

Between 1960s and 1970s, the influx of new immigrants rejuvenated the Nikkei community. Many were attracted by the economic opportunities in agriculture. The postwar years witnessed the upward mobility of the Argentine-born generations, many of whom received higher education and practiced the Catholic faith. With the growing avenues for white-collar employment, the career choices of younger Japanese Argentines are now more diversified, although some Nisei and Sansei have decided to work in Japan, reflecting domestic recessions since the 1980s.

A celebration parade held along the central avenues of Buenos Aires on August 1998, commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the Friendship, Commercial and Navigation Treaty between Argentina and Japan, signed in 1898. (Collection of Asociación Universitaria Nikkei)


Akemi Kikumura-Yano, ed., Encyclopedia of Japanese Descendants in the Americas: An Illustrated History of the Nikkei (Walnut Creek, Calif.: AltaMira Press, 2002), 71.


* Developed in collaboration with the Centro Nikkei Argentino and the Asociación Universitaria Nikkei.


© 2002 Japanese American National Museum

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About this series

Did you know that the Nikkei live in more than fifty countries? Read short historical overviews of Japanese migration that highlight the major experiences of the Nikkei in selected countries.  

Information in this section is drawn from, and expands upon, the Encyclopedia of Japanese Descendants in the Americas: An Illustrated History of the Nikkei, Akemi Kikumura-Yano, ed. (Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira, 2002). Also available in Japanese as 『アメリカ大陸日系人百科事典―写真と絵で見る日系人の歴史』 (明石書店, 2002).