Hawaii Nikkei Legacy Exhibit

This photographic exhibit covers the initial immigration of the Issei (first generation immigrants) from Japan in the late 1800s to modern day Hawaii, showing how the Nikkei (overseas Japanese) in Hawaii have maintained their Japanese cultural values.

At the core of the exhibit is the story of the Nisei (second generation) soldiers who served in the US armed forces in World War II. The exhibit also depicts the post war accomplishments of the Nisei in Hawaii. Prominent Japanese Americans from Hawaii are displayed along with the prefectures in Japan from which their ancestors emigrated.

The intent of the exhibit is to educate people on the story of Hawaii’s Nikkei and to promote goodwill and cross-cultural values between Japan and the United States.

In 2017 and 2018, the exhibit toured the following cities in Japan: Yokohama, Tokyo, Fukushima, Osaka, Hiroshima (twice), Nagaoka, Fukuoka, Sapporo, Naha, Miyagi and Kumamoto. In 2018, it was also shown throughout the State of Hawaii including several locations on Oahu, Kahului, Lihue, Kona and Hilo as part of the 150th anniversary celebration of the Gannenmono, the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. It is presented here to provide this information to a broader audience.

Below are the Nikkei stories depicted in chronological order:

This story began when the first group of Japanese migrated to Hawaii. Follow the journey of the Hawaii Nikkei (overseas Japanese) of today.
Initial Contract Worker Immigration
The first small group of Japanese came to Hawaii in 1868. They were primarily city-bred people from Yokohama City.
Early Blending of Cultures
As the first generation of Nikkei (known as Issei) completed their contracts, some left the plantations to earn more money and have a better life.
War in the Pacific Begins
On December 7, 1941 Japanese Naval planes attacked Pearl Harbor bringing about the U.S. involvement in World War II.
Internment Experience in Hawaii
The Nikkei comprised nearly 40% of Hawaii’s population at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Life in Hawaii During World War II
The Nikkei in Hawaii demonstrated their patriotism and loyalty to America.
Formation of the Nisei Military Units
Despite suspicion and prejudice, more than 20,000 Nisei Japanese Americans served honorably in four segregated U.S. Army units
War in Europe
The 100th Infantry Battalion, formed in June 1942, entered combat in September 1943.
Military Intelligence Service
About 6,000 Nisei, half of them from Hawaii, served in the U.S. Army’s Military Intelligence Service (MIS) during World War II.
The War in Europe Ends
The final military campaigns in Europe ended in spring 1945. The Germans surrendered in May 1945.
The Pacific War Ends
The war in the Pacific ended on August 15, 1945, when Japan surrendered following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Helping Japan Rebuild a New Society
After the war, thousands of MIS Nisei, used their knowledge of both languages and cultures to build a reciprocal relationship with Japan.
Post-War Legacy
Nisei veterans sacrificed and risked much in the face of prejudice to create and expand equal opportunities for their generation and future ones.
Reviving Japanese Culture and Customs
In the immediate aftermath of World War II, Japanese culture and customs were unpopular in Hawaii.
Japanese Culture in Modern Hawaii
Many Japanese customs remain popular in Hawaii today. Some have taken on a unique cross-cultural representation different from its Japanese origin.
Hawaii Nikkei Culture
Nisei soldiers returned to Hawaii to live exemplary lives as solid citizens and patriots, helping to shape the Hawaii of today.
Legacy of Nisei Soldiers
The accomplishments of the Nisei soldiers during World War II were significant to the State of Hawaii and the United States.
Prefecture Roots
The Hawaii Nikkei maintain strong ties to the original prefectures from where their ancestors immigrated.
Peace for the Future
The Joint Statement Ceremony conducted by President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paid homage to the fallen of World War II.
Nisei Veterans Legacy