The Pioneers Who Brought Japan to Florida
Ryusuke Kawai, translated by John Gregersen and Reiko Nishioka
Florida Historical Society Harry T. And Harriette V. Moore Award
The surprising story of Florida’s Japanese settlers
“Provide[s] a new narrative of the Japanese immigrant, one that has not been told before this. . . . Much to be admired.”—Shukan New York Seikatsu
“A rare find, this book delivers what it promises as nonfiction that explains the history of Japanese emigration to America and other countries in a manner that is easily understood.”—Discover Nikkei
“Yamato Colony is the unique, compassionate story of the quixotic attempt to plant a Japanese farming community in the wilds of early-twentieth-century Florida. The story is often overlooked while assessing the broad cultural mix involved in the development of Southeast Florida in that era. This work will help eliminate that gap.”—Paul S. George, author of Along the Miami River
Opening a window onto the little-known Japanese-American heritage of Florida, Yamato Colony is the true tale of a daring immigrant venture that left behind an important legacy. Ryusuke Kawai tells how a Japanese farming settlement came to be in south Florida, far from other Japanese communities in the United States.
Kawai’s captivating story takes readers back to the early twentieth century, a time when Japanese citizens were beginning to look to possibilities for individual wealth and success overseas. Poor, unlucky in love, and dreaming of returning rich to marry his sweetheart, a young man named Sukeji Morikami boarded a passenger steamer at the port of Yokohama and set off to make his fortune.
Morikami was drawn by promises from his compatriot Jo Sakai, founder of an agricultural community called Yamato between Boca Raton and Delray Beach, Florida. Sakai extolled the prospects of raising pineapples and other crops amid the state’s economic boom and exciting developments like Flagler’s East Coast Railway. This book follows the experiences of Morikami and his fellow Yamato settlers through World War II, when the struggling colony closed for good. Morikami held on to his hopes for Yamato until the end, when at last, the lone survivor, he donated the land that would become the widely visited Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens.
Celebrating the lives of ordinary men and women who left their homes and traveled an enormous distance to settle and raise their families in Florida, this book brings to light a unique moment in the state’s history that few people know about today.
Ryusuke Kawai is a journalist based in Japan. He is the author of several books and translator of a Japanese-language edition of John Okada’s No-No Boy. John Gregersen is former senior curator and cultural director at the Morikami Museum in Delray Beach, Florida. Reiko Nishioka is former director of education at the Morikami Museum.
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