Who Were the Nisei and What Happened to Them?

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The term Nisei refers to Japanese children born to parents who emigrated to another country. The term roughly translates to English as "second generation," indicating that the emigrating parents were the first generation to take up residence outside of Japan, and the children were the second.

Nisei children are found in many different countries and have had a wide range of experiences.

Brazil has the world's largest Japanese population outside of Japan. Japanese began to emigrate to the country in the early 20th century. Early immigrants were often poor and entered farming jobs in Brazil that were of low status and pay with very poor working conditions. Some Nisei were able to buy their own land and become independent farmers, but many remained in poverty for decades.

In the United States, many Nisei were interned with their families during World War II. Two prominent Nisei from this period are Daniel Inouye, who would join the U.S. military in 1943 and go on to become a member of Congress, and Fred Korematsu, who resisted internment and would receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom decades later.

The term Nisei is not always used by Japanese living outside of Japan. It is also commonly used in Canada and Peru, but is not commonly used among the large Japanese population in Britain.