LIMA – Princess Mako of Japan, the niece of Emperor Naruhito, visited Peru on Wednesday to commemorate 120 years since the first Japanese immigrants founded what has become one of the largest and most important communities in the Andean country.
“It is a great joy for me to be able to celebrate the 120th anniversary of Japanese immigration to Peru, here in Lima, participating in this ceremony with all of you gathered from various regions,” Mako said during a brief speech delivered at the Japanese Peruvian Association’s (APJ) headquarters in the nation’s capital.
Members of the APJ welcomed the princess with dances typical of both Peru and Japan.
The first Japanese immigrants in Peru were a group of 790 men hired to work in the fields who arrived on the ship Sakura Maru in 1899. The community’s numbers later began to increase as other groups of workers arrived in the following years.
“It is said that Japanese descendants have reached 100,000 people (in Peru) and all generations are fully deploying their activities in various fields,” Mako added about the large Japanese-Peruvian community, which is popularly known as “Nikkei” and whose members mainly live along the Andean nation’s coast.
“I won’t forget that the Japanese immigrants who arrived in Peru and their descendants took solid roots in Peruvian society, supporting each other and overcoming innumerable difficulties, working diligently and faithfully to establish themselves,” she said.
Before arriving at the meeting with the Nikkei community, the princess placed a flower offering at the monument commemorating the centennial of Japanese immigration to Peru, and also visited La Union School and the Union Stadium Association (la Asociacion Estadio La Union, AELU), both of which are centers of study and recreation for Japanese descendants in Lima.
“It has given me great joy to know that these establishments symbolize the unity of the Nikkei community and that their cultural and social activities have been carried out over a long period of time, including Japanese sport, language and culture,” Mako said.
The princess thanked the Peruvians who welcomed the first immigrants to this country on behalf of Japan and extended her “deep respect” to all those who migrated from Japan and their descendants “for their contributions to Peruvian society, through numerous efforts, maintaining values such as honesty, sincerity, hard work and responsibility.”
She also thanked the Peruvian government for the invitation to visit what was the first country in Latin America and the Caribbean to establish diplomatic relations with Japan.
Peru’s president, Martin Vizcarra, will welcome Princess Mako on Thursday in a private audience at the Government Palace. She was set to later travel to Cuzco, in the southeast of the country, to visit the archaeological site of Machu Picchu and other historical attractions in the Andes.