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Gannenmono

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  • Japanese: 元年者 (gannenmono)

The gannenmono were a group of 148 Japanese who emigrated to Hawaii in 1868 to work as contract laborers on sugar plantations. They were the first Japanese to settle in Hawaii, and came to be known as gannenmono (lit. "people of the first year") because of their departure from Japan and/or arrival in Hawaii in 1868, the first year (gannen) of the Meiji period.

They left Yokohama without authorization from the government, and included a variety of types of people, most of them not well prepared for the rigors of plantation labor. The group is known to have included artists, hairdressers, cooks, at least one samurai, and a 13-year-old heavy drinker named Ichigorô and nicknamed Mamushi-no-Ichi, or "Ichi the Viper."

After complaints of brutal conditions and low pay, the Meiji government dispatched an official to investigate the situation; an agreement was reached on January 11, 1870, in which the Japanese government paid to bring forty of the gannenmono back to Japan. The remaining 108 continued to live and work in Hawaii.

References

  • Franklin Odo and Kazuko Sinoto, A Pictorial History of the Japanese in Hawaii 1885-1924, Bishop Museum (1985), 13, 16.
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