The Gannenmono’s Legacy is Considered 150 Years After Their Arrival

Jodie Chiemi Ching

Insight into the history of one of Hawai‘i’s most visible ethnic groups — the Japanese — took a giant step forward last week with the events commemorating 150 years since the first group of immigrants arrived in Hawai‘i from Japan. The approximately 150 men and women were known as the Gannenmono, or “First-year People,” as they arrived in the first year of Japan’s Meiji era.

The commemoration events were organized by Kizuna Hawaii, a consortium of about 20 Japanese community organizations, in cooperation with the Consulate-General of Japan in Honolulu.

One of the main attractions was a daylong symposium on the Gannenmono’s history and impact on Hawai‘i’s history at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel. The speakers at the June 7 symposium included scholars, descendants of the Gannenmono, community leaders and students. They provided insight into what life might have been like for the first immigrants who arrived in a strange new land called Hawai‘i on June 19, 1868, and for the roughly 50 that made the Islands their permanent home.

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