History of the Gannenmono: “Should Server to Inspire Us Even Today”

Dr. Mark McNally
Published with Permission

On June 19, 1868, the first group of Japanese immigrants arrived in Honolulu. Their group consisted of about 150 people, all of whom were adult men with the exception of five (or six) women who had accompanied their husbands on the voyage from Japan, and two children — a teenager and a baby who was born aboard ship. Today we usually refer to these immigrants as the Gannenmono, meaning “the people of the founding/first year,” which was a reference to the fact that they had arrived during the first year of the new Meiji era in Japan. They had been recruited to work in the Kingdom of Hawai‘i from the Yokohama/Edo (Edo is now known as Tökyö) area, signing three-year contracts for a wage of $4 a month. Their story is an interesting and compelling one, full of surprises, hardships and also joys; but, above all, it illustrates their courage and determination and should serve to inspire us even today. So, it is only fitting that their story be remembered on the 150th anniversary of their arrival in Hawai‘i.

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