Japanese Ohioans

From Ohio History Central

Numerous Ohioans are descended from Japanese ancestors. Today, Japanese Ohioans continue to enhance Ohio's cultural and social landscape.

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, millions of immigrants migrated to the United States of America, hoping to live the American Dream. Before the American Civil War, most immigrants arrived in the United States from Great Britain, Germany, and Ireland. By the 1880s, the home countries of immigrants began to change. Many of the new immigrants to arrive in the United States came from Eastern and Southern European countries, like Romania, Montenegro, Albania, Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, and Czechoslovakia, rather than from Western European countries, like Great Britain, Ireland, and Germany.

In 1860, 328,249 immigrants lived in Ohio. These people accounted for fourteen percent of the state's population. By 1900, the number of immigrants in Ohio rose to 458,734, but the percentage of the population that was foreign-born declined to eleven percent. Most of these immigrants in 1900 came from Germany, Great Britain, and Ireland, yet a growing number of Eastern and Southern Europeans were also migrating to the state.

The Japanese were among the last immigrant groups to come to Ohio. A sizable number of Japanese did not arrive in Ohio until the 1940s, during World War II. Most Japanese immigrants to the United States arrived between 1885 and 1924. These migrants, nearly 160,000 of them, principally resided in California, Washington, and Oregon, with very few of them moving into the United States' interior. For example, in 1940, only eighteen Japanese people resided in Cleveland, Ohio.

During World War II, the United States government, fearing a Japanese invasion, placed Japanese Americans into internment camps. As the need for more workers and soldiers arose, the government allowed some of the internees to leave the camps. Many of these Japanese Americans found employment in Midwestern cities, as the federal government refused to allow them to return to their homes on the West Coast. All of Ohio's major cities saw a marked increase in their Japanese population. The number of Japanese in Cleveland soared to 3,500 by 1946. With the war's conclusion in 1945, many of these Japanese Ohioans returned to their homes on the West Coast. For example, Cleveland's Japanese population fell to just two thousand people by the end of the 1950s and to just 1,500 residents by the late 1970s. Many of the Japanese Americans who remained in Ohio were actually recent immigrants from Japan. Many of these migrants were actually war brides of American servicemen.

Although the Japanese arrived in Ohio much later than most other national groups, Japanese Ohioans proved to be productive citizens, finding employment in traditional white-collar jobs, especially in scientific and technological fields. In the past several decades, a sizable number of Japanese migrants have settled in Marysville, Ohio, where Honda of America has a major manufacturing plant. At the start of the twenty-first century, a small number of Japanese continued to come to Ohio each year. Many of these Japanese were students, who came to the United States to further their education. In 2000, 10,732 Ohioans claimed Japanese ancestry. These Ohioans comprised less than one-tenth of one percent of Ohio's entire populace.

Despite residing in the United States, many Japanese migrants still sought to maintain ties to their native homeland. For example, during the 1950s, Cleveland's Japanese residents formed various social clubs, including the Fuji Club and the Sho Jo Jis. Beginning in 1947, Cleveland's Japanese residents also sponsored a yearly city-wide picnic for all people of Japanese ancestry. While some Japanese social and cultural institutions continue to thrive, many of these organizations have collapsed, as more recent generations of Japanese Ohioans have become more assimilated into American life.

See Also


  1. Van Tassel, David D., and John J. Grabowski, eds. The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996.