Japanese Chileans

Japanese Chilean
Japonés Chileno
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Arica, Iquique, Antofagasta, La Serena, Valparaíso, Santiago,
Spanish, Japanese
Roman Catholicism, Buddhism, Shintoism
Related ethnic groups
Japanese diaspora, Japanese Americans, Japanese Canadians, Japanese Mexicans, Japanese Peruvians

Japanese Chileans (Spanish: Japonés Chileno or Nipo-chileno, Japanese: 日系チリ人 Nikkei Chiri-jin) are Chileans with ethnic origin from Japan. The first Japanese in Chile were 126 immigrants hired to work in the mining industry in 1903.[2] As of 2010, Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimated there to be a total of roughly 2,600 Japanese people living in Chile. Among them were 1,108 temporary residents, 504 permanent residents, and about another thousand locally born descendants.[1]


The number of Japanese settlers in Chile never went above 900 between 1910 and 1940. Among those who entered the nation, there was a wide diversity of persons ranging from professionals and businessmen to laborers re-migrating from neighboring countries, especially Peru, where it has the second largest Japanese population in Latin America and the sixth largest in world. They were possibly isolated in the nitrate-rich north and attracted particularly to the southern regions of Valparaíso and Santiago. They found employment in a variety of jobs as salaried workers and in small business interests, especially as barbers. The early Nikkei community was largely male. The majority of Issei men married Chilean women. Their children, the Nisei, were raised with the belief of "If they are going to live in Chile, let them be Chilean".

However, World War II once more motivated anti-Japanese sentiments and interrupted the Nikkei’s process of integration into Chilean society. Starting in early 1943, several dozen Japanese Chileans were forced to move from strategically sensitive areas (such as copper mines) to the national interior. Meanwhile, the Japanese community received bigger unity, offering mutual support in the face of wartime oppositions. These ties would later resurface after the war with the organization of the Japanese Beneficence Society (Sociedad Japonesa de Beneficencia).

By the 1990s, Chilean Nikkei enjoyed middle-class status, a high educational level, and employment in white-collar jobs. Contrary to trends in other Latin American countries with a Nikkei population, only less than 5% of the ethnic Japanese population has gone to Japan to work as dekasegis. The small size of the Japanese community, its lack of unity, and the increase of mixed marriages call into question the future of the Chilean Nikkei. There are an estimated 3,800 Japanese and descendants.

Today, the new generations are maintaining some of their traditions, such as the japanese language and cultural events such as Hanami, and the Valparaíso Japan Festival ([3]) through organizations such as the Valparaíso Región Nikkei Corporation (Corporación Nikkei Región de Valparaíso[4]).


Most Japanese Chileans only speak Spanish. Only a selected number can speak Japanese, while those with higher education speak English. There are even a number of Japanese Chilean schools that offer English-language teaching to the recent Japanese residents.


The majority of Japanese Chileans are Roman Catholic Christians, while the rest are Buddhists and Shintoists.

Notable people


  1. 1 2 Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  2. Masterson, Daniel M. and Sayaka Funada-Classen. (2004), The Japanese in Latin America: The Asian American Experience, p. 48.
  3. "Festival Japón Valparaíso". Festival Japón Valparaíso.
  4. "Corporación Nikkei Región de Valparaíso | バルパライソ日系人協会". nikkeivalparaiso.hana.bi. Retrieved 2016-06-06.


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