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Yonsei (fourth-generation Nikkei)

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This article is about fourth-generation Japanese immigrants or emigrants. For other uses, see Yonsei.

Yonsei (四世?, literally, "fourth generation") is a Japanese language term used in countries in North America and South America to name the children born to Japanese people who immigrated. The emigrants or immigrants who were born in Japan are called Issei; and their children born in the new country are called Nisei (second generation). The grandchildren of Issei are called Sansei (third generation) and their great-grandchildren are called Yonsei.[1]

The character and uniqueness of the Yonsei is recognized in its social history.[2] The Yonsei are the subject of on-going academic research in the United States and Japan.[3]


The great-grandchildren of these Japanese-Brazilian (Nipo-brasileiros) immigrants would be called Yonsei.

The earliest organized group of Japanese emigrants settled in Mexico in 1897.[4]

Imigration to Brazil began in 1908. Today, the community which grew from the immigrant children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren has become the largest Japanese emigrant population outside of Japan, including approximately 1.5 million Brazilians.[5] Other communities of Yonsei grew up in the United States,[6] Canada,[7] and Peru.[8]

The use of the term Yonsei was modeled after an Issei pattern or template. In the 1930s, the term Issei came into common use. The word replaced the term "immigrant" (ijusha). This change in usage mirrored an evolution in the way the Issei looked at themselves. The label Issei also included the idea of belonging to the new country.[7]

Cultural profile

The term Nikkei (日系) was created by sociologists in the late 20th century. The Nikkei include all of the world's Japanese immigrants and their descendants.[9]

The Issei were born in Japan, and their cultural perspective was primarily Japanese; but they were in another country by choice.[10] Their Yonsei great-grandsons and great-granddaughters grew up with a national and cultural point-of-view that was different from their great-grandparents.

Although the Issei kept an emotional connection with Japan, they created homes in a country far from Japan.[11] The Yonsei had never known a country other than the one into which they were born.

Generation Cohort description
Issei (一世) The generation of people born in Japan who immigrated to another country.[12]
Nisei (二世) The generation of people born in North America, Latin America, Australia, Hawaii, or any country outside of Japan either to at least one Issei parent.[12]
Sansei (三世) The generation of people born to at least one Nisei parent.[12]
Yonsei (四世) The generation of people born to at least one Sansei parent[12]
Gosei (五世) The generation of people born to at least one Yonsei parent[13]

The Issei, Nisei and Sansei generations reflect distinctly different attitudes to authority, gender, religious practice, and other matters.[14]

Select list of notable Yonsei

This list is not finished; you can help Wikipedia by adding to it.


  1. The generation names come from the numbers "one, two, three" in the Japanese language. The first three Japanese numbers are "ichi, ni, san." The fourth number is "yon".
  2. Numrich, Paul David. (2008). North American Buddhists in Social Context, p. 110.
  3. 国立大学法人 東京学芸大学 (Tokyo Gakugei University), "Socioeconomic Status, Acculturation, Discrimination, and Health of Japanese Americans: Generational Differences" by Takashi Asakura et al., 2004; Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Grant# 12490011; retrieved 2012-12-24.
  4. Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), Japan-Mexico Foreign Relations; retrieved 2012-11-25.
  5. MOFA, "Japan-Brazil Relations"; retrieved 2012-11-25.
  6. Sakata, Yasuo. (1992). Fading Footsteps of the Issei, p. 1.
  7. 7.0 7.1 McLellan, Janet. (1999). Many Petals of the Lotus: Five Asian Buddhist Communities in Toronto, p. 36.
  8. "Fujimori Secures Japanese Haven," BBCNews, 12 December 2000; retrieved 2012-11-25.
  9. Japanese American National Museum, "What is Nikkei?" Archived 2009-05-03 at the Wayback Machine; retrieved 2012-11-25.
  10. Smithsonian, "The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps, 1942 - 1946", Yoshitsuchi Ikemoto Archived 2013-02-25 at the Wayback Machine; excerpt, "... one of hundreds of Issei (first-generation) 'bachelor' laborers who were unable to send for their wives or a picture bride because the U.S. government cut off all immigration from Japan in 1924"; retrieved 2012-11-25.
  11. Yenne, Bill. (2007). Rising Sons: The Japanese American GIs Who Fought for the United States in World War II, p. xv.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 "Issei" Densho Encyclopedia; retrieved 2012-11-25.
  13. Ikezoe-Halevi, Jean. "Voices of Chicago: Day of Remembrance 2006," Discover Nikkei (US). October 31, 2006; retrieved 2012-11-25.
  14. McLellan, p. 59.
  15. Discovering Nikkei: Furutani bio Archived 2012-08-13 at the Wayback Machine
  16. Rees, Robert M. "Queen of the Senate: Colleen Hanabusa of Wai‘anae has what most Hawai‘i politicians don't: character." Archived 2011-09-27 at the Wayback Machine Honolulu Weekly (US). June 12, 2002>
  17. "Gina Hiraizumi Interview," J-Pop World (Japan). May 27, 2009.
  18. Arakawa, Suzanne K. (2005). "Hongo, Garrett (Kaoru)," in Continuum Encyclopedia of American Literature, pp. 533-534. at Google Books
  19. All my Grandmother's Recipes, David Horvitz: [1]
  20. A-Profiler Interview, Grant Imahara," Archived 2008-03-14 at the Wayback Machine AArisings (US). March 13, 2007.
  21. Stone, Larry. "Ichiro vs. Lincecum a standoff, but pitcher relishes the battle," Seattle Times. March 12, 2009.
  22. Street, Michael. "Pacific Perspectives: Rising Asian-American Pitching Talent," Baseball Daily Digest (US). August 17, 2010.
  23. Herbach, Alex Isao. "Sophomore Surprise," Archived 2011-09-28 at the Wayback Machine Rafu Shimpo (US). April 25, 2009, retrieved 2011-04-12
  24. Eskenazi, Stuart. "Local Japanese Americans applaud the Mariners' hiring of Don Wakamatsu," Seattle Times (US). November 20, 2008.
  25. Nomura, pp. 288-290. at Google Books; Niiya, Brian. (1993). Japanese American History: an A-to-Z reference from 1868 to the present, p. 354. at Google Books

Other websites

Media related to Internment of Japanese-Canadians at Wikimedia Commons Media related to Japanese American internment at Wikimedia Commons