Japanese in the Philippines

Japanese in the Philippines

Japanese people in the Philippines.jpg
Japanese people living in the Philippines as portrayed in Boxer codex 1590
Total population
Japanese nationals17,702 (Oct. 2013)People of Japanese descent20,000 - 200,000 (2006)
Regions with significant populations
Metro Manila, Davao, the Visayas, Ilocos Norte, La Union
Japanese, Filipino, other Philippine languages, English
Roman Catholicism, Buddhism, Shinto
Related ethnic groups
Japanese people, foreign-born Japanese, Japanese diaspora

Japanese settlement in the Philippines refers to the branch of the Japanese diaspora having historical contact with and having established themselves in what is now the Philippines. This also refers to Filipino citizens of either pure or mixed Japanese descent currently residing in the country, the latter a result of intermarriages between the Japanese and local populations.


Classical period

Contact with the Philippine islands began when Japanese traders/merchants first settled in the archipelago during the 12th century AD. Notable settlements of the period include Bolinao and Agoo along Lingayen Gulf. The Japanese were trading with Philippine kingdoms well before the Spanish period, mainly in pottery and gold. Historical records show that Japanese traders, especially those from Nagasaki, frequently visited the Philippine shores and bartered Japanese goods for such Filipino products as gold and pearls. In the course of time, shipwrecked Japanese sailors, pirate traders, and immigrants settled in the Philippines and intermarried with the early Filipinos. When the Spaniards reached the island of Luzon in 1571, they found Japanese colonies and settlements in Manila and in some parts of the Cagayan Valley, the Cordillera region, Lingayen, Bataan, and Catanduanes Island. The relatively light complexion of the natives of Bontoc and Banaue is probably a result of the early contacts between the Japanese and other islanders from south of Japan and the natives of the Cordillera.[citation needed] But the ancient Philippines had a very rich tradition of pottery as verified by the finds at Ayub Cave in South Cotabato and other parts of the islands. Japanese texts mentioned trading expeditions to the island of Rusun (Luzon) for the highly prized Rusun and Namban jars. Japanese texts were very specific about these jars being made in Luzon. The Tokiko, for example, calls the Rusun and Namban jars, Ru-sun tsukuru or Lu-sung ch'i (in Chinese), which means simply "made in Luzon." These Rusun jars, which had rokuru (wheel mark), were said to be more precious than gold because of its ability to act as tea canisters and enhance the fermentation. .

Many of the important pottery traditions that spread into the Oceania region had their counterparts in the Philippines including the well-known Lapita culture. This quote from American anthropologist Wilhelm Solheim illustrates the matter:

I hypothesize that the Sa-huynh Kalanay and Lapita pottery traditions had a common origin somewhere in the Palawan-Sarawak-Sulu Sea-Sulawesi area and that it was at this point in time and space that a second and main stage in the spread of the Austronesian languages began.

Japanese Filipina woman(Left) wearing Maria Clara gown

The finds at Ayub Cave in South Cotabato again verified the great pottery tradition of the Philippines. In terms of quantity and quality, these artifacts have no match in Southeast Asia for such an early time period. One interesting question is whether or not the Philippines ever developed an export industry for pottery. Generally it is known that the Thais had developed quite a flourishing industry, which is sometimes considered unique in SE Asia. However, it is well documented that the Philippines was in fact a major destination of pottery buyers from the islands of Japan at least. Japanese texts mention trading expeditions to the island of Rusun (Luzon) going well back before the Spanish period. What they sought were the highly prized Rusun and Namban jars. In fact, these jars were far more precious than gold to the Japanese because of their ability to act as tea canisters. Japanese texts were very specific about these jars being made in Luzon. The Tokiko, for example, calls the Rusun and Namban jars, Ru-sun tsukuru or Lu-sung ch'i (Chinese), which means simply "made in Luzon." In the Tokiko it mentions that all Rusun jars had this marking known as the rokuru (wheel mark). Those familiar with Philippine ethnography will know that this spiral is commonly used by many of the Philippine tribes. The following symbols were used to identify which kiln was used to make the jar: identified "Imbe" jars, meant jars coming from Bizen kiln, and mark three times meant a canister from the same oven. A jar with this mark is said to be made of Namban clay. This marking corresponds to the syllable la in Pampanga; Tagbanua for ka ("Chinese Pottery," Field Museum of Natural History-Anth., vol.xii, Jul.1912) Of course, the symbol for la can also be the same as that for lu, and so this might correspond to the symbol said to stand for Lu in Rusun-no kokuji (Luzon national writing). According to the Tokiko, certain types of Rusun jars were distinguished by this character. De Morga mentions that Japanese traders were still coming in large numbers for these jars during his time, and that they were willing to spend great sums for them. Apparently work on these jars continued in the North, possibly among the unconquered Igorots, for De Morga had no knowledge of such current production. Later, the knowledge may have again trickled down to Vigan, where a flourishing industry of Burnay jar manufacture survives to this day. Although the Japanese described very high quality jars coming from the Philippines, not all were of elegant nature. In fact, De Morga had some disdain for some of the jars that the Japanese were buying, so they could have been similar to the well-known balanga and other jars in use today. These jars are generally handed down as heirlooms and are noted for their qualities in enhancing the fermentation process. Possibly one of the Japanese uses for the Rusun jars was fermentation of products like Kombucha and Umeboshi plums. Indeed, a Japanese acquaintance stated that their family in rural Japan used old Rusun jars for exactly this purpose up to this day. The Filipinos were skilled in all types of fishing and fisheries. In the south, the basnig, a Viking-like ship, was and is the vessel of choice among the Bisayans for ocean fishing. The salambao is a type of raft that utilizes a large fishing net which is lowered into the water via a type of lever made of two criss-crossed poles. Night fishing was accomplished with the help of candles similar to the copal of Mexico. These candles were made from a particular type of resin. Fish corrals, like the ones still used today, were also employed by the ancient Filipino. However, the area in which the Filipino most astonished Westerners was in their advanced aquaculture:

To the early Spaniards, the pisciculture of the Filipinos was regarded almost as a new art, so much more advanced it was than fish breeding methods in Europe.

Many have looked to Japan for an explanation for these advanced methods. The roe was transplanted to safe pens for incubation and to guard the small fry from predators. Only when sufficiently mature to fend for themselves were they released back into the wild. These days this method is practiced by fisheries throughout the world. Before the Spanish came, the Filipinos also only used large mesh nets when fishing in rivers, lakes or in the sea. This ecologically sound practice protected the young ensuring future good catches. However, the competition brought by the Spaniards resulted in the use of such small mesh nets that the Spanish themselves eventually had to regulate the nets to prevent the destruction of the fisheries. Other Pre-Spanish Filipino industries included the manufacture of liquors and vinegars like tuba, basi, etc., the production of hides for export to Japan, export of edible bird's nests from Northern Palawan to China, the raising and trade of civet cats, the manufacture of gunpowder, the making of wax for export to China, and the making of cotton stockings for export.

Spanish era

The Japanese population in the Philippines has since included descendants of Japanese Catholics and other Japanese Christians who fled from the religious persecution imposed by the Tokugawa shogunate during the Edo period and settled during the colonial period from the 17th century until the 19th century. A statue of daimyo Ukon Takayama, who was exiled to the Philippines in 1614 because he refused to disvow his Christian beliefs, stands a patch of land across the road from the Post Office building in the Paco, Manila. In the 17th century, the Spaniards referred to the Paco Area as the 'Yellow Plaza' because of the more than 3,000 Japanese who resided there. In the 16th and 17th centuries, thousands of Japanese people traders also migrated to the Philippines and assimilated into the local population. pp. 52–3

Many of the Japanese men intermarried with Filipino women (including those of mixed or unmixed Chinese and Spanish descent), thus forming the new Japanese mestizocommunity.[14] A sizeable population settled in Manila, Davao, the Visayas and in the 1600s in Dilao, Paco, and Ilocos Norte Province. This hybrid group tend to be re-assimilated either into the Filipino or the Japanese communities, and thus no accurate denominations could be established, though their estimates range from 100,000 to 200,000. Many were killed or expelled after World War II because of their alleged collaboration with the Japanese Imperial Army (mostly as translator). Many Japanese mestizos tended to deny their Japanese heritage and changed their family names in order to avoid discrimination.[citation needed]

American period and the Post-WWII era

During the American colonial era, the number of Japanese laborers working in plantations rose so high that in the 20th century, Davao soon became dubbed as a Ko Nippon Koku("Little Japan" in Japanese) with a Japanese school, a Shinto shrine and a diplomatic mission from Japan. Prominent scholars and historian like Lydia Yu-Jose and Macario Tiu wrote extensively on the lively presence of Japanese migrants in pre-war Davao due to its noticeably thriving local economy predicated by a huge concentration of rubber, copra, and hemp plantations. Unsurprisingly so, when World War II broke out, it was reported that there were more than 21,000 Japanese residents in the Philippines with about 18,000 or more in Davao. There is even a popular restaurant called "The Japanese Tunnel", which includes an actual tunnel built by the Japanese during World War II.

Davao in Mindanao had a large population of Japanese immigrants who acted as a fifth column, welcoming the Japanese invaders during World War II. These Japanese were hated by the Moros and disliked by the Chinese. The Moros were judged as "fully capable of dealing with Japanese fifth columnists and invaders alike." The Moros were to fight the Japanese invaders when they landed at Davao on Mindanao. The Japanese went back to their ships at night to sleep since the Moros struck so much fear into them, even though the Moros were outnumbered by the Japanese.

For fear of discrimination, some fled to the mountains after World War II while many others changed their names in the attempts to assimilate. Many were also killed (c. 10,000 Japanese Mestizos and Japanese) while others were deported as an act of retaliation. Their Japanese identity may take on extremes, some have completely lost their Japanese identity while others have "returned" to Japan, the homeland of their forebears. There is also a number of contemporary Japanese-mestizos, not associated with the history of the earlier established ones, born either in the Philippines or Japan. These latter are the resultant of unions between Filipinos and recent Japanese immigrants to the Philippines or Japanese and immigrant Filipino workers in Japan. Most Japanese mestizos speak Tagalog and/or other Philippine languages. They may also be known as Japinos, although this term is considered derogatory by many. There are believed to be between 100,000 and 200,000 Japanese-mestizos in the country, but no accurate figure is currently available. Thousands of war-displaced ethnic Japanese still live in the country and are denied recognition as Japanese nationals in order to return to Japan.

Modern times

The recent Japanese Filipinos are descendants of 1980s and 1990s Japanese settlers usually businesspeople, most of whom are men, and (mostly female) locals. Many are children of thousands of overseas Filipino workers, who went to Japan mostly as entertainers. They are in the Philippines also to learn English. As the Filipina mothers return to the Philippines, most take their children along with them. A significant number in the U.S. today are the product of Filipino- and Japanese American intermarriages, mostly in California, Hawaii, or other U.S. states, or other U.S. territories in the Pacific, while others are Filipinos of Japanese ancestry who have migrated to the United States.

Several foundations today such as the Federation of Nikkeijin Kai Philippines & Manila Nikkeijin Kai exist throughout the country through the efforts of prosperous Japanese descendants and expatriates to assist Filipinos of Japanese ancestry to travel in Japan to trace their roots and visit relatives, and also charity purposes such as offering Long Term Resident visa and educational scholarships to out of school Japanese Filipino children. Similar organizations exist in the Philippines to commemorate and signify the historical settlement of Japanese Filipinos in the region. The Philippines also has the highest number of Japanese in the country than any other Southeast Asian country.

Japanese citizenship

The Supreme Court of Japan on June 4, 2008, ruled against a law that denied citizenship to children born out of wedlock to Japanese fathers and foreign mothers. It upheld the 2003 and 2005 separate suits (of 10 Japanese-Filipino children for Japanese citizenship), filed by Filipino mothers who proved the fathers of their children were Japanese. It affirmed the Tokyo District Court judgment that "the marital status of the parents had no bearing on nationality, and that denying the children citizenship violated constitutional guarantees of equality for all." Mel Nuqui, executive director of the Development Action for Women Network (DAWN), stated that "the 30-year migration of Filipino entertainers to Japan produced 100,000 Japanese-Filipino children[citation needed], but very few children were legally acknowledged by their Japanese fathers. DAWN assists Filipino entertainers and Japanese-Filipinos, by helping Japanese-Filipinos locate their fathers in Japan. In 2007, it called for registration of Japanese-Filipinos, and 1,313 Japanese-Filipinos in the Philippines registered (August to October in 2007). However, only 60 of the 1,313 children had been registered in Japan, and of 2,800 children (born out of wedlock from foreign mothers who reside in Japan), 2,000 had Japanese fathers.


  • The Manila Japanese School, a Japanese international school, is located in Bonifacio Global City, Metro Manila.
  • The Cebu Japanese School is a supplementary program for Japanese children in Mandaue City, Cebu.[36]
  • The Mindanao Kokusai Daigaku (Mindanao International College) and the Philippine Nikkei Jin Kai International School are the institutions that offers Japanese language located in Davao City.

Notable people

  • Miho Nishida
  • Aiko Melendez
  • Akiko Thomson
  • Ben Tulfo
  • Bong Revilla
  • Daisuke Sato
  • Dom Justo Takayama
  • Erwin Tulfo
  • Gardo Versoza
  • Iwa Moto
  • Jiro Manio
  • Jolo Revilla
  • Mariel Rodriguez
  • Nina Kodaka
  • Raffy Tulfo

Published on : 03/03/2018 by Puerto Parrot

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