LIMA – Princess Mako showed her respects to Peruvians of Japanese descent at a ceremony in Lima on Wednesday to mark the 120th anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants in the country.
The ceremony, part of events for the princess during her stay in Peru on the first leg of her two-nation South American tour, was attended by more than 500 Japanese Peruvians.
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“I would like to show my heartfelt respects” to the Japanese Peruvian community that has established a firm foothold in Peru after overcoming numerous hardships, the princess, the eldest daughter of Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko, said at the ceremony.
Princess Mako also said, “I will continue bearing in mind the fact that Japanese immigrants and their descendants have gone through difficulties through diligent and sincere efforts, and built their lives and settled down in Peruvian society.” She also thanked Peru for accepting the Japanese immigrants into the country.
Abel Fukumoto, 71, head of the Japanese Peruvian Association, said, “Even in our 120th year, we, Japanese Peruvians, continue to feel pride in being descendants of the Japanese immigrants.”
Earlier in the day, Princess Mako met with four female immigrants aged around 100.
One of them, 100-year-old Sada Makikado, was too nervous to speak at length with the princess, but the princess held the centenarian’s hand in an attempt to help her relax and said, “I am nervous as well.”
“Please take good care of yourself,” the princess added. Makikado is originally from the village of Katsuren, now the city of Uruma, Okinawa Prefecture.
After Peru, Princess Mako is scheduled to visit Bolivia.
Japanese immigration to Peru started in 1899 with the voyage of 790 male contract farmers on a ship named the Sakura Maru.
Many of the first Japanese immigrants to Peru were from Okinawa.
About 100,000 Japanese Peruvians are now in Peru, making up the third-largest community of people of Japanese descent abroad.
Among them is former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, who is currently imprisoned on charges of human rights abuse. His parents were immigrants from Kumamoto Prefecture. Fujimori served as the president of Peru between 1990 and 2000.