Potato Fetching Contest, Indian Ocean Athletics Festival (Onboard the Seattle-Maru), July 13, 1917


This photograph taken in July 1917 shows a potato-fetching game in an athletics festival aboard the Japanese emigrant ship Seattle-Maru. The ship was taking Japanese emigrants to Brazil and was somewhere in the Indian Ocean when the photograph was taken. The westward journey from the port of Kobe, Japan, to Santos, Brazil, took about 80 days. Japanese emigration to Brazil began in 1908, and reached its peak in 1926–35. Following the abolition of slavery in Brazil in 1888, the government of Brazil looked to immigrants to address a labor shortage in the increasingly important coffee industry. European immigrants, particularly Italians, filled the gap at first, but they later were joined by immigrants from Japan, where rural poverty was widespread and the economy was struggling to modernize and to reabsorb soldiers returning after the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–5.

Last updated: May 31, 2016