Learning Portuguese (Aboard the Seattle-Maru in June 1917)


This photograph shows Japanese emigrants to Brazil learning Portuguese aboard the Japanese emigrant ship Seattle-Maru in 1917. The ship took about 80 days to sail from the port of Kobe, Japan, to Santos, Brazil. 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 were later 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 (1904–5).

Last updated: June 19, 2017