Sea of Opportunity: The Japanese Pioneers of the Fishing Industry in Hawai'iis part history and part ethnography of Japanese fisheries in Hawai'i from the late nineteenth century to present. When Japanese fishermen arrived in Hawai'i from coastal communities in Japan, mainly Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, and Wakayama, they brought fishing techniques developed in their homeland to the Hawaiian archipelago and adapted them to the new environment. Within a short period of time, they expanded the local fisheries into one of the pillars of the island economy. Unlike most of the previous studies on Japanese immigrants to Hawai'i with focus on sugarcane plantations,Sea of Opportunityforegrounds the vibrant community of Japanese fishermen and their turbulent history.
Original in its conception and research, the book begins with the early accomplishments of Japanese fishermen who advanced into foreign waters and situates their activities in the contexts of both Japan and Hawai'i. Skillfully using sources in various languages, the author complicates the history of Japanese immigration to Hawai'i by adding an obvious yet forgotten transoceanic agent-fishermen.
Instead of challenging the notion of land-based history of the Japanese immigrants, Ogawa tactfully shifts the focus by showing us that one of the earliest Japanese communities was made up of fishermen, whose pre-World War II success was a direct result of the growing plantation communities. She argues that their mobility enabled fishermen to retain homes on different shores much more easily than their farmer counterparts. The fateful event of the December 7, 1941, however, affected both groups just the same. The postwar efforts to reconstruct Hawai'i's fishing industry included transformation of its ethnic environment from Japanese domination into one shared among various ethnic groups, both old and new. The arrival of Okinawan fishermen was critical in this development and reveals a complex cultural and political relationship between Hawai'i, Okinawa, and Japan. Personal interviews conducted by Ogawa, a Japanese native, give these fishermen a chance to recount their often difficult transoceanic stories in their own language. Their unflappable entrepreneurship and ability to survive in different waters and lands parallel the experiences of many immigrants to Hawai'i.
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