OKINAWA I, Bolivia – Princess Mako of Japan honored this Friday the memory of her migrant compatriots who died in Bolivia at a monument in the Okinawa I colony, one of the largest Japanese settlements in the country.
Dressed in light green, Mako of Akishino arrived at the Bolivian Japanese Association of Okinawa, at some 80 kilometers (50 miles) northeast of the city of Santa Cruz, to place a floral tribute at the monument in memory of migrants from her country who passed away here.
The young princess, 28, then toured the Okinawa Bolivia Historical Museum with its collection of photos, objects and memoirs of the first immigrants who arrived at eastern Bolivia from the Japanese island of Okinawa almost 65 years ago.
As she left the museum she found a number of locals, above all children and the elderly, waiting there to greet her waving Bolivian and Japanese flags.
Outside the association there were also dozens of people trying to see and greet the princess from afar, who very reservedly acknowledged them in return.
Mako then headed for a garden of the association in order to plant a tree. Afterwards she enjoyed a typical Japanese luncheon prepared by residents of the colony.
Her imperial highness closed with the visit to Okinawa I her activities this week in Bolivia, where she arrived last Monday from Peru on a tour celebrating the 120th anniversary of Japanese migration to both countries.
The eldest daughter of Fumihito, brother of Emperor Naruhito and heir to the Japanese throne, went first to La Paz, where she was received by Bolivian President Evo Morales and local authorities.
On Wednesday in Santa Cruz she presided over the celebration of the 120th anniversary of the first arrival of Japanese migrants to Bolivia, during which she recalled that the bridge between the two countries was the work of immigrants.
The first Japanese migration to Bolivia dates back to 1899, when 91 Japanese came from Peru, where they filled a need for manual labor, to Bolivia to harvest the latex used for making rubber.
The biggest wave of immigration was started in 1953 by a decree by then-President Victor Paz Estessoro, which brought in colonies, above all to Santa Cruz, currently the country’s most prosperous region.
One of the main Japanese colonies in Santa Cruz is Okinawa I, whose first inhabitants traveled in 1954 from the Japanese port of Naha on ships that crossed the Indian and Atlantic Oceans to the Brazilian port of Santos, to continue the trip by train to Bolivia.
After scourges that forced them to change their location twice, like illness, drought and floods, they founded Okinawa I, chopping the way for their carts through the jungle with axes.
Today this colony, home to 300 Japanese and 600 of Japanese descent, is known for its agriculture and is considered the wheat capital of Bolivia.
Currently living all around Bolivia are some 3,000 Japanese and 11,000 of Japanese descent.
Mako leaves Bolivia this Saturday and is scheduled to land in Tokyo two days later.
This visit is the first to Bolivia by a representative of the Japanese Imperial Household since the trip make by the Hitachi princes in 2009.