Terminology

Early immigration to the United States from Japan occurred in the late 1800s to early 1900s although the earliest immigrants arrived in the 1860s. Due to the importance of intergenerational relationships, each generation is identified by a distinct Japanese term, please see the Table below:

Japanese Generational Terms

Japanese Term Description
1. Issei Refers to the first generation early pioneers who were born in Japan
2. Nisei Are their first generation offspring born in the U.S
3. Sansei Are the children of the Nisei
4. Yonsei Are the fourth generation children of the Sansei and are the fifth generation
5. Kibei Refers to Japanese Americans who were born in the U.S., sent to Japan for their education and who then returned to the U.S.
6. Shin Issei Refers to the newcomers, primarily Japanese businessmen and their families, including their parents

It should be noted that for any given individual, the generational terms are not related to age. A Japanese American elder could be of any generation, and currently most are Nisei and Sansei. . A more recent contemporary term, Nikkei, has been used to refer to Japanese Americans as a whole.

Japanese Americans are the most acculturated and assimilated of the Asian subgroups due to their length of time in the U.S. and the decline in immigration rates from Japan. Japanese Americans also have the highest socioeconomic status among other Asian ethnic groups as well as the smallest average household (McCracken et al, 2007). The out-marriage rate now exceeds 50% (Kitano, 1993).