Margarida Tomi Watanabe

(1900–1996) The mother of Nikkei Brazilian immigration

Donating clothes to the Japanese interns (Japanese) Relief fund to support Japanese communities (Japanese) Role of Assistancia Social dom Jose Gaspar (Japanese) Interrogation by police (Japanese) Opening Ikoi no sono (Japanese)

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Margarida Tomi Watanabe (formerly Ikegami)—known as the “Mother of Nikkei Migration”—was born in Kagoshima prefecture in 1900. At the age of 10, after learning that her neighbors were migrating to Brazil, she decided to leave for Brazil as well in hopes of lifting the some of the burden off of her family. Aboard the “Kanagawa Maru,” she arrived in Santos Port in March of 1912, and moved in with her uncle, whom had already been settled in Brazil. There, she was treated like a real daughter, and at 18 she was given the Christened name of Margarida. In 1928, she married Mr. Watanabe, who was the first-ever Japanese certified public accountant.

During World War II, she saw fellow countrymen being arrested and forced into confinement, and although she was in a difficult situation of being seen as an enemy alien, she decided to upstart relief activity. In June 1942, she established the “Catholic Japanese Relief Association.” She continued her social service efforts after the war, and opened the “Ikoi-no sono”, a nursing home for Nikkei elders, which is still in operation to this day. She passed away in 1996 at the age of 95.

In recognition of her contributions to social welfare, she has received several awards including the Yoshikawa Eiji Cultural Award (1992) and the Asahi Social Welfare Award (1993). (June 22, 2007)

charities internment war community World War II

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