Sansei (, third generation) is a Japanese language term used in countries in North America, South America and Australia to specify the children of children born to Japanese people in the new country. The "Nisei" are considered the second generation; and the grandchildren of the Japanese-born immigrants are called "Sansei." The "Sansei" are considered the third generation. (In Japanese counting, "one, two, three" is "ichi, ni, san." See: Japanese numerals).

Brazilian, American, Canadian and Peruvian citizens

Although the earliest organized group of Japanese emigrants settled in Mexico in 1897,Ministry of Foreign Affairs: [ "Japan-Mexico Foreign Relations"] ] the four largest populations of Japanese and descendants of Japanese immigrants live in Brazil, the United States, Canada and Peru.

Brazilian "Sansei"

Brazil is home to the largest Japanese population outside of Japan, numbering an estimate of more than 1.5 million (including those of mixed-race or mixed-ethnicity), [ [ Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Japan-Brazil Relations] ] more than that of the 1.2 million in the United States. [ [;ACS_2005_EST_G00_S0201PR:041;ACS_2005_EST_G00_S0201T:041;ACS_2005_EST_G00_S0201TPR:041&-ds_name=ACS_2005_EST_G00_&-_lang=en US Census data 2005] ] The "Sansei" Japanese Brazilians are an important part of that ethnic minority in that South American nation.

American "Sansei"

The majority of American "Sansei" were born during the Baby Boom after the end of World War II; but older "Sansei" who were living in the western United States during WWII were forcibly interned with their parents ("Nisei") and grandparents ("Issei") after Executive Order 9066 was promulgated to exclude everyone of Japanese descent from large parts of the Western states. The " Sansei" were forceful activists in the redress movement, which resulted in an official apology to the internees. [Sowell, Thomas. (1981). [ "Ethnic America: A History," p. 176.] ] In some senses, the "Sansei" seem to feel they are caught in a dilemma between their "quiet" Nisei parents and their other identity model of "verbal" Americans. [Miyoshi, Nobu. (1978). [ "Identity Crisis of the Sansei and the Concentration Camp,"] NIMH Grant No. 1 R13 MH25655-01.]

In the United States, a representative "Sansei" is General Eric Shinseki (born November 28, 1942) was the 34th Chief of Staff of the United States Army (1999 - 2003). He is the first Asian American in U.S. history to be a four-star general, and the first to lead one of the four U.S. military services. [Zweigenhaft, Richard L. and G. William Domhoff. (2006). [,M1 "Diversity in the Power Elite: How it Happened, why it Matters," pp. 191-192;] [ U.S. Army bio] ] The Sansei Japanese Americans (三世 lit. third generation) are American-born Japanese Americans citizens of the United States, the children of the Nisei Japanese Americans.

Canadian "Sansei"

Within Japanese-Canadian communities across Canada, three distinct subgroups developed, each with different sociocultural referents, generational identity, and wartime experiences.McLellan, Janet. (1999). [,M1 "Many Petals of the Lotus: Five Asian Buddhist Communities in Toronto," p. 36.] ]

Peruvian "Sansei"

Among the approximately 80,000 Peruvians of Japanese descent, the "Sansei" Japanese Peruvians comprise the largest number.

Cultural profile


Japanese-Americans and Japanese-Canadians have special names for each of their generations in North America. These are formed by combining one of the Japanese numbers corresponding to the generation with the Japanese word for generation ("sei" 世). The Japanese-American and Japanese-Canadian communities have themselves distinguished their members with terms like "Issei", "Nisei," and "Sansei" which describe the first, second and third generation of immigrants. The fourth generation is called "Yonsei" (四世) and the fifth is called "Gosei" (五世). The "Issei," "Nisei" and "Sansei" generations reflect distinctly different attitudes to authority, gender, non- Japanese involvement, and religious belief and practice, and other matters. [McLellan, [,M1 p. 59.] ] The age when individuals faced the wartime evacuation and internment is the single, most significant factor which explains these variations in their experiences, attitudes and behaviour patterns. The term "Nikkei" (日系) was coined by a multinational group of sociologists and encompasses all of the world's Japanese immigrants across generations. [ [ "What is Nikkei?"] Japanese American National Museum.] The collective memory of the "Issei" and older "Nisei" was an image of Meiji Japan from 1870 through 1911, which contrasted sharply with the Japan that newer immigrants had more recently left. These differing attitudes, social values and associations with Japan were often incompatible with each other.McLellan, [,M1 p. 37.] ] In this context, the significant differences in post-war experiences and opportunities did nothing to mitigate the gaps which separated the lives of "Issei," "Nisei" and "Sansei."

Since the redress victory in 1988 nisei are changing the way they look at themselves and their pattern of accommodation to the non-Japanese majority. [McLellan, [,M1 p. 68.] ]


The first generation of immigrants, born in Japan before moving to Canada or the United States, is called "Issei" (一世). In the 1930s, the term "Issei" came into common use, replacing the term "immigrant" ("ijusha"). This new term illustrated a changed way of looking at themselves. The term "Issei" represented the idea of beginning, a psychological transformation relating to being settled, having a distinctive community, and the idea of belonging to the new country.

"Issei" settled in close ethnic communities, and therefore did not learn English. They endured great economic and social losses during the early years of World War II, and they were not able to rebuild their lost businesses and savings. The external circumstances tended to reinforce the pattern of "Issei" being predominantly friends with other "Issei."

Unlike their children, the tend to rely primarily on Japanese language media (newspapers, television, movies), and in some senses, they tend to think of themselves as more Japanese than Canadian or American.

"Issei" women
"Issei" women's lives were somewhat similar, despite differences in context, because they were structured within interlocking webs of patriarchal relationships, and that consistent subordination was experienced both as oppressive and as a source of happiness. [Kobayashi, Audrey Lynn. [,M1 "Women, Work and Place," p. .] ] The "Issei" women lived lives of transition which were affected by three common factors: the dominant ideology of late "Meiji" Japan, which advanced the economic objectives of the Japanese state; the patriarchal traditions of the agricultural village, which arose partly as a form of adjustment to national objectives and the adjustment to changes imposed by modernization; and the constraints which arose within a Canadian or American society dominated by racist ideology. [Kobayashi, [,M1 p. 45.] ] Substantive evidence of the working lives of "Issei" women is very difficult to find, partly for lack of data and partly because the data that do exist are influenced by their implicit ideological definition of women. [Kobayashi, [,M1 p. 58.] ]

Within the framework of environmental contradictions, the narratives of these women revealed a surprisingly shared sense of inevitability, a perception that the events of life are beyond the control of the individual, which accounts for the consistency in the way in which Issei women, different and individual in many ways, seem to have structured their emotions [Kobayashi, [,M1 p. 56.] ] -- and this quality of emotional control was passed to their "Nisei" children.


The second generation of immigrants, born in Canada or the United Sates to parents not born in the Canada or the United States, is called "Nisei" (二世). The "Nisei" have been subjected to significant residential dispersal. The "Nisei" have resisted being absorbed into the majority society, largely because of their tendency to maintain Japanese interpersonal style. A primary aspect of the "Nisei"'s style is found in the expression of a subjective self [Miyamoto, S. Frank. [ "Problems of Interpersonal Style among the Nisei,"] "Amerasia Journal." v13 n2 p29-45 (1986-87).] -- and this quality of emotional control was passed to their "Sansei" children.

Most "Nisei" were educated in Canadian or American school systems where they were taught Western values of individualism and citizenship. When these were taken away in the early 1940s, the "Nisei" confronted great difficulty in accepting or coming to terms with internment and forced resettlement. Older "Nisei" tended to identify more closely with the "Issei," sharing similar economic and social characteristics. Older "Nisei" who had been employed in small businesses, in farming, in fishing or in semi-skilled occupations, tended to remain in blue-color work. [McLellan, [,M1 pp. 36-37.] ] In contrast, the younger "Nisei" attended university and college and entered various professions and white-color employment after the war.McLellan, [,M1 p. 37.] ] This sharp division in post-war experiences and opportunities exacerbated the gaps between these "Nisei."


The third generation of immigrants, born in the United States or Canada to parents born in the United States or Canada, is called "Sansei" (三世). Children born to the "Nisei" were generally born after 1945. They speak English as their first language and are completely acculturized in the contexts of Canadian or American society. They tend to identify with Canadian or American values, norms and expectations. Few speak Japanese, and most tend to express their identity as Canadian or American rather than Japanese. Among the "Sansei" there is an overwhelming percentage of marriages to persons of non-Japanese ancestry.


Internment and redress

:::With new hope.:::We build new lives.:::Why complain when it rains?:::This is what it means to be free.:::: -- Lawson Fusao Inada, [,131491/159/record.html Japanese American Historical Plaza] , Portland, Oregon

Life under United States policies before and after World War II


Notable individuals

Although the numbers of "Sansei" who have earned some degree of public recognition has continued to increase over time, the quiet lives of those whose names are known only to family and friends are no less important in understanding the broader narrative of the "Sansei."
* Mike Honda
* Lawson Fusao Inada
* Doris Matsui
* Robert Matsui
* Ellison Onizuka
* Kristi Yamaguchi



* Harth, Erica. (2003). [ "Last Witnesses: Reflections on the Wartime Internment of Japanese Americans."] New York: Macmillan. 10-ISBN 1-403-96230-8; 13-ISBN 978-1-403-96230-0
* Hosokowa, Fumiko. (1978). [ "The Sansei: Social Interaction and Ethnic Identification Among the Third Generation Japanese."] San Francisco: R & E Research Associates. 10-ISBN 0-882-47490-1; 13-ISBN 978-0-882-47490-8
* Gerald R. Leslie, Gerald R. and Sheila K. Korman. (1989). [ "The Family in Social Context."] New York: Oxford University Press. 10-ISBN 0-195-04974-8; 13-ISBN 978-0-195-04974-9
* Makabe, Tomoko. (1998). [ "The Canadian Sansei."] Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 10-ISBN 0-802-04179-5; 13_ISBN 978-0-802-041791
* McLellan, Janet. (1999). [ "Many Petals of the Lotus: Five Asian Buddhist Communities in Toronto."] Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 10-ISBN 0-802-08225-4; 13-ISBN 978-0-802-08225-1
* Sowell, Thomas. (1981). [ "Ethnic America: A History."] New York: Basic Books. 10-ISBN 0-465-02075-5; 13-ISBN 978-0-465-02075-1
* Takahashi, Jere. (1998). [ "Nisei Sansei: Shifting Japanese American Identities and Politics."] Philadelphia: Temple University Press. 10-ISBN 1-566-39659-X; 13-ISBN 978-1-566-39659-2
* Tamura, Eileen and Roger Daniels. (1994). [ "Americanization, Acculturation, and Ethnic Identity: The Nisei Generation in Hawaii."] Urbana: University of Illinois Press. 10-ISBN 0-252-06358-9; 13-ISBN 978-0-252-06358-9
* Zweigenhaft, Richard L. and G. William Domhoff. (2006). [ "Diversity in the Power Elite: How it Happened, why it Matters."] Lanham, Marlyand: Rowman & Littlefield. 10-ISBN 0-742-53699-8; 13-ISBN 978-0-742-53699-9

See also

* Asian American
* Asian Canadian
* Hyphenated American
* Japanese American Citizens League
* Japanese American National Library
* Japanese American National Museum
* Japanese Canadian
* Japanese Brazilian
* Japanese British
* Japanese people
* list of Japanese Americans
* model minority
* Nisei Baseball Research Project
* Pacific Movement of the Eastern World
*Japanese American Internment
*Gila River War Relocation Center
*Granada War Relocation Center
*Heart Mountain War Relocation Center
*Jerome War Relocation Center
*Manzanar National Historic Site
*Minidoka Internment National Monument
*Poston War Relocation Center
*Rohwer War Relocation Center
*Topaz War Relocation Center
*Tule Lake War Relocation Center
*100th Infantry Battalion (United States)
*442nd Infantry Regiment (United States)
*Go For Broke Monument

External links

* [ Japanese American National Museum]
* [ Embassy of Japan] in Washington, DC
* [ Japanese American Citizens League]
* [ Japanese Cultural & Community Center] of Northern California
* [ Japanese American Community and Cultural Center] of Southern California
* [ Japanese American Historical Society]
* [ Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project]
* [ Japanese American Museum] of San Jose, California
* [ Japanese American Network]
* [ Japanese-American's own companies in USA]
* [ Japanese American Relocation Digital Archives]
* [ Online Archive of the Japanese American Relocation during World War II]
* [ Photo Exhibit of Japanese American community] in Florida
* [ The Asians in America Project - Japanese American Organizations Directory]
* [ Nikkei Federation]
* [ Discover Nikkei]
* [ Summary of a panel discussion on changing Japanese American identities]
* [ Interment and American samurai]
* [ "“The War Relocation Centers of World War II: When Fear Was Stronger than Justice”", a National Park Service Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) lesson plan]
* [ U.S. Government interned Japanese from Latin America]

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  • Sansei — /sahn say, sahn say /, n. a grandchild of Japanese immigrants to the U.S. or Canada. Also, sansei. Cf. Issei, Kibei, Nisei. [1940 45; < Japn: third generation, earlier san sei < MChin, equiv to Chin san three + sheng birth] * * * …   Universalium

  • sansei — (ˈ)sän|sā noun (plural sansei also sanseis) Usage: often capitalized Etymology: Japanese san third + sei generation : a son or daughter of nisei or kibei parents who is born and educated in America and especially in the United States …   Useful english dictionary

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