Sansei (三世, third generation) is a Japanese language term used in countries in South America,North America and Australia to specify the children of children born to Japanese people in the new country. The Nisei are considered the second generation, grandchildren of the Japanese-born immigrants called Sansei and the fourth generation Yonsei. (In Japanese counting, "one, two, three" is "ichi, ni, san." See: Japanese numerals).
Although the earliest organized group of Japanese emigrants settled in Mexico in 1897, the four largest populations of Japanese and descendants of Japanese immigrants live in Brazil, the United States, Canada and Peru.
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), more than that of the 1.2 million in the United States. The Sansei Japanese Brazilians are an important part of that ethnic minority in that South American nation.
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. 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.
In the United States, a representative Sansei is General Eric Shinseki (born November 28, 1942), the 34th Chief of Staff of the United States Army (1999 - 2003) and current United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs. 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. 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.
Within Japanese-Canadian communities across Canada, three distinct subgroups developed, each with different sociocultural referents, generational identity, and wartime experiences.
Among the approximately 80,000 Peruvians of Japanese descent, the Sansei Japanese Peruvians comprise the largest number.
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. 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. 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. In this context, the significant differences in post-war experiences and opportunities did nothing to mitigate the gaps which separated generational perspectives.
|Issei (一世)||The generation of people born in Japan who later immigrated to another country.|
|Nisei (二世)||The generation of people born in North America, Latin America, Australia, or any country outside of Japan either to at least one Issei or one non-immigrant Japanese parent.|
|Sansei (三世)||The generation of people born in North America, Latin America, Australia, or any country outside of Japan to at least one Nisei parent.|
|Yonsei (四世)||The generation of people born in North America, Latin America, Australia, or any country outside of Japan to at least one Sansei parent.|
In North America since the redress victory in 1988, a significant evolutionary change has occurred. The Sansei, their parents, their grandparents, and their children are changing the way they look at themselves and their pattern of accommodation to the non-Japanese majority.
There are currently just over one hundred thousand British Japanese, mostly in London; but unlike other Nikkei communities elsewhere in the world, these Britons do not conventionally parse their communities in generational terms as Issei, Nisei, or Sansei.
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.
The kanreki (還暦), a traditional, pre-modern Japanese rite of passage to old age at 60, was sometimes celebrated by the Issei and is now being celebrated by increasing numbers of Nisei and a few Sansei. Rituals are enactments of shared meanings, norms, and values; and this Japanese rite of passage highlights a collective response among the Nisei to the conventional dilemmas of growing older.
Some responded to internment with lawsuits and political action; and for others, poetry became an unplanned consequence:
The numbers of sansei who have earned some degree of public recognition has continued to increase over time; but 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 Nikkei. Although the names highlighted here are over-represented by sansei from North America, the Latin American member countries of the Pan American Nikkei Association (PANA) include Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, in addition to the English-speaking United States and Canada.