Researching origins of your family in Japan

Research tips for researchers

Researching family in Japan not an easy task. You have to overcome Japanese bureacracy in government offices because that is where all records are kept, and not to forget, almost no Japanese speak English.

So here is some step-by-step advice to embark on your research:

1) Find the oldest person in your family and gather as family members for as much information as possible, i.e. dates, names, etc.

2) Check with your local temple (e.g. Honganji) regarding family member records. It doesn't matter whether the temple is overseas They usually have considerable

3) If possible, get your Koseki Tohon from the Japanese government. This is a standard document that can be obtained from any city office, where your ancestors last resided. The document covers up to the last 80 years.

4) If you do not know the name of the ship your ancestor immigrated on, then all hope is not lost. You can make a special request through the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) also has some information, as well as passport, and will print copies of reports of family that moved overseas:

5) Finally, if you ever make it to Japan, the best starting point is the Japan Overseas Migration Center (JOMM - 海外移住資料館) in Yokohama. They maintain all kinds of files and ship passenger lists.

Their extensive records cover, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, California, the Philippines, Peru, and Brazil.

6) If you find your connection and city in Japan, where your ancestors originated, then repeat Step 2. Also, check whether your relatives in Japan have a Butsudon, which is where Japanese traditionally pray for those who have passed away. It often gives ancestors over many generations. I have seen some Butsudon in Hawaii too. It is usually passed to the eldest son.

7) If looking for cousins in Brazil from Yamaguchi Prefecture, I suggest contacting their local office:

Associacao Assistencial e Cultural Yamaguchi Ken do Brasil


Rua Pirapitingui, n 72, Liberdade – Sao Paulo – SP

Cep: 01525-000



Tel:         (11)3208-6074

Fax:        (11)3272-0580

There are also offices for other prefectures available. Here is a link to find them:

Also, if you speak Portuguese, there appears to be a good research room through the Japanese affiliate of Nikkei Newspaper:

Finally, be sure to ask Karlton Tomomitsu for assistance: