A Japanese man
in Santiago de Cuba
LIDIA Sánchez Fujishiro has
published a great little book about her grandfather,
Kenichi Fujishiro, the only Japanese man to have
settled in Santiago de Cuba, a century ago. A
Love Story, the title of the book, from
Ediciones Santiago, emphasizes.
The name Kenichi Fushijiro first
appeared in print in Cuba on November 18, 1990. It
appeared in Granma International; thus
readers in Japan became aware of the existence of
the only family of Japanese origin in that eastern
Cuban city. Eight years later, the same source
revealed that Fujishiro’s in Japan had discovered
their Cuban family members. Karelia, Kenichi’s great
granddaughter, traveled to the country and his
The encounter was made possible by
the many Japanese who visited Cuba between 1990 and
1998, in addition to the interest shown in this sole
Japanese émigré by the Japanese embassy in Havana.
Locating Keniche’s family was very
difficult, because, among other reasons, the names
of localities had changed from those used in May 28,
1913, when Fujishiro’s presence in Cuba was
registered, or even further back on the Japanese
side, considering his 19th century date of birth.
Family love and the intense desire of Antonia
Mustelier Baró, or Nica – as Fujishiro’s widow was
known in Santiago de Cuba – led her to seek out and
inform relatives in Japan, despite the logistical
difficulties, of the fate of that young émigré who
remained in Cuba for love.
Keniche Fujishiro arrived in
Santiago de Cuba by chance. He was sick with fever
and admitted to the city’s Saturnino Lora Hospital.
His travel companions continued their voyage,
leaving him to rejoin the group on a specific date.
During his medical treatment, however, he fell in
love with Antonia, the Cuban nurse who attended to
him. Their connection was so strong that Kenichi
decided to stay. He established a small business in
Santiago de Cuba, selling curiosities, such as
balloons and special preserves.
He had a relatively short life but
founded an exemplary family. His children and
grandchildren followed his hardworking example,
studied and maintained their love of the two
branches of the family.
Lidia Sánchez Fujishiro has written
a unique and moving book which has already become
part of the history of Cuban nationality, through a
highly unusual source, that of one individual, 100
years ago, in Santiago de Cuba.