The Japanese in Hawaii are one of the major and most influential ethnic groups in Hawaii. At their height in 1920, they constituted 43% of Hawaii's population. They now number about 16.7% of the islands' population, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.
The first Japanese immigrants arrived in Hawaii in 1885 as contract laborers for the sugar cane and pineapple plantations. In the 1890s, worrying about the increasing Americanization of their US-born children, they set up the first Japanese schools in the United States. By 1920, 98% of all Japanese children in Hawaii attended Japanese schools. Statistics for 1934 showed 183 schools taught a total of 41,192 students. Today, Japanese schools in Hawaii operate as supplementary education (usually on Friday nights or Saturday mornings) which is on top of the compulsory education required by the state.
In Hawaii, where Nisei are about one-fifth of the whole population, Japanese is a major language, spoken and studied by many of the state's residents across ethnicities. It is taught in private Japanese language schools as early as the second grade. As a courtesy to the large number of Japanese tourists (from Japan), Japanese subtexts are provided on place signs, public transportation, and civic facilities. The Hawaii media market has a few locally produced Japanese language newspapers and magazines, however these are on the verge of dying out, due to a lack of interest on the part of the local (Hawaii-born) Japanese population. Stores that cater to the tourist industry often have Japanese-speaking personnel. To show their allegiance to the U.S., many Niseis and Sanseis intentionally avoided learning Japanese. But as many of the later generations find their identities in both Japan and America, studying Japanese is becoming more popular than it once was.