Prostitution became a thriving business in Japan and Japanese migrant communities in the western United States in the last years of the nineteenth century, and Japanese reformers organized against it on both sides of the Pacific to protect Japan’s reputation as a “civilized” country. By 1920 Japanese prostitution had visibly declined in Pacific Coast cities, whereas it continued to be a regular feature of public life in Japan. This article examines the emergence of transpacific reform networks in the 1890s as well as the different ways the reform movements developed in the two Pacific regions after 1900. It argues that transnational and comparative approaches are not in opposition to but complementary to one another in the historical study of prostitution, social reform, and international migration.

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