In 1868, the first year of the Meiji Era, 148 Japanese men, mainly from the Kanto area, set sail from Yokohama on the British ship Scrito, bound for Honolulu in the Kingdom of Hawaii.

These men believed they were headed for Tenjiku ("Heavenly Place"), or "Hawaii Paradise," which was what the recruiters had called their destination. They believed they would live in a lush tropical wonderland, with no cold winters or steaming hot summers to endure. They also believed they would earn lots of money so that in due course they would return to their hometowns as wealthy men.

At the very least, they would lawfully leave Japan, among the very first people to do so since 1603, when the Tokugawa clan shoguns closed their island empire off from the rest of the world for the next 265 years. They would also escape the chaos of the civil war that saw the shogun displaced and the Emperor restored to power.