The very first time an Okinawan emigrant traveled directly to the mainland U.S. was said to be in 1889 when Keizo Kawatsu entered the state of California via Canada, followed by Toki Higa in 1896 and Tokuta Nishime in 1898, both of whom lead small groups of men with them.
The first time Okinawan emigrants from Hawaii traveled to the mainland U.S. was in 1901 when Matasuke Toyama and Makisuke Ginoza landed in San Francisco. The two were part of the first 26-person Hawaii emigration group, and they decided to move on to the mainland U.S. after completing their work in Hawaii. They then moved away from San Francisco and made their living as railroad workers. This served as a catalyst whereas a flood of Okinawan emigrants followed suit, leaving Hawaii for the mainland U.S. because, quite simply, wages were much higher there.
From the beginning, emigrants were free to move to the mainland U.S. since the pioneering of the western frontier, centered on California, required large number of farmers and railroad workers. Statistics complied by Okinawa Prefecture show that the first emigrant arrival on the mainland U.S. was in 1903, with a total of 51 persons. This was not a group emigration however - according to the records, most emigrants claimed their purposes of travel as academic research and agricultural inspection, but in reality it was basically free emigration.
Later many of the Okinawans living on the west coast, including such cities as San Francisco and Los Angeles, expanded to various locations in the mainland U.S.