by Stanley E. Easton and Lucien Ellington
A country slightly larger than the United Kingdom (about the size of California), Japan lies off the eastern coast of the Asian continent. An archipelago, Japan consists of four main islands—Honshū, Hokkaidō, Kyūshū, and Shikoku—as well as 3,900 smaller islands. Japan has a total land area of 145,825 square miles (377,688 square kilometers). Much of Japan is extremely mountainous and almost the entire population lives on only one-sixth of the total land area. Of all the world's major nations, the Japanese have the highest population density per square mile of habitable land. Japan has virtually no natural resources except those found in the sea. To Japan's north, the nearest foreign soil is the Russian-controlled island of Sakhalin while the People's Republic of China and South Korea lie to the west of Japan.
The word, "Japan," is actually a Portuguese misunderstanding of the Chinese pronunciation of the Chinese term for the country. The actual name for the country is Nippon or Nihon ("source of the sun"). Japan has a population of approximately 124 million people. By the standards of other nations, the Japanese are one of the most homogeneous people on earth. Under two million foreigners (less than one percent of the total Japanese population) live in Japan. Koreans constitute well over one-half of resident minorities. There are also two indigenous minority groups in Japan, the Ainu and the Burakumin. The Ainu, a Caucasian people, number around 24,381 and live mainly in special reservations in central Hokkaidō. Ethnically, the approximately two million Burakumin are no different than other Japanese, but have traditionally engaged in low-status occupations; and although they have the same legal status as their fellow citizens, they are often discriminated against. Shinto, an indigenous religion, is the most popular spiritual practice in Japan, followed by Buddhism, a Korean and Chinese import. Followers of other religions constitute less than one percent of the Japanese population. Culturally, the Japanese are children of China but have their own rich native culture and have also borrowed extensively from Western countries. Tokyō is Japan's capital and largest city. The national flag of Japan is a crimson disc, symbolizing the rising sun, in the center of a white field.
The oldest identified human remains found in Japan date from upper Paleolithic times of the last glacial period, about 30,000 B.C. While there is some dispute, most historians believe that political unity in Japan occurred at the end of the third century or the beginning of the fourth century A.D. The Yamato chiefs who unified the country developed an imperial line, which is the oldest in the world. However, early in Japanese history, emperors lost political authority. Compared to China, ancient and medieval Japan was undeveloped culturally. From early in Japanese history many Chinese imports, including architecture, agricultural methods, Confucianism, and Buddhism, profoundly influenced the Japanese. The Japanese established a pattern that still exists of selectively importing foreign customs and adapting them to the archipelago. Medieval and early modern Japan was marked by long periods of incessant warfare as rival families struggled for power. While power struggles were still occurring, the Japanese had their first contact with Europe when Portuguese traders landed off southern Kyūshū in 1543. In 1603, through military conquest, Tokugawa Ieyasu established himself as ruler of the entire country. Early in the Tokugawa era, foreigners were expelled from Japan and the country was largely isolated from the rest of the world until Commodore Matthew C. Perry of the U.S. Navy forced Japan to open its doors in 1853.
Japan's modern history began in 1868 when a number of citizens led by Satsuma and Chosū domains
In 1835, American settlers established the sugar plantation system in Hawaii, which was then an independent monarchy. The sugar plantations required large numbers of workers to cultivate and harvest the cane fields and to operate the sugar refineries. Beginning in 1852, the plantation owners imported Chinese laborers. In many ways, this "coolie" trade resembled the African slave trade.
By 1865, many of the Chinese were leaving the plantations for other jobs. Hawaii's foreign minister, a sugar planter, wrote to an American businessman in Japan seeking Japanese agricultural workers. On May 17, 1868, the Scioto sailed from Yokohama for Honolulu with 148 Japanese—141 men, six women, and two children—aboard. These laborers included samurai, cooks, sake brewers, potters, printers, tailors, wood workers, and one hairdresser. Plantation labor was harsh; the monthly wage was $4, of which the planters withheld 50 percent. The ten-hour work days were hard on the soft hands of potters, printers, and tailors. Forty of these first Japanese farm laborers returned to Japan before completion of their three-year contracts. Once back home, 39 of them signed a public statement charging the planters with cruelty and breach of contract.
On May 27, 1869, the Pacific Mail Company's China brought a party of samurai, farmers, tradesmen, and four women to San Francisco. These Japanese had been displaced from their homes by the ending of the Tokugawa shogunate and the restoration of the Meiji emperor. Followers of lord Matsudaira Katamori established the 600-acre Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony on the Sacramento River at Placerville. The colony failed in less than two years because the mulberry trees and tea seedlings perished in the dry California soil. A few of the settlers returned to Japan while the rest drifted away from the colony seeking new beginnings. Such were the origins of the first-generation Japanese ( Issei ) on Hawaiian and American shores.
The U. S. Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, prohibiting further Chinese immigration. In 1886, Hawaii and Japan signed a labor convention that led to large numbers of Japanese contract workers in Hawaii and student laborers in California. The increase of Japanese in California gave rise to an anti-Japanese movement and a 1906 San Francisco school board order segregating Japanese American students. Ninety-three students of Japanese ancestry and a number of Korean students were ordered to attend the school for Chinese. The Japanese government was insulted. President Theodore Roosevelt, wishing to maintain harmonious relations with Japan, condemned anti-Japanese agitation and the school segregation order. He advocated naturalization of the Issei, but never sponsored introduction of a bill to accomplish it. Political reaction against Roosevelt in California was fierce. Several anti-Japanese bills were introduced in the California legislature in 1907. President Roosevelt called San Francisco school officials and California legislative leaders to Washington. After a week of negotiations, the Californians agreed to allow most Japanese children (excluding overage students and those with limited English) to attend regular public schools. Roosevelt promised to limit Japanese labor immigration. In late 1907 and early 1908 Japan and the United States corresponded on the matter. Japan agreed to stop issuing passports to laborers in the United States. The United States allowed Japanese who had already been to America to return and agreed to accept immediate family members of Japanese workers already in the country. This was the so-called "Gentlemen's Agreement."
Under the Gentlemen's Agreement some Japanese migration to the United States continued. Between 1908 and 1924, many of the immigrants were women brought by husbands who had returned to Japan to marry. Between 1909 and 1920, the number of married Japanese women doubled in Hawaii and quadrupled on the mainland. Most of the Japanese women who migrated to Hawaii and the U. S. during that period were "picture brides." Marriages were arranged by parents. Go-betweens brokered agreements between families. Couples were married while the bride was in Japan and the groom was in the United States. Husband and wife met for the first time upon their arrival at the pier in Honolulu, San Francisco, or Seattle, using photographs to identify one another. This wave of immigration changed the nature of the Japanese American community from a male migrant laborer community to a family-oriented people seeking permanent settlement.
By 1924, many Americans favored restricting immigration through a quota system aimed primarily at restricting European immigration without discriminating against any country. Such a bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives in April 1924. U.S. Senator Hiram Johnson of California, however, wanted a ban on all immigration from Japan. Hoping to avoid offending the Japanese government further, Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes asked the Japanese ambassador to write a letter summarizing the Gentlemen's Agreement of 1907-1908 since its provisions were not widely known. Ambassador Masanao Hanihara wrote the letter and included an appeal to the senators to reject any bill halting Japanese immigration. He referred to "the grave consequences" that exclusion would have upon relations between his country and the United States. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, who chaired the Foreign Relations Committee, called Hanihara's letter a "veiled threat" and led the Senate to incorporate Japanese exclusion into the immigration bill. President Coolidge signed the Immigration Act of 1924, including the ban on further Japanese immigration, into law on May 24. Japanese immigration was curtailed until 1952, except for post World War II Japanese brides of U.S. servicemen.
In 1952 the McCarran-Walter Act allowed immigration from South and East Asia. The new law ended Japanese exclusion, but was still racially discriminatory. Asian countries were allowed 100 immigrants each, while immigration from European countries was determined by the national origins quotas of the Immigration Act of 1924. The McCarran-Walter Act also repealed the racial clauses in the naturalization law of 1790 that forbade non-white immigrants from obtaining American citizenship. Over 46,000 Japanese immigrants, including many elderly Issei, became naturalized citizens by 1965.
The Immigration Act of 1965 abolished the national origin quotas and annually permitted the admission of 170,000 immigrants from the Eastern Hemisphere and 120,000 from the Western Hemisphere. Twenty thousand immigrants per year per Asian country were allowed to enter the United States. This law opened the way for the second wave of Asian immigration and resulted in a new composition of the Asian American population. In 1960, 52 percent of the Asian American population were Japanese American. In 1985 only 15 percent of Asian Americans were Japanese. Between 1965 and 1985, there were nearly four times as many Asian immigrants as there had been between 1849 and 1965.
According to the 1990 census figures, there were 847,562 Japanese Americans in the United States. About 723,000 of the Japanese Americans lived in the West, 312,989 of those in California. Today there are Japanese Americans located in each of the 50 states.
Recent decades have brought not only legal and institutional changes but positive attitudinal change on the part of many white Americans toward Japanese Americans. The combination of legal and attitudinal change, along with the higher levels of education that Japanese Americans tend to attain, compared to whites, have resulted in a reversal of the dismal situation of overeducated and underemployed Japanese Americans that existed in the 1930s. Although a substantial number of Japanese Americans are employed by corporations and are members of professions that require college educations, Japanese Americans still experience problems that are a direct result of racially-based misconceptions that some members of the majority population hold.
Many white Americans, particularly well-educated white Americans, think of Japanese Americans as a "model minority" because of their reputation for hard work and their high educational attainment. Despite this reputation, many Japanese—as well as other Asian Americans—complain that they are stereotyped as good technicians but not aggressive enough to occupy top managerial and leadership positions. Anti-Asian graffiti can sometimes be found at top universities where at least some white students voice jealousy and resentment toward perceived Asian American academic success.
Recent economic competition between the United States and Japan has resulted in a rise in anti-Japanese sentiment on the part of many Americans. The 1982 murder of Vincent Chin, a young Chinese man in Detroit, by two auto workers who mistook him to be Japanese is one grisly example of these sentiments. Third-and fourth-generation Japanese Americans often cite incidents of fellow Americans making anti-Japanese statements in their presence or mistaking them for Japanese nationals.
The issue of cultural revitalization is not related to racial attitudes but is still serious to many Japanese Americans. Because of the amazing success of Japan's economy since World War II, the number of Japanese immigrating annually has been far below the 20,000 quota allotted to Japan. In recent years, Japanese immigrants have constituted less than two percent of all Asian immigrants. As a result, the Japanese towns of large American cities are not being culturally renewed and many second-and third-generation Japanese have moved to the suburbs. Many third-and fourth-generation Japanese Americans are not literate in the Japanese language. Unlike the lingering prejudices toward Japanese Americans, the over-assimilation problem may very well have no ultimate solution.
In the United States, Japanese Americans built Buddhist temples and Christian churches. They built halls to serve as language schools and as places for dramas, films, judō lessons, poetry readings, potlucks, and parties. They constructed sumō rings, baseball fields, and bath houses. They also established hotels, restaurants, bars, and billiard parlors. Japanese Americans opened shops to provide Japanese food and herbal medicines.
The Issei faced many restrictions. They were excluded from some occupations, could not own land, and could not become U.S. citizens. They faced discrimination and prejudice. The Issei's pleasure was in seeing the success of their children. Despite their poverty, the Issei developed large,
Between 1915 and 1967 the proportion of Japanese Americans living in predominantly Japanese American neighborhoods fell from 30 percent to four percent. With the end of World War II, prejudice and discrimination against Japanese Americans declined. The majority of Nisei now live in largely Caucasian neighborhoods. Their children (Sansei) have been schooled there and have mostly Caucasian associations. A majority of Sansei are unfamiliar with the Japanese American world characterized by intimate primary, communal association, and close social control. They rarely see members of their clan. Their world has been that of Little League and fraternities and sororities. Whereas only ten percent of Nisei married outside their ethnic group, about 50 percent of the Sansei did.
Many Sansei long to know more about their cultural roots, although the ways of their grandparents are alien to them. They are concerned over the demise of Japanese values. They seek to preserve their Japanese culture through service to the Japanese community at centers for the elderly, participation in community festivals, involvement with Asian political and legal organizations, and patronizing Japanese arts.
In Japanese Americans, sociologist Harry Kitano observed that Japanese Americans developed a congruent Japanese culture within the framework of American society. This was due to necessity rather than choice, since there was little opportunity for the first Japanese immigrants to enter into the social structure of the larger community. Now most Japanese Americans can enter into that social structure. Nisei and Sansei continue to identify themselves as Japanese Americans, but that identity is of little importance to them as members and partakers of a larger society that is not hostile toward them as it was to the Issei. The degree to which Japanese Americans have been assimilated into the predominant culture is unusual for a nonwhite group. Coexistence between Japanese and American cultures has been successful due to the willingness of both cultures to accommodate to one another.
Japanese American history brings us to some critical questions. What the future holds for fourth-generation Japanese Americans (the Yonsei) is unclear. The Japanese American ethnic community may disappear in that generation, or complete assimilation may bring about the demise of the values that pushed Japanese Americans to socioeconomic success. It is uncertain whether the Yonsei will retain their Japanese characteristics and inculcate them in the next generation.
In Japanese American communities many Japanese still celebrate New Year's Day very much in the manner the Issei did, following the customs of Meiji-era Japan. New Year is a time for debts to be paid and quarrels to be settled. It is an occasion when houses are cleaned, baths are taken, and new clothes are worn. On New Year's Eve, many Japanese Americans go to temples and shrines. Shinto shrines are especially popular. Just inside the red tori gate, worshippers wash their hands and rinse their mouths with water from the special basin. Then a priest cleanses them by sprinkling water from a leafy branch on them and blesses them by waving a wand of white prayer papers. The people sip sake, receive amulets (charms), and give money.
In Japanese American homes where the traditions are observed, New Year's offerings are set in various places of honor around the house. The offering consists of two mochi (rice cakes), a strip of konbu (seaweed), and a citrus arranged on a "happiness paper" depicting one or all of the seven gods of good luck. The offerings symbolize harmony and happiness from generation to generation.
At breakfast on New Year's Day many Japanese Americans eat ozoni, a toasted mochi, in a broth with other ingredients such as vegetables and fish. Mochi is eaten for strength and family cohesiveness. Sometimes children compete with each other to see if they can eat mochi equal to the number of their years.
Friends, neighbors, and family members visit one another on New Year's Day. Special foods served include kuromame (black beans), kazunoko (herring eggs), konbumaki (seaweed roll), kinton (mashed sweet potato and chestnut), and kamaboko (fish cakes). Also, sushi (rice rolled in seaweed), nishime (vegetables cooked in stock), sashimi (raw fish), and cooked red snapper are commonly provided for New Year's guests. At many celebrations the Japanese cheer of " Banzai ! Banzai ! Banzai !" rings out. That salute, which originated around 200 B.C. , means 10,000 years.
Generally, Japanese Americans are healthier than other Americans. Japanese Americans have the lowest infant death rate of any ethnic group in the United States. In 1986, 86 percent of babies born to Japanese American mothers were born to women who had received early prenatal care, compared to 79 percent for Caucasians and 76 percent for all races. Relatively few Japanese American infants have low birth weight and only eight percent of Japanese American births were preterm, compared to ten percent for all races in 1987. Asian Americans have fewer birth defects than Native Americans, Caucasians, or African Americans, but more than Hispanic Americans. Asian and Pacific Islanders were two percent of the U.S. population in 1981-1988, but accounted for only one percent of all U.S. AIDS cases during that period. In October of 1987 less than one percent of drug abuse clients in the United States were Asian Americans.
A study comparing the health status of Japanese and Caucasians over the age of 60 in Hawaii revealed that better health could be predicted from younger age, higher family income, maintenance of work role, and Japanese ethnicity (Marvelu R. Peterson and others, "A Cross-Cultural Health Study of Japanese and Caucasian Elders in Hawaii," International Journal of Aging and Human Development, Volume 21, 1985, pp. 267-279). The better health of Japanese Americans in Hawaii may be due to cultural values such as the priority of family interests over those of the individual, reverence for elders, and obligation to care for elders.
Many Japanese Americans consider the use of mental health services as shameful. They tend to use them only as a last resort in severe disorders, such as schizophrenia. Japanese Americans under-use mental health services in comparison to other ethnic groups. They believe the causes of mental illness to be associated with organic factors, a lack of will power, and morbid thinking. They tend to seek help from family members or close friends, rather than from mental health professionals. Further, since Japanese Americans tend to somaticize psychological problems, they may seek help from traditional medical practitioners instead of mental health professionals. There are, however, a number of Japanese American psychiatrists in practice today, indicating greater acceptance of the need for professional mental health care.
The Japanese language is unique and has no close relationship to any other language, such as English does to German, or French does to Spanish. It is a popular misconception that Japanese and Chinese are similar. Although many kanji, or ideograms, were borrowed from classical Chinese, the two spoken languages do not have a single basic feature in common. The origins of Japanese are obscure, and only Korean can be considered to belong to the same linguistic family. Spoken Japanese was in existence long before kanji reached Japan. While there is some variation in dialect throughout Japan, variance in pronunciation and vocabulary is, in general, quite small.
Japanese is easy to pronounce and bears some similarity to the Romance languages. The five short vowels in Japanese order are "a," "e," "i," "o," and "u." They are pronounced clearly and crisply. The same vowels in the long form are pronounced by doubling the single vowel and making a continuous sound equal to two identical short vowels. Japanese consonants approximately resemble English.
Some useful daily expressions include: Ohayōgozaimasu —good morning; Konnichiwa — hello; Kombanwa —good evening; Sayōnara —goodbye; Oyasumi nasai —good night; Okaeri nasai —welcome home; O-genki desu ka —how are you; Dōmo arigatō gozaimasu —thank you very much; Chotto matte kudasai —wait just a moment please.
Many linguists believe that Japanese is the world's most difficult written language. Written Japanese consists of three types of characters: kanji, hiragana, and katakana. Kanji, which means "Chinese characters," are ideograms, or pictorial representations of ideas. Kanji were imported into Japan sometime during the fifth century A.D. from China via Korea. Although there are said to be some 48,000 kanji in existence, roughly 4,000 characters are commonly used. The Ministry of Education identified 1,850 kanji (called tōyō kanji) in 1946 as essential for official and general public use. In 1981 this list was superseded by a similar but larger one (called jōyō kanji) containing 1,945 characters. These are taught to all students in elementary and secondary school. Kanji are used in writing the main parts of a sentence such as verbs and nouns, as well as names. Kanji are the most difficult written Japanese characters, requiring as many as 23 separate strokes.
Since spoken Japanese existed before kanji reached Japan, the Japanese adopted the Chinese ideograms to represent spoken Japanese words of the same or related meanings. Since the sounds of Japanese words signifying the ideas were not the same as the sounds of the Chinese words, it became important to develop a writing system to represent the Japanese sound. Therefore, the Japanese developed two sets of characters, hiragana and katakana, from original Chinese characters. Each kana, as these two systems are called, is a separate phonetic syllabary and each hiragana character has a corresponding katakana character. Hiragana and katakana characters are similar to English letters in that each character represents a separate phonetic sound. Hiragana are used in writing verb endings, adverbs, conjunctions, and various sentence particles and are written in a cursive, smooth style. Katakana, which are used mainly in writing foreign words, are written in a more angular, stiff style. Both hiragana and katakana are easy to write compared with kanji. In modern written Japanese, kanji, hiragana, and katakana are combined. Traditionally, Japanese is written vertically and read from top to bottom and right to left. Now, most business writing is done horizontally because it is easier to include numerals and English words. Even though the written language is illogical, in many ways, it has aesthetic appeal and contributes to a feeling on the part of many Japanese that they are unique among the world's peoples. For a variety of reasons, including negative pressures by the majority population and a lack of new Japanese immigrants in the United States, many third- and fourth-generation Japanese Americans do not know the language of their ancestors.
Communalism did not develop in overseas Japanese communities as it did among the overseas Chinese. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries Japan's land-based lineage community gave way to down-sized extended families. Only the eldest son and his family remained in the parental household. Other sons established separate "branch" households when they married. In Japan, a national consciousness arose while in China, the primary allegiance remained to the clan-based village or community. Thus, Japanese immigrants were prepared to form families and rear children in a manner similar to that of white Americans. The "picture bride" system brought several thousand Japanese women to the United States to establish nuclear branch families.
The "picture bride" system was fraught with misrepresentation. Often old photographs were used to hide the age of a prospective bride and the men sometimes were photographed in borrowed suits. The system led to a degree of disillusionment and incompatibility in marriages. The women were trapped, unable to return to Japan. Nevertheless, these women persevered for themselves and their families and transmitted Japanese culture through child rearing. The Issei women were also workers. They worked for wages or shared labor on family farms. Two-income families found it easier to rent or purchase land.
By 1930, second-generation Japanese Americans constituted 52 percent of the continental U.S. population of their ethnic group. In the years preceding World War II, most Nisei were children and young people, attempting to adapt to their adopted country in spite of the troubled lives of their parents. For many young people the adaptation problem was made even more ambiguous because their parents, concerned that their children would not have a future in the U.S., registered their offspring as citizens of Japan. By 1940, over half of the Nisei held Japanese as well as American citizenship. Most of the Nisei did not want to remain on family farms or in the roadside vegetable business and with the strong encouragement of their parents obtained high school, and in many cases, university educations. Discrimination against Japanese Americans, coupled with the shortage of jobs during the Great Depression, thwarted many Nisei dreams.
The dual-career family seems to be the norm for Sansei households. Recently, spousal abuse has surfaced as an issue. If it was a problem in previous generations, it was not public knowledge. In San Francisco an Asian women's shelter has been established, largely by third-generation Asian women.
In Japanese tradition, a crane represents 1,000 years. On special birthdays 1,000 hand-folded red origami cranes are displayed to convey wishes for a long life. Certain birthdays are of greater importance
At a wedding dinner, a whole red snapper is displayed at the head table. The fish represents happiness and must be served whole because cutting it would mean eliminating some happiness. Silver and golden wedding anniversaries are also occasions for festive celebrations.
While virtually all Issei came to the United States as Buddhists, Christian missionaries worked at converting the immigrants from the very beginning. The Methodists were particularly successful in this effort and records of the Pacific Japanese Provisional Conference of the Methodist Church indicate that three immigrants from Japan were converted in 1877, 11 years before Japan legally allowed citizens to emigrate. In the beginning the Japanese, even though they understood no Chinese, were segregated into Chinese churches. By the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth century, separate Japanese Christian churches and missions were established in various California cities as well as in Tacoma, Washington, and Denver, Colorado. These early Japanese Christian organizations usually offered night English classes and social activities as well. While Methodism remained, other denominations such as Presbyterians, Baptists, Congregationalists, Episcopalians, and Catholics also claimed converts.
Organized Buddhism was somewhat slow in attempting to minister to the spiritual needs of Japanese Americans. The first record of Japanese Buddhist priests in the United States was in 1893 when four of them attended the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago. The priests had limited contact, however, with Japanese Americans. The success of one San Francisco Methodist minister, Yasuzo Shimizu, in winning converts stimulated a Japanese American to return to his native land and pressure priests of the Nishi Honganji sect of the Jodo Shinshu denomination to begin establishing Buddhist churches in the United States. The arrival in San Francisco of two Nishi Honganji priests, Shuyei Sonoda and Kukuryo Nishijima, on September 2, 1899, is regarded as the founding date for the Buddhist Churches of America. By the early years of the twentieth century, a number of Buddhist churches were founded on the West Coast. In the 1990s, Jodo Shinshu, organized as the Buddhist Churches of America with headquarters in San Francisco, is the dominant Buddhist denomination in the United States. However, Zen, Nichiren, and Shingon sects of Buddhism are represented in various cities throughout the United States. While only a minuscule number of Japanese Americans practice Zen Buddhism, this particular sect has exercised a profound influence on many artists, musicians, philosophers, and writers who are members of the majority American population.
Because of cultural assimilation it is difficult to obtain statistics on the religious practices of Japanese Americans. However, followers of Christianity are probably more numerous than Buddhists.
The Issei, who came to the United States in the late 1800s and early twentieth century, worked on the West Coast as contract seasonal agricultural workers, on the railroad, and in canneries. For the most part, working conditions were abysmal; and because of racism and pressure by organized labor, Issei were barred from factory and office work. As a result many Japanese Americans created small businesses such as hotels and restaurants to serve their own ethnic group or became small vegetable farmers. The term "ethnic economy" is often used to describe the activities of pre-World War II Japanese Americans. While Japanese produce interests sold to the majority population from the beginning, the grower, wholesaler, and retailer networks were Issei. Issei were remarkably successful in both of these endeavors for several different reasons. Small businessmen, farmers, their families, and work associates toiled an incredible number of hours and saved much of what was earned. Also, the Issei community was well organized, and small businesses and farms could rely upon their tightly knit ethnic group for capital, labor, and business opportunities. Ethnic solidarity paid off economically for Japanese Americans. By the eve of World War II, 75 percent of Seattle's Japanese residents were involved in small business, and Japanese farmers were responsible for the production of the majority of vegetables in Los Angeles County.
Japanese economic success caused a substantial white backlash spearheaded by elements of the majority population who felt their livelihoods threatened. Unions were consistently anti-Japanese for a variety of reasons and California agricultural groups assumed leadership roles in the land limitation laws. The laws resulted, between 1920 and 1925, in the number of acres owned by Issei declining from 74,769 to 41,898 and the acreage leased plummeting from 192,150 to 76,797.
No event in history has resulted in more economic change for Japanese Americans than World War II. Before the war Japanese Americans constituted mostly a self-contained ethnic economy. The internment of Japanese Americans and societal changes in attitudes toward Japanese destroyed much of the prewar economic status quo. Since the war a minority of Japanese Americans have been employed in Japanese American-owned businesses. Many Japanese American farmers, because of the internment, either sold their land or never were able to lease their pre-war holdings again. As a result of the internment, Japanese Americans also sold or closed many family businesses. A comparison of pre-war and post-war economic statistics in Los Angeles and Seattle illustrates these major changes. Before World War II, Japanese Americans in Seattle operated 206 hotels, 140 grocery stores, 94 cleaning establishments, 64 market stands and 57 wholesale produce houses. After World War II, only a handful of these businesses remained. In Los Angeles, 72 percent of Japanese Americans were employed in family enterprises before World War II. By the late 1940s, only 17.5 percent of Japanese Americans earned their livelihood through family businesses.
While these economic changes were largely forced upon Japanese Americans because of the events surrounding the internment, other societal factors also contributed to the end of the Japanese American ethnic economy. The pre-war racial prejudice against Japanese Americans declined substantially in the late 1940s and 1950s. Japan no longer constituted a geo-political threat; many Americans were becoming more sympathetic about the issue of minority rights; and Japanese American West Coast agricultural interests no longer were seen as threatening by other Americans. As a result of these events, the large majority of Japanese Americans in the post-war years have experienced assimilation into the larger economy.
Today, because of the changes in the post-war years, Japanese Americans are well-represented in both the professions and corporate economy. The prewar discrimination against university-educated Japanese Americans is largely ended. Japanese Americans today have higher levels of education on average than the majority population and comparable to slightly higher incomes. Studies documenting the absence of Asian Americans from top corporate management and public sector administrative positions provide some evidence that there is some sort of "glass-ceiling" for Japanese Americans still present in the larger economy. Still, the economic position and socioeconomic mobility of Japanese Americans is much higher now than any time in American history.
In February 1903, 500 Japanese and 200 Mexican farm workers in Oxnard, California, formed the Japanese Mexican Labor Association, the first farm workers union in California history. Led by Kozaburo Baba, the union called a strike for better wages and working conditions. By March 1903, membership had grown to 1,200 members, about 90 percent of the work force. On March 23 a Mexican striker was shot and killed and two Mexicans and two Japanese were wounded in a confrontation with the Western Agricultural Contracting Company, the major labor contractor. Negotiations led to a settlement by the end of March. Despite such effective organization and leadership, however, the American Federation of Labor denied the Japanese Mexican Labor Association a charter, due to its opposition to Asians.
In Hawaii there were 20 strikes by Japanese plantation workers in 1900 alone. In 1908 the Higher Wage Association asked for an increase from $18 to $22.50 per month. In May 1909, 7,000 Japanese workers struck all major plantations on Oahu. The strike lasted four months. The planters branded the strike as the work of agitators and evicted the strikers from plantation-owned homes. By June, over 5,000 displaced Japanese were living in makeshift shelters in downtown Honolulu. The leaders of the Higher Wage Association were arrested, jailed, and tried on conspiracy charges. The Association called off the strike about two weeks before their leadership was convicted.
In 1920 the Japanese Federation of Labor struck the Hawaiian plantations for higher wages, better working conditions, and an end to discriminatory wages based on race and ethnic background. The strike lasted six months and cost the plantation owners an estimated $11.5 million. The union saw their cause as part of the American way. Hawaii's ruling class—the plantation owners and their allies—called the strike anti-American and painted it as a movement to take control of the sugar industry. The planters evicted over 12,000 workers from their homes. Many deaths resulted from unsanitary conditions in the tent cities that arose.
The great plantation strike of 1920 generated fears within the U.S. government that the labor movement in Hawaii was part of a Japanese plot to take over the territory. Japanese Americans accounted for about 40 percent of the Hawaiian population in the 1920s and 1930s. Beginning in the 1920s, the U.S. Army viewed the presence of Japanese in the Hawaiian Islands as a military threat. The army formulated plans for the declaration of martial law, registration of enemy aliens, internment of Japanese who were considered security risks, and controls over labor. On the afternoon of December 7, 1941, the United States declared martial law, suspension of habeas corpus, and restrictions on civil liberties, following the attack by the Japanese navy on U.S. naval and army bases at Pearl Harbor.
Immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbor American officials in Hawaii began rounding up Japanese Americans. A concentration camp was established on Sand Island, a flat, barren, coral island at the mouth of Pearl Harbor. Terror and punishment were applied to the internees. Terror techniques included strip searches, frequent roll calls, threats to shoot, and excessive display of firepower by the guards who were armed with machine guns and pistols. The prisoners were often forced to eat in the rain, use dirty utensils, and sleep in tents. Ultimately, the army held 1,466 Japanese Americans in Hawaii and sent 1,875 to mainland camps such as Fort Lincoln (North Dakota), Fort Missoula (Montana), Santa Fe (New Mexico), and Crystal City (Texas).
General Delos Emmons, military governor of Hawaii, recognized that Japanese American labor was essential to the territory's economic survival. Therefore, he resisted pressure from Washington to intern more Japanese Americans. Those Japanese Americans in Hawaii who were not interned were required to carry alien registration cards at all times. They were to observe a curfew that applied only to them and were forbidden to write or publish attacks or threats against the U.S. government.
On the U. S. mainland, Japanese Americans were not considered essential to the economy or the war effort. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 authorizing the army to designate military areas from which "any or all persons may be excluded" and to provide transportation, food, and shelter for persons so excluded. Lt. General John L. DeWitt, commander of the Western Defense Command, issued proclamations dividing Washington, Oregon, California, and Arizona into military areas from which enemy aliens and all Japanese Americans would be excluded.
While some in the majority population objected to the oppressive treatment of loyal American residents and citizens, most Americans either approved or were neutral about the actions of our government. Wartime American propaganda about the Japanese reflected long-held racist attitudes of many Americans. While cartoonists depicted Germans as buffoons, Japanese were typically caricatured as apes or monkeys.
On December 7, 1941, there were about 1,500 Nisei recruits in U.S. Army units in Hawaii. On December 10 the army disarmed them and confined them to quarters under armed guard. Two days later they were re-armed and placed on beach patrol. On June 5, 1942, after rounding them up and disarming them again, the army organized 1,432 Japanese American soldiers into the Hawaiian Provisional Battalion and shipped them to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin. There, they trained for seven months, initially with wooden guns. The Nisei from Hawaii were joined by other Japanese American soldiers, mostly volunteers and draftees from mainland concentration camps, to form the segregated 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Many Nisei argued that serving the United States in war against Japan and her Axis allies would prove their loyalty and worth as citizens and overcome the discrimination from which they suffered. In all, about 33,000 Japanese Americans served the United States's cause in World War II.
Other patriotic Japanese Americans saw the situation differently. In 1943, about 200 Nisei at the Heart Mountain concentration camp in Wyoming formed the Fair Play Committee (FPC) to resist conscription into the armed services. The FPC published a manifesto that read in part, "We, the Nisei, have been complacent and too inarticulate to the unconstitutional acts that we were subjected to. If ever there was a time or cause for decisive action, IT IS NOW!" The Fair Play Committee protested denial of their rights as citizens without due process, without any charges being filed against them, and without any evidence of wrongdoing on their part. In June 1944, at the end of the largest draft resistance trial in U.S. history, 63 Nisei resisters were sentenced to three years in prison. On Christmas Eve 1947, President Harry S Truman pardoned them.
From the beginning, Japanese Americans sought to right the wrong of interning up to 120,000 innocent civilians. Mitsuye Endo agreed to serve as the test case against the internment program in 1942. On December 18, 1944, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously declared the detention of Japanese Americans unconstitutional and ordered Endo's immediate release. One day before the ruling, and in anticipation of it, the Western Defense Command of the U.S. Army announced the termination of its exclusion of loyal Japanese Americans from the West Coast, effective January 2, 1945.
After the war, many Japanese Americans returned home from the camps or the armed services and went to work to secure their rights and redress the wrongs committed against them. In Hawaii, Daniel K. Inouye, a decorated veteran, entered politics. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1959 to 1962. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1962. Along with three other Japanese American legislators (Senator Spark M. Matsunaga of Hawaii and Representatives Norman Y. Mineta and Robert T. Matsui of California), Inouye sponsored a bill to apologize for the wartime internment and offer cash payments of $20,000 (tax-free) to each of the 60,000 victims still living. Congress enacted the bill in 1988, but because Congress failed to appropriate the necessary funds, a second bill had to be passed in 1989 to assure the payments.
Harry H. L. Kitano (1926– ), a native of San Francisco, is a professor of sociology at UCLA, where he holds an endowed chair in Japanese American studies.
Minoru Yamasaki (1912-1986) designed the World Trade Center in New York City. Its twin towers, erected in 1970-1977, rise 110 stories high.
Perhaps the most famous Japanese American sculptor was Isamu Noguchi. His work extended beyond sculptures to include important architectural projects and stage designs, including designs for the Martha Graham Dance Company.
Ruth Asawa (1926– ) is a Nisei artist known for her wire mesh sculptures and bronzed "baker's clay" sculptures. She is co-founder of the School of the Arts Foundation in San Francisco.
Isami Doi (1903-1965) exhibited his art works widely. Born and reared in Hawaii, he studied art at the University of Hawaii, Columbia University, and in Paris.
Toyo Miyatake (1895-1979) was a noted photographic artist and a leader in the Los Angeles Little Tokyo Community. During World War II, he and his family were interned at Manzanar, California, where he was allowed to take photographs documenting life in the camp. After the war he reopened his studio.
Philip Kan Gotanda (1949– ), a playwright, musician, and director, is best known for musicals and plays about the Japanese American experience and family life. His plays include The Avocado Kid, The Wash, A Song for a Nisei Fisherman, Bullet Headed Birds, The Dream of Kitamura, Yohen, Yankee Dawg You Die, and American Tatoo.
Sessue Hayakawa (1890-1973) was a leading figure in silent films. After an absence of many years, he returned to Hollywood filmmaking in the 1950s and won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Colonel Saito in The Bridge on the River Kwai.
Hiroshima is a Sansei pop music group which blends traditional Japanese instruments into jazz.
Makoto (Mako) Iwamatsu (1933– ) was the founding artistic director of the East West Players, an Asian American theater company in Los Angeles. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his supporting role as a Chinese coolie in The Sand Pebbles.
Nobu McCarthy (1938– ) was a Hollywood star in the 1950s and is currently artistic director of the East West Players in Los Angeles. Her early film roles were mostly stereotypical (geisha girls and "lotus blossoms"). In the 1970s and 1980s, she appeared in more rounded roles in Farewell to Manzanar, The Karate Kid, Part II, and The Wash.
Midori (1971– ) is a celebrated violinist who has performed with many of the world's great orchestras.
Noriyuki "Pat" Morita (1932– ) became a major television and film actor in the 1980s. In 1984 he starred as Miyagi, a kind-hearted karate instructor, in The Karate Kid, and was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actor.
Sono Osato (1919-) is an important dancer who worked with Diaghilev, the Ballet Russe, Balanchine, Tutor, Fokine, Massine, the American Ballet Theatre, and performed in the original production of the Jerome Robbins/Leonard Bernstein On The Town.
Seiji Ozawa (1935– ), conductor, became music director of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in 1970 and the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1973.
Pat Suzuki (c. 1930– ), singer and actress, was the first Nisei to star in a Broadway musical, Rodgers and Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song, in 1958.
Miyoshi Umeki (1929– ) received an Academy Award as best supporting actress in 1957 for her role in Sayonara.
John Fujio Aiso (1909-1987) was director of the Military Intelligence Service Language School which trained about 6,000 persons in Japanese for intelligence work during World War II. In 1953 he became the first Japanese American judge.
George Ryoichi Ariyoshi (1926– ) served as governor of Hawaii from 1973 to 1986. He was the first Japanese American lieutenant governor and governor in U.S. history.
S. I. Hayakawa (1906-1992), a professor of English, gained national attention for his strong stand against dissident students during his tenure as president of San Francisco State College (1968-1973). He served as a Republican U.S. Senator from California from 1977 to 1983.
Daniel K. Inouye (1924– ) of Hawaii was the first Nisei elected to the U.S. Congress. A Democrat, he served in the House of Representatives from 1959 to 1962. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1962. He was a decorated veteran of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II.
Clarence Takeya Arai (1901-1964), a Seattle lawyer, was a key figure in the founding of the Japanese American Citizens League. He was active in Republican politics in the state of Washington in the 1930s. He and his family were sent to the relocation camp at Minidoka, Idaho, during World War II.
James Hattori is a television correspondent for CBS News.
Harvey Saburo Hayashi (1866-1943) was both a physician and newspaper editor for the rural Japanese American community of Holualoa in Kona, Hawaii. He founded the Kona Hankyo in 1897. The newspaper was published for the next 40 years and reached a circulation of 500 at its peak.
William K. "Bill" Hosokawa (1915– ) has served as a writer and editor for the Denver Post. He is the principal historian for the Japanese American Citizens League. During his wartime internment at Heart Mountain, Wyoming, he edited the Heart Mountain Sentinel.
Ken Kashiwahara (1940– ) is a television correspondent for ABC News and one of the first Asian American journalists to work in network television.
James Yoshinori Sakamoto (1903-1955) began the first Nisei newspaper, the American Courier, in 1928. He was a strong supporter of the Japanese American Citizens League from its beginning and served as its national president from 1936 to 1938.
Lance A. Ito (1950– ), Los Angeles County superior court judge, is a highly respected jurist who gained national prominence as the judge in the O. J. Simpson murder trial.
Velina Hasu Houston (1957– ) is known for her plays and poetry reflecting on the experiences of Japanese American women and her own experience as a multiracial Asian woman. Her plays include Asa Ga Kimashita, American Dreams, Tea, and Thirst.
Jun Atushi Iwamatsu (1908– ) is best known as author and illustrator of children's books. He has been runner-up for the Caldecott Medal for Crow Boy (1956), Umbrella (1959), and Seashore Story (1968). He has held several one-man exhibitions of his paintings.
Tooru J. Kanagawa (1906– ), a journalist and decorated veteran of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, published his first novel at the age of 83. His novel, Sushi and Sourdough, is based on his youth in Juneau, Alaska.
Toshio Mori (1910-1980) chronicled the lives of Japanese Americans in numerous short stories and six novels. Most of his writings, however, remain unpublished.
Leo Esaki (1925– ) is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who invented the tunnel diode while working for the Sony Corporation in Japan. In 1960, Esaki immigrated to the United States to work at IBM's Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York.
Makio Murayama (1912– ), a biochemist, received the 1969 Association for Sickle Cell Anemia award and the 1972 Martin Luther King, Jr. medical achievement award for his research in sickle cell anemia.
Hideyo Noguchi (1876-1928), a microbiologist, devoted his life to fighting diseases such as bubonic plague, syphilis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and yellow fever.
Jokichi Takamine (1854-1922) was a chemist who developed a starch-digesting enzyme ( Takadiastase ), which was useful in medicines. In 1901 he isolated adrenaline from the supradrenal gland and was the first scientist to discover gland hormones in pure form.
Masao Kida (1968– ), a major league baseball player for the Detroit Tigers, Kida is a pitcher and was born in Tokyo.
Hideo Nomo (1968– ), a major league baseball player for the Milwaukee Brewers, Nomo was born in Kobe, Japan.
Kristi Yamaguchi (1971– ), a figure skater, won the women's gold medal in figure skating at the 1993 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France.
Bi-lingual newspaper. The only Japanese publication in the Midwest.
Contact: Akiko Sugano, Editors.
Address: 4670 North Manor Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60625.
Telephone: (773) 478-6170.
Fax: (773) 478-9360.
The Hawaii Hoichi.
A bilingual publication intended to keep non-English fluent Japanese Americans informed about the United States.
Contact: Mr. Mamoru Tanji.
Address: 917 Kokea Street, Honolulu, Hawaii 96817-4528.
Telephone: (808) 845-2255.
Fax: (808) 847-7215.
A bilingual publication. Covers Japanese politics as well as national news. Receives strong support from local Japanese American organizations.
Contact: Ms. Atsuko Saito.
Address: 1746 Post Street, San Francisco, California 94115.
Telephone: (415) 567-7323.
Fax: (415) 567-1110.
Nichi Bei Times.
A bilingual publication geared toward both visitors from Japan and Japanese Americans. Covers world, national, local, and lifestyle news.
Contact: Ms. Keiko Asano.
Address: 2211 Bush Street, San Francisco, California 94115.
Telephone: (415) 921-6820.
A bilingual publication. Main source of Japanese American news in Southern California.
Contact: Ted Ubukata.
Address: 259 South Los Angeles Street, Los Angeles, California 90012.
Telephone: (213) 629-2231.
Fax: (213) 687-0737.
Japanese language news broadcast weekdays from 7 to 9 AM. Affiliated with Bridge, U.S.A. magazine.
Contact: Mr. Ono.
Address: 20300 South Vermont Avenue, Suite 200, Torrance, California 90502.
Telephone: (310) 532-5921.
Fax: (310) 532-1184.
Japanese language news broadcast daily.
Contact: Ms. Ikuko Tomita.
Address: 711 Kapiolani Boulevard, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813.
Telephone: (808) 593-1950.
Fax: (808) 593-8040.
Largest exclusively Japanese broadcast in the United States.
Contact: David Furuya.
Address: 250 Ward Avenue, Suite 209, Honolulu, Hawaii 96814.
Telephone: (808) 593-2880.
Fax: (808) 596-0083.
The following television stations offer programming in Japanese language: KDOC-TV, Anaheim, California; KTSF (Channel 26), Brisbane, California; KHNL, Hilo, Hawaii; KSCI (Channel 18), Pasadena, California; WMBC (Channel 63), New York City, New York; and WNYE (Channel 25), New York City, New York.
Japan-America Society of Washington (JASW).
Contact: Patricia R. Kearns, Executive Director.
Address: 1800 Ninth Avenue, Suite 1550, Seattle, Washington 98101-1322.
Telephone: (206) 623-7900.
Fax: (206) 343-7930.
Online: http://www.us-japan.org .
Japanese American Citizens League (JACL).
Educational, civil, and human rights organization founded in 1929 with 115 chapters and 25,000 members.
Contact: Herbert Yamanishi, National Director.
Address: 1765 Sutter Street, San Francisco, California 94115.
Telephone: (415) 921-5225.
Fax: (415) 931-4671.
Japan Hour Broadcasting.
Founded in 1974, it produces radio and television programs in Japanese for Japanese residents in the United States, and English language programs on Japan to promote American understanding of Japan and U.S.-Japanese relations.
Contact: Raymond Otami, Executive Director.
Address: 151-23 34th Avenue, Flushing, New York 11354.
Japan Society (JS).
Organization for individuals, institutions, and corporations representing the business, professional, and academic worlds in Japan and the United States; promotes exchange of ideas to enhance mutual understanding.
Contact: William Clark, Jr., President.
Address: 333 East 47th Street, New York, New York 10017.
Telephone: (212) 832-1155.
Fax: (212) 755-6752.
Online: http://www.jpnsoc.com .
Organization for persons who take special interest in Japanese affairs.
Contact: Tsutomu Karino, Executive Director.
Address: 145 West 57th Street, New York, New York 10019.
Telephone: (212) 581-2223.
Fax: (212) 581-3332.
Japanese American Cultural and Community Center.
A performing and visual arts center founded in 1980.
Address: 244 South San Pedro, Suite 505, Los Angeles, California 90012.
Telephone: (213) 628-2725.
Fax: (213) 617-8576.
Online: http://www.jaccc.org/ .
Japanese American Curriculum Project.
Address: 234 Main Street, P.O. Box 1587, San Mateo, California 94401.
Telephone: (800) 874-2242.
Japanese American National Museum.
The first national museum dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of Japanese Americans.
Address: 369 East First Street, Los Angeles, California 90012.
Telephone: (800) 461-5266; or (213) 625-0414.
Fax: (213) 625-1770.
Japanese American Society for Legal Studies.
Contact: Professor Daniel H. Foote.
Address: University of Washington Law School, 1100 Northeast Campus Parkway, Seattle, Washington 98105.
Telephone: (206) 685-1897.
Fax: (206) 685-4469.
U.S.-Japan Culture Center (USJCC).
Seeks to promote mutual understanding between the United States and Japan; to help the public, scholars, government officials, and businesspersons of both countries increase their knowledge of U.S.-Japan relations.
Contact: Mikio Kanda, Executive Director.
Address: 2600 Virginia Avenue, N.W., Suite 512, Washington, D.C. 20037.
Telephone: (202) 342-5800.
Fax: (202) 342-5803.
Online: http://www.usjpcc.com/ .
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Hosokawa, Bill. Nisei: The Quiet Americans. New York: William Morrow, Inc., 1969.
Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Tokyo, Japan: Kodansha, 1993.
Japanese American History: An A to Z Reference from 1868 to the Present. New York: Facts on File, 1993.
Kitano, Henry E. Japanese Americans: The Evolution of a Subculture. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1969.
——. Generations and Identity: The Japanese American. Needham Heights, MA: Ginn Press, 1993.
Lyman, Stanford M. Chinatown and Little Tokyo: Power, Conflict, and Community Among Chinese and Japanese Immigrants in America. Millwood, New York: Associated Faculty Press, 1986.
Montero, Darrel. Japanese Americans: Changing Patterns of Ethnic Affiliation Over Three Generations. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1980.
Nakano, Mei T. Japanese American Women: Three Generations 1890-1990. Berkeley, California: Mina Press, 1990.
Takahashi, Jere. Nisei/Sansei: Shifting Japanese American Identities and Politics. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1997.
Takaki, Ronald. Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1989.