Stanley E. Easton and Lucien Ellington
Japanese Americans are immigrants or descendants of immigrants from Japan, a country in East Asia. An archipelago lying off the eastern coast of the Asian continent, Japan consists of four main islands—Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku—as well as 3,900 smaller islands. To Japan's north is the Russia-controlled island of Sakhalin, while the People's Republic of China and South Korea lie to the country's west. Much of Japan is extremely mountainous, and almost the entire population lives on only one-sixth of the total land area. Of the world's major nations, it has the highest population density per square mile of habitable land. Japan has a total land area of 145,825 square miles (377,688 square kilometers), making it approximately the size of California.
According to the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications' Statistics Bureau, in 2011 Japan had a population of approximately 128 million people. Japan has one of the most homogeneous populations in the world. Fewer than 2 million non-ethnically Japanese (or under 1.5 percent of the total Japanese population) live in Japan. Koreans constitute more than half of the ethnic minorities in the country. Japan is also home to two indigenous minority groups, the Ainu and the Burakumin. The Ainu, a Caucasian group, number around 24,381 and live mainly on special reservations in central Hokkaido. The Burakumin, with a population estimated at two million, are often referred to as an outcast group. Although they now have the same legal status as their fellow citizens, the Burakumin have for centuries faced severe discrimination and relegation to the country's low-status occupations. According to 2012 statistics from the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Japan's predominant religion is Shinto, with 83.9 percent of the population practicing this indigenous religion. Buddhism, a Korean and Chinese import, is practiced by 71.4 percent of the population. Followers of Christianity constitute 1 percent of the Japanese population, while 7.8 percent list “other” for religious beliefs. Japanese people identifying as both Buddhist and Shinto are not uncommon, as many in the nation practice more than one religion. Despite the country's lack of natural resources, Japan's economy is the third largest in the world and is based primarily on exports of manufactured goods.
The first Japanese immigrants began arriving in the United States in the 1860s, following the termination of Japan's self-imposed national isolation. A number of these immigrants were adult contract laborers, recruited by representatives from American sugar and silk companies in need of workers. Between 1895 and 1908, approximately 130,000 Japanese workers arrived in the United States, settling predominantly in the Northwest and California, as well as in Hawaii, which was at that time an independent country. Members of this first wave of Japanese immigrants, most of whom were male, are referred to as the Issei. Although the United States subsequently restricted the flow of Chinese and Japanese immigrants, thousands of Japanese women traveled to join their husbands and financés already in the United States. The U.S. government ultimately put a stop to all Japanese immigration with the Immigration Act of 1924. Between 1965 and 1985, large waves of Japanese immigrants, men and women, came to the United States to attend university, find professional work, or join spouses who were American citizens. Starting in the mid-1980s, a time of economic prosperity in Japan, the number of Japanese people immigrating to the United States dropped steadily for more than twenty years. Those numbers began to increase again in 2000. According to a 2000 report from the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), approximately 4,000 Japanese people immigrated to the United States in 1999. By 2001 that number had reached 10,464. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, approximately 8,455 Japanese immigrants a year on average received permanent resident status in the United States, according to the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The 2010 United States Census estimated the Japanese American population, which includes people of exclusively Japanese descent and those who report having Japanese ancestry in combination with other races, at 1.3 million, or about 5.6 percent of the total Asian American population. Of that 1.3 million, approximately 775,000 are of exclusively Japanese ancestry. Although many Japanese immigrants still live in Hawaii, California and New York state are now home to the largest populations of Japanese Americans. Washington State is also home to a significant number of Japanese Americans.
HISTORY OF THE PEOPLE
Early History The oldest identified human remains found in Japan date from around 30,000 BCE. The region took its first steps toward political unification in the late fourth and early fifth centuries CE under Yamato chiefs, who developed an imperial line now believed to be the oldest in the world. Ancient and medieval Japan were culturally undeveloped compared to neighboring China, and from early in its history, Japan imported and incorporated into its own culture many Chinese practices, philosophies, and customs, including architecture, agricultural methods, Confucianism, and Buddhism.
Japan's medieval and early modern eras were marked by long periods of continuous warfare as rival families struggled for power. The country's first recorded contact with Europe came in 1543, when Portuguese traders landed off southern Kyushu. In 1603, through military conquest, Tokugawa Ieyasu was named Japan's first shogun, establishing himself as ruler of the entire country. During the Tokugawa era, foreigners were expelled from Japan, and the country largely isolated itself from the rest of the world for a period lasting more than two centuries. In 1854 Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States Navy sailed to Japan and demanded that its ruling shogun sign a treaty establishing formal diplomatic relations with the United States, ultimately forcing Japan to begin trading with the West and ending its extended, self-imposed period of isolation.
Modern Era Japan's modern history began in 1868 with the overthrow of the Tokugawa shogunate and the founding of the Meiji dynasty. In the decades that followed, Japan feverishly modernized in an attempt to end Western efforts at dominance. By the early twentieth century, Japan possessed a rapidly industrializing economy and a strong military. In 1894 Japan put its improved armed forces to the test when it invaded China, marking the beginning of the First Sino-Japanese War, fought primarily for control of Korea. The two countries signed a treaty the following year, granting Korea independence but allowing Japan control of Taiwan, the Liaodong Peninsula, and the Penghu Islands. The treaty also required China to pay Japan significant reparations. Japan's achievements in the war, despite China's larger army and more abundant resources, demonstrated its success in adopting a Western-style military. Tensions between the two countries began escalating once again in the 1930s, and in 1937 a scuffle between Japanese and Chinese troops ignited the Second Sino-Japanese War, a conflict that would last until 1945. In October 1937 the Japanese army captured the Chinese city of Shanghai, and two months later the Chinese capital city of Nanking also fell to the Japanese. In the six weeks that followed, a period now referred to as the Nanking Massacre, Japanese troops pillaged the city, raping thousands of women and killing an estimated 250,000 people. The Battle of Nanking also served to heighten tensions between Japan and the United States, as the Japanese military had fired on American troops during the conflict. By 1940 the Japanese government had signed a pact with Germany and Italy to fight against common enemies in the global conflict that would ultimately develop into World War II. Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, compelled the previously neutral United States to join the Allied Powers. In 1945 the U.S. military dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, destroying five square miles of the city and killing more than 140,000 people. Three days later, the U.S. military dropped a second atomic bomb, this one on the Japanese city of Nagasaki, killing another 74,000 people and injuring many more.
In August 1945 a devastated Japan accepted the surrender terms of the Allied Powers. U.S. general Douglas MacArthur led the occupation and reconstruction efforts, enacting punitive economic measures and political and social reforms on Japan. Japan was forced to adopt a constitution and create a democracy with the emperor as figurehead. The country was also forbidden to rebuild an army, was required to adopt universal suffrage, and to officially separate the Shinto religion and the state. In the years following the war, Japan was in shambles, with most of its cities severely damaged, its industries destroyed, its infrastructure in disrepair, and food shortages all too common. Rigid censorship of the press forbade criticism of the United States. Ultimately, MacArthur shifted away from punitive measures and toward helping the Japanese achieve self-sufficiency. His policies encouraged the shift from a state-managed economy to a market economy with a focus on exports. This period of American occupation resulted in significant political and economic changes for Japan. The country became a democracy, renounced militarism, and resumed steady economic growth. American occupation of Japan ended in 1952, except in Okinawa, which the United States occupied until 1972, and Iwo Jima, occupied until 1968. In exchange for leaving U.S. troops on Japanese soil and for insisting on Japan's demilitarization, the United States in 1960 agreed to protect Japan from its neighbors. Japan became a critical ally to the United States during the Vietnam War and the Cold War, providing the United States with military bases from which to operate in that region of the world. The United States in turn provided security for Japan, which was positioned between two giant Communist countries. Relations between Japan and the United States cooled toward the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, when Japan was in the midst of political turmoil and an economic downturn.
Following World War II, with no option to grow its military, the Japanese government focused on stimulating economic growth. The Japanese were aided in this by the United States, who facilitated Japan's entry into the U.S. market and supported Japanese restrictions on imports and foreign investment. Japan's economic recovery was so swift that Japanese industries
were successfully competing with American industries by the 1970s. Experts have attributed the success of Japan's economic recovery to cooperation between manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors, as well as to the rise of strong unions, guaranteed lifetime employment, and close ties between the government and the business sector. Japanese economic growth slowed in the mid-1980s, when the United States increased its restrictions on trade, accused Japanese companies of unfair trade practices, and turned its attention to expanding U.S. exports to Japan. By the end of the 1980s, Japan's trade surplus was quite large, as was the trade deficit of the United States. When growth slowed in Japan, a burst of speculation artificially inflated land values and created an asset bubble, while low interest rates encouraged investors to pour money into inflated properties. The bubble burst in 1991, and the Japanese government was forced to bail out banks and companies previously considered too large to fail. Close to two decades of slow-to-no growth followed, and as of early 2013 the Japanese economy was continuing to shrink. In spite of its financial woes, Japan remains a stable democracy and continues to rank among the world's top economic superpowers.
SETTLEMENT IN THE UNITED STATES
In 1835 American settlers established the sugar plantation system in Hawaii, which was then an independent monarchy. The sugar plantations required large numbers Page 540 | Top of Articleof workers to cultivate and harvest the cane fields and to operate the sugar refineries. Beginning around 1852, the plantation owners began importing Chinese laborers.
By 1865 many Chinese laborers in Hawaii were leaving the plantations for other jobs. Hawaii's foreign minister, a sugar planter, wrote to an American businessman in Japan, telling him the region was in need of Japanese agricultural workers. On May 17, 1868, a ship sailed from the Japanese city of Yokohama for Honolulu with 148 Japanese people aboard. These people—140 men, six women, and two children—included samurai, cooks, sake brewers, potters, printers, tailors, woodworkers, and one hairdresser. Plantation labor was harsh. Ten-hour workdays were standard, and the monthly wage was four dollars, of which the plantation owners withheld 50 percent. Forty of these first Japanese farm laborers returned to Japan before completion of their three-year contracts. Once back home, thirty-nine of them signed a public statement charging the planters with cruelty and breach of contract.
On May 27, 1869, the Pacific Mail Steamship Company's S. S. Great Republic picked up a party of samurai, farmers, tradesmen, and women in Japan and transported them to San Francisco. These people had been displaced from their homes by the overthrow of the Tokugawa shogunate and the restoration of the Meiji emperor. Japanese entrepreneurs from this group established the 600-acre Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony on the Sacramento River in Placerville, California. 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.
In 1882 U.S. Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which prohibited further Chinese immigration. In 1886 Hawaii and Japan signed a labor convention that led to large numbers of Japanese contract workers immigrating to Hawaii. Meanwhile, the increase of Japanese immigrants in California gave rise to anti-Japanese sentiment, and in 1906 the school board in San Francisco ordered the segregation of Japanese American students. Ninety-three students of Japanese ancestry, along with a number of Korean students, were ordered to attend a school that had already been established for Chinese immigrant children. The Japanese government was insulted. President Theodore Roosevelt, wishing to maintain harmonious relations with Japan, condemned anti-Japanese agitation and the school segregation order. Roosevelt advocated naturalization of the Issei but never sponsored the introduction of a bill to accomplish it. Political reaction against Roosevelt in California was fierce, and several anti-Japanese bills were introduced in the state legislature in 1907. Roosevelt reacted by calling San Francisco school officials and California legislative leaders to Washington, and after a week of negotiations, the representatives from California agreed to allow Japanese children (excluding overage students and those with limited English) to attend regular public schools. Roosevelt, in turn, 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 wishing to immigrate to the United States, while the United States agreed to allow Japanese who had already been to the United States to return and to accept immediate family members of Japanese immigrants already in the country. This arrangement was known as the “Gentlemen's Agreement.”
Under the Gentlemen's Agreement, some Japanese immigration to the United States continued. Between 1908 and 1924, many new Japanese immigrants were women brought over by husbands already living in the United States. Between 1909 and 1920, the number of married Japanese women living in Hawaii doubled, while the number living on the U.S. mainland quadrupled. Most of the Japanese women who migrated to Hawaii and the United States during that period were referred to as “picture brides.” Marriages were arranged by parents, while go-betweens brokered agreements between families. Couples were usually married while the bride was in Japan and the groom was in the United States, with husband and wife meeting 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 primarily male migrant laborer group to a family-oriented community seeking permanent settlement.
Job prospects were generally dismal for highly educated Japanese Americans living on the U.S. mainland. Racial discrimination resulted in unemployment or underemployment for many. Their situation, however, was not as difficult as that of Japanese immigrants living in Hawaii, which had been annexed by the United States in 1898. Japanese plantation workers on the islands, calling for improved wages and living conditions, organized multiple strikes throughout the first two decades of the twentieth century. The labor movement was met with great resistance, and thousands of Japanese workers were evicted and displaced as a result, while leaders were arrested and jailed. By the 1920s the U.S. government was viewing the politically active Japanese community in Hawaii, which comprised approximately 40 percent of the islands' population, as a threat to national security.
The terms of the Gentlemen's Agreement became null and void with the passage of the Immigration Act of 1924, a restrictive law reflecting growing antiforeigner sentiment in the United States. The act limited immigration by implementing strict quotas and restricting the entry of any people who, due to their racial or ethnic background, were not eligible for U.S. citizenship. The Naturalization Act of 1790 had made all nonwhite persons ineligible for naturalization, and so the 1924 law essentially halted all Japanese immigration to the United States.
Immediately following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, U.S. officials in Hawaii began rounding up Japanese Americans. An internment camp was established on a flat, barren coral island in Honolulu called Sand Island, where detainees were treated harshly. Officials did not intern Japanese American agricultural workers in Hawaii considered essential to the territory's survival, but these workers were required to carry alien registration cards at all times and were subject to a curfew. Meanwhile, Japanese Americans on the U.S. mainland were also being rounded up. Between 1942 and 1945, approximately 110,000 people of Japanese heritage were sent to live on internment camps. Few in the United States protested these incursions on the rights of Japanese Americans.
At the end of 1941, there were 1,500 second-generation Japanese Americans enlisted in U.S. Army units in Hawaii. These soldiers were disarmed and rearmed at least twice during the course of the war. Japanese American troops from Hawaii were eventually joined by other Japanese American soldiers, mostly volunteers and draftees from mainland internment camps, to form a segregated battalion. This battalion, known as the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, would become the most decorated infantry regiment in the history of the U.S. Army. In all, about 33,000 Japanese Americans served the United States in World War II.
Other Japanese Americans were unwilling to serve a country that would enlist them while simultaneously subjecting their families to internment. In 1943 about 200 Nisei at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming formed the Fair Play Committee (FPC) to resist conscription into the armed services. The FPC published a manifesto protesting denial of their rights as citizens without due process, charges filed against them, or any evidence of wrongdoing. In 1944, following the largest draft resistance trial in U.S. history, 63 Nisei resisters confined at Heart Mountain internment camp were sentenced to three years in federal prison. In 1947, after the men had already served two years of their sentences, President Harry S. Truman pardoned them.
Since the start of their internment, Japanese Americans sought to argue the unconstitutional nature of it. In 1942 Mitsuye Endo, a Japanese American woman who had been removed from her home in Sacramento and sent to live on an internment camp, brought a petition in U.S. federal court challenging her internment as a violation of her civil rights. The U.S. Supreme Court in its 1944 verdict did not argue Endo's initial confinement but did find that her continued detention was unconstitutional, as the United States conceded it had no reason to question her loyalty. The court ordered Endo's immediate release. One day before the ruling, and in anticipation of it, the U.S. government announced the end of its exclusion order. The last of the internment camps was closed in 1945.
In 1952 the McCarran-Walter Act ended the ban on Japanese immigration, but the new law was Page 542 | Top of Articlestill racially discriminatory. Approximately 100 to 200 immigrants per Asian country were allowed into the United States each year, while quotas on immigrants from European countries were far more lax. The McCarran-Walter Act also removed all racial barriers to naturalization. As a result, more than 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 20,000 immigrants per country into the United States. Between 1965 and 1985, there were nearly four times as many Asian immigrants entering the United States as there had been between 1849 and 1965. Due to a booming economy in Japan, however, the number of Japanese people immigrating to the United States dropped significantly in the 1970s and remained low until 1999. Whereas in 1960 Japanese Americans made up 52 percent of the Asian American population, by 1985 only 15 percent of Asian Americans were Japanese.
After four decades of lobbying on the part of the Japanese American community, U.S. Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. Through the law, the U.S. government acknowledged the fundamental injustice of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The government also formally apologized for that injustice and granted reparations in the amount of $20,000 for each survivor.
At the turn of the twenty-first century, the United States began to see a rise in Japanese immigration. The number of Japanese immigrants entering the United States rose from 4,217 in 1999 to 10,464 in 2001. Women made up the majority, or 65 percent, of these immigrants. Recent increases have been attributed to a persistently weak economy in Japan since the 1990s, Japanese women seeking better job opportunities, and a new wave of Japanese women coupling with U.S. citizens, often through Internet dating. The 2010 United States Census counted 1.3 million people of Japanese descent living in the United States; however, only 775,000 were exclusively of Japanese ancestry. Today Japanese Americans live in all fifty states, with close to half residing in California. Other states with large populations of Japanese Americans include Hawaii, New York, and Washington.
The Japanese language is unique in that it has no close relationship to any other language, such as English does to German or French does to Spanish. The origins of Japanese are obscure, and only Korean can be considered to belong to the same linguistic family. A popular misconception is that the Japanese language is similar to Chinese, but although many kanji (characters used in modern Japanese writing) were borrowed from classical Chinese, the two spoken languages do not have a single basic feature in common. 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.
Many linguists assert 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 CE from China via Korea. Although there are said to be some 48,000 kanji in existence, only about 4,000 are commonly used. In 1946 Japan's Ministry of Education identified 1,850 kanji (called tōyō kanji) as essential for official and general public use. In 1981 that list was superseded by a similar but larger one (called jōyō kanji) containing 1,945 characters. These characters 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, and are the most difficult Japanese characters to compose, requiring as many as twenty-three separate strokes.
Because spoken Japanese existed before kanji reached Japan, the Japanese adopted Chinese ideograms to represent spoken Japanese words. The Japanese words, of course, sounded different than the corresponding Chinese words, so it became important to develop a writing system to represent the Japanese sounds. 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 written in a cursive style and are used to represent verb endings, adverbs, conjunctions, and various sentence particles. 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 when 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, as it is easier to include numerals and English words. Although the written Japanese language is complex and in some ways illogical, it holds an aesthetic appeal for the Japanese and contributes to a feeling that they are unique among the world's peoples.
According to the 2010 United States Census, 445,471 people in the United States over the age of five speak Japanese at home. Among the rest of the Japanese American population, English is the primary language. For a variety of reasons, including the complicated nature of the written language, many third and fourth generation Japanese Americans cannot write the language of their ancestors.
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; and Chotto matte kudasai—Wait just a moment, please.
Shinto is an indigenous Japanese religion based on purification and fertility rituals, ancestor cults, and seasonal festivals that developed informally over hundreds of years. The concepts of harmony, gratitude, purity, and filial piety are central. Shinto is not monotheistic like many religions in the West. Rather, its gods, or kami, are many, and these supernatural beings are present in both animate and inanimate objects. Shinto was the only religion in Japan until Buddhism was introduced from China in 538 CE. Buddhism became so popular that branches of the two religions merged, becoming what is known as Ryobu Shinto (“Dual Shinto”). Many Japanese people continue to practice Shinto and Buddhism side by side in the early twenty-first century. Shinto rituals are reserved for birth and marriage, while Buddhist rituals and beliefs govern end of life and funerals.
Shinto underwent significant changes in the second half of the nineteenth century as Japan shifted from the Tokugawa shogunate, a feudal system of government, to the Meiji dynasty, a centralized system ruled by an emperor. The new Meiji emperor designated Shinto as the national religion, and shrines were separated from Buddhist temples, regulated, and placed under government control. The Shinto practice of worshipping an imperial ancestor was co-opted to legitimize the emperor and lend the Meiji dynasty the appearance of being the restoration of an ancient tradition. Shinto became a much more elaborate and formal system, with a highly organized structure of priests, shrines, and patriotic teachings. The religion was used as a tool to justify policies of expansion and empire. All Japanese people were expected to practice Shinto, regardless of their beliefs.
The first waves of Japanese immigrants brought their beliefs and practices with them to the United States. A survey conducted of Issei who came to the country before 1924 found that 78 percent identified as Buddhist, while only 3.5 percent identified as Shinto. Another 9.3 percent said they were Christian, and 9 percent reported being atheist. One possible explanation for the small number of people reporting Shinto as their religion is that the study did not provide the option of claiming multiple beliefs. Another explanation is that Shinto was such an ingrained part of Japanese ethnic identity that belief in it was simply assumed.
As soon as Japanese immigrants began arriving in the United States, Christian missionaries started to work at converting them. The Methodists were particularly successful in this effort, converting some Japanese immigrants as early as 1877, a full eleven years before Japan legally allowed its citizens to emigrate. By the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth century, Japanese Christian churches and missions had been established in various California cities, as well as in Tacoma, Washington, and Denver, Colorado. In addition to religious services, these early Japanese Christian organizations usually offered English classes and social activities. While the Methodist church remained popular, other denominations, such as the 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 traveled from Japan to attend the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago. The priests had limited contact, however, with Japanese Americans. In 1899 two ministers from the Jodo Shinshu sect in Kyoto (Jodo Shinshu translates to “Pure Land Buddhism”) immigrated to San Francisco to minister to Japanese Americans. By 1914 the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) had been established.
By the early years of the twentieth century, a number of Buddhist churches had been founded on the West Coast. The Immigration Act of 1924 and growing anti-Japanese sentiment led to an increase in the number of Buddhist temples during this era. Japanese American internment and its immediate aftermath around the time of World War II led to even greater interest in traditional Japanese religions, including Buddhism and a revival of what some refer to as “informal Shintoism.” Japanese Americans living in internment camps found practicing these religions helped them to resist the “Americanization” efforts of the U.S. government. Many Japanese American Buddhist temples and Japanese American Christian churches continue to foster ethnic consciousness and liberal protest for Japanese Americans.
Japanese Americans enjoy a higher economic position and greater socioeconomic mobility now than at any other time in American history.
After World War II, during the Allied occupation of Japan, the U.S.-led Japanese government ordered the disestablishment of government-run Shinto, which it referred to as “State Shinto.” Two branches of Shinto were set up in its place, called “Shrine Shinto” and “Denominational Shinto.” The strong connection between Shinto and Japanese imperialism in the minds of most mainstream Americans made it difficult to practice any form of the religion in the United States
for many decades after World War II. The first Shinto shrine in the United States, called the Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America, was built in 1987 in Stockton, California. In 2001 the shrine was moved to Granite Falls, Washington. Since that time, seven additional Shinto shrines have been built in the United States, all of them located in Hawaii.
As of 2013 the BCA was the dominant Buddhist denomination in the United States. Japanese American Buddhists continue to perform rituals honoring their ancestors at home, in temples, and at the cemetery. Some Japanese American Christian churches observe these rituals as well. Another common practice among modern Japanese American Buddhists is honoring the memory of ancestors by making financial donations to organizations dedicated to preserving cultural traditions.
According to a 2012 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 33 percent of Japanese Americans identify as Protestant, 25 percent are Buddhist, 4 percent are Catholic, and 32 percent are unaffiliated with any particular religion. Shinto was not mentioned in the survey.
CULTURE AND ASSIMILATION
Since they first began arriving in the United States, Japanese Americans have built Buddhist temples and Christian churches. They have built halls to serve as language schools and as places for theater performances, films, judo lessons, poetry readings, potlucks, and parties. They have constructed sumo rings, baseball fields, and bath houses. They have also established hotels, restaurants, bars, and billiard parlors, as well as shops that provide Japanese food and herbal medicines.
The Issei experienced many restrictions upon their arrival in the United States, facing discrimination and prejudice from the earliest days of immigration until after World War II. They were excluded from some occupations, restricted from owning land, and denied the opportunity to become U.S. citizens until 1952. The Issei's pleasure was largely in seeing the success of their children. Despite their poverty, the Issei developed large, close-knit families. They encouraged their children, the Nisei, to leave their farming communities, become educated, and obtain white-collar jobs. This drove the Nisei into close associations and friendships with Caucasians. The Nisei were generally educated in American schools and learned what many refer to as “white, middle-class American values.” Hierarchical thinking, characteristic of Japanese culture, led to pressure to achieve academically and to compete successfully in the larger Caucasian-dominated society.
Between 1915 and 1967, the proportion of Japanese Americans living in predominantly Japanese American neighborhoods fell from 30 percent to 4 percent. With the end of World War II, prejudice and discrimination against Japanese Americans declined. According to a 2009 study conducted by the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), the majority of Japanese Americans now live in largely integrated neighborhoods, although as a group they retain regional proximity. Most later generations are unfamiliar with the first-generation Japanese American world characterized by communal association and close social control. Whereas only 10 percent of the second generation Nisei married outside their ethnic group, about 50 percent of the third generation Sansei did.
Many Japanese Americans have indicated a desire to know more about their cultural roots. In the JACL's 2009 study, 67 percent of Japanese Americans said they felt they knew little of Japanese culture, while close to 40 percent expressed the desire to know more. In an effort to preserve Japanese culture, some Japanese Americans participate in Japanese-centered community festivals, volunteer with the elderly in their communities, get involved with Japanese political and legal organizations, and patronize the Japanese arts.
The degree to which later generations of Japanese Americans have assimilated into the predominant culture is unusual for a nonwhite group. In his book Generations and Identity: The Japanese American (1993), sociologist Harry H. L. Kitano observed that early Japanese Americans developed a congruent Japanese culture within the framework of American society. This was due to necessity rather than choice, as there was little opportunity for those first generations to enter into the social structure of the larger community. Most Japanese Americans today feel more able to enter into that social structure, so while later generations continue to identify as Japanese Americans, they also partake more easily in a larger society that is not as hostile toward them as it was toward their predecessors. Nonetheless, even later generations of Japanese Americans have indicated that identity remains important and that some degree of perceived racism still exists.
Americans of Japanese descent have the highest rate of intermarriage with members of other ethnic groups. The 2010 United States Census reported that 763,325 people identified themselves as Japanese American, while another 540,961 identified themselves as Japanese in combination with one or more other races. The high rate of assimilation has caused some in the Japanese American community to express concern over the loss of their cultural heritage. It is uncertain whether newer generations of Japanese Americans will retain their Japanese traditions and customs and pass them on to the next generations.
Traditions and Customs In Japanese tradition, a crane represents 1,000 years. On special birthdays, 1,000 red, hand-folded origami cranes are displayed to convey wishes for a long life. Certain birthdays are thought to be auspicious or calamitous in a person's life. For men, the forty-second birthday is considered the most calamitous, while for women it is the thirty-third year. Especially festive celebrations are held on these birthdays to ward off misfortune. The sixty-first birthday is considered the beginning of the auspicious years and the beginning of a person's second childhood (the term “second childhood” in Japanese translates as both a sixtieth birthday and as one's dotage, or the onset of senility). Traditionally, a person in his or her second childhood wears a crimson cap. The seventy-seventh birthday is marked by the wearing of a loose red coat (called the chanchan ko) over one's clothes. The most auspicious birthday is the eighty-eighth, when the honoree wears both the crimson cap and the chanchan ko.
Cuisine A distinctive trait of Japanese cuisine is the practice of keeping dishes separate, rather than mixing them or even letting them touch on the plate. Japanese food is served on platters big enough to serve the entire table. One style of platter used to keep food separate is called a bento box. These low-sided boxes are usually rectangular in shape, with different compartments for holding meat, fish, and other dishes. People serve themselves from the large platters, taking some of each dish and putting it in a small bowl and adding rice. The bowls can be used for tea or soup as well. The main utensils are chopsticks and flat-bottomed spoons. Rice is a staple that accompanies most meals, including breakfast.
Traditional ingredients in Japanese cuisine include rice, beans, eggs, flour, fruits, mushrooms, meat, seafood, and oil. Traditional meals usually include rice and a few main dishes, along with pickles and a bowl of soup on the side. Historically, oil, red meat, and fat are used sparingly, although that has changed somewhat with the advent of processed foods and foreign culinary influences. Common dishes include miso soup, tempura (lightly breaded and fried vegetables, meat, or seafood), teriyaki (a sweet sauce of soy and ginger served over vegetables, meat, or seafood), sashimi (raw seafood without rice), and sushi (raw seafood and rice rolled in seaweed). Green tea
and sake (plum wine) are traditional Japanese beverages. Lunches away from home are often packed in bento boxes. Traditionally made of lacquered wood, contemporary bento boxes are made from a wide variety of materials. In recent years these containers have found popularity in the United States, where they are often sold as children's lunch boxes.
Japan has several regional cuisines, the most notable of which are Kanto and Kansai. Kanto is known for strong broths with udon noodles (round noodles similar to spaghetti), while Kansai is known for lighter flavors and clear broths. For many decades, Japanese Americans could find ingredients for these foods only at stores owned and operated by fellow Japanese immigrants. In the 1980s, however, sushi began to gain popularity in American culture, and ramen noodle restaurants have also become popular. Japanese restaurants can now be found in most U.S. cities, while a limited number of Japanese ingredients are available Page 546 | Top of Articleat many national grocery chains and at gourmet shops and stores that cater specifically to Japanese Americans or Asian Americans. One dish that has been adapted from Japanese cooking in the United States is spam musubi, a sushi look-alike made with rice, spam, seaweed, and furikake (a Japanese condiment made of dried fish, sesame seeds, salt, and sugar). Spam musubi is very popular in Hawaii. Another popular Japanese-American hybrid dish is a kind of fried pork cutlet called tonkatsu. A number of American restaurants—including Brushstroke in New York City, Nobu in Los Angeles, and Bamboo in Portland, Oregon—offer an array of excellent Japanese food ranging from the traditional to the experimental.
Traditional Costumes In Japan, clothes are divided into two categories: Japanese clothing (wafuku) and Western clothing (yofuku). Traditional Japanese clothes are designed to reflect the season in which they are to be worn. Kimonos, robes that wrap around the body and tie with sashes and a wide obi (a sort of cummerbund), are the most notable example of traditional dress. Kimonos are designed to be worn only during a specific season or occasion. Lined kimonos, for example, are to be worn during the colder months and are replaced with unlined kimonos in June. Colors suitable for the summer months include light pinks, purples, greens, and grays, while seasonal flowers or scenes and classical court patterns that create a sense of coolness are also ideal for that time of year. Before World War II, both men and women wore kimonos, but Western dress became the standard everyday wear for most Japanese after the war. For the most part, kimonos are now worn by women only on special occasions, such as weddings, funerals, coming-of-age ceremonies, and festivals. Brides may choose to wear a kimono for their wedding ceremonies. Men rarely wear kimonos for any occasion, wearing a black tie as formal wear. Other traditional garments include yukatas (casual robes) and happi (short robes).
Traditional Arts and Crafts Japan has a rich tradition of art dating back thousands of years. The earliest forms of art in Japan included clay sculpture and bronze mirrors, while calligraphy and painting became popular with the rise of Zen Buddhism. Garden design, screen art, and ceramics were also popular. Perhaps the best known representations of Japanese art, however, are the famous woodblock prints filled with vibrant and realistic images and dazzling colors. The tradition of creating these woodblock prints dates back to the Edo period (1603–1868). Original prints and reproductions from this era can be found in museums, homes, and restaurants across the United States.
Dances and Songs Sword dancing became popular early in Japanese culture and continues to be appreciated in Japan, where solo and mock battle dances are still performed today. Another popular form of traditional dance is fan dance, including the parasol dances performed in Kabuki theater, a traditional form of Japanese theater that involves singing, dancing, and highly stylized performances.
There are many traditional styles of music in Japan, some of which were imported from China thousands of years ago and have been adapted to suit Japanese tastes and culture. Gagaku is a kind of court music that originated in China and Korea. Theatrical music characterized by bamboo flutes and drums is often played for performances in Kabuki and Nohgaku (a form of classical Japanese musical drama). Minyo is a style of Japanese folk music involving singing accompanied by an instrument. The shamisen is a traditional Japanese instrument that resembles a guitar with three strings. The koto is a type of zither with thirteen strings. Many Japanese people in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have eschewed traditional music in favor of popular Western music, but the old forms are still played in the country. Modern musicians like the Yoshida Brothers have introduced younger generations to traditional instruments like the shamisen with their updated musical style.
Early generations of Japanese Americans attempted to retain their cultural heritage through Japanese language schools and social clubs, where they performed traditional dances and music. These practices fell off as Japanese organizations were dismantled during World War II, a time when it was considered dangerous to stress one's Japanese heritage. More recently, Japanese Americans have revived some of the old traditions. Taiko drum performances are an example of Japanese music that is still being performed by Japanese Americans. Taiko drums are drums in a variety of shapes and sizes that are played with a stick. In Japan, the taiko was historically used to motivate soldiers before battle or for military marches. Although taiko drum performances have increased in popularity in the twenty-first century, the first taiko group in the United States, the San Francisco Taiko Dojo, formed in 1968.
Holidays The New Year (shogatsu) is the most important holiday in Japan. For centuries Japan used the same calendar as China and Korea, but in 1873 the country switched to the Gregorian calendar. The Japanese now celebrate the New Year during the first three days in January. In Japanese American communities, many still celebrate the New Year in very much the same manner as the Issei, following the customs of Meiji-era Japan. The 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 a special basin. A priest then cleanses the worshippers by sprinkling them with water from a leafy branch and blesses them by waving a wand of Page 547 | Top of Articlewhite prayer papers. The worshippers sip sake, receive amulets (charms), and give money.
In Japanese American homes where the traditions are observed, offerings for the New Year are set in various places of honor around the house. The offerings consist of two mochi (rice cakes), a strip of konbu (seaweed), and citrus arranged on “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 (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 on this day include kuromame (black beans), kazunoko (herring eggs), konbumaki (seaweed roll), kinton (mashed sweet potato and chestnut), and kamaboko (fish cakes). Sushi, sashimi, cooked red snapper, and nishime (vegetables cooked in stock) are commonly provided for guests. At many celebrations, the Japanese cheer of “Banzai! Banzai! Banzai!” rings out. The salute, which originated around 200 BCE, means “10,000 years.” In the early twenty-first century, the Japanese tradition of bringing a gift of fruit or vegetables for the host at a dinner party is still common among Japanese Americans, especially when the host is also Japanese American.
Healthcare Issues and Practices Japanese Americans are generally healthier than other Americans. A 1990 study conducted at the University of Hawaii found that the Issei and Nisei had lower rates of heart disease and breast and lung cancer than their white counterparts. However, the increased adoption of a Western diet among Japanese Americans and the resulting increase in saturated fat consumption has resulted in a higher risk for those conditions in third and fourth generations. According to a 2007 needs assessment published by the University of Maryland School of Public Health, Japanese Americans are increasingly at risk for stomach and colon cancers, possibly connected to increased consumption of sugar and fat. As a group, Japanese men have higher rates of liver cancer than the overall American population, due to significant alcohol consumption. They are also at greater risk for type two diabetes. 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 received early prenatal care, compared to 79 percent for Caucasians and 76 percent for all races. Relatively few Japanese American infants had low birth weight, and only 8 percent of Japanese American births were preterm, compared to 10 percent for all races. Asian Americans have fewer birth defects
than Native Americans, Caucasians, and African Americans, but more than Hispanic Americans. In 1987 less than 1 percent of recorded drug abusers in the United States were Asian Americans.
According to the 2010 United States Census, the life expectancy for Japanese Americans is 84.5 years. In a 2007 report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 5 percent of the Japanese American population reported fair to poor health, with little difference between men and women. According to the same report, only one in ten Japanese American adults was without health insurance, as compared to 16.7 percent of the general U.S. population. Japanese Americans were also shown to be the least likely ethnic group in the United States to delay or not receive medical care due to cost. Approximately 96 percent had been to the dentist within the previous five years, and less than 4 percent of adults were obese, with one in ten considered underweight.
A 1990 University of Hawaii study found that many Japanese Americans consider mental illnesses to be shameful, tending to use mental health services only as a last resort with severe disorders, such as schizophrenia. Similarly, a 2007 University of Maryland needs assessment found that Japanese Americans in Maryland underused mental health services in comparison to other ethnic groups, preferring to seek help from family members or close friends, rather than from mental health professionals. A number of Japanese Americans have entered the psychiatric field, however, perhaps indicating a growing acceptance of professional mental health care.
FAMILY AND COMMUNITY LIFE
Communalism did not develop in Japanese communities as it did among populations in China. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Japan's land-based lineage communities gave way to downsized extended families. Only the eldest son and his family remained in the parental household. Other sons established separate
“branch” households when they married. A national consciousness arose in Japan, whereas in China the primary allegiance remained to the clan-based village or community. Thus, Japanese immigrants were prepared to form nuclear families and rear children in the United States without the support of a larger extended family or community, much in the way modern American families have evolved.
The “picture bride” system, which brought several thousand Japanese women to the United States in the early twentieth century, was fraught with misrepresentation. Often old photographs were used to hide the age of a prospective bride, and the men were sometimes photographed in borrowed suits. The system led to a degree of disillusionment and incompatibility in marriages. Once in the United States, the women were trapped, unable to return to Japan. Many Issei women were employed outside the household, working for wages or shared labor on family farms in California and other states on the mainland. Two-income families found it easier to rent or purchase land, at least until 1920, when new laws made land ownership illegal for Japanese Americans in California.
By 1930, 52 percent of Japanese Americans were second generation. In the years preceding World War II, most Nisei were children and young people, many of them attempting to adapt to their adopted country in spite of the troubled lives of their parents.
Gender Roles In Japan traditional gender roles have been slow to change. Studies published in 1999 and 2001 showed that wives in Japan were still expected to be homemakers, while husbands were still the main providers. Most wives call their husbands shujin (“main person”), and husbands call their wives kanai (“inside the home”). Women who go against these expectations face social ostracism and discrimination in the workplace. The Japanese Educational Foundations Law, passed in 1947, guarantees equal access to education, but hiring, promotion, and pay remain unequal. In 2002 Japanese women were found to be making 34 percent less than their male counterparts.
Japanese American women seem to fare better when it comes to gender equality, although the percentage of Japanese American women not working outside the home might still be considered high when compared to other ethnic groups. According to the 2010 United States Census, approximately 52 percent of Japanese American women were not employed outside the home. Of the women who were employed, 48.5 percent were in the sectors of management, business, science, or art. Another 13.6 percent were in the service industry, and 27 percent were in sales or office work.
Education With the strong encouragement of their parents, most of the Nisei obtained high school and, in many cases, university educations, leaving their parents' family farms or small businesses in search of greater opportunities. Discrimination against Japanese Americans, coupled with the shortage of jobs during the Great Depression, thwarted many Nisei dreams. The next generation of Japanese Americans, however, fared far better, with more than three-fourths graduating from high school and close to half receiving college and graduate degrees. The 2010 United States Census showed the high school graduation rate at 96 percent for Japanese American men and 94.3 percent for Japanese American women, while 49.8 percent of Japanese American men and 43.7 percent of Japanese American women attained a college degree or higher. Of those Japanese Americans with college degrees or higher, 12.6 percent pursued a professional degree or a degree in science, management, or administration, while another 22.8 percent pursued degrees in education, health care, or social services.
Courtship and Weddings Japanese weddings are traditionally small, private ceremonies during which the bride and groom perform elaborate rituals in the presence of their families. One such ritual involves sharing sake. First the groom and then the bride sip from three sake cups. They then share the cups with parents and other family members to symbolize the union of the two families. Shinto ceremonies are fairly standard among the Japanese, although some prefer weddings that observe Buddhist customs. Among Japanese Americans, some couples combine Eastern and Western traditions by including Christian observances. Cash gifts are expected at most Japanese weddings, and they are to be given in envelopes called shugi-bukuro. The amount of the cash gift will sometimes be specified on the invitation and generally has to do with the invitee's relationship to the couple. At a wedding dinner, a Page 549 | Top of Articlewhole red snapper is displayed at the head table. The fish represents happiness and must be served whole, as cutting it would mean eliminating happiness.
Relations with Other Americans Economic competition between the United States and Japan in the 1980s resulted in the rise of anti-Japanese sentiment in popular culture. In movies like Back to the Future II and in the novels of popular writers like Michael Crichton and James Michener, Japanese businessmen were depicted as demanding overlords and conniving, unethical schemers.
Many white Americans, particularly well-educated white Americans, perceive Japanese Americans as a “model minority group” because of their reputation for hard work and advanced education. While this stereotype is not necessarily a negative one, many Japanese Americans feel that they are pigeonholed as good workers but are not seen as aggressive enough to occupy top managerial and leadership positions.
EMPLOYMENT AND ECONOMIC CONDITIONS
The Issei, who came to the United States in the late 1800s and early twentieth century, worked mostly on the West Coast as seasonal agricultural workers, as railroad workers, and in canneries. Working conditions were generally abysmal, and the Issei were barred from the better factory and office jobs, due largely to racism and pressure from organized labor. As a result, many Issei became small-scale vegetable farmers or created small businesses, such as hotels and restaurants, to serve others in their ethnic group. The term “ethnic economy” is often used to describe these activities of pre-World War II Japanese Americans. The Issei were remarkably successful in both these endeavors for several reasons. Small businessmen, farmers, their families, and their work associates toiled an incredible number of hours and saved much of what was earned. The Issei community was also well organized, and small businesses and farms could rely upon their tightly knit ethnic group for capital, labor, and business opportunities. This ethnic solidarity paid off economically for the Issei. 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.
The economic success of some Japanese Americans eventually led to a substantial backlash, which was spearheaded by elements of the majority population who felt their livelihoods threatened. Unions were consistently anti-Japanese, and California agricultural groups assumed leadership roles in the land limitation laws referred to as Alien Land Laws. The state of California in 1913 enacted legislation stating that people not eligible for citizenship, as well as corporations owned by such people, had to comply with the land ownership provisions of the U.S.-Japan
Treaty of 1911. Because that treaty made no mention of the right of Japanese people on American soil to own land, the legislation held that no such right existed. Further restrictions were passed in 1920 that forbade the sale or lease of land to a noncitizen. In addition, noncitizen parents of citizens could not hold land in guardianship for their children, and any land considered to be illegally held or owned could be confiscated by the state of California. Between 1920 and 1925, the number of acres owned by the Issei declined from 74,769 to 41,898, while the acreage leased plummeted 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 the Japanese destroyed much of their prewar economic status. Many Japanese American farmers, because of the internment, either sold their land or were unable to lease their prewar holdings again. Likewise, many Japanese American family businesses were sold or closed. A comparison of prewar and postwar economic statistics in Los Angeles and Seattle illustrates these changes. Prior to 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 their internment forced these economic changes upon Japanese Americans, other societal factors also contributed to the end of the Japanese American ethnic economy. The prewar racial prejudice against Japanese Americans declined substantially in the late 1940s and 1950s. Japan no longer Page 550 | Top of Articleconstituted a geopolitical threat, and many Americans were becoming more sympathetic about the issue of minority rights. As a result, the large majority of Japanese Americans in the postwar years began assimilating into the larger economy.
Japanese Americans today are well represented in professional occupations, including medicine, law, science, business, and technology. Japanese Americans also have higher levels of education and comparable to slightly higher incomes on average than the majority population in the United States. Studies documenting the absence of Asian Americans from top corporate management and public sector administrative positions provide some evidence that there remains a “glass ceiling” for Japanese Americans in the larger economy. Still, Japanese Americans enjoy a higher economic position and greater socioeconomic mobility now than at any other time in American history.
According to the 2010 United States Census, 52 percent of Japanese Americans held managerial positions in the business, finance, or professional sectors. The annual average income for Japanese Americans was reported as $91,000 per household. At the time of the census, only 3.6 percent of Japanese American men were unemployed, far below the national average of just under 9 percent.
POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
In February 1903, 500 Japanese and 200 Mexican farmworkers in Oxnard, California, formed the Japanese Mexican Labor Association, the first farmworkers union in California. The union called a strike for better wages and working conditions, and membership soon grew to include 1,200 workers, or about 90 percent of the Mexican and Japanese agricultural workers in the area. On March 23 a striker was shot and killed and two were wounded in a confrontation with the Western Agricultural Contracting Company, the region's major labor contractor. Negotiations led to a settlement by the end of March. Despite such effective organization and leadership, the American Federation of Labor denied the Japanese Mexican Labor Association a charter.
In Hawaii there were twenty strikes by Japanese plantation workers in 1900 alone. In 1908 Japanese agricultural laborers from the major plantations in Oahu formed the Higher Wage Association, and in 1909 the group asked for a wage increase. In May of that year, 7,000 Japanese workers struck all major plantations on the island of 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, more than 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.
In 1920 Japanese workers struck 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 viewed their cause as part of the American way, but 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 more than 12,000 workers from their homes. Many deaths resulted from unsanitary conditions in the tent cities that arose.
After World War II, many Japanese Americans left internment camps or the armed services and immediately went to work to secure their rights and redress the wrongs committed against them. In Hawaii, Daniel K. Inouye, a decorated veteran, entered politics, serving in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1959 until 1962, when he was elected to the U.S. Senate. 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 that would require the U.S. government to apologize for the wartime internment of Japanese Americans and offer tax-free cash payments of $20,000 to each of the 60,000 victims still living. Congress enacted the bill in 1988, but because the necessary funds were not appropriated, a second bill had to be passed in 1989. The Reparations Act of 1989 designated $1.6 billion in payment to the victims of the internment and their descendants.
According to a 2009 National Asian American Survey, 82 percent of Japanese Americans reported they were “more likely to vote” than not. The majority (60 percent) identified as Democrats. In 2003 the Japanese American Political Action Committee (JAAMPAC) registered with the Federal Election Commission. JAAMPAC stated their goals as supporting Japanese American candidates running for office, promoting legislation that is helpful to Japanese Americans, and opposing candidates and legislation that is not favorable to the Japanese American community.
Japanese Americans have participated in U.S. politics on all levels. On the national level, Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) served in the U.S. Senate from 1963 until his death in 2012, and Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) took office in 2013. Several Japanese Americans have served or are currently serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, including Mike Honda (D-CA), Patricia Saiki (R-HI), Bob Matsui (D-CA), and, perhaps most notably, Patsy Mink (D-HI), who served twelve terms and authored the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act. At least two Japanese Americans have served as presidential cabinet members. Norman Mineta was the secretary of transportation for George W. Bush, and Eric Shinseki, a retired four-star general, began serving as President Barack Obama's secretary of veterans affairs in 2009.
Japanese Americans have a history of promoting the civil and human rights of other minority groups. Page 551 | Top of ArticleIn 1954 the JACL actively supported ending school segregation during the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education. In 1965 the JACL supported immigration reform. Japanese American organizations today are active in promoting anti-hate crime legislation and in opposing legislation that discriminates against immigrants.
Academia Eiichiro Azuma is a Japanese American historian and academic with an endowed chair at the University of Pennsylvania, where he has taught since 2001. Azuma has published many articles and books, including the award-winning work Between Two Empires: Race, History and Transnationalism in Japanese America, published in 2005.
Harry H. L. Kitano (1926–2002) was a professor of sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he held an endowed chair in Japanese American studies. Born in San Francisco to Japanese immigrants, Kitano spent several years during World War II living in a Utah internment camp with his family.
Mari Matsuda, born in Hawaii in 1956, is a lawyer, an activist, and an academic. In 1998 the UCLA School of Law granted Matsuda tenure, making her the first tenured female Asian American law professor in the United States. She went on to teach at Stanford Law School and Georgetown University Law Center before returning to Hawaii, where she currently teaches at the William S. Richardson School of Law.
Ronald Takaki (1939–2009), a second-generation Japanese American born in Hawaii, was a historian, an ethnographer, and an academic. He taught the first black history class offered at UCLA and went on to teach for many years at the University of California, Berkeley, as a professor of Asian American studies. Takaki authored several well-known books on the subjects of race and racial stereotypes in American history, including Strangers from a Different Shore, published in 1989.
Architecture Minoru Yamasaki (1912–1986) was one of the most prominent architects of the twentieth century, best known for his design of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.
Art Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988) was perhaps the most celebrated Japanese American sculptor of the twentieth century. His work extended beyond sculptures to include significant architectural projects and stage designs, including designs for the Martha Graham Dance Company.
Ruth Asawa (1926–) is a Nisei artist known for her wire sculptures and bronzed “baker's clay” sculptures. Asawa cofounded the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts (SOTA), a public, tuition-free visual and performing arts high school.
Isami Doi (1903–1965) was a painter and print-maker who exhibited his works widely. Born and raised in Hawaii, Doi studied art at the University of Hawaii, at Columbia University, and in Paris.
Toyo Miyatake (1895–1979) was an accomplished photographer. Born in Japan, Miyatake immigrated to the United States as a child and eventually settled in the Little Tokyo section of Los Angeles, where he opened a photography studio and was considered a leader in the community. Miyatake's most famous photographs depict the lives of Japanese Americans living in the Manzanar, California, internment camp during World War II, where Miyatake and his family were also interned.
Yoko Ono (1933–), born in Japan and raised mostly in that country, is internationally known as the widow of John Lennon, founding member of the Beatles. Ono is an artist, musician, filmmaker, and activist.
Government John Fujio Aiso (1909–1987) was director of the Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS), which trained about 6,000 persons in the Japanese language for use in intelligence work during World War II. In 1953 Aiso became the first Japanese American judge.
George Ryoichi Ariyoshi (1926–) served as governor of Hawaii from 1974 to 1986. He was the first Japanese American lieutenant governor and governor in U.S. history.
Samuel Ichiye Hayakawa (1906–1992) was an accomplished academic and political figure. He served from 1968 to 1973 as president of San Francisco State College, where he gained national attention for his strong stand against student protesters. Hayakawa, a Republican, went on to serve as a U.S. senator representing California from 1977 to 1983.
Daniel K. Inouye (1924–2012) of Hawaii was the first Nisei elected to U.S. Congress. A Democrat, he served in the House of Representatives from 1959 to 1963. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1962, where he remained until his death in 2012. Inouye was also a decorated veteran who served in World War II.
Doris Matsui (1944–) is the U.S. Representative for California's sixth congressional district, an office she assumed in 2005 as a member of the Democratic Party. Matsui was born on an internment camp in Arizona and was raised in California.
Kenneth P. Moritsugu (1945–) is a physician and public health administrator. A rear admiral in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (PHSCC), Moritsugu served as Surgeon General of the United States from 2006 until 2007.
Clarence Takeya Arai (1901–1964) was a key figure in the founding of JACL. Arai, a lawyer, was active in Republican politics in the state of Washington in the 1930s. He and his family were forced to relocate to an internment camp in Minidoka, Idaho, during World War II.
Journalism James Hattori, a native of California, is a television correspondent who has worked for CBS News and CNN.
Harvey Saburo Hayashi (1866–1943), born and raised in Japan, was a pioneering Issei in the rural Japanese American community of Kona, Hawaii, where he served as both physician and newspaper editor. In 1897 he founded the newspaper the Kona Hankyo, which would be published for the next forty years. Hayashi also established a Japanese cemetery and a Japanese language school in Kona.
William Kumpai Hosokawa (1915–2007), a Nisei born in Seattle, was a prominent journalist, editor, and author who worked at the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News. Hosokawa published a number of books about the experiences of Japanese Americans, many of which were inspired by the time Hosokawa spent interned at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming during World War II. For more than forty years following the war, Hosokawa published a column in the Pacific Citizen newspaper that most often focused on his personal observations of the internment of Japanese Americans.
Michiko Kakutani (1955–) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who writes book reviews for the New York Times. She is considered one of the leading literary critics in the United States.
Ken Kashiwahara (1940–) was one of the first Asian American journalists to work in network television. Before his retirement in 1998, Kashiwahara spent twenty-five years covering major national and international news as a correspondent with ABC News.
Sachi Koto (1951–) is a television journalist who worked as a CNN news anchor for fourteen years.
James Yoshinori Sakamoto (1903–1955) began the first Nisei newspaper, the Japanese American Courier, in 1928. He was a strong supporter of the JACL from its inception and served as the organization's national president from 1936 to 1938.
Law Lance Allan Ito (1950–) is a highly respected superior court judge in Los Angeles who gained national prominence when he presided over the O. J. Simpson murder trial in 1995.
Literature Velina Hasu Houston (1957–) is an award-winning playwright, essayist, poet, and screenwriter. She is best known for her plays and poetry exploring the experiences of Japanese American women. Houston's plays include Asa Ga Kimashita, American Dreams, and Tea.
Atsushi Iwamatsu (1908–1994)—better known by his pseudonym, Taro Yashima—was a successful author and illustrator of children's books. Several of the books he published in the 1950s and 1960s were runners-up for the Caldecott Medal, one of the most prestigious children's book awards in the United States.
Tooru J. Kanagawa (1906–2002) was a journalist and decorated veteran of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a fighting unit of the U.S. military during World War II comprised entirely of Japanese Americans who volunteered for service. Kanagawa published his first novel, Sushi and Sourdough, at the age of 83.
Toshio Mori (1910–1980) was one of the earliest Japanese Americans to publish a book of fiction. Most of his short stories and novels, many of which remain unpublished, feature Japanese American characters.
Julie Otsuka (1962–) is a celebrated author best known for her historical fiction novels that explore the lives of Japanese Americans. Her 2011 novel The Buddha in the Attic won the 2012 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and was a 2011 National Book Award finalist.
Music Hiroshima is a pop music group composed almost entirely of third-generation Japanese American musicians. The band, which reached the height of its popularity in the mid-1980s and 1990s, is best known for blending traditional Japanese instruments into popular Western music.
James Iha (1968–) is a rock musician who cofounded and served as the guitarist for the 1990s alternative rock band the Smashing Pumpkins. Iha has since played with other alternative rock groups, including A Perfect Circle.
Midori Goto (1971–) is a celebrated violinist who has performed with many of the world's greatest orchestras. She made her debut at the age of eleven, playing with the New York Philharmonic symphony orchestra. In 2001 Goto won the Avery Fisher Prize, a prestigious award given to American musicians for outstanding achievement in classical music. In 2007 Goto was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace.
Seiji Ozawa (1935–) is a conductor who served as music director for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in the 1960s and early 1970s. In 1973 Ozawa became music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a position he held for twenty-nine years.
Science Leo Esaki (1925–) is a Nobel Prize–winning physicist who invented the tunnel diode, a type of semiconductor diode. Esaki immigrated to the United States in 1960 to work for the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM).
Makio Murayama (born in 1912) was a biochemist best known for his groundbreaking research on sickle cell anemia.
Hideyo Noguchi (1876–1928) was a microbiologist who devoted his career to fighting diseases, including bubonic plague, syphilis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and yellow fever. Noguchi is credited with discovering the agent of syphilis as the cause of progressive paralytic disease in 1911.
Jokichi Takamine (1854–1922) was a chemist who developed a starch-digesting enzyme (called Takadiastase) that was useful in medicines. In 1901 Takamine isolated adrenaline from the suprarenal gland and was the first scientist to discover gland hormones in pure form.
Gordon Hisashi Sato (1927–) is a Japanese American cell biologist who has received accolades for his work in biotechnology. In 1984 he was elected to the United States National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Sato is also the founder of the Manzanar Project, named after the internment camp where he and his family were confined during World War II. The organization attempts to use biotechnology to attack such issues as poverty and global warming.
Ryuzo Yanagimachi (1928–) is a Japanese-born scientist who is considered a pioneer in the fields of in vitro fertilization and cloning. Yanagimachi was elected to the NAS in 2001.
Yoichiro Nambu (1921–) is a renowned physicist who is considered one of the founders of string theory. Born in Tokyo, Nambu moved to the United States in 1952. In 2008 he was awarded a half share of the Nobel Prize in Physics.
Osamu Shimomura (1928–) is a prominent organic chemist and marine biologist. In 2008 he won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery of green fluorescent protein, a major breakthrough that enabled scientists to study the insides of living cells. Born in Kyoto and educated in Japan, Shimomura moved to the United States in 1960 to conduct research at Princeton University.
Sports Bryan Ezra Tsumoru Clay (1980–) is a decathlete whose mother was a first-generation Japanese American. Clay won the gold medal in the 2008 Summer Olympics for the decathlon and won the silver medal in the 2004 Summer Olympics.
Hideo Nomo (1968–) is a former Major League Baseball (MLB) player who pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Kansas City Royals, among other teams. In 1995 Nomo became the first Japanese-born Japanese major league baseball player to permanently relocate to play in the United States.
Kristi Yamaguchi (1971–) is a former professional figure skater who won numerous awards during her career, including the women's gold medal in figure skating at the 1992 Winter Olympics. Yamaguchi is a fourth-generation Japanese American whose grandparents were interned during World War II. In 2005 Yamaguchi was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.
Stage and Screen Philip Kan Gotanda (1951–), a prominent playwright and filmmaker, is best known for his musicals and plays depicting the Asian American experience. His plays include The Avocado Kid, The Wash, Song for a Nisei Fisherman, Bullet Headed Birds, The Dream of Kitamura, Yohen, Yankee Dawg You Die, and American Tattoo.
Sessue Hayakawa (1890–1973) was a leading figure in silent film and is widely considered to be the first Asian American movie star. Born and raised in Japan, Hayakawa lived in the United States intermittently throughout his movie career. After an absence of many years, he returned to Hollywood in the
1950s and was nominated for an Academy Award for his acting in the film The Bridge on the River Kwai.
Makoto (Mako) Iwamatsu (1933–2006) 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 1966 film The Sand Pebbles.
Nobu McCarthy (1934–2002) was a Japanese Canadian film actress, stage director, and model. She began acting in the 1950s and 1960s, depicting mostly stereotypical Asian characters, such as geisha girls and “lotus blossoms.” Her later film roles would prove to be more rounded. McCarthy was also a member of the East West Players in Los Angeles, where she served as artistic director during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Jeff Matsuda (1970–) is an award-winning concept artist, comics artist, and animator.
Noriyuki “Pat” Morita (1932–2005) was a popular television and film actor in the 1980s. He is best known for starring as the kind-hearted karate instructor in the 1984 film The Karate Kid, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actor.
Sono Osato (1919–) is a noted dancer who danced with the American Ballet Theatre and the Ballets Russes. Osato also served as the principal dancer in several Broadway musicals and worked briefly as an actress in film and television.
Chiyoko (Pat) Suzuki (1930–), a Japanese American singer and actress, became the first Nisei to star in a Broadway musical when she performed in Flower Drum Song in 1958.
Miyoshi Umeki (1929–2007) was the first Asian performer to win an Academy Award, which she received for her supporting role in the 1957 movie Sayonara.
The Hawaii Hochi
A bilingual newspaper published and sold in Hawaii. The publication is intended to keep Japanese Americans who are not fluent in English informed about the United States. In 2012 the paper celebrated 100 years in operation.
917 Kokea Street
Honolulu, Hawaii 96817
Phone: (808) 845-2255
Fax: (808) 847-7215
The Rafu Shimpo
A bilingual newspaper based out of Los Angeles. It is the main source of Japanese American news in southern California.
Yoko Otsuki, Executive Assistant
701 East Third Street
Los Angeles, California 90013
Phone: (213) 629-2231
Fax: (213) 687-0737
Bible Broadcasting Network (BBN) Japanese Radio
A conservative Christian station that airs Bible teachings in Japanese.
11530 Carmel Commons Boulevard
Charlotte, North Carolina 28226
Phone: (704) 523-5555
Plays Japanese pop and anime programs.
KALIFM (106.3 FM)
A Vietnamese radio station that airs a Japanese-language news broadcast every weekday from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. The station serves the community of Santa Ana, California.
20300 South Vermont Avenue
Torrance, California 90502
Phone: (877) 595-3424
ORGANIZATIONS AND ASSOCIATIONS
Japan-America Society of the State of Washington (JASSW)
A nonprofit organization that seeks to promote mutual understanding and friendship between the people of Japan and Washington by providing a forum for the exchange of ideas and information.
Dale Watanabe, Executive Director
1511 Third Avenue
Seattle, Washington 98101
Phone: (206) 374-0108
Fax: (206) 374-0175
Japanese American Citizens League (JACL)
An educational, civil, and human rights organization founded in 1929 with 115 chapters and 25,000 members.
Priscilla Ouchida, National Executive Director
1765 Sutter Street
San Francisco, California 94115
Phone: (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.
Raymond Otami, Executive Director
151-23 34th Avenue
Flushing, New York 11354
Japan Society (JS)
A leading American organization committed to deepening mutual understanding between the United States and Japan in a global context.
Motoatsu Sakurai, President
333 East 47th Street
New York, New York 10017
Phone: (212) 832-1155
Fax: (212) 755-6752
The Nippon Club
The only Japanese social club in the United States. Based in New York City, the club seeks to contribute to the continued business and cultural exchange between Japan and the United States by hosting events, workshops, and cultural classes.
Tsutomu Karino, Executive Director
145 West 57th Street
New York, New York 10019
Phone: (212) 581-2223
Fax: (212) 581-3332
MUSEUMS AND RESEARCH CENTERS
Asian American Curriculum Project (formerly the Japanese American Curriculum Project)
A nonprofit organization that seeks to bring a wide variety of Asian American curriculum materials, including Japanese American resources, to schools, libraries, and the general public.
529 East 3rd Avenue
San Mateo, California 94401
Phone: (650) 375-8286
Fax: (650) 375-8797
Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC)
A performing and visual arts center founded in 1980.
244 South San Pedro Street
Los Angeles, California 90012
Phone: (213) 628-2725
Fax: (213) 617-8576
Japanese American National Museum
The first national museum dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of Japanese Americans.
100 North Central Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90012
Phone: (213) 625-0414
Fax: (213) 625-1770
Japanese American Society for Legal Studies
Established in 1964, this organization published an annual periodical on law in Japan. After the twenty-seventh volume was issued in 2002, the American branch was dissolved. The Japanese branch continues to operate.
Professor Kichimoto Asaka
University of Tokyo Faculty of Law 7-3-1 Hongo
Bunkyo-ku Tokyo 113-0033 Japan
U.S.-Japan Culture Center (USJCC)
Seeks to promote mutual understanding between the United States and Japan by helping scholars, government officials, businesspersons, and the public increase their knowledge of relations between the two countries.
Mikio Kanda, Executive Director
5416 Nevada Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20015
Phone: (202) 342-5800
Fax: (202) 342-5802
SOURCES FOR ADDITIONAL STUDY
Akiba, Daisuke. Japanese Americans. New York: Sage Publications, 2005.
Eiichiro, Azuma. Between Two Empires: Race, History and Transnationalism in Japanese America. New York: Oxford Press, 2004.
Hane, Mikiso. Modern Japan: a Historical Survey. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2013.
Hosokawa, Bill. Nisei: The Quiet Americans. New York: William Morrow, 1969.
Ichioka, Yuji. Before Internment: Essays in Prewar Japanese American History. Eds. Gordon H. Chang and Eiichiro Azuma. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006.
Kingston, Jeff. Contemporary Japan: History, Politics, and Social Change Since the 1980s. Malden, MA: John Wiley & Sons, 2013.
Kitano, Henry H. L. Generations and Identity: The Japanese American. Needham Heights, MA: Ginn Press, 1993.
———. Japanese Americans: The Evolution of a Subculture. Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1969.
Lyman, Stanford M. Chinatown and Little Tokyo: Power, Conflict, and Community Among Chinese and Japanese Immigrants in America. Millwood, NY: Associated Faculty Press, 1986.
Montero, Darrel. Japanese Americans: Changing Patterns of Ethnic Affiliation Over Three Generations. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1980.
Nakano, Mei T. Japanese American Women: Three Generations 1890–1990. Berkeley, CA: Mina Press, 1990.
Okihiro, Gary Y. Common Ground: Reimagining America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001. Print.
Takahashi, Jere. Nisei/Sansei: Shifting Japanese American Identities and Politics. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1997.
Takaki, Ronald. Double Victory: A MultiCultural History of America in World War II. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2000.
———. Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1998.