Before Internment

By Yuji Ichioka


Copyright © 2006 Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8047-5147-6

Chapter One


Yuji Ichioka died before finishing his introduction. Although it is incomplete, the editors have included the author's draft, including the endnotes, with some minor stylistic revisions. Editorial additions are in brackets.

Until recently studies of Japanese American history have paid very little attention to the decades before World War II. As a general rule, they have treated the interwar period as an interlude between the Japanese exclusion movement, which culminated in the enactment of the 1924 Immigration Act, terminating all Japanese immigration, and the outbreak of World War II and the ensuing dramatic wartime mass internment of Japanese Americans. Historians understandably have been preoccupied with the internment of Japanese Americans and, consequently, have paid and continue to pay extraordinary attention to this topic. If they examine the interwar years at all, they tend to look at the period simply as an incidental backdrop to mass internment.

The result has been to obscure significant continuities and discontinuities between the 1930s and 1940s. What happened in the interwar period had a definite influence on events during the internment period, so much so, indeed, that the latter cannot, in my judgment, be properly understood without taking into account the former. In other words, the mass internment of Japanese Americans cannot be fully comprehended without an understanding of the historical continuities and discontinuities between the 1930s and 1940s.

Clearly not comprehensive, this anthology of essays covers selected topics in prewar Japanese American history. Of the eight essays, six have been previously published, and two are new, unpublished pieces, "Kokugo Gakko" [Chapter 4] and "National Security on the Eve of Pearl Harbor" [Chapter 9]. The published essays are reprinted here with minor changes and additions. All of the essays here are a sequel to my book The Issei: The World of the First Generation Japanese Immigrants, 1885-1924. I hope that these essays will stimulate future researchers to link the interwar period to studies of wartime years.

Several noteworthy studies devoted to the prewar period have been recently published. Eileen Tamura examines the Nisei [U.S.-born, second generation] in Hawaii and their acculturation under pressures to Americanize while forging a distinctive ethnic identity during the 1920s and 1930s. Jere Takahashi analyzes the shifting political perspective of the Nisei and Sansei [third] generations during the prewar, wartime, and postwar periods. David Yoo looks at the complex social, cultural, and religious milieu in which the Nisei came of age in the 1930s. Valerie Matsumoto probes into the prewar lives of young Nisei women. Lon Kurashige studies the history of the Nisei Week Festival in Los Angeles in terms of changing Japanese American ethnic identity. In all of these studies, however, notwithstanding the Issei generation's relationship to and influences on the Nisei generation, the Issei are conspicuously absent.

To broaden and deepen our historical understanding of the wartime years, the Issei generation should be studied in much greater depth. Many research topics remain untouched. Here the problem of language presents itself. Past and present researchers, with few exceptions, have failed to examine available Japanese language sources. To redress the imbalance caused by the almost exclusive reliance on English-language sources, future researchers must equip themselves with the necessary language skills to conduct research in Japanese-language sources. The best collection of such sources is the Japanese American Research Project Collection (JARP) at UCLA, which affords an unrivalled opportunity to explore almost every aspect of prewar, wartime, and postwar Issei life.

Five of the essays in this collection cover one aspect or another of the Issei generation during the prewar period. Taken together, they mark a small beginning in highlighting some of the significant continuities and discontinuities between the 1930s and 1940s. The essay "Kengakudan" [Chapter 3] examines the origin of organized Nisei tours of Japan and the Issei concept of the Nisei as a so-called bridge of understanding between Japan and the United States. Nisei tours began with the first two sponsored by the Nichibei Shimbun in 1925 and 1926 and continued through the 1930s under the sponsorship of various community organizations. The purpose of the tours was to give the Nisei firsthand exposure to Japanese society and culture in order to stimulate their interest in their ancestral land so that they would eventually assume the role of a bridge of understanding. Once war clouds began to hover over U.S.-Japan relations on the eve of Pearl Harbor, however, these tours were discontinued abruptly. At the same time, the concept of the Nisei as a bridge of understanding became an untenable ideal.

The next essay, "Kokugo Gakko," presents the Issei debate over the role of Japanese-language schools after the enactment of the 1924 Immigration Act, when Issei leaders and educators, in assessing the future of the Nisei generation, earnestly debated the pros and cons of maintaining such schools to educate the Nisei. The Issei did not operate Japanese-language schools to mold Nisei youngsters to be loyal "subjects" of the Japanese emperor as alleged by anti-Japanese exclusionists. There were considerable differences of opinion among Issei leaders and educators about the role of the schools; some even favored abolishing them altogether. In the end those in favor of the preservation of the schools prevailed over their opponents, and by the 1930s no one questioned the value of their continued existence.

The third essay on the Issei, "Japanese Immigrant Nationalism" [Chapter 8], covers the pro-Japan activities of the Issei after the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War in July 1937. Apart from a few Issei who ideologically opposed Japan's military aggression in China, the majority of Issei, regardless of class, gender, religion, or locale, overwhelmingly rallied behind their homeland. The United States Department of Justice arrested and detained all Issei who were classified as so-called dangerous enemy aliens in the immediate aftermath of Pearl Harbor. These Issei included officers in local Japanese associations and chambers of commerce; Japanese-language school principals and teachers; newspaper publishers, editors, and reporters; religious leaders, especially those of Buddhist and Shinto sects; and heads and officers of cultural organizations and women's societies. The government's classification of "dangerous enemy alien" was based on surveillance reports compiled by the FBI and military intelligence agencies on the Issei. Thus the wartime arrest and detention of Issei leaders classified as dangerous enemy aliens were directly related to their prewar pro-Japan activities.

This essay documents how the Issei supported their homeland during the Sino-Japanese War without comparing their pro-Japan activities to intelligence reports. It should be noted here that such activities were not criminal offenses punishable by law. Separate from acts of espionage, sabotage, or subversion, they were simply expressions of Issei nationalism and patriotic identification with their homeland's cause in Asia.

In the fourth Issei essay, "National Security on the Eve of Pearl Harbor" [Chapter 9], covering the Tachibana Incident of 1941, which did involve espionage, I probe into the activities of the Issei members of the Japanese Navy Association of Southern California, look at the surveillance reports of the FBI and Office of Naval Intelligence, and conclude that the arrest and detention of the implicated Issei were warranted [but not the denial of due process of law]. Future research should further explore and demonstrate how the pro-Japan activities of the Issei, contrary to that of the implicated Issei in the Tachibana Incident, wrongfully led the FBI to classify them as dangerous enemy aliens and to their wartime arrest, detention, and imprisonment.

Issei nationalism caused splits within the prewar Japanese community that resurfaced in the wartime internment camps. First, it created a deep rift between the Issei generation and segments of the Nisei generation. This rift was caused by the cooperation of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), the principal civic organization of the Nisei generation, with American intelligence agencies. The FBI and military intelligence solicited information from JACL leaders about Issei leaders in investigating the Issei political activities. Although the exact extent to which the JACL cooperated with the FBI and army and naval intelligence is as yet unclear, it is a fact that some leaders did act as informants. For example, the Anti-Axis Committees of the JACL in Los Angeles, formed on the eve of Pearl Harbor, actively cooperated with Lieutenant Commander Kenneth Ringle, naval intelligence officer of the Eleventh Naval District of Southern California. The information supplied by JACL informants served, in part, as the basis for the dangerous enemy alien classification, earning the JACL the reputation of being a "stoolie" organization before Pearl Harbor. In 1942, protest demonstrations, often of a violent and anti-JACL nature, erupted at Manzanar and other internment camps. The wartime expressions of anti-JACL sentiments had their origin in the JACL's prewar collusion with the FBI and military intelligence.

Issei nationalism was behind another split within the Japanese community. Dating back to the early 1920s, there was a small but vocal left within the community composed of a handful of Issei, Kibei, and a few Nisei, many of whom were members of the American Communist Party. Ideologically opposed to Japanese militarism and expansion onto the Asian continent, these leftists were always at odds with Issei leaders who patriotically backed Japan in the Sino-Japanese War. In Southern California Fujii Sei, Issei publisher and editor of the Kashu Mainichi and Shuji Fujii, Nisei editor of the Doho, a leftist weekly, engaged in heated exchanges over the Sino-Japanese War. Fujii Sei rabidly supported Japan and exhorted the Issei to do likewise, while Shuji Fujii denounced Fujii Sei and his patriotic Issei cohorts as pro-Japanese militarists. On the eve of Pearl Harbor, in accord with the Comintern's policy of a united front against fascism, the leftists urged Japanese-Americans to rally behind the JACL and its espousal of Americanism and allied themselves with the JACL through the war years.

"'Attorney for the Defense'" [Chapter 10] is devoted to Yamato Ichihashi, longtime professor of Japanese Studies at Stanford University and author of Japanese in the United States, published in 1932. Ichihashi was appointed to his Stanford professorship under special circumstances. After the enactment of the 1913 California Alien Land Law, the Japanese Foreign Ministry launched a "campaign of education" as a countermeasure to the anti-Japanese exclusion movement. The purpose of the campaign was to educate Americans about Japan and Japanese immigration. To accomplish this purpose in American higher education, the Foreign Ministry provided initial funds to Stanford University to enable it to hire Ichihashi in 1914 and subsequently endowed his position as a permanent chair. This essay covers the special circumstances of Ichihashi's appointment at Stanford, analyzes how he had to maintain a delicate balance between his obligations to the Japanese Foreign Ministry and to Stanford University, and examines how this sense of obligation influenced the writing and content of Japanese in the United States.

The balance of three essays is on the Nisei generation. [One is on a Slovenian observer of the Nisei in the late 1930s and 1940s.] The other two essays are devoted to specific individuals, two Nisei contemporaries in journalism. The essay "`Unity Within Diversity'" [Chapter 6] is on Louis Adamic and the Nisei in a Eurocentric America. Adamic was a forerunner of today's advocates of diversity and multiculturalism. In 1940 he came to the attention of Japanese Americans with the publication of his book From Many Lands, an anthology of stories about different immigrant groups, including a portrait of an alienated Nisei under the title "A Young American with a Japanese Face."

"A Study in Dualism" [Chapter 5] is on James Yoshinori Sakamoto (1901- 1955), publisher and editor of the Japanese American Courier. An English weekly newspaper, the Courier was published from 1928 to 1942 out of Seattle, Washington. Sakamoto was one of the founding fathers of the JACL and an ardent advocate of the Americanization of the Nisei generation. He was also an enthusiastic adherent of the ideal of the Nisei as a bridge of understanding between Japan and the United States. The ideal of a bridge took on a new political dimension in the wake of the 1931 Manchurian Incident and the establishment of the puppet state of Manchukuo by the Japanese government in 1932. From this time the Nisei were expected to explain and justify Japan's policy toward China. Throughout the 1930s Sakamoto consistently defended Japan's military actions in China. In sum, the Japanese American Courier served as a vehicle throughout the 1930s for Sakamoto to promote and advance his brand of Americanism and to practice the ideal of the Nisei as a bridge of understanding as he understood it.

"The Meaning of Loyalty" [Chapter 7] is on Nisei Kazumaro "Buddy" Uno. [A controversial figure to this day, Buddy Uno (1913-1954) sided with Japan during the Pacific War. His case "raises a fundamental historical question. What is the meaning of loyalty in a racist society?"]

[Ichioka's incomplete introduction ends here].

Chapter Two

Dai Nisei Mondai Changing Japanese Immigrant Conceptions of the Second-Generation Problem, 1902 - 1941

One of the recurring problems the Japanese immigrant generation faced was the vexatious question of the future of their American-born children, the Nisei. The Nisei became a recognizable element within the Japanese immigrant population from 1910. In 1900 there were only 269 Nisei children in the continental United States, but by 1910 the number of Nisei increased to 4,502. By 1920 the number multiplied more than sixfold to 29,672, and by 1930 the figure leaped to 68,357. Growing further to 79,642 by 1940, the Nisei outnumbered the Issei by two to one on the eve of Pearl Harbor. In the copious historical and sociological literature on the Nisei, very little, if any, attention has been paid to what the Issei called the "dai nisei mondai," or the second-generation problem. The Issei had many different expectations of the Nisei generation. Evolving over the years, these expectations reflected their own shifting orientation toward American society and the influences of the anti-Japanese exclusion movement, the maturation of the first-born Nisei, and the turn of political events in the Far East. This chapter will present a historical analysis of the Issei generation's changing conceptions of the second-generation problem from 1902 to 1941.

Nisei Education and Dual Nationality

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Japanese immigrants recognized no Nisei problem. The immigrants landed in the United States with a dekasegi ideal. Their goal was to earn money and then to return to their homeland, where, ideally, they would enjoy a retired life of ease. Three common phrases embodied the dekasegi ideal: toshu kuken, meaning to be empty-handed, described the destitute state in which the immigrants arrived; ikkaku senkin expressed the dream of striking it rich overnight; and kin'i kikyo meant to return home as wealthy persons, the dream of dreams. A dekasegi-rodosha was an itinerant laborer; a dekasegi-shosei was a student laborer. To educate the first-born Nisei children, the immigrants established Japanese-language schools very early, the first one in Seattle in 1902, followed by others in San Francisco, Sacramento, and other locales. The purpose of these early schools coincided with the dekasegi ideal. The schools were supposed to educate the Nisei to enable them to enroll in the public schools of Japan. In 1932 an Issei educator succinctly described this initial orientation:

In the past the majority of Japanese in America and Canada were under the sway of the dekasegi spirit. We crossed the vast Pacific in order to earn money. The land here was only a temporary place to earn a living, a travel lodge as it were, with our real home being in Japan where the cherry blossoms bloom. Hence we thought we had to educate our children accordingly. Some of us sent our children back to Japan to be cared for and educated by grandparents, siblings, or other relatives at home. For those unable to send children back ..., we felt compelled to offer a "Japanese" education to them here. To achieve this end, we founded special schools-Japanese schools and language institutes. During this period, these schools mainly had the purpose of preparing the children to return to Japan.


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