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Rei’s Newspaper

Feb 17, 2012

The Deep History of Japanese Immigration

In these days, a great number of Japanese go to the United States. It depends on people why and how long they go to the US. Business trip, study abroad, traveling for 5 days, 2 weeks, one months, and some people live in the US for their entire life. In this way, Japanese freely travel back and forth between the two countries, Japan and the US nowadays. However, there is a long, deep, and dark cultural background to overcome trials and tribulations. I found an old newspaper from about 100 years ago on New-York tribune (April 16, 1905) about “Japanese Immigration” on the website, Chronicling America Project from the Library of Congress. For Activity1, I am going to analyze and explain the history of Japanese immigration by using several old newspapers, and information from my own research. In 1885, 127 years ago, Japanese started to emigrat to Hawaii under an agreement between Japan and Hawaii. In those days, Japan was at the bottom of an economic depression, and also Japan had concern about surplus population. Young Japanese went to Hawaii to work and make money to support their family in Japan. As it mentioned in other old local newspaper, El Paso herald in Texas (from July 29, 1920 ), several years later, some Japanese went back to Japan, and others moved to the West Coast America. As it says “Washington, Oregon and California is particular seem to represent an earthly paradise to the Japanese because of their favorable climate and fertile soil. As a result, about four-fifths of the total Japanese population in the United States live in these three states.” Same as in Hawaii, Japanese were treated as contract labors, and worked for small wages as working on the rail roads, in canning factory, clear away forest, fruits picking etc. Chinese and Portuguese used to do these hard jobs, but it is falling

mainly to Japanese laborers. It is because wages for Japanese labors were so small, and cannot even compare to the poorer classes of European such as Italians, Greeks, and Portuguese. Japanese labors couldn’t become US citizens, so they stop even desiring to assimilate with American people. Eventually Japanese labors started to work for Japanese immigrants in the US to stabilize the environment for Japanese immigrants. For example, they set up several new companies such as newspaper publisher for Japanese, phonograph parlors, billiard rooms, beer cellars, and social clubs. They succeeded with new companies. However American people had a bad impression of Japanese labors because Japanese labors worked for less than minimum wage so many American people lost their jobs because of Japanese labors. Gradually, American people’s bad impression of Japanese was escalated into serious race discrimination. The more the number of Japanese labors had been increased, the more American people felt an increasing anger. In San Francisco in 1905, agitation has begun against unregulated immigration of Japanese labors, and also employment of Japanese labors. This movement of anti-Japanese agitation spread over the West coast. It was almost same problem with Chinese immigration about 25 years earlier. In 1908, two of the state laws about Japanese immigration finally went into effect. One is about prohibiting Japanese immigrants from purchasing and owning own agricultural land in the US. The other one is about restricting the immigration of Japanese male laborers to the US. This law is only for male immigrants who go to the US to work, but allowed their wives and kids, and also students and diplomats to move the US.


There were several Japanese leaders who supported Japanese immigrants after the law came into force in the US. Kyutaro Abiko was one of the leaders, and also was the publisher of the daily Nichibei Shimbun (*Nichibei means Japan-US, shinbun means newspaper) in San Francisco. This newspaper written in English, and the newspaper included a lot of helpful information for Japanese immigrants. Many of Japanese immigrants trusted Abiko, and supported him as he supported them. Not only newspaper publisher but also he founded the company called Japanese American Business Promotion Company. Abiko encouraged Japanese immigrants to be independently farmers from labors.

In the years following the war, due to The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, immigrants including Japanese were able to enter the US again, and also restore the full US citizenship. In the 1970s, Japanese immigrants and their supporters began the movement that put pressure upon the Congress and the President to formally apologize, and ordered to provide financial compensation to the Japanese immigrants.

One century has gone, and Japanese can freely come and go to the US. According to Japan Tourism Marketing Co., 2,713,275 Japanese traveled abroad from Japan to the US in 2011. Japanese legally and freely go to the US on vacation, study abroad, business trip, live and work in the US with Visa. Many Japanese get married to American people in nowadays, but it was infrequent just few decades ago. Now Japanese can go to the US for their individual purpose whenever they want. It is because of Japanese immigrants’ enormous effort and many years of hardship about 100 years ago. In 1920, he also worked on “Picture Brides” system. Abiko recommended this system to Japanese male immigrants. Through “Picture Brides”, Japanese women came to the US the number of 4,000 yearly at the time in 1912. In old news paper, El Paso herald in Texas (from July 29, 1920 ) explained about “Picture Brides” as that Japanese love their traditions so intermarriage was not common in the US at that time. With the help of leaders such as Kyutaro Abiko, it seemed the situation of Japanese immigrants has improved in the US. However, many American people didn’t allow what Japanese immigrants were doing in the US, and Anti-Japanese agitation never stopped. Eventually The Immigration Act was signed into law in 1924. This law restrict the number of immigrants from Japan to come across to the US. Not only Japan but also it limited the number of immigrants from each countries to enter, and limited only two percent of the number of each nationality could stay in the US. Immigration Act of 1924 was to maintain the homogeneity of American ideals.


Rei Project 1