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[COMMUNITY] Japanese Americans' 1st Arrivals & Labors

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  • madchinaman
    First Arrivals and Their Labors http://www.vancouver.wsu.edu/crbeha/ja/ja.htm Japanese immigrants first came to the Pacific Northwest in the 1880s, when
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 10 7:14 PM
      First Arrivals and Their Labors

      Japanese immigrants first came to the Pacific Northwest in the 1880s,
      when federal legislation that excluded further Chinese immigration
      created demands for new immigrant labor. Railroads in particular
      recruited Issei ┬ľor first generation immigrants--from Hawaii and
      Japan. Thousands of Japanese workers helped construct the Great
      Northern, Northern Pacific, Oregon Short Line and other railroads in
      the Columbia River Basin. By 1907, the Japanese comprised about 40
      percent of Oregon's total railroad labor force. These workers
      commanded higher wages from railroad companies as the sugar beet
      industry began competing for their labor.

      Japanese in larger cities like Portland provided rooming houses,
      restaurants, stores, social contacts, and employment services that
      helped new immigrants get established in the region. Shintaro Takaki
      came to Portland to sell Japanese goods to Chinese merchants and by
      1889 had started a restaurant in the city. Takaki soon became a labor
      contractor and helped make Portland a center for distributing
      immigrant workers to fish canneries, farms, sawmills, and railroads
      throughout the Pacific Northwest. The city's Japanese immigrants
      established Buddhist and Methodist churches and other associations
      that nurtured their cultural as well as economic life.

      As new irrigation projects expanded sugar beet production in the West
      during the early 1900s, employers such as the Utah and Idaho Company
      actively recruited the Issei to work farms in the Snake River Valley,
      often trading seasonal labor with railroads. Hajimu "Henry" Fujii
      worked in a Seattle restaurant, in sugar beet fields near Billings,
      and for a railroad in Missoula before joining a sugar beet crew near
      Emmett, Idaho. At the end of the beet season he was hired on with a
      railroad crew near Nampa. In 1908, he formed a partnership with his
      brother and a friend to lease an 80-acre farm near Emmett.

      Soon Japanese immigrants spread throughout the Northwest to provide
      farm labor, hoping to eventually own their own farms. Like many
      Americans, many Issei saw independent farming as the way to move up
      the economic ladder. Most came from farming backgrounds in Japan.
      Often unable to purchase land because of discrimination, many Issei
      eventually found land to lease to gain more autonomy over their
      labor. For example, Toji Fujimoto came to Idaho in the early 1900s to
      work as a beet laborer for the Utah and Idaho Sugar Company. He saved
      his wages to rent 180 acres to grow his own beets, and his father,
      brothers, and picture bride soon joined him. Similar migrations to
      Idaho increased the Japanese population in the state to over 1,500 by

      Establishing Communities

      Japanese American settlements began to grow in other rural
      communities of the Columbia River Basin. After working on a fishing
      boat in Alaska, as a cook in a Spokane hotel, and harvesting hops and
      fruit in the Yakima Valley, Kameichi Ono became part of a growing
      Japanese American community in the Valley, where almost a thousand
      immigrants found they could work and lease irrigated Reservation
      lands. In 1902, sixteen-year-old Masuo Yasui landed in Seattle,
      worked for a railroad gang in Montana and then entered domestic
      service for a Portland family. He later became a labor contractor and
      a leader in the city's Japanese community. Excited by the natural
      beauty and farming possibilities in nearby Hood River, Yasui wrote to
      his brother Renichi Fujimoto requesting help to establish a store and
      settlement in the Columbia River town. By 1910, the valley's Japanese
      population had grown to 468, almost 6 percent of Hood River
      residents, where they struggled to clear stump land and develop
      prosperous orchards and vegetable farms.

      Despite the Issei's hard work in the early twentieth century, envy
      and racial discrimination led to increasing anti-Japanese attitudes
      on the West Coast, much as the sentiment had developed against
      perceived Chinese competition. Residents of Mountain Home, Nampa, and
      Caldwell, Idaho drove out Japanese workers, and white mobs near Coeur
      d'Alene and in Portland threatened Japanese railroad workers.
      Tensions led to the so-called "Gentleman's Agreement" between the
      U.S. and Japan that effectively limited after 1908 the numbers of
      laborers that could emigrate from Japan. Instead, the two governments
      allowed wives and brides to join earlier male immigrants in the
      United States, changing the character of the immigrant community.

      Many Issei women were disappointed with their new homes, far from
      families and friends, which often required enduring discrimination
      and hard work to survive. Teiko Tomita's family arranged a marriage
      with Masakazu Tomita, a farmer near Wapato. In 1921 she arrived with
      her new husband in Washington and found that their primitive cabin
      had neither electricity nor water, to which she had been accustomed
      in Japan. Henry Fujii had saved enough money to return to Japan to
      marry and brought his new wife to Idaho. Fumiko Mayeda Fujii
      encountered a crude cabin on the Emmett, Idaho farm that her new
      husband leased, which she had to share with his partner and family.
      She had to learn a range of new skills, including baking bread,
      sewing, and speaking English. Linda Tamura found in oral history
      interviews with Hood River Issei that immigrant women, who hoped for
      adventure and prosperity, were often disappointed with American food,
      their dirty and uncomfortable surroundings, and their much older
      husbands. They were overwhelmed with loneliness as well as strenuous
      physical labor.
      Although they may have initially come to the United States to save
      money and return to Japan, the birth of their children persuaded many
      Issei to remain in their adopted country and strengthen their
      communities. By the 1920s, the numbers of Japanese American families
      had grown significantly, and a high percentage had moved from
      migratory work to own businesses or farms.

      Resisting Discrimination

      Post-World War I nativist activists, including the Hood River Anti-
      Alien Association, pressured states to pass laws prohibiting Japanese
      immigrants from leasing or owning land. At the federal level, the
      National Origins Act of 1924 limited European immigration and
      essentially excluded any further Japanese immigration.

      The Columbia River Basin Issei fought discriminatory actions and
      legislation through public appeals and the courts, insisting on their
      status as hard-working, loyal Americans. Although Japanese immigrants
      leased less than 8 percent of Yakima Indian Reservation acreage, many
      whites in Yakima claimed that Issei were "crowding out" other
      farmers. Through the 1920s, Japanese Americans in the Yakima Valley
      defended their right to reside there as they disputed their
      characterization as "menace" in the Yakima Herald, reminding the
      community of their important economic role in clearing farmland. They
      also purchased World War I bonds and embraced local Americanization
      and English-language efforts. Hood River Japanese refuted charges
      hurled at them by the Anti-Alien Association and American Legion and
      demonstrated their commitment to the valley by improving the
      appearance of their homes and promising to limit further immigration
      to the area. The Japanese Farmers' Association contributed over a
      thousand dollars to the Oregon Japanese Association's efforts to halt
      the anti-Japanese legislation. In 1925, after a mob of seventy-five
      in Toledo, Oregon forcibly evicted thirty-five Japanese working at
      Pacific Spruce Corporation, five of the workers sued some of their
      assailants. A 1926 Oregon jury awarded damages to the Japanese.

      The Issei also sought to retain their rightful place in communities
      by circumventing discriminatory state laws that banned their owning
      or leasing land. Some immigrant residents sub-leased land from
      American citizens and others registered lands in the names of their
      Nisei children, who were American citizens because of birth.
      Nonetheless, the land laws and immigration restrictions effectively
      halted the growth of Japanese American farming in the Northwest.
      Other discriminatory legislation prompted a 30 percent decline in
      Oregon's Japanese population by 1928.

      Idaho's Issei successfully fought anti-Japanese legislation for a
      number of years through the lobbying efforts of the 150-member
      Japanese Association of Western Idaho, the sugar industry, and
      churches. Japanese Americans considered their efforts somewhat
      successful; while restrictive legislation finally passed in 1923
      prohibiting land ownership, it allowed renewable leases, making Idaho
      the only state in the West where Issei could lease land.

      Japanese American Associations and Culture

      While struggling for a place in American society, the Issei sought to
      retain ties to Japan, foster ethnic traditions, and teach their
      American-born children those cultural traditions. Denied American
      citizenship because of their "race," they formed chapters of the
      Japanese Association of America to maintain official links with
      Japan, to fight discriminatory legislation, and to provide mutual aid
      and social activities for its members. Yakima Valley Issei raised
      funds to construct an Association building in Wapato and dedicated it
      in 1920. Japanese Americans erected a Community Hall in Hood River
      and established a Japanese Methodist church in Odell. Christian and
      Buddhist congregations flourished, as did a number of Japanese
      schools in the region. For example, in the 1920s the Wapato Language
      School, which met in the Japanese Association building, had about 200
      students. A Works Progress Administration (WPA) ethnologist found the
      Yakima Japanese American community preserving traditional
      celebrations after three decades in Washington. For example, on New
      Year's Day, families visited one another, eating special dishes of
      rice cakes, herring eggs, and carrots. Families observed Girls' Day
      on March 3, when girls placed their dolls on display in the home, and
      Boys' Day on May 5, when carp, symbolizing happiness and strength,
      were represented in kites and prepared in a special dish.

      Baseball teams brought together Issei and Nisei generations and
      Japanese American communities scattered throughout the Northwest. The
      Wapato Nippons won their first league pennant in 1934, receiving
      praise from the local press and white fans. Many of the team's star
      players received their early training by playing on their integrated
      high school team, helping Wapato High win regional championships in
      the 1920s. The annual Japanese Northwest Fourth of July Baseball
      Tournament attracted thousands from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

      Japanese Americans sought to educate their neighbors and to ease
      discrimination by promoting Japanese heritage, trade, and friendship.
      The Japan Society of Portland and the Portland Japanese Women's
      Society sponsored numerous cultural and diplomatic events. Each year
      the Wapato Language school held a special event for the larger
      community in which it showcased Japanese dance, music, and ceremony.
      In response to a friendship project initiated by the Federal Council
      of the Churches of Christ, the Japanese Committee on International
      Friendship Among Children formed and sent Japanese doll messengers to
      all of the states before Christmas 1927. "Miss Nara" was displayed in
      store windows throughout Idaho before being donated to the Idaho
      State Historical Society for safekeeping.

      The Nisei hoped to realize their immigrant parents' dreams to find
      success in the United States through American citizenship and its
      benefits. Beginning in the 1920s, intent on promoting Americanization
      as well as pursuing their civil rights, they formed Japanese American
      Citizen League (JACL) chapters in many Northwest communities. The
      Yakima Valley JACL sent representatives to the first national JACL
      convention held in Seattle in August 1930.

      Japanese Americans and World War II

      Despite their attempts to prove their "Americanness," both Nisei and
      Issei were targeted in the anti-Japanese hysteria that swept the
      country with the onset of World War II. West Coast agricultural
      interests, which had long sought to undercut Japanese immigrants'
      success in farming through state exclusion laws, pressured the
      national government and local media to remove Japanese Americans
      because of their ostensible threat to national security. The military
      and federal government initially called for Japanese Americans to
      voluntarily relocate to the interior, but politicians such as
      Governor Chase Clark of Idaho vigorously opposed such a plan. Clark
      blocked California Japanese families from purchasing land in Idaho,
      and actively discouraged others from relocating. Yet Idaho would soon
      become "home" for 10,000 West Coast Japanese Americans removed from
      their real homes and sent to its Minidoka internment camp.

      On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued
      Executive Order 9066, which ordered the removal of 120,000 Japanese
      Americans from the West Coast to ten inland concentration camps
      located in isolated areas in seven states. Those removed were first
      incarcerated in "Assembly Centers," including the Portland livestock
      pavilion. The Minidoka camp, located north of Twin Falls near Hunt,
      opened in August 1942 and housed 10,000 Issei and Nisei internees,
      mostly from western Washington and Oregon. Yakima Valley Japanese
      Americans were interned at Heart Mountain, Wyoming, and Hood River
      Japanese were sent to Tule Lake in northern California. Japanese
      Americans living in Idaho, eastern Oregon, and in Washington east of
      the Columbia River escaped incarceration. Some 256 Issei from all
      parts of the West and even Peru were interned at the Immigration and
      Naturalization Service (INS) facility near Kooskia, Idaho. The
      Japanese internees helped construct the major highway that links
      Lewiston, Idaho, to Lolo, Montana.

      Two-thirds of those interned were American citizens. A number of
      courageous Nisei, including Minoru Yasui of Hood River, challenged
      the constitutionality of the curfew and evacuation and were
      imprisoned for their challenges. Other Nisei demonstrated their
      courage by joining the service. The famous 442nd Regimental Combat
      team, made up entirely of Japanese Americans, became the war's most
      decorated unit.

      Despite their illegitimate persecution and the harsh, cramped,
      unsanitary conditions of the camps, residents tried to reconstruct
      their lives behind barbed-wire fences and guard towers. At Minidoka,
      people grew flowers in the dry soil, formed musical groups, published
      a newspaper, played on sports teams, developed crafts, and seized
      opportunities to leave their confinement. In late 1943 some Minidoka
      residents obtained work releases to help on area farms or to move
      elsewhere in the United States.

      Some parts of the Columbia River Basin welcomed the internees.
      Japanese American labor became critical to the sugar beet industry
      during the war, when tens of thousands of former internees worked
      Utah and Idaho Sugar Company holdings. Under the leadership of
      Ontario mayor Elmo Smith, the southeastern Oregon farming community
      invited internees to help fill service and farm jobs. By the end of
      the war, one thousand Japanese Americans had settled in the Ontario
      area, giving Malheur County the largest percentage of Japanese
      Americans in Oregon.

      Recovering Community and Remembering History in the Postwar Era
      The war represented a turning point for Japanese American
      communities. As a result of their internment, Japanese Americans lost
      homes, jobs, businesses, friends, and savings. Many Issei and Nisei
      never returned to the Columbia River Basin. The town of Hood River
      made it clear that it did not welcome former Japanese American
      residents, and greeted them with signs such as "No Jap Trade Wanted,"
      petitions, and removing from the town's memorial board the names of
      Nisei soldiers who served in the war. Many of the released Nisei
      sought jobs and education in the East or in California; others made
      their homes in larger cities in the Northwest, such as Seattle,
      Spokane, and Portland, or in farm communities in the Snake River
      Valley of southeastern Oregon and southwestern Idaho.

      The mass incarceration represented one of the most serious violations
      of civil liberties in American history. No Japanese Americans
      committed any act of espionage or sabotage, and none were ever
      charged with a crime. The government suppressed its own evidence that
      there was no military necessity for incarcerating Japanese Americans.
      Racial prejudice, pressures from the army, and West Coast economic
      interests inspired the government's actions.

      In the years following the war, Japanese Americans worked
      successfully to remove state discriminatory legislation and to
      restore full citizenship and land ownership rights. The 1952 passage
      of the Walter-McCarran Act allowed Japanese immigrants to become
      naturalized citizens of the United States. In the 1970s, Japanese
      Americans and their supporters began a decades-long redress movement
      that ultimately pressured Congress and the President to formally
      apologize and provide monetary compensation to the surviving
      internees in 1988. The road to redress also helped heal the rifts
      within the Japanese American community, between those who resisted
      the draft, to protest the government's civil rights violations, and
      those who tried to silence this history for fear of being labeled as

      In the postwar period communities formed anew, revived older
      institutions, acknowledged the past in public ways, and embraced
      Japanese American cultural traditions. Buddhists from southwest Idaho
      and southeastern Oregon established a temple in Ontario in 1947 and
      built a new one in 1957. The Oregon Nikkei Endowment dedicated a
      memorial garden and historical plaza in Portland's Tom McCall
      Waterfront Park in 1990. In 1991, the Snake River chapter of the JACL
      raised funds to launch a $10 million cultural center in Ontario to
      honor those relocated or interned. Scholars and activists initiated
      the Densho (meaning to leave a legacy) Project in Seattle in 1996 to
      create oral histories with Japanese Americans who were incarcerated
      and to provide digital documentary resources to educate the public
      and promote democratic principles. The Sansei, or third-generation
      Japanese Americans, played an important role in commemorating the
      history of the Issei and Nisei experience and in reviving Japanese
      cultural arts. Taiko drumming groups, for example, first formed in
      the mid-1970s, became even more popular in the 1990s, attracting non-
      Japanese Americans as well as Sansei.
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