by Kazuko Kuramoto

Issei, Nisei, Sansei


Literally speaking, the Japanese terms Issei, Nisei, and Sansei simply mean first, second, and third generation, and are generally used in Japan to distinguish the same name European emperors (Japanese emperors do not repeat the names of the predecessors) or popes, etc. such as "Napoleon Issei (Napoleon I)," "Napoleon Nisei (Napoleon II)," and "Napoleon Sansei (Napoleon III)." However, Webster's dictionary of 1991 defines Issei as "a Japanese immigrant to North America, esp. one who came to the U.S. prior to World War II and was ineligible for citizenship before 1952," and Nisei "a child of Japanese immigrants, born and educated in North America," while Sansei is defined as "a grandchild of Japanese immigrants to North America." Moreover, added to Issei, Nisei, and Sansei is another term, Kibei, which is not found in the Japanese dictionary. It is defined in Webster's as "a person of Japanese descent, born in North America but educated mainly in Japan."

That the Japanese terms Issei, Nisei, and Sansei found their way into American vocabulary with American definitions is interesting enough, but its use to separate Kibei, who are also born in the United States, from Nisei is quite significant. Such distinctive classification within one community does not exist among other immigrants. It strongly reflects Japanese Americans' struggling history; the extremely emotional conflict that occurred between many Kibei and Nisei when taking stand as to their loyalty while they were confined in so-called "relocation camps" during World War II. Nisei's deeply emotional and tenaciou reaction to American society -- their birthrights jeopardized; their loyalty questioned -- drove their commitment to rectify the racial discrimination and legal injustice to which their parents had been subjected. Nisei risked their lives, or died, to protect their birthright and to prove their loyalty to their country, the United States of America. And they were not about to yield to their parents' passive and fatalistic "shikata ga nai (it cannot be helped)" attitude. They decided that the racial discrimination and legal injustice can be rectified; and it must be rectified. Not that Issei did not challenge injustice. They, in fact, fought against it in their limited way. "As early as 1891, a Japanese worker . . . argued before the Hawaii Supreme Court that the contract labor system was a form of slavery" (Okihiro 4). But they lacked organizational support. Also, being denied the right to citizenship, Issei simply did not have the fundamental legal power to fight the legal injustice. They were forced to "bend with the wind" as Japanese would put it. But they did not give up. They found loopholes such as buying land and properties in the name of their small children who were U. S. citizens.

My Husband's Family

My husband, Yoso, is a Nisei, whose family history goes back to his grandfather, Soroku Kuramoto, who came to Tacoma, Washington from Hiroshima, Japan, via Hawaii in 1889. He brought three sons with him, leaving his sickly wife with her family. Yoso never knew his grandmother as she eventually died in Japan. Their second son, Harry Satoru Kuramoto, was Yoso's father. Harry was a teenager then. He worked as a houseboy and attended American high school while his father operated a general store in Fife. According to an article in Buddhist Churches of America: 75 Year History, 1899 - 1974, " in 1890, there were 90 Japanese residents in Tacoma" (261). And as the port of Tacoma was opened to Japanese ships, the population of Japanese immigrants in Pierce County increased. "Tillable land was mostly taken up by the early white settlers so that the Japanese immigrants in Pierce County did what their counterparts were doing in California, applied hard work and ingenuity to transform marsh and stump lands into productive acreage." By the early twentieth century, about 1500 Japanese had settled in Pierce County, "600 of which in Tacoma, the rest in the surrounding farmlands of Fife, Tidehaven, Firwood, Puyallup, Sumner, Alderton, Eatonville, National and Orting. With the settled community life, a need for spiritual guidance was recognized. . . It was then that Soroku Kuramoto of Fife, Washington, came up with a plan to invite Rev. Hoshin Fujii of the Seattle Buddhist Church to his home to conduct services for his family and friends. Kuramoto . . . was a respected leader not only in Fife but in the Northwest. During the years 1910 to 1915, Rev. Fujii often visited Fife to conduct services in the back room of the general store" (262).

In 1909, Harry, at the age of twenty-two, went back to Japan to marry Ryo Wada as arranged by his father's family in Japan. However, since she was only seventeen and still going to Hiroshima Girls' High School, she joined her husband when she finished her schooling in the following year. By then the Kuramotos were operating a hotel called Hiroshimaya in Tacoma. In 1914, when their first son was three years old, the family sold the hotel business, bought farm lands in their son's name in Fife and nearby areas, and moved to Fife. The farming business expanded and eventually they ran the packing shed in Sumner, about fifteen miles from Fife. I had an opportunity to know my mother-in-law personally in her last years, and from what I gathered she was from a wealthy family. At the time when I was taking care of her in 1977 to 1979, she was seriously senile, but remembered her happy and very sheltered childhood life remarkably well. She told me that her mother had died when she was ten, leaving four daughters with her husband who was a Lietenant General in the Japanese Imperial Army, and each daughter had been provided with a personal nursemaid since birth as was customary among people of their station. She used to say that she may not have married anyone who would take her out of country had her mother been still living. However, it was not against her wish that she came to the United States. She had always wanted to see America as did many young people at that time. America represented future, prosperity, and dreams. When she married Harry S. Kuramoto her father gave her a dowry of one thousand dollars. I have no idea how much it was worth in 1909, but in 1979, after World War II relocation experience in which the family had lost everything, she still regarded it as a small fortune that she could call her own, and wished to leave it with her youngest son, Yoso. I sincerely thanked her for it every time she mentioned it because I knew how much reciprocation would mean to a Japanese. She was a proud daughter of Samurai.

Either because of her personal integrity or because her memories were selective, she never complained about the hardship she must have had in leaving her own family, culture, and country. Yoso once told me that as a small child he was determined never to marry anyone from Japan as he had often watched her silentt weeping over the letters from home. It does not take much imagination to understand how hard it must have been for her to come to the United States at the age of barely eighteen, and take on the responsibility of the wife of an immigrant, her extremely sheltered upbringing hindering her effort like a steel ball chained to her every lonely step of adjustment in the New World. Like many other Issei, she came to the United States with high hopes and died in utter disillusion.

Issei - Their Background

Japan had been a closed country until Commodore Mathew C. Perry's black ship appeared in Tokyo Bay in 1853 to force granting of American trading rights. When American consul Townsend Harris arrived in 1856, not only was the treaty with U. S. expanded, but the concessions with France, Great Britain, Russia, and the Netherlands were also opened. This alarmed many Japanese. They saw a need to return political power to imperial rule as a unifying force against foreign domination, and in 1868 overthrew the Tokugawa shogunate, ending more than two hundred years of feudalism. The rapid era of modernization, industrialization, and militarization followed, and was expected to be financed by farmers. The Meiji government required farmers to pay an annual fixed tax on land. "During the 1880s . . . over 300,000 lost their lands because of their inability to pay the land taxes" (Takaki 43).

Issei in California

The first Issei settlers in California came to San Francisco Bay on May 27, 1869 (Okihiro 2). This exploratory party of samurai, farmers and tradesmen, and four women had been displaced from their homes by the political forces that ended the Tokugawa shogunate. "They established a Tea and Silk Farm Colony on 600 acres of land" (Okihiro 2). The colony survived less than two years because of the dry California soil, however, this says much about the Japanese American story; that they were not sojourners, they came with the intention of settling. While a good number of Issei returned to Japan, "most, whether out of choice or circumstance, made America their home, married and had children, and were buried in the soil they had laid claim to by making it productive" (Okihiro 2).

Takaki describes how Issei came with the strong sense of national pride promoted by the newly reinforced imperial government, which was able to regulate emigration:

Driven by a rising nationalism, the government viewed overseas Japanese as representatives of their homeland and required prospective emigrants to apply for permission to leave for Hawaii and the United States. Review boards screened them to ensure that they were healthy and literate and would creditably maintain Japan's national honor. (46)

For Issei who came to California, the timing was in their favor. They came when agricultural industry in California was on its way up because of the invention of refrigeration, the development of irrigation, and the completion of the national railroad:

The development of irrigation in California at this time opened the way for intensive agriculture and the shift from grain crops to fruit and vegetable production. Between 1879 and 1909, the value of crops representing intensiveagriculture skyrocketed from 4 percent to 50 percent of all crops grown in California. (Takaki 189)

The agriculture by the Japanese immigrants flourished in California. By 1920, "the Japanese controlled a total of 458,056 acres" (Takaki 190). They converted marginal lands into profitable agricultural fields and orchards. "In 1920 the agricultural production of Japanese farms was valued at $67 million - approximately 10 percent of the total value of California's crops" (Takaki 191).

Issei as Settlers

This success in agriculture transformed Japanese immigrants from sojourners to settlers. Takaki gives us many examples of hard-working, highly motivated Japanese farmers. The one who impressed me most was the man called Abiko, who was well-educated and possessed the strong leadership. He was concerned about the future of the Japanese in America, and called out to the Japanese farmers to cast away the sojourner's mentality, and live respectable lives, worthy of acceptance in American society. "His newspaper, the Nichibei Shinbun, became the voice of his vision" (Takaki 196). He created a Japanese farming community, Yamato Colony, in San Joaquin Valley of California.

Fertile fields moistened by sweat, Abiko hoped, would bring respect to the Japanese and an end to the insults directed against them as 'strangers' ; lands transformed would trumpet Japanese dreams of settlement in America. (197)

What I found most moving was the fact that those Japanese pioneers chose a site for a cemetery as soon as settled in Yamato Colony. It illustrates their determination to make a permanent home in America; a painful decision to cut off the family ties, cultural ties, and national ties and to become the soil of their adoptive land.

Racial Discrimination and Legal Injustice against IsseiThose dedicated Japanese settlers, however, faced the racial discrimination as did the Chinese before them although it was not demonstrated with violence. It was the success of the Japanese farmers that drew the white workers' jealousy. They viewed Japanese as more dangerous than the Chinese had been as competitors, and created an anti-Japanese atmosphere. To fight back the racial discrimination, the Japanese organized a union, Japanese-Mexican Labor Association in 1903. But it only lasted for a few years. The American Federation of Labor, under Gomper's leadership, killed the possibility of class solidarity it offered.

In the meantime, Japanese exclusion movement became stronger, and it led to the Gentlemen's Agreement of 1908. This was a political trade off proposed by President Theodore Roosevelt: in exchange for the acceptance of Japanese children to public schools in California, the Japanese government was expected to cut off the immigration of Japanese laborers.

This legal persecution was followed by California's state law, The Alien Land Law of 1913, which denied land ownership to Japanese immigrants as aliens ineligible to citizenship. The right to citizenship had been denied to all nonwhite immigrants by the national immigration law of 1790, and since the Chinese immigration had been prohibited by The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, it was obviously aimed at the Japanese farmers.

Then by The Ladies' Agreement of 1921 , Japan barred the emigration of the picture bride, virtually ending Japanese immigration. But what officially stopped the immigration of Japanese was the Immigration Act of 1924, declaring that no one ineligible for citizenship may immigrate. "Rejected and isolated, Issei came to rely heavily on one another as Japanese in order to survive" (Takaki 210). The irony of this discrimination was that racism was stirred by the very success of the hard-working pioneer Japanese and their effort to assimilate. Instead of applause for their effort, they were viewed more of a threat to white society than any other nonwhites. It disheartened many Issei, and some went back to Japan. But most of them stayed.

"We live here" declared George Shima, . . . " we have cast our lot with California. Our interest is here, and our fortune is irrevocably wedded to the state in which we have been privileged to toil and make a modest contribution to the development of its resources." (Takaki 212)

Nisei - Their Background

Nisei became the only hope for the future of Japanese in America. Nisei were determined that they would not be "Japs" forever. What Issei did for Nisei was to give them higher education as much as possible. "The average educational level of Nisei was two years of college - well above the national average. Still, they found themselves cut off from employment opportunity" (Takaki 218).

Take Yoso's brothers, for instance. The oldest brother, Toru, who graduated from the College of Puget Sound (University of Puget Sound today), majoring in business, has spent his whole life farming. The next brother, Comp, majored in engineering in the University of Washington, now is retired, but worked for an agricultural shipping company, and Yoso's brother-in-law, who held bachelor of science degree from University of Washington, has spent his whole life selling seeds for a seed company.

Nisei also suffered from their dual identity. They were native Americans, and yet were viewed as "strangers" just as were their parents. While they learned American values at school, they were taught Japanese values at home. They were forbidden to speak Japanese at school while Japanese was spoken at home, although their Japanese was very limited as was their Issei parents' English. They were not able to share their ideals and thoughts with their Issei parents, and gradually Nisei became separated from their Japanese roots.

World War II and Relocation

On December 7, 1941, the fate of all Japanese in the United States, citizen or/and non-citizen, took a sudden turn. Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Shame, anger, and fear dropped on all Japanese in the United States like black clouds while hysteria seized the whole country, especially on the West Coast. The discussion of removal of "all Japs" from the war zone immediately followed. And despite the fact that the naval intelligence investigation and the FBI agreed that no sabotage had occurred; that Army's fear was groundless; and Hoover's conclusion that "the proposed mass evacuation of the Japanese could not be justified for security reasons," the mass evacuation of all Japanese, aliens and citizens, was carried out. On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066: which directed the Secretary of War to prescribe military areas: with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion. (Takaki 391)

The order did not specify the Japanese as the group to be excluded, but when the question of Germans and Italians on the East Coast came up, the President wrote to Stimson (Secretary of War), "that he considered enemy alien control to be 'primarily a civilian matter except in the case of the Japanese mass evacuation on the Pacific Coast' " (Takaki 392). Thus, the total of 120,000 Japanese, two-thirds of them American citizens, were incarcerated in ten different relocation centers on federal land in desolate places. The average age of Nisei at the time was early 20s, and while Issei reacted to this tragedy with silent numbness, Nisei were infuriated. " 'Doesn't my citizenship mean a single blessed thing to anyone?' " (Takaki 392) they asked. Some Nisei challenged the laws forced upon them. Minoru Yasui of Portland, a graduate of the University of Oregon School of Law, and Gordon Hirabayashi in Seattle, a senior at the University of Washington, challenged the constitutionality of the curfew order, while Fred Korematsu in California refused to report to the evacuation center. Yasui stated, " ' It was my belief that no military authority has the right to subject any United States citizen to any requirement that does not equally apply to all other citizens.' " (Takaki 392)

Most Japanese, however, complied with evacuation orders. Taking only what they could carry, they left everything behind; homes, farms, furniture, cars, etc., and headed for the unknown destination.

Yoso's Family

Yoso was still in high school, but his oldest brother, Toru, was drafted into the United States Army in March 1942; the second brother, Comp, volunteered twice but was turned down both times because of a heart murmur. In May 1942, Yoso, his parents, Comp, and his sister June, along with other persons of Japanese ancestry living in the Auburn area were evacuated via train, with window shades drawn, to Pinedale Assembly Center near Fresno, California. They were housed in barracks-like structures which had asphalt floors and steel Army cots. They were given mattress covers to fill with straw for their mattresses. Each family was assigned to one room approximately 20' x 20' without a ceiling, and they could hear their neighbors' conversations. They were fed in the community mess halls in shifts, and shared the partitionless communal bathrooms, which caused some of the women great discomfort. The outer perimeter of this camp had barbed-wire fences with towers on each corner manned by armed soldiers. As Yoso recounts, the sight of armed soldiers on the guard towers and the barbed- wire fences made him realize what he had really lost -- his freedom: because of his Japanese ancestry. However, the internees were allowed to leave the camp if they had jobs and employers acted as their sponsors. Comp soon left to work in Utah, and Yoso also left for New Jersey in 1944 when he finished high school.

Conflict in Camp

The internees reacted to the incarceration in various ways, and divisions were created within the internees based on thir different vies on both social and political. "The most fundamental cleavage was between some Kibei and Issei, who. . . deeply resented the injustice of their incarceration, and, on the other, Nisei -- particularly leaders of JACL (Japanese American Citizens League) -- who wanted so badly to be accepted as Americans that they acted as the U.S. government's most ardent apologists" (Chan 129). In Manzanar, California, a JACL leader who turned over names of pro-Japan Issei and Kibei was so badly beaten that he had to be hospitalized. Several Kibei were arrested as suspects, which resulted in a demonstration held by 3,000 internees. "The soldiers threw tear gas canisters and fired their rifles into the crowd, killing 2 internees and wounding at least 10 others" (Chan 129). Sixty-five JACL members were removed from Manzanar for their own safety. In Poston, Arizona, two suspects were arrested in the beating of a Kibei. 2,500 gathered to demand their release. This was negotiated after five days' strike. (Chan 129)

Nisei Soldiers

On February 1, 1943, the Army decided to induct Americans of Japanese ancestry into an all-Japanese combat team. Many Nisei found the screening procedures, which included the "loyalty" questions, highly objectionable. The "loyalty" question had two parts, the first one asking the individual's willingness to serve the country, which was no problem, but the second question included a phrase asking the individual's willingness to forswear allegiance to the Japanese emperor. "Answering yes to the question about forswearing allegiance to the Japanese emperor implied that one held such allegiance in the first place. A vast majority of the Nisei felt no attachment to Japan whatsoever and refused to be impugned. . . some resented being asked to serve a country whose government had imprisoned them. . . Especially offensive was the fact that should they be inducted, they would be placed in a segregated unit" (Chan 130). Before registration began, more than 3,000 individuals - mostly Issei and Kibei - had applied for repatriation or expatriation to Japan. But a total of 33,000 Nisei served in the Armed Forces, many of them as members of the Military Intelligence Service, translating captured Japanese documents, battle plans, and secret codes. "Nisei MIS contribution shortened the war by two years" (Takaki 400). However, in all fairness to Kibei, let me quote a paragraph from Chan's Asian Americans:

To their dismay, MISLS [Military Intelligence Service Language School] instructors discovered that few Nisei knew Japanese well enough to translate and decode captured documents or to interpret for and interrogate prisoners.

Ironically, it was the mistrusted Japan-educated Kibei who proved most valuable. . . These men followed Allied troops into New Guinea, the Marianas, the Phillippines, and Okinawa -- all of which had been occupied by Japanese forces -- to interrogate captured Japanese soldiers and to translate Japanese-language documents. (134).

Apparently, Takaki did not distinguish Kibei from Nisei when he talked about Nisei MIS contribution. And it is understandable because, after all, Kibei are as much American born children of Issei as Nisei.

Nisei also fought in Europe. The 442nd's heroic rescue of the Texan "Lost Battalion" is a well-known page of American history. The regiment suffered 800 casualties. Besides fighting for their country, Nisei had their own personal cause as one Nisei wrote home:

" . . . By virtue of the Japanese attack on our nation, we as American citizens of Japanese ancestry have been mercilessly flogged with criticism and accusation. But I am not going to take it sitting down! I may not be able to come back . . .

In fact, it is better . . . that a few of us do not return, for the testimony will be stronger in favor of the folks back home" (Takaki 402).

As President Truman stated when he welcomed home Nisei soldiers of 442nd, they fought not only the enemy, they fought the prejudice, and won.

Yoso and His Family in 1945

In January 1945, all remaining internees in Camps were released. By then, Yoso's family was scattered all over the United States. His oldest brother, Toru, was in Army Language School in Fort Snelling, Minneapolis, Minnesota; his second older brother, Comp, was working in a packing shed in Ontario, Oregon; his oldest sister was married and living in Caldwell, Idaho; his second older sister, June, was also married and was in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as her husband, Joe Kumagai, was also attending the Army Language School in Fort Snelling; and Yoso himself was in Korea with the Counter Intelligence Corps of the United States Army.

When his parents were released from Amache Relocation Camp in Colorado they came to Ontario, Oregon, since they had lost all they had owned before the relocation: the packing shed business, wide spread farming in the Fife area, their home, and other personal property.

The Effects of the Incarceration

At war's end in August 1945, 44,000 internees were still in camps, even though the government had revoked the mass exclusion order in December 1944. They had no place to go and were afraid of the hostile outside world (Chan 139).

Sumio Doi and his family returned to their California farm in January 1945. Hearing cars one night, Doi went out to investigate and found his barn in flames.

He and his father managed to put out the fire, but two days later, again hearing noises, Doi opened the door and shots were fired into the house. Sticks of dynamite and burnt fuses and matches were later found under a corner of the packing shed. Sheriff Charles Silva posted a guard at the Doi ranch and vowed to protect the family from further violence. After an investigation several men and women confessed to the crime, but despite the evidence against the three brought to trial, the jury acquitted them. (Okihiro 19)

The obvious economic losses suffered by the Japanese Americans were estimated between $1.2 and $3.1 billion (O'Brien 74). But more significant than the direct dollar losses was the destruction of the economic infrastructure: their shops, farms, packing sheds, and fishing boats. It also dramatically weakened the authority of the Issei within the Japanese community. Not only were many too old to start from scratch all over again, the stress from the long period of uncertainty, separation from family members, and economic losses have left their marks on them. On the other hand, the Nisei who had become the major decision makers in the community "attempted to seize the emerging economic opportunities in the larger society" (O'Brien 75). And the change in their life course was so dramatic that most Nisei divide their lives into two distinct periods: the life before camp and the life after camp.

Redress and Sansei

Sansei were very young or not even born at the time of incarceration of Japanese Americans, but it remains meaningful to them as evidenced by their strong involvement and support for the redress effort and their pilgrimages to former camp sites. In the 1960s and early 1970s, when the Sansei reached maturity they started asking their parents about their internment experiences. This generation of Japanese Americans is commonly credited with bringing the United States government's shameful wartime actions back out into the light of day and with leading the push for legislative and judicial redress.

The dam burst and the denial ended during the hearings as the detainees one after the other testified with great passion about what they had endured. Many wept openly, some broke down, and when at the Los Angeles hearings Senator Hayakawa testified against monetary redress, the audience, largely Japanese American, disrupted the hearing with shouts, boos, and hisses. (Daniels 97)

CWRIC (Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians) took in the testimony of over 750 people, and published its findings in Personal Justice Denied in 1983. Its conclusion was:

The promulgation of Executive Order 9066 was not justified by military necessity, and the decisions which followed from it -- detention, ending detention and ending exclusion -- were not driven by analysis of military conditions.

The broad historical causes which shaped these decisions were race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership. (Daniels 97)

Six months later, in June 1983, it made recommendations which included a formal apology by Congress and a one-time, tax-free payment of $20,000 to each Japanese American survivor who had been incarcerated because of ethnicity during World War II.

The community reactions were mixed. No one opposed the formal apology by Congress, but the monetary compensation caused many different reactions. Some opponents maintained that no monetary payment could wipe out the degradation that they had gone through, some said that equal payment to all internees was not fair because of the individual difference of financial loss, and some opposed it because it implies that ethical redress can be bought, standing firm on the idea of "honor cannot be purchased." And yet, JACL and others, such as a group of Sansei lawyers, were strongly behind the idea that monetary reparation was as important as the formal apology of Congress. It was a price tag attached to the action: a price tag to call the attention of the American public: the best way, if not the only way, to insure a place in the American history.

Although the CWRIC's recommendations were given the symbolic number "H. R. 442" in honor of the heroic 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and a clear majority in each house favored redress, it took more than five years for Reagan Administration to endorse the redress. Senator Norman Mineta of California, who is a Sansei, testified:

I realize that there are some who say that these payments are inappropriate. Liberty is priceless, they say, and you cannot put a price on freedom. That's an easy statement when you have your freedom. But to say that because constitutional rights are priceless they really have no value at all is to turn the argument on its head. Would I sell my civil and constitutional rights for $20,000?

No. But having had those rights ripped away from me, do I think I am entitled to compensation? Absolutely. We are not talking here about the wartime sacrifices that we all made to support and defend our nation. At issue here is the wholesale violation, based on race, of those very legal principles we were fighting to defend. (Daniels 102)

The bill passed the House in September 1987, and Senate in April 1988. Four days later President Ronald Reagan, who had been against redress, sent a letter to Speaker of the House urging its ratification. The reasons for the reversal were not clear, but critics pointed out that 1988 was an election year. On August 10, 1988, the President signed H.R.442, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. The legislation authorized Congress to appropriate funds for a $20,000 payment to each Japanese American alive on the date of enactment who was interned by the United States government during World War II.

Postwar Assimilation

The speed of Japanese Americans' social and cultural assimilation was surprising. "Soon after being released from the camps Japanese Americans moved rapidly into educational and occupational areas from which they were traditionally excluded. . . most dramatic of all, marriages between Japanese Americans and whites increased very rapidly after the war. Indeed, less than four decades after the incarceration half of all new marriages involving Japanese Americans were with whites" (O'Brien 84). Again, taking Yoso's family for an example, all three of his nephews and two nieces are married to Caucasians, and while they are doing very well in the main stream of American society they are also well accepted in Japanese American community. One wonders why, given the degree to which they were discriminated against during the pre-war and wartime periods. For one of the reasons, it can be said that the tragedy of relocation camp days that destroyed the Issei-oriented Japanese community gave Nisei and Sansei more freedom in their choice of marriage as well as in their choice of occupation. Also, by getting away from "the influence of traditional Japanese values pertaining to modesty and reserve," they developed "more of the American core culture's individualistic assertiveness" (O'Brien 96).

Another reason of quick assimilation is that there have been many legal changes such as repealing of antimiscegenation laws in California in 1948. But the most significant legal change was the McCarran-Walter Act of 1952, granting the right to naturalization to Issei. It was the day of celebration for all Issei who remained loyal to the United States despite the hardship they had gone through. Community leaders such as Yoso's father, who could speak English and Japanese, helped other Issei obtain their long-waited citizenship. At last, they were citizens of the country of their choice.


Although I have been married to a Nisei who has lived through the bitter experience of legal injustice and racial prejudice, I had but very limited knowledge of the experiences of Issei and Nisei simply because they don't voluntarily talk about it, and I have decided to take it upon myself to make a study of it.
As I started reading about the Issei, Nisei, and Sansei, I found myself constantly comparing them to others who had made their lives outside of Japan. Millions of Japanese had also left Japan around the same time, at the turn of the century, to another direction: to Taiwan, Korea, and Manchuria, including my maternal grandfather and later my father. They took their share of Meiji Japan with them as did the Issei who came to the United States, and created their own culture. But the ones in the Japanese colonies in Taiwan, Korea and Manchuria became the instrument of Japanese aggression with misled national pride, while the Japanese immigrants in the United States were struggling to survive against all odds, social segregation, legal injustice, and finally ending in imprisonment without trial, without crime. And I, as a Sansei from Manchuria, could not help my emotional involvement as I learned more about the Japanese Americans, somewhat feeling guilty, even apologetic.

World War II was the costliest war in the history of the United States in many respects, but then, it also cast a new light on a matter of great importance: long-standing racism within the United States. When the United States defeated Nazism, fascism, and imperialism, it assumed the role of the leader of the free world, and the ideology of white superiority became less acceptable, both at home and abroad. The legal injustices that had been imposed upon all Asian-American immigrants had to be remedied, and they did. The McCarran-Walter Act of 1952 not only nullified the racial restriction of the 1790 naturalization law, granting the right to citizenship to Issei, it also made it possible for U.S. civilians to marry Japanese women. And I am proud to say that I am one of those who were benefited by the generosity of this new law.

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Annotated Bibliography

Chan, Sucheng. Asian Americans, An Interpretive History. Twayne Publishers, Boston, Massachusetts, 1991.

This book offers a quick overview of important aspects of Asian American history.

Daniels, Roger. Prisoners Without Trial, Japanese Americans in World War II, Hill and Wang, New York, New York, 1993.

This book differs from others Japanese American history books in two ways: it is briefer, and it is the first such account to be written after the enactment and execution of redress, the apology and token monetary compensation in 1988.

Munekata, Ryo. ed. Buddhist Churches of America: 75 Year History, 1899 - 1974
Nobart Inc. Chicago, Illinois, 1974.

This is the history of the Issei Buddhist pioneers throughout the United States from 1899 to 1974.

O'Brien, David J. and Stephen S. Fugita. The Japanese American Experience , Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana, 1991.

This book covers Japanese American history from 1885 to present, but emphasis is on relocation camp and postwar assimilation.

Okihiro, Gary Y. " The Japanese in America" in Japanese American History, An A - to Z Reference from 1868 to the Present, Facts on File, Inc. New York, New York, 1993.

This consists of three major parts: a narrative historical overview, a chronology of Japanese American history and dictionary entries pertaining to the history of Japanese Americans.

Takaki, Ronald. Strangers From a Different Shore, A History of Asian Americans, Penguin Books, New York, New York, 1987.

This book tells the history of Asian Americans, often in the words of immigrants

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