Kristeen Irigoyen- Hernandez aka Lady2Soothe Follow @OurVoicesEcho
Examining the historical link between the past and present the Japanese experience provides an inside look into the essence of how systems within communities continue to function successfully by integrating cultural traditions into the parameters of a governed dominate society.
Prior to becoming *The New Enemy* and carted off to internment camps the majority of Japanese American families experienced a moderate level of racism typical for minority groups of that era. Pro-discrimination laws were passed in the early 1900’s denied them the right to become citizens, own land, or marry outside their race. The 1907-1908 *Gentleman’s Agreement* consisting of informal letters between American and Japanese leaders virtually halted all Japanese contract labor to America and forbid the Japanese from buying homes in certain areas and barring them from jobs in various industries. By 1913 The California Alien Land Law prohibited Japanese as “aliens ineligible for citizenship” from owning agricultural land or possessing long-term farming leases. But for the most part the Japanese lived a peaceful life akin to other American families; owning or working in small businesses, children attending segregated public schools, men who voluntary joined the military and wives carrying out domestic duties.
By 1924 immigration was completely blocked. In the early 1930’s the visiting Captain of a cargo freighter docked in Santa Barbara was given a tour of the city, while admiring the hillside scenery he lost his balance falling backwards into a bed of cactus. People burst out laughing; not understanding American sense of humor and the Captain felt he was being ridiculed and lost face, he vowed to get revenge on Americans and on Santa Barbara. On Feb. 23, 1942, approximately 6 weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor the freighter Captain, who subsequently joined the Japanese navy as a submarine commander surfaced his submarine near an oil field pier just north of Santa Barbara and shelled the pier. Furthering the fear of *Japs*.
July 26, 1940, 4 months prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor President Roosevelt, with the intention of continuing to grant licenses froze all Japanese assets and ended trade by prohibiting the exportation of oil products preventing Japan, whose dependency on the US for most of their crude oil and refined petroleum were ordered to depart from US harbors without loading or unloading cargo. In a confidential 26 page memo dated December 4, 1941 headlined “Methods of Operation and Points of Attack.” and “Japanese Intelligence and Propaganda in the United States” FDR chose to dismiss the red flags warning war was imminent. “In anticipation of possible open conflict with this country, Japan is vigorously utilizing every available agency to secure military, naval and commercial information, paying particular attention to the West Coast, the Panama Canal and the Territory of Hawaii”.
The Dec. 7th bombing of Pearl Harbor was quickly followed on Dec. 8, 1941 when FDR froze US citizen Isai assets and ordered the FBI to follow community leaders by imposing curfews and raiding homes for anything advocating a connection to Japan.
Yellow Peril Racism began to envelope the country; where at first the Japanese had been welcomed as cheap labor they now became criminals and terrorists and by Feb. 1942 Americans of Japanese ethnicity suspected of having even one drop of Japanese blood were ordered to Relocation Camps. The little Japanese girl who taught my father to write his name in kindergarten was sent to Manzanar and never seen or heard from again.
They had about one week to dispose of what they owned, except what could be packed and carried for their departure by bus and were allowed only to take bed linen, a few changes of clothing, a personal set of eating utensils and some toiletry articles, the internees were political prisoners left with little dignity as they were herded into the confines of barbed wire fenced enclosures as armed border agents in elevated towers stood guard.
The most notorious camp was Manzanar, built at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountain range 230 miles northeast of Los Angeles. At its peak, over 10,000 people were interned in the 500-acre camp, enclosed by barbed wire, guard towers and armed military police.
Conditions at the camp were unforgiving. Daytime temperatures could reach 110 degrees, while nights could be freezing. Dust and wind were constant, and the crude barracks provided poor shelter. Within these barracks, each family was allotted a 20-by-25-foot cloth partition.
Most of the internees resolved to make the best of their situation, by attempting to create some semblance of normalcy for their indefinite detention. Some built all the facilities and trappings necessary to maintain a community of 10,000.
Family dynamics rapidly began to erode as multiple generations were forced into sharing living quarters with strangers in unfinished cold/hot and dusty tarpaper shanties with only straw-filled mattresses, a small stove to heat the room, and a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling.
Lacking the basic amenities of running water, cooking and bathrooms facilities internees were subjected to communal un-partitioned showers, open toilets, and in Manzanar the constant threat of black widows spiders creeping out from dark crevices and agitated rattlesnakes coiled in corners ready to strike.
The social location of Japanese families gradually evolved into a new structural system of independence and disconnect from established traditions; Husbands felt shamed by their inability to protect and care for their families; with their patriarchy usurped many fell into the abyss of self-medicating with alcohol to relieve stress and feelings of inadequacy.
Community dining hall bells announced meal time which served mystery meat and GI rations, and rather than the accustomed family meals it became common for teens and children to eat with friends.
Social construct flipped whereas before the Issei were in control, however due to a better command of English the Nisei had the ability to secure better jobs and higher wages thus becoming the dominate force of family politics.
High schooler’s attend a science lecture
Women no longer sweated their lives away performing domestic duties giving them more time to socialize, learn hobbies and complete their educations. Students were able to excel without having to compete with White students for coveted scholarly positions and were eligible to participate in a number of programs unavailable to them in secular institutions. Young ladies of marrying age found love and weren’t bound by arranged marriages.
Mrs. Dennis Shimizu
Kiyo Yoshida, Lillian Wakatsuki and Yoshiko Yamasaki attend a high school biology class.Minidota MN Family
May 11, 1942 A 23 yr old soldier volunteered July 10, 1941 and his mother in a strawberry field near Florin CA
A Japanese Pleasure Garden built by Internees
Ben Kuroki, the son of Japanese immigrants who was raised on a Hershey NB farm, is seen in this updated Army Corps file photo. The only known Japanese-American known to have flown over Japan during WWll
The Rafu Shimpo Newspaper appears to represent a whole generation of people from the elderly to the youngest, from full Japanese to mixed racial heritage; whereas prior to internment traditional Issei parents determined Nisei were only allowed to marry within their own ethnic culture.
Pre-internment workers and business owners were primarily physical laborers yet were now highly educated with degrees from prestigious universities holding prominent positions in major companies, own multi-million dollar corporations and reside in exclusive residential neighborhoods once reserved for “Whites Only.”
Traditional culture is still practiced within many of the communities to uphold long-established and time-honored celebrations and observances.
Mary “Mollie” Oyama Mittwer as *Deirde* (1907–1994) was a Nisei journalist whose writing reflected many of the issues her generation faced during World War II. A leading writer of her generation, *Deirde* dispensed wisdom and controversy through various advice columns and articles, giving Nisei women and men a chance to voice opinions and receive feedback regarding the do’s and don’t’s of delicate topics such as dating and marriage, racism and integration and fielding questions mainly centering on the private lives of people concerned with arranged marriage vs voluntarily marrying for love, interracial and interethnic dating, fashion advice, incorporating Japanese traditions into modern day society while continuing to maintain the cultural standards their parents and grandparents expected.
The internment of Japanese Americans in the United States during World War II was the forced relocation and incarceration in camps in the interior of the country of between 110,000 and 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry who had lived on the Pacific coast. Sixty-two percent of the internees were United States citizens.
Fred Korematsu decided to test the government relocation action in the courts. He found little sympathy there. In KOREMATSU VS. THE UNITED STATES, the Supreme Court justified the executive order as a wartime necessity. When the order was repealed, many found they could not return to their hometowns. Hostility against Japanese Americans remained high across the West Coast into the postwar years as many villages displayed signs demanding that the evacuees never return. As a result, the interns scattered across the country.
In 1988, Congress attempted to apologize for the action by awarding each surviving intern $20,000. While the American concentration camps never reached the levels of Nazi death camps as far as atrocities are concerned, they remain a dark mark on the nation’s record of respecting civil liberties and cultural differences.
First, second, third, fourth and fifth generation of immigrants
Issei (一世 born in Japan immigrated to North America.
Nisei (二世 (second generation) children born in North America whose parents were immigrants from Japan.
Sansei (三世 (third generation) grandchildren of the Issei
Yonsei (四世 fourth generation
Gosei (五省 fifth generation
Obāsan お婆さん aunt or older woman generally referring to the grandmother of a Sansei
Ojiisan おじいさん general term for older men but generally referring to the grandfather of a Sansei
Nikkei (日系) was coined by a multinational group of sociologists and encompasses all of the world’s Japanese immigrants across generations. The collective memory of the Issei and older Nisei was an image of Meiji Japan from 1870 through 1911, which contrasted sharply with the Japan that newer immigrants had more recently left. These differing attitudes, social values and associations with Japan were often incompatible with each other. In this context, the significant differences in post-war experiences and opportunities did nothing to mitigate the gaps which separated generational perspectives.
5 Attacks on U.S. Soil During World War
Second Generation Japanese Americans (Nisei) before WWII
When the Japanese Attacked Santa Barbara (1940s)
Researcher/Chronological Archivist/Writer; and member in good standing with the Constitution First Amendment Press Association