Historic Resource Study/Special History Study
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With the exception of the Bainbridge Island evacuees and one evacuee from southern Arizona, the entire Manzanar evacuee population (nearly 98 percent) came from communities in California. Approximately 88 percent of the Manzanar evacuees came from Los Angeles County. Thus, this section will provide an overview of the historical development of Japanese/Japanese American communities in the state of California, Los Angeles County, and Bainbridge Island.


Settlement Patterns and Occupational Characteristics. Despite the growing protests of white supremacists, as discussed in Chapter One of this study, the flow of immigration from Japan to the United States remained relatively unaffected until 1907-08, when agitation from white supremacist organizations, labor unions, and politicians resulted in the "Gentlemen's Agreement," curtailing further immigration of laborers from Japan. [12] A provision in the agreement, however, permitted wives and children of laborers, as well as laborers who had already been in the United States, to continue to enter the country. Until that time, Japanese immigrants had been primarily male. The 1900 census indicates that only 410 of 24,326 Japanese in the United States were female. From 1908 to 1924 Japanese women continued to immigrate to the United States, some emigrating as "picture brides."

In Japan, arranged marriages were the rule. Go-betweens arranged marriages between compatible males and females, based on careful matching of socio-economic status, personality, and family background. With the advent of photography, an exchange of photographs became a first step in this long process. Entering the bride's name in the groom's family registry legally constituted marriage. Those Japanese males who could afford the cost of traveling to Japan returned there to be married. Others resorted to long-distance, arranged marriages. The same procedure that would have occurred if the groom were in Japan was adhered to, and the bride would immigrate to the United States as the wife of a laborer. Not all Issei were married in this manner, but many were.

Those hoping to rid California of its Japanese population thought the Gentlemen's Agreement would end Japanese immigration. Instead, the Japanese population of California increased, both through new immigration and through childbirth. Anti-Japanese groups, citing the entry of "picture brides," complained that the Gentlemen's Agreement was being violated. A movement to totally exclude Japanese immigrants eventually succeeded with the Immigration Act of 1924. That legislation completely curtailed immigration from Japan until 1952 when an allotment of 100 quota immigrants per year was designated. Despite this legislation, thousands of immigrants from Japan would continue to enter the United States as "non-quota immigrants" — relatives of citizens.

The pattern of immigration has left its mark on Japanese communities in the United States. While immigrants before 1924 were uniformly young, the delay in immigration of women resulted in many marriages in which the husband was considerably older than the wife. Immigration of women between 1908 and 1924 also meant that the majority of children (Nisei) were born within a period of 20 years, 1910-30. Thus, the Japanese population in the United States became bi-modal — an age group for the original immigrants and another for their children. This development influenced the ways in which Japanese communities were organized. For example, Japanese communities experienced the need every 25 years or so to have facilities and organizations oriented to children, with long periods of time when such facilities were not needed. Large numbers of Nisei would enter the job market at the same time, and they would have children at about the same time.

Most Japanese immigrants entered the United States through San Francisco. Thus, the newcomers tended to concentrate in the San Francisco Bay area. The second largest port of entry for the Japanese was Seattle, Washington, followed by Portland, Oregon. Approximately 75 percent of the 2,000 Japanese aliens enumerated as residents of the United States in 1890 settled near the ports-of-entry in California or Washington. Ten years later, according to the 1900 census, 42 percent of the country's alien Japanese lived in California, 23 percent in Washington, and 10 percent in Oregon.

In 1890, 590 of California's Japanese residents lived in San Francisco, while 184 resided in Alameda County and 51 in Sacramento County. A scattering of Japanese residents appeared throughout California, with the smallest number in the southern California area. Little is known about these early Japanese immigrants. It is speculated that they worked for the railroad, performed common labor, or performed miscellaneous tasks, such as chopping wood for domestic service. By 1890 the move into agricultural work had begun in the Vacaville area in Solano County in northern California, and labor contractors were beginning to gather new immigrants to work in industries such as the railroads, oil fields, and agriculture.

By 1900, the same northern California counties had the largest numbers of Japanese, but the population had increased tremendously with movement into other parts of the state as agricultural work drew immigrants to what were then rural areas. San Francisco had 1,781 Japanese, Sacramento County 1,209, and Alameda County 1,149. In addition, Monterey County had 710, Fresno County 598, San Joaquin County 313, Santa Clara County 284, Contra Costa County 276, and Santa Cruz County 235.

In many communities, nihonmachi (Japanese sections of town) were developed, with the establishment of small businesses catering to the needs of immigrants. These ethnic enclaves, popularly called "Little Tokyos," were outgrowths of long-standing socio-economic forces and pressures. Discriminatory zoning restrictions segregated the Japanese and excluded them from the better residential districts. Areas considered undesirable by the white population were left to minority groups and developed into various ethnic communities. Historically, "Little Tokyo" communities developed as a result of the natural affinity of the immigrants for their own people. Inability to speak English brought people together where their native tongue could be spoken freely without embarrassment or conspicuousness. These communities provided many of the needs and services which were unobtainable elsewhere. Because of their inability to communicate easily with the American population at large, the Issei depended more heavily on these centers than did the Nisei or Sansei (third generation Japanese).

By 1900, southern California had a Japanese population of approximately 500, with the largest concentration in the steadily growing urban area of Los Angeles County. Ulysses Shinsei Kaneko, a resident in San Bernardino County, became one of the first Japanese naturalized in California in 1896. Businesses in towns and cities had been in operation for almost a decade. Buddhist churches and Japanese Christian churches had been established earlier. Japanese had purchased property, and a few Nisei children had been born.

At the turn of the 20th century, trades of the Japanese in urban California included domestic service and businesses catering to other Japanese — boarding houses, restaurants, barbershops, bathhouses, gambling establishments, and pool halls. Although Japanese communities were emerging in urban areas, labor contractors continued to draw immigrants away from the cities to work for the railroads, canneries, and farms in rural areas of the state.

Some Japanese immigrants initiated their own enterprises and industries. These included industries the Chinese had pioneered in earlier years. Fishing and abalone industries developed at White Point and Santa Monica Canyon in Los Angeles County and at Point Lobos in Monterey County. Kinji Ushijima, also known as George Shima, continued the reclamation work begun by Chinese in the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta. Shima eventually reclaimed more than 100,000 acres of land for agricultural use with the help of large labor crews.

Between 1900 and 1910, Japanese began to purchase property and establish farms, vineyards, and orchards. All-Japanese communities developed in agricultural areas in central California, including Florin in Sacramento County (which the Japanese called Taishoku), Bowles in Fresno County, and the Yamato Colony at Livingston in Merced County.

By 1910, a significant change had occurred in the California Japanese population, which then numbered 41,356. Movement to the southern part of the state had undergone a marked increase, and the number of women in the Japanese community was steadily increasing. By the late 1920s, females would constitute one-third of the Japanese population. Los Angeles County became the most populous Japanese settlement by 1910, with 8,461, and has remained so to this day. A major stimulus for the move south was the rapid expansion of the Los Angeles area during the southern California boom period. Many Japanese also migrated to Los Angeles after the disastrous San Francisco earthquake in 1906.

San Francisco remained the second most populous area in California, however, with a Japanese population of 4,518 in 1910. Sacramento County was third with 3,874, Alameda County was fourth with 3,266, Santa Clara County was fifth with 2,299, and Fresno County was sixth with 2,233. Other counties having more than 1,000 Japanese included Contra Costa, Monterey, and San Joaquin. The large increases in the population reflected the unrestricted immigration of male laborers until 1908, entrance of Japanese women into the United States, and resultant increase in the birth of children. Numerous Little Tokyos had been established in California, ranging from Selma's one block of businesses catering to Japanese in Fresno County to whole sections of town in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Jose.

The Japanese population of Los Angeles County more than doubled by 1920, increasing to l9, 911, more than three times as many as the next most populous county, Sacramento, with 5,800. California's total Japanese population numbered 71,952. The most populous counties after Los Angeles and Sacramento were Fresno (5,732), San Francisco (5,358), Alameda (5,221), and San Joaquin (4,354). Other counties with Japanese populations in excess of 1,000 included Monterey, Orange, Placer, San Diego, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Tulare. The population increase was the result almost totally of the immigration of women and the birth of children. By the early 1920s the economic basis of the Japanese community had been established in agriculture and its offshoots — wholesaling, retailing, and distributing. The Japanese organized their produce and flower industries vertically, resulting in a system in which all operations were owned and operated by Japanese, from raising the plants to retail sales. Such ventures resulted in organizations such as the Southern California Flower Market in Los Angeles, the California Flower Market in San Francisco, Lucky Produce in Sacramento, and the City Market in Los Angeles. Cooperatives, such as Naturipe in Watsonville, Santa Cruz County, were organized to improve growing, packing, and marketing of crops produced by Japanese farmers.

Small Japanese businesses became numerous in California by the early 1920s. Many of the "city trades" were directly tied to rural occupations, particularly agricultural labor. Businesses such as boarding houses, hotels, restaurants, barber shops, and gambling houses were dependent on the constant traffic of single male laborers, who traveled a circuit in California from one crop to the next, from the Imperial Valley near the Mexican border to the Sacramento Valley in northern California. Other city businesses were also oriented towards farming interests. For example, a number of Japanese entrepreneurs operating general merchandise stores had regular routes to the surrounding countryside, taking orders and making deliveries for food and other supplies. Examples of this service included the Kamikawa Brothers in Fresno and Tsuda's in Auburn.

During the 1910s, Japanese farmers became important producers and growers of crops, and this trend continued during the 1920s. Agricultural efforts included truck farming along the Pacific coast, in the San Joaquin Valley, and in southern California; grapes and tree fruit in the San Joaquin Valley and southern California; strawberries in numerous locations; and rice in northern California.

By 1930 California's Japanese population numbered 97,456. Los Angeles County still had the most Japanese, almost doubling its population during the 1920s to 35,390. The county had nearly 40 percent of the state's Japanese population, and it had more than four times as many Japanese as did the second county, Sacramento, which had 8,114. Again the increase can be attributed to immigration of Japanese women as well as the birth of children. Because immigration was totally curtailed in 1924, however, the birth of children probably was the more important reason. Another source for population increase was migration from other parts of the country. Japanese residents, for example, moved to Los Angeles County during the 1930s because of relatively better economic opportunities during the nationwide depression.

Despite the nation's economic downturn, the 1930s were a time of growth for most nihonmachi throughout California. Almost every agricultural area with a population of Japanese residents had a flourishing Japanese section of town. Cooperatives established in previous years were functioning at their peak. Nisei children were in schools and beginning to enter the labor market. This subtle change can be noted in such things as Japanese-language newspapers adding English sections to their publications, and Japanese church youth organizations being organized. [13]

The 1940 census provides considerable detail on the nature and economic structure of Japanese communities in the state of California prior to Pearl Harbor. According to the census there were 126,947 Japanese residents, foreign-born and citizen, in the United States. Of this total 73.8 percent lived in California. The tendency toward geographic concentration in the state was evident. Whereas there had been two counties in the state with no Japanese in 1910, by 1940 there were 11. Seven counties — Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco, Alameda, Fresno, San Joaquin, and Santa Clara — contained 67,137 or 71.64 percent of the state's Japanese population. Los Angeles County, the leading county, had 39.34 percent of the state's total. The Japanese were becoming increasingly urbanized. Almost 90 percent of the urban Japanese population of California resided in Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, and Fresno counties.

In California, 11,646 (28.8 percent) of the employed Japanese worked as laborers on farms — the most important single source of employment. Of every ten employed Japanese, two worked on a farm for wages and one as an unpaid family farm laborer.

There were 5,807 Japanese (14.4 percent) reported as farmers or farm managers. The number of Japanese engaged in agriculture as laborers was more than double the number of managers and owners, contrary to the generally held opinion that the Japanese contribution to agriculture was primarily managerial. Of the Japanese male population employed in California, more than half were engaged in agriculture, either as farm operators or as laborers. Of the native-born males slightly over a third were employed as farm laborers.

Approximately 4,600 (11.4 percent) were employed as clerical, sales, or kindred workers, and 4,217 as proprietors and managers. Of the 5,656 employed as service workers about four-sevenths were in domestic service. Approximately 17 percent were employed as non-farm workers, of whom 3,605 were common laborers, 2,717 operatives and kindred workers, and 681 were skilled workers or foremen.

Between the native-born and the foreign-born Japanese, differences in the occupational pattern were more marked than those in the industrial pattern. The employment pattern of the alien Japanese in the younger age groups resembled more closely that of the native-born than that of the older foreign-born. The chief differences were those resulting from ownership. Approximately 21 percent of the native-born were managers and proprietors as compared with 37 percent of the foreign-born.

For Japanese women the most important occupations were farm labor and domestic service. Over a third (36 percent) of the foreign-born females were employed as farm laborers and 28 percent of the native-born females as domestic service workers.

There were 5,135 Japanese-operated farms in California in 1940, with a total of 226,094 land acres. The farm holdings, including buildings, were valued at $65,781,000. Compared with a general average of $16,331, Japanese farms averaged $12,810 in value. The typical Japanese-operated farm was considerably smaller than the average, 44 acres as compared with 230. Almost 30 percent of all Japanese farms were in Los Angeles County, and almost 85 percent were in Alameda, Fresno, Imperial, Los Angeles, Monterey, Orange, Placer, Sacramento, San Diego, San Joaquin, Santa Clara, and Tulare. About 70 percent of the operators rented their farms, about 25 percent were owners or part owners, and slightly less than 5 percent were managers. In 1941 Japanese farmers cultivated 205,989 acres of commercial truck crops, amounting to 42 percent of the state acreage in that category. In value, Japanese production was estimated to be between $30,000,000 and $35,000,000 or about 30-35 percent of all commercial truck crops grown in California. Although the Japanese operated only 3.9 percent of all farms in the state and harvested 2.7 percent of all cropland harvested, they produced: (1) 90 percent or more of the state's snap beans for marketing; celery, spring and summer; peppers, and strawberries; (2) 50-90 percent of the state's artichokes; snap beans for canning; cauliflower; celery, fall and winter; cucumbers; fall peas; spinach; and tomatoes; and (3) 25-50 percent of the state's asparagus, cabbage, cantaloupes, carrots, lettuce, onions, and watermelons. [14]

Community Structure. Japanese American community organizations have been in existence in California since 1877, serving the changing needs of their members. The first Japanese American community organization of record in the United States was the Gospel Society or Fukuin Kai, established in October 1877 in San Francisco. The Gospel Society offered English classes, operated a boarding house, and provided a place for Japanese to meet. With the influence of Caucasian Christians, the religious orientation of the society developed. Out of this organization eventually came the Japanese Christian churches, some of which were established as early as the 1890s.

The Issei established three principal types of organizations in the communities they settled. These organizations included churches, political/social organizations called by various names, and Japanese-language schools. Churches, whether Christian, Buddhist or Shinto, were the focus of activity for most Japanese communities, and often were the earliest organizations to be established. Subsequently, churches expanded beyond religious services as women's organizations (fujinkai) became active, and youth groups were established with the advent of children. The churches provided both religious sustenance and the context for social life. It is estimated that before World War II, 85 percent of Japanese were Buddhist. Possibly the sole Japanese American community with only a Christian church was Livingston (Yamato Colony) in the San Joaquin Valley. During the World War II evacuation, churches served as storage centers for personal property left behind by evacuees and as hostels for returning evacuees. The churches themselves organized into umbrella groups, such as the Buddhist Churches of America, the Japanese Evangelical Mission Society, the Holiness Conference, and the Northern and Southern California Christian Church federations.

The political/social organizations were organized under different names, depending on the community. Some of these names were doshikai, kyogikai, and mhonjinkai (Japanese Association). All Japanese were assumed to belong to political/social organizations which dealt with issues affecting the total Japanese American community. Often they had their own offices or buildings for conducting business and holding meetings. Association leaders were spokespersons for the community in dealing with the larger community, and worked as intermediaries to settle differences of opinion or conflicts. Decisions were traditionally made by male members of the organization. Sometimes, a women's group (fujinkai) was attached to this organization. Many of these organizations dissolved with the onset of World War II evacuation. Properties were signed over to the Nisei, and records were lost or destroyed.

As Nisei children grew older, the Issei-organized Japanese language schools flourished throughout California as the older generation sought to pass on its native language and cultural traditions to its children. The first Japanese language school of record in the state was Shogakko in San Francisco, established in 1902, By the 1930s, virtually every Japanese American community had its own nihongakko (Japanese language school) operated by a church or Japanese association. Some communities had two or more schools. Occasionally, both Buddhist and Christian churches in a community supported their own Japanese language schools. Teachers were often church ministers, their wives, or well-educated persons in the community. Occasionally, as in Fresno, Guadalupe, and Sacramento, a dormitory was built in conjunction with the Japanese language school where children of busy parents would live.

Persons originating from the same area in Japan formed kenjinkai, which were social organizations designed to support, aid, and acquaint fellow kenjin (persons from the same prefecture). Social services in the form of financial aid, informal counseling, and care for the sick or injured were functions of these groups. Communities had one kenjinkai if the Japanese American community was primarily composed of people from the same area of Japan. If the community was large, such as Los Angeles, many kenjinkai existed, reflecting the different geographic origins of the immigrants.

In agricultural areas, cooperatives to grow, ship, and market agricultural products emerged, giving Issei farmers greater control over their economic destinies. Such organizations included Lucky Produce in Sacramento, Naturipe in Watsonville, the California Flower Market in San Francisco, and the City Market in Los Angeles.

The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) emerged as the largest Nisei organization during the pre-WorId War II years. Organized in 1930 with headquarters in San Francisco, the JACL gained prominence as a political organization during the period leading up to World War II as the Nisei sought to assimilate with the larger American society. [15]

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Last Updated: 01-Jan-2002