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Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month

Nippon Hospital, Stockton, San Joaquin County, California


[photo]Nippon Hospital
Photo courtesy: California State Historic Preservation Ofiic

The Nippon Hospital is the last structure standing in Stockton, California, which reaches back to the early 1900’s when Stockton had one of the largest Japanese communities in the United States. The two-story hospital was constructed as a result of a proposal by the local Japanese association and financed by Tokutaro Matsumoto, a wealthy local farmer. In 1922, the facility appears to have been reorganized under the name “Stockton Hospital” The facility served the surrounding Japanese community until it was beset by financial difficulties in about 1930 at which time the building became a hotel.
In 1976 Dr. Knox Mellon, Historic Preservation Coordinator in the  Office of Historic Preservation in Sacramento, California, wrote a letter to Edward Griffith of the Community Development Center in Stockton in which he laid out the uniqueness of the Nippon Hospital’s architecture, much of which is paraphrased here. A two-story brick structure whose architectural design contains classical revival elements, a shallow gable crowns the front facade of the Nippon Hotel and a brick pillared porch leads to the entry. Colored brick is decoratively utilized on the façade to outline pediment, architecture and pilaster design elements. Façade windows are squared, whereas the windows in the other elevations of the Nippon Hotel are arched. The decorative brick delineation of Classic Greek architectural elements on the building is uncommon.

[photo] Nippon Hospital
Photo courtesy: California State Historic Preservation Ofiice

The early Japanese Experience in the United States, excerpted from Japanese Americans in World War II, draft theme study.

The late 19th and early 20th centuries were not easy times for many Japanese immigrants to the United States.  The first Japanese immigrants were called Issei, from the combination of the Japanese words for “one” and “generation”; their children, the American-born second generation, were Nisei, and the third generation were Sansei. Nisei and Sansei who were educated in Japan were called Kibei. The Issei mostly came from the Japanese countryside, and they generally arrived, either in Hawaii or the mainland West Coast, with very little money. Approximately half became farmers, while others went to the coastal urban centers and worked in small commercial establishments, usually for themselves or for other Issei.

Anti-Japanese movements began shortly after Japanese immigration began, arising from existing
anti-Asian prejudices. However, the anti-Japanese movement became widespread around 1905, due both to increasing immigration and the Japanese victory over Russia, the first defeat of a western nation by an Asian nation in modern times. Discrimination included the formation of anti-Japanese organizations, such as the Asiatic Exclusion League, attempts at school segregation (which eventually affected Nisei under the doctrine of “separate but equal”), and a growing number of violent attacks upon individuals and businesses. The Japanese government subsequently protested this treatment of its citizens. To maintain the friendship between Japan and America, President Theodore Roosevelt attempted to negotiate a compromise, convincing the San Francisco school board to revoke the segregation order, restraining the California Legislature from passing more anti-Japanese legislation, and working out what was known as the “Gentlemen's Agreement” with the Japanese government. In this, the Japanese government agreed to limit emigration to the continental United States to laborers who had already been to the United States before and to the parents, wives, and children of laborers already there. In 1913, California passed the Alien Land Law which prohibited the ownership of agricultural land and other real property by “aliens ineligible to citizenship.” In 1920, a stronger Alien Land Act prohibited leasing and sharecropping as well. Both laws were based on the presumption that Asians were aliens ineligible for citizenship, which in turn stemmed from a narrow interpretation of the naturalization statute. The statute had been rewritten after the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution to permit naturalization of “white persons” and “aliens of African descent.” This exclusionism, clearly the intent of Congress, was legitimized by the Supreme Court in 1921, when Takao Ozawa was denied citizenship. However, the Nisei were citizens by birth, and therefore parents would often transfer property titles to their children.

[photo]George Takei and a veteran of the 442nd
Photo by statuelibrtynp on flickr via creative commons

The Immigration Act of 1924 prohibited all further Japanese immigration, with the side effect of making a very distinct generation gap between the Issei and Nisei. Many of the Issei farmers had become very successful at raising fruits and vegetables in soil that most people had considered infertile. The prejudice against Japanese Americans worsened as relations between Imperial Japan and the United States deteriorated prior to the The Japanese attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor and the onset of war between the two nations. In 1941, nearly 113,000 people of Japanese ancestry, two-thirds of them American citizens, were living in California, Washington, and Oregon. On December 7, Japan attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, bringing the United States into World War II. On February 19, 1942, a little more than two months later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 9066 empowering the U.S. Army to designate areas from which “any or all persons may be excluded.” Although the Executive Order did not further identify the persons to be excluded, the Army enforced its provisions only against Japanese Americans. No person of Japanese ancestry living in the United States was ever convicted of any serious act of espionage or sabotage during the war yet these innocent people were removed from their homes and placed in relocation centers, many for the duration of the war.

The initial aim of the registration questionnaire had been to determine the loyalty of draft-age males before calling for volunteers for the army and then reinstating the draft for Japanese Americans. Japanese American volunteers from the mainland were organized into the 442nd
Regimental Combat Team. The government hoped that creating a predominantly Japanese American unit would help impress the general public with Nisei patriotism and bravery, but some
Japanese Americans refused to volunteer for a segregated unit. The 442nd was combined with the 100th Infantry Battalion in 1944. Both units fought in Europe, and were responsible for the rescue of the "Lost Battalion" of the 36th Texas Division. The 522nd Battalion of the 442nd Regiment discovered and liberated the Dachau Concentration Camp, but were ordered to keep quiet about their actions. The next day, another American battalion arrived and "officially" liberated the camp. The combined 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team was one of the most decorated units in the U.S. Army, with 18,143 individual citations and 9,486 casualties in a unit with an authorized strength of 4,000 men. More than 6,000 Nisei served in the Pacific and in Asia, performing invaluable and dangerous tasks, mainly in intelligence and translation. In addition to the normal risks of combat duty, they risked certain death if captured by the Japanese. Nisei women also served with distinction in the Women’s Army Corps, as nurses, and for the Red Cross.

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