Remembering the Japanese American Pioneers


The first generation of Japanese immigrants to the United States arrived mostly in the early 1900's. They came primarily as laborors to work in the "land of opportunity" where they were attracted to share in the prosperity and riches of this country. They were not the upper class, well-educated people who had a good life in Japan. These early pioneers were the Issei (the first generation). They were brave souls who took a chance.

As they faced discrimination and prejudice in their new home, there were laws attacked against them. In 1924 a law was passed to restrict further immigration from Japan. They were not allowed to become citizens of the United States. They could not purchase land in some states, including California where most of the Japanese population lived.

The children of these early migrants faced discrimination as did their parents. As education was stressed by the immigrants, their children pursued higher education as they graduated from high school. By the 1930's, some of the Japanese Americans (the second generation called the Nisei) had graduated from college. There were doctors, lawyers, and teachers among them. However, they found it difficult to find work in their field of study because of the prejudice against people of Asian backgrounds. These young people worked to change and erase the discriminatory laws against them and their parents. They became the Japanese American pioneers who tried to make a better life for their family and friends.

The first generation of the early immigrants from Japan departed from this world years ago. The youngest of the Nisei generation are now in their seventies with those remaining of the oldest who remain of the second generation being well into their nineties with many having already passed away.

These were Japanese Americans who were persecuted very during World War II when the United States was at war with Japan. Although they were citizens, they faced hardship as they and their parents were raised from their homes on the West Coast and placed in "American concentration camps." These camps were not like the death camps of Europe and other areas, but the people were held as prisoners under armed guard. They were incarcerated without any due process. They were innocent citizens who had done no wrong.

Young men came out of the camps to serve their country in the US military. Most were in the segregated buildings of the Army where they cooked alongside their fellow Japanese Americans.

As these brave Japanese American pioneers are growing older and leaving this life, they are to be remembered for their sacrifices and loyalty to the country. They paved the way and did their part to provide a better life for all Americans.

Source by Irene Mori


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