THE JAPANESE IMMIGRANT EXPERIENCE.
Recall the isolationist policy of Japan from 1639 to 1853 until Commodore Perry opened up Japan in
1853. Even though Japan had banned emigration outside of its borders, the Hawaiian consul general
managed to recruit 148 Japanese contract laborer to Hawaii and forty more came the next year. It was not
until 1884 that the Japanese government allowed for contract labor of Japanese citizens. Facilitated by
Robert Irwin, Hawaiian consul at the time.
Recall that there were several factors for migration; one of course the effects of the Meiji Restoration on
small farmers all over Japan and the tradition of seasonal migration called dekasegi shared by both men
Under the contract labor system, Japanese signed contracts to have their fares paid by the plantation
owners to work for three years for $9 a month plus food, accommodations, and medical benefits.
30,000 immigrated within a ten year period according to Takaki under this labor contract system before it
was abolished at the turn of the centurty.
Between the forty year period of 1885-1924m 20o,000 went to Hawaii and 180,000 to the mainland. They
were mostly young men in their twenties and thirties with relatively higher education than their Chinese
and European counterparts with an average of eight years schooling/ Japan made sure that those who came
were carefully screened so as not to embarrass Japan's national honor. Japanese Consul Sjomlocj of 1884
at the time said,. "We should deny indigent Japanese passage to the US or else the Japanese would soon
follow in the wake of the Chinese. In the same tone under Consol Sutemi in 1891, let's not give any
whither working class or politicians any excuse to drive out the Japanese. The Chinese example should be
a lesson to Japan.
The Hawaiian Experience was indeed unique to the Japanese as oppose to the mainland. In Hawaii, they
were sorely needed by the In the early 1890, there were only 2,000 Japanese on the mainland but by 1910
had increased to 72,257 surpassing the Chinese which numbered 71,531, and by 1930, it had doubled to
The New Yellow Peril
Japanese immigrants inherited the ripple effect of anti-Chinese activities in the US. They immigrated
mostly to California, which was the hotbed for anti-Asian activities. Japan itself was increasingly feared
and unpopular in the West as its military might grew. In 1895, Japan defeated China, and in 1905 defeated
Russia. This was the first time an Asian nation had defeated Russia. This was the first time an Asian
nation had defeated a "white", western nation (though the Philippines beat the Spaniards in 1898 before
losing to the United States), and notions of "Yellow Peril" began to circulate in the US and Europe.
Japanese were attributed by racists with different characteristics than Chinese: while the Chinese were