Japan and racial equality

One country's war against discrimination

By William Wetherall

Drafted June 2003
First posted 15 July 2007
Last updated 10 August 2007

Discrimination timeline Alien laborers in Japan | Expatriation of Japanese
Annexation of Hawaii Alien laborers in Japan | Expatriation of Japanese

Alien Land Law Ishihashi | Jordan | World's Work | Chinda | Rowell | "Give them a chance"
Other features Alien laborers in Japan | Expatriation of Japanese | Population of Japan Nippon proper | Ethnological origins of Japan
 |  Korea, China, and Japan | Before and after Jinmu | Fall of Nanking and Wang Ching-wei | 1937-1946 chronicle | SCAP definitions of "Japan"
 |  Integration of Karafuto into Interior | East Asiatic New Order

Racial equality in Japanese law

Talk to Americans, even those who have been in Japan or for other reasons claim to know something about the country, and they are likely to think Japan is a racist country where everything from nationality to who can be buried where is based on race. In comparison with Japan, at least, they are apt to think of America as a land of racial equality, nevermind its racial divides.

Legally, however, Japan has been one of the least racist states in the world. Not only has race not been an element in Japanese law, but Japan has consistently advocated racial equality in a post 18th-century world dominated by whites who defended their racial territories with all the weapons in their political arsenals, especially laws.


Alien Land Law



Discrimination timeline

From the late 19th century to the present, Japan has stood out among world's more aggressive industrialized states as a practitioner and advocate of racial equality. Japan is not often seen as such, especially from the vantage points of people in countries like the United States, which has always been and continues to be a fertile ground for legalized racialism and racism.

The following table shows some of the legal events that have become landmarks in the history of racialism and racism in the two countries.

To be continued.

Racism and equality in United States and Japan in late 19th and early 20th centuries
18th century    United States 18th century    Japan

1789US Constitution provides for counting "free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons."

1790US Naturalization Act allowed only free white persons of good character to become citizens.

1798US Naturalization Act allowed only free white persons of good character to become citizens.

all white persons, aliens, (accredited foreign ministers, consuls, or agents, their families and domestics, excepted)

19th century    United States 19th century    Japan

1850   California becomes a state on 9 September. Among the laws it enacted before the end of the year was a marriage act prohibiting unions between white persons and negroes or mulattoes. The statute also allowed persons contracting or solemnizing such marriages to be penalized. (Stats. 1850, ch. 140, p. 424.)

1868Amendment XIV provided that "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

1870Amendment XV held that no citizen would be denied the right to vote "on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."

1870Naturalization Act extended eligibility to aliens of African nativity or descent.

1872   California enacts its first codes, including the Civil Code, section 60 of which provided that "All marriages of white persons with Negroes or Mulattoes are illegal and void." This law superseded the 1850 marriage act. The law did not prohibit marriages between putatively non-whites.

1880   California enacts amends its Civil Code, section 69, which implements section 60, to prohibit issuing licenses for marriage between whites and "Chinese, Negroes, mulattoes, or persons of mixed blood, descended from a China man from third generation inclusive."

1882Chinese Exclusion Act limited immigration of Chinese for ten years and stated that Chinese immigrants were ineligible for citizenship by naturalization.

1892Chinese Exclusion Act extended for ten years.

1873Great Council of State Proclamation No. 173 permitted marriage with aliens, and allowed some alien husbands and wives of Japanese to become Japanese by virtue of the marriage.

1890Meiji constitution defines subjects, no mention of "race" or "ethnic nation"

1894   In re Saito 62 F. 126 (C.C.D. Mass. 1894) court ruled that Japanese are not white. This was the first numerous cases involving people from Japan who had attempted to naturalize by been refused because of their race, or had succeeded in naturalizing and then -- because of their race -- had their certificates of citizenship cancelled.

1899Nationality Law provided for several means of acquisition of Japanese nationality -- including birth, adoption, and naturalization -- none of them based or race or ethnicity. Japanese nationality was acquired by right-of-blood if father was Japanese or if unmarried mother was Japanese, and by right-of-soil (place of birth) if born in Japan to stateless or unknown parents. There are no race boxes in Japan, and the putative race of the father or mother is never an issue.

During the late 19th century, while the United States continued to elaborate, in new federal and state laws, the racist principles embedded in its original constitution and first naturalization act, Japan totally avoided the codification of race in its Constitution and statutes.

While miscegenation between "whites" and "non-whites" was increasingly outlawed in the United States, Japan enacted laws that accommodated marriages between Japanese and foreigners without regard to the putative race of either.

Whereas from 1790 only free white aliens, and from 1870 only white aliens and aliens of African nativity or descent, were eligible for naturalization in the United States, Japanese laws facilitated the gain of Japanese nationality by foreigners -- through marriage, adoption, or naturalization -- without regard to their putative race.

1883 Supreme Court vindication of anti-miscegenation laws

At the time of the Civil War (1861-1865), some states had anti-miscegenation laws that went back two centuries. During the years of postwar "reconstruction" -- straddling the last years of the Tokugawa period (1600-1868) and the first years of the Meiji period (1868-1912) in Japan -- miscegenation became a topic of considerable controversy.

Attempts in the 1870s to amend the U.S. Constitution to prohibit interracial marriages failed. However, more states passed their own anti-miscegenation laws, and many states enforced such laws well into the 20th century.

In 1883, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that an Alabama anti-miscegenation code did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which provides that no state shall "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws" (Pace v. Alabama, 29 January 1883, 106 U.S. 583, 1 S.Ct. 637).

20th century    United States 20th century    Japan

1902Chinese Exclusion Act extended indefinitely.

1905   California amends Civil Code, section 60 to read "All marriages of white persons with Negroes, Mongolians or Mulattoes are illegal and void." The addition of "Mongolians" was intended to embrace "Japanese" as well as the "Chinese" specified in section 60 in 1880.

1907-1908Gentleman's Agreement in which Japan agreed to discontinue issuing passports to Japanese who wanted to work or farm in the United States, in return for the US not excluding Japanese in immigration laws, and localities like San Francisco not discriminating against Japanese.

1908   Buntaro Kumagai, honorably discharged from the U.S. Army, is denied naturalization on the grounds that the words "any alien" means those who are not "free white persons or those of African descent."

1910Bessho v. United States upheld that "Japanese" are not "white" (nor of African descent) and were therefore ineligible for the privilege of naturalization.

1912Young v United States Two courts held that a person who was "half Japanese" and "half German" was not white and therefore could not naturalize (Young 195 F. 645 (W.D. Wash. 1912) and Young 198 F. 715 (W.D. Wash. 1912).

1913California Alien Land Law excluded all "aliens ineligible to citizenship" from owning land in the state. This law aimed mainly at Japanese farmers.

1917Barred Zone Act of 4 February 1917 barred South and Southeast Asians from immigrating to the United States. A 1923 Supreme Court decision held that Indian nationals were could not ineligible for citizenship because, though anthropologically they may be Caucasians , they were not "white" in the intention of the law but "Orientals" (see Thind v United States, 1923: Indian denied citizenship because he is "Oriental".

1920Amendment XIX held that no citizen will be denied the right to vote "on account of sex."

1920California Alien Land Law places more restrictions on lease and ownership of land by aliens, especially those ineligible to citizenship.

On 2 November 1920, California adopted a more elaborate Alien Land Law to clarify the "Property Rights and Disabilities of Aliens in California".

1922Cable Act allowed a woman to keep her US citizenship . . . unless she married an alien ineligible to citizenship.

1924Immigration Act allowed a woman to keep her US citizenship . . . unless she married an alien ineligible to citizenship.

1931Cable Act amended so that a US-born woman who loses her citizenship by marrying an alien ineligible to citizenship cannot be denied the right of naturalization at a later date.

1933Anti-miscegenation   California adds "members of the Malay race" to its Civil Code, section 60, which now read "All marriages of white persons with negroes, Mongolians, members of the Malay race, or mulattoes are illegal and void." The law was thus amended after an appelate court permitted Salvador Roldan to marry a white woman. Roldan had argued that he was of the Malay race, and hence marriage of a white to his race was not probitted by California law. The amendment voided his marriage. Filipinos, who became US nationals since shortly after the United States took the Philippines from Spain in the Spanish American War of 1898, lost their nationality in 1935 when the islands became an independent commonwealth.

1936Cable Act repealled.

1941Pearl Harbor attacked by Japan.

1942US Executive Order 9066 authorizes relocation of everyone of Japanese ancestry on Westcoast, including US citizens, to internment camps.

1943Chinese Exclusion Act repealed by Magnuson Act (17 December), which allowed Chinese already in the US to naturalize, and permitted 105 Chinese immigrants a year.

1945War Brides Act of 28 December (Public Law 271) allowed "alien spouses and alien minor children of citizen members of the United States armed forces" into the United states.

1946The Luce-Celler Act of 2 July allowed nationals of the Philippines and India to naturalize in the US, and permitted 100 immigrants a year from each country. The Philippines became independent on 4 July, and India declared its independence from Great Britain in 1947.

1948California anti-miscegenation law rulled unconstitutional by California Supreme Court -- the first time a state court had ever taken such a stance (Perez v. Sharp, 1 October 1948, 32 Cal.2d 711, ,198 P.2d 17).

1950Anti-miscegenation laws continue to exist on the books of 30 out of 48 states. Of the present 50 states only nine -- Alaska, Conneticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, and Wisconsin -- and the District of Columbia -- did not at one time or another outlaw marriages of whites with other races.

1952McCarran-Walter Act (Immigration and Nationality Act) was passed by Congress on 11 June, only weeks after the Occupation of Japan ended on 28 April. President Truman vetoed the act on 25 June but the Senate overrode his veto on 27 June. The new law, which came into effect on 24 December, replaced the Immigration Act of 1924, but took 1920 immigration figures as the standard for a national-origins quota system that was just as controversial, for it favored European immigration. The act permitted only 100 Japanese immigrants a year.

1963   On 11 June, John F. Kennedy proclaims in his civil rights announcement that the following week he will ask Congress "to make a commitment it has not fully made in this century to the proposition that race has no place in American life or law". Yet by the time Barrack Obama was elected president nearly fifty years later, race had come to matter more than ever in both American life and law.

1965Hart-Celler Act (Immigration and Nationality Act amendments) ended the national-origins quota system, put caps on European immigration, and expanded immigration from other parts of the world including Asia.

1967   U.S. Supreme Court finally rules that anti-miscegenation laws violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment (Loving v. Virginia, 12 June 1967). The Lovings, who were from Virginia, had married in Washington, D.C. in 1958, and were charged and convicted of miscegenation after returning to Virginia. The Supreme Court decision struck down (ended the enforceability of) the anti-miscegenation laws in Virginia and fifteen other states where such laws were still in effect though not necessary enforced (Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia).

1986Immigration Reform and Control Act

1990Immigration Act

1916Nationality renunciation provisions added to 1899 Nationality Law in response to pressure from the United States to reduce dual-nationality among US-born offspring of Japanese immigrants. Until this point, Japanese nationality could be lost for a variety of reasons, but there were no legal procedure for voluntary expatriation.

1919   Japan submits racial equality proposal to League of Nations but it is rejected by the United States and some other countries.

1924Nationality retention provision added to 1899 Nationality Law. The provision required Japanese parents to file notification of intent to retain the Japanese nationality of a child born abroad within two weeks of its birth. An imperial ordinance specifically applied the provision to Japanese residing in the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, and Peru. Mexico was added to the list in 1926. Japan introduced the retention measure in response to diplomatic pressure -- especially from the United States, which was then in the throes of an anti-alien, anti-Oriental, anti-dual-national tantrum -- to make it more difficult for locally-born children of aliens to become dual nationals through birth. The retention measure was kept in the 1950 Nationality Law and is the basis of the declaration of choice provision in the 1985 Nationality Law. Japan did not in the past -- and still does not -- prohibit such dual nationality.

1932Proclamation of establishment of Manchoukuo states that (1) "there shall not be any discrimination of race or differentiation of status" and (2) "nationals of other countries [who] apply for long-term settlement also shall obtain the enjoyment of equal treatment."

1947Article 14 of the new constitution provides that "All nationals [of Japan] are equal under the law, and they shall not be discriminated in political, economic or social relations, because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin."

1950Nationality Law remains primarily patrilineal (father is Japanese) and secondarily matrilineal (unmarried mother is Japanese) father is Japanese if mother married) but is partly degenderized in line with contemporary global standards. Law still free of any reference to race or ethnicity.

1985Nationality Law becomes primarily ambilineal (either father or mother is Japanese), thus eliminating gender discrimination. Law still free of racial or ethnic provisions.

Rise and fall of California's anti-miscegenation law

Here are the first three graphs of 1 October 1948 California Supreme Court Ruling which struck the state's long-standing laws forbidding interracial marriages.

Perez v. Sharp (Oct. 1, 1948) 32 Cal.2d 711, 198 P.2d 17

[ Heading omitted. ]

In this proceeding in mandamus, petitioners seek to compel the County Clerk of Los Angeles County to issue them a certificate of registry (Civ. Code, § 69a) and a license to marry. (Civ. Code, § 69.) In the application for a license, petitioner Andrea Perez states that she is a white person and petitioner Sylvester Davis that he is a Negro. Respondent refuses to issue the certificate and license, invoking Civil Code, section 69, which provides: "... no license may be issued authorizing the marriage of a white person with a Negro, mulatto, Mongolian or member of the Malay race."

Civil Code, section 69, implements Civil Code, section 60, which provides: "All marriages of white persons with negroes, Mongolians, members of the Malay race, or mulattoes are illegal and void." This section originally appeared in the Civil Code in 1872, but at that time it prohibited marriages only between white persons and Negroes or mulattoes. It succeeded a statute prohibiting such marriages and authorizing the imposition of certain criminal penalties upon persons contracting or solemnizing them. (Stats. 1850, ch. 140, p. 424.) Since 1872, Civil Code, section 60, has been twice amended, first to prohibit marriages between white persons and Mongolians (Stats. 1901, p. 335) and subsequently to prohibit marriages between white persons and members of the Malay race. (Stats. 1933, p. 561.)

Petitioners contend that the statutes in question are unconstitutional on the grounds that they prohibit the free exercise of their religion and deny to them the right to participate fully in the sacraments of that religion. They are members of the Roman Catholic Church. They maintain that since the church has no rule forbidding marriages between Negroes and Caucasians, they are entitled to receive the sacrament of matrimony.

[ Rest of ruling omitted. ]


Yamato Ichihashi

Yamato Ichihashi (1878-1963) was the first Japanese national to be chaired as a professor at a major American university. A Memorial Resolution begins with this account of his early life the United States (Internet: Stanford University, Stanford Historical Society, Faculty Memorials).

Yamato Ichihashi was born at Magoya [sic: Nagoya, Aichi], on the island of Honshu, Japan, April 15, 1878. While still a young man he came to the United States to further his education, and spent some time in the public schools. After graduating from Stanford in 1907 with the A. B. degree, he remained to receive his A. M. in Economics in 1908. During the following two years he stayed on as an assistant in the Economics Department, while also serving as a special agent of the United States Immigration Commission. In 1910 he entered Harvard, won a fellowship in Sociology the next year, and in 1914 received his doctorate in Economics with a dissertation on Japanese immigration.

Ichihashi has, in Gordon H. Chang, a professor of American history at Stanford University, a sympathetic biographer.

Gordon H. Chang
Morning Glory, Evening Shadow
(Yamato Ichihashi and His Internment Writings, 1942-1945)
Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999
xv, 552 pages, plates
Asia America series


David Starr Jordan

Ichihashi's pamphlet is prefaced with a To Whom It May Concern endorsement by David Starr Jordan, then President of Stanford University. In addition to an article by Jordan he cites in the body of his pamphlet (page 46, see below), Ichihashi lists two artices by Jourdan in his Selected Bibliography (page 68)

Jordan, D. S.: Japan in California; The Boston Evening Transcript, December 12, 1906. Relations of Japan and the United States; Popular Science Monthly, February 1912.

David Starr Jordan (1851-1931), according to a University of Evansville, Indiana biography, was an acclaimed ichthyologist, educator and writer, who served as the present of Stanford University (1891-1913) then the chancellor at Stanford (1913-1916), after being head of the Department of Natural Sciences at Indiana University and also its president.

Jordan's "talent as a creative literary artist" is said to have been "[o]scured by the brilliance of his triple career as a naturalist, teacher, and 'minor prophet of democracy'". The articles that Ichihashi cited appear to be examples of Jordan's interest in "democracy" -- though perhaps his remarks on race were also informed by his understanding of human beings from the viewpoint of a natural scientist.

The US government even named a ship after Jordan (NOAA website).

The DAVID STARR JORDAN was built in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin in 1964 and commissioned in San Diego, CA, in 1966. The ship was designed and built for the U.S. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, which later became part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for the purpose of fisheries research in the tropical Pacific. Since commissioning, the DAVID STARR JORDAN has logged over a million miles while studying the biological and physical oceanography of the southwestern U.S. coast and the eastern tropical Pacific.


The World's Work

The World's Work was a monthly news periodical and advertiser published by Doubleday, Page & Company, Garden City, L. I. The magazine was launched in 1900, the year after Frank N. Doubleday and Walter H. Page founded the publishing house later called just Doubleday and Company, Inc.

Page edited the magazine until 1913, when he became the U.S. ambassador to Britain. About one-third of the magazine's pages consisted of advertising, before and after the main pages. Its articles leaned toward the buisness and politics of commerce, manufacturing, and agriculture. During the World War, the magazine was edited by Page's son, Arthur, who used the magazine to promote US intervention on the side of the Allies.

The magazine, which had two volumes a year (as many US monthlies still do), was well-illustrated with photographs. Preceding the editorial introduction of the June 1913 issue is a full-page plate of Walter H. Page, the founder of the magazine, and the editor recently when become the US ambassaodor to Great Britain. Between the first and second pages of the introduction is a run of full-page plates showing people in the news.

The World's Work was published from October 1900 to July 1932, according to Richard E. Clear, Old Magazines, Paducah (KY): Collector Books, 2003, page 283).

Viscount Sutemi Chinda
Sir Cecil Arthur Spring-Rice
Dr. George E. Vincent
Prof. T. N. Carver
Mr. Wilbur J. Carr
Commissioner Philander P. Claxton
Mr. Richard Cary Morse
Mrs. William C. Story
Sir Gilbert Parker
General Mario Menocal
Rev. Henry Collin Minton
Kaiser Wilhelm II

I wonder if it crossed the editor's mind that some readers would view the person in the first portrait as an example of what the person in the last had called, not two decades earlier, "die gelbe Gefahr" -- better known in English as "the yellow peril".


Chinda Sutemi

Each of the portraits has a caption. The captions for the first and last personalities read as follows.

The Japanese ambassador to the United States, whose protest against the enactment of a state law to prevent Japanese in California from owning or leasing agricultural lands, brought that recurrent situation again into first prominence as a national problem. [See page 195]

The twenty-fifth anniversary of his accession to the throne of the German empire will be celebrated on June 15th. [See "The March of Events"].

Chinda Sutemi (č 1856-1929) was both a Methodist and a minister. He served as Japan's ambassador to the United States and Great Britain, and was appointed a Privy Councillor (ږ⊯ Sūmitsu Komonkan) in October 1920. He then became, in turn, the Grand Steward ({v Tōgū Daibu) -- the Imperial Household Agency official responsible for overseeing the family of the crown prince -- in the later part of the period when Hirohito was the crown prince and regent, and the 12th Grand Chamberlain (] Jijūchō) when Hirohito became the emperor. His diplomatic experience prepared him for service, also, as Hirohito's chief attendant ( Gubuchō) when he travelled to Europe.

Chinda was the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1906 when Japan was conducting Korea's foreign affairs. He was the ambassador to the United States when the California passed its Alien Land Law in 1913, and the ambassador to Great Britain in 1917 when the World War ended.

Chinda was the ambassador in London when he attended the 1919 Paris Peace Conference as a member of Japan's delegation. As such he helped advance Japan's argument that the Treaty of Versailles should not provide for the return of Germany's former Shantung concessions to China, and Japan's proposal that the League of Nations put a racial equality clause in its charter.

As a diplomat, Chinda advocated racial equality for Japanese nationals in other countries. Also as a diplomat, he had to accommodate the racist policies of other countries. In 1891, as a consul in the United States, he reportedly advised his government to prevent "undesireable" Japanese from emigrating to the United States (Yoshida Ryo, gc, Japanese Immigrants and their Christian Communities in North America: A Case Study of the Fukuinkai, 1877-1896, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, 2007, Volume 34, Number 1, pages 229-244, page 237, as posted on this journal's website at Nanzan University).

The immigration law was revised in March 1891 ("An Amendment to the Immigration and Alien Contract Labor Laws"), and it prohibited the so-called "undesirable" applicants from entering the country, which included prostitutes and the poor, that is, any people who were likely to require public aid. As a result of this new legislation, the majority of Japanese applicants who sought work in the United States were not allowed to enter. Consul Chinda Sutemi considered the situation to be a serious one and he insisted that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reject anyone who would be a disgrace to the Japanese and requested such people not be allowed to depart from Japan. It had become clear that the exclusionary practices toward Chinese in America were gradually being applied to the Japanese as well.


Chester H. Rowell

The page reference in the caption to Chinda's portrait is to the article, described and cited in the following table, by Chester H. Rowell. There is, however, no specific mention of the ambassador in the article.

Chester Harvey Rowell (1867-1948) was an influential Republican Party leader in California as well as a journalist. In 1898 he took over The Fresno Republican, a paper founded by his uncle, the physician Chester Rowell (1844-1912), who was also a state senator, a mayor of Fresno, and a University of California regent.

Chester H. Rowell, the nephew, edited the Fresno paper until 1920, and edited the San Francisco Chronicle from 1932 to 1935. He was also one of the most effective spokesman for the notion that California was "the border between the white man's and the brown man's world" and was duty-bound to defend this "racial frontier" (Rowell 1913: 200; see full citation below).


The Selected Bibliography in Yamato Ichihashi's 1915 pamphlet lists two articles by Rowell. One is "The Japanese in California" piece in The World's Work. The other is a piece called "Orientphobia" in the 6 February 1909 [Volume 42] issue of Collier's Weekley

The subtitle of "Orientophobia" was "A Western Editor's Views on the White Frontier". In the article, Rowell reportedly wrote that "Nothing can keep our Pacific Coast essentially a white man's country except our continued determination to keep it so" and "Shall the frontier of the white man's world be drawn at the Golden Gate or right down the middle of our social structure?" (pages 13 and 29, as cited by Eckard Toy, "Whose Frontier? The Survey of Race Relations on the Pacific Coast in the 1920s", Oregon Historical Quarterly, Spring 2006, Volume 107, No. 1, pages 35-64, as posted on the History Cooperative website).


Give them a chance . . . to cross the racial divide

Here I have taken the liberty of creating a drama -- between two witnesses of, and contributors to, the debate on the need in California for laws that prohibited "aliens ineligible to citizenship" from owning land -- among other exclusionist measures.

Two views of race in response to 1913 California Alien Land Law

Chester H. Rowell    For discrimination Yamato Ichihashi    Against discrimination

Chester H. Rowell
The Japanese in California
(Why Californians regard their presence as "The Beginning of the Biggest Problem that ever faced the American People")
The World's Work
June 1913 (Volume XXVI, Number 2)
Pages 195-201

Yamato Ichihashi
Japanese Immigration, Its Status in California
[San Francisco: Marshall Press], 1915
Front matter, plus 69 pages
Reprint: San Francisco: R and E Research Associates (publishers and distributors of ethnic studies), 1971
Second edition of pamphlet originally published in 1913.
Introduction by Stanford University Chancellor David Starr Jordan dated 31 March 1913.

Why Californians Regard Their Presence as "The Beginning of the Biggest Problem that Ever Faced the American People"


The California legislature was assembled in the Senate chamber for joint hearing on the Japanese bills, whose recurrent agitation brings California biennially into the spotlight of the world. Directors of the Panama-Pacific Exposition (the writer among them) were pleading for conservative action, or inaction. A gaunt farmer roses to reply: "Up at Elk Grove, where I live," he said, "on the next farm a Japanese man lives, and a white woman. That woman is carrying around a baby in her arms. it isn't white. It isn't Japanese. I'll tell you what it is --

"It is the beginning of the biggest problem that ever faced the American people!"

Psychologically, this epitomized the whole question -- the beginning of a race problem, multiplied in imagination by the possibilities of all the future; the challenge, which sort of baby shall prefigure the future Californian. Without waiting for the hearing to end, the Assembly committee withdrew and unanimously reported out one of the very bills against which we were protesting. In the legislative balance, that baby outweighed the great Exposition.

And, dealing with the problem wide and long, no far-sighted man can dismiss the farmer's challenge as mere figment of fancy. Let only that happen in California which has already happened in Hawaii; let only an awakening Orient pour through the Golden Gate a stream comparable to that which Europe has poured through Hell Gate -- and that baby will have increased to the exact problem the Elk Grove farmer pictured. Injustice has been the only American way of meeting a race problem. We dealt unjustly by the Indian, and he died. We deal unjustly with the Negro, and he submits. If Japanese ever come in sufficient numbers to constitute a race problem, we shall deal unjustly with them -- and they will neither die nor submit. This is the bigness of the problem, seen in the telescope of the imagination, and is the whole reason for the emotional intensity of California's agitation over a situation whose present practical dimensions are relatively insignificant. Californians are vividly conscious of their position as the warders of the Western mark. They hold not merely a political and geographic, but a racial, frontier -- the border between the white man's and the brown man's world. To a keen sense of this trust, the possible crisis takes on the significance of a new Thermophyae. Psychologically, this is the Japanese problem in California, and no view of the situation would be just to California if it omitted a sympathetic appreciate of this state of mind, and of its possible ultimate justification.

It is equally necessary to recognize that the question has a psychological aspect on the Japanese side also. At this very moment, while this is being written, twenty thousand people are surging through the streets of Tokyo, clamoring for war with America, all because the California legislature is considering a measure which is already the unprotested law of the United States, by three separate Federal statutes, which is the law of five states, and has been immemorial law in Japan itself. Even a mob would not be so irrational on merely practical provocation. It is the whole revulsion of the brown man's race pride against the white man's race exclusiveness, concentrated for the moment on an otherwise inconsequential act of the white man's outpost province. it is a mutual state of emotional hyperesthesia.

Immigration and land statistics

Nearly four-page review of immigration and alien land ownership statistics, have been omitted here. The aim of the review is to present the reader with basic facts while providing a foundation for the claim made in the introduction and repeated in the conclusion that the problem is not really one about the number of Japanese immigrants or who owns land per se.

For ten years, alien land bills have been introduced in every session of the legislature, and in most sessions there have been school bills and other intentionally offensive measures. Executive pressure, in Washington and Sacramento, has always eliminated the miscellaneous bills, and then the land bills have divided into two classes, one discriminating against the Japanese and the other applying to all nations alike. Japanese representations have always beaten the discriminatory measure, and British corporation influences have then beaten the non-discriminatory measure. It is an old game of see-saw; but every two years it stirs up first California, then Japan, then Washington, and finally the world.

Meantime, the discriminatory measure, excluding "aliens not eligible to citizenship" from land owning, has become the law of the state of Washington, without arousing any excitement. The non-discriminatory measure, excluding aliens who have not taken out their first papers, was already the Federal law for the District of Columbia and the public lands, and with one different provision, for the territories. It is the law of Illinois, Idaho, Kentucky, Minnesota, and Missouri. With the addition that actual resident aliens, during their residence, may also hold land, it is the law of Oklahoma and Texas, and of the territories.

Japan had an absolute law against alien ownership until April 13, 1910, and in effect has it yet. The law of that date was not to go into effect until confirmed by imperial ordinance, and that ordinance has not yet been issued. Even in the event of the issuance of the ordinance, the right will be extremely limited. Only foreigners actually resident in Japan, during their residence, and such foreign corporations registered in Japan as shall receive the permission of the Minister of Home Affairs shall acquire land. Even these shall not acquire it unless their countries grant the same rights to Japanese, and not then unless their countries are designated by imperial ordinance, which has not been done. In no case, even after the proclamation, shall they acquire land in the districts of Hokkaido, Formosa, or Karafuto (in other words, the territorial outposts of Japan, in which there are race problems), or in any district which may be designated by imperial ordinance as "necessary for national defense." So the repeal of the alien land law is, so far, purely theoretical, and even if it is ever put into effect, the rights under it will be extremely limited and always revocable.

All these things pass without notice, unless they happen in California. But the mere introduction of a bill in the California legislature, identical with the laws of the United States and of other states and nations, including Japan, at once stirs up riot and rumors of war and threats of retaliation, and sets all the foreign offices in the world by the ears. Which only confirms California's own opinion that it is the focus of what is potentially the greatest race problem in the world.

What California does not so easily appreciate that, on the present actual situation, the practical problem is not acute at all, and that to precipitate unnecessary action on the insignificant fraction of the problem within its immediate jurisdiction may jeopardize the far larger permanent responsibility, in which California needs the cooperation of the Nation and of the world.

Whether ten thousand acres of Japanese farms shall become twenty thousand is not overwhelmingly important. That the two chief races of mankind shall stay each on its own side of the Pacific, there to conduct in peace and friendship the commerce of goods and ideas, and of the things of the spirit, but without general interpenetration of populations, or commingling of blood -- that is precisely the greatest thing in the world.

Japanese Immigration
Its Status in California

[By Yamato Ichihashi]


This booklet was first printed in a pamphlet form early in the spring of 1913. Since then a significant event occurred -- the enactment of "an alien land law" by the State of California. That law doubtless constitutes an important culminating point in the history of anti-japanese agitation on the Pacific Coast, and therefore, a brief statement concerning it has been added to the present edition of the pamphlet which, as a while, has been revised, enlarged and brought up to date so far as data permitted it.

In 1907 an "informal agreement" was entered into between the American and Japanese governments, whereby immigration to this country, of laborers directly from Japan as well as migration of Japanese from Hawaii, Canada and Mexico are prohibited. And notwithstanding a most effective administration by Japan of the said agreement, agitation against Japanese has not ceased. It is vigorous as ever, if not more so than it was before the restriction was put in practice.

In view of such a situation, it seemed advisable that the intelligent Americans should be furnished with facts pertaining to Japanese immigration and its present status, so that they themselves can better judge the whole question rather than to have it interpreted by the Asiatic Exclusion League and other interested persons.

The pamphlet has been prepared with such an end in view, and it purposes to be no more than an unbiased statement of the more salient facts relative to Japanese immigration and its present status in this State of California.

As to the sources relied upon, I may be permitted to say, that first of all I have taken a keen but objective interest in the question since 1900, when it seemed to assume an acuteness. Added to this fact, I worked as a "Special Agent" for the United States Immigration Commission of 1907. That Commission made an exhaustive inquiry into the general question of immigration throughout the country. My particular fuction as its agent was to look into the Japanese immigration situation here in the State, and thus I had an ample opportunity to familiarize myself with the subject. The results of that investigation are now made public. In addition to this information, I have relied upon such sources oas the Annual Report of Commissioner General of Immigration, the Biennial Report of the State Bureau of Labor, and not the least in importance, the facts gathered by a "Special State Investigation of 1909," which also made an extensive study of the "Japanese Question." Furthermore, there recently appeared several books dealing with the subject, the most notable ones being "The Japanese Problem in the United States," by Professor H. A. Millis, and "The American Japanese Problem," by Dr. Sidney L. Gulick. These books have also been freely consulted.

Race and intermarriage

All of parts I-VI have been omitted, except the following paragraphs about race and intermarriage, from "Part V: Political and Social Aspects of Japanese Immigration" (pages 45-46).

The Japanese as a race are sensitive to their environment, and possess a natural faculty for assimilation. Moreover, they are anxious to exercise it. But there are two obstacles in their way: They cannot become citizens of this country because of their race, and they cannot marry white persons because of the law of California. Contrary to the belief of many, these are not insurmountable. Many who are familiar with the "Japanese problem" favor removing both of these legal barriers. Dr. Jordon says, "An indirect exclusion act, as of races not eligible for citizenship, is more humiliating than a direct act would be. It implies that the Japanese cannot read between the lines. Exclusion from citizenship, for which discrimination no adequate cause exists, is of the nature of insult in itself. To shut out because they have been insulted once adds doubly to a humiliation they have no power to resent, but which they hope their nearest friends among the nations will not offer them." [Note 1: D. S. Jordan, What Shall We Say? p. 70.] Professor Millis says, "Acceptable individuals of any race living here should be able to become citizens." [Note 2: Millis, Ibid., p. 308.] Dr. Gulick holds, "American citizenship should be based on individual qualification. Race of itself alone should not be a disqualification for citizenship." [Note 3: Gulick, The American and Japanese Problem, pp. 292-293.] "Japanese individuals who have taken the required course of education for citizenship and are ready, on the one hand, to renounce openly their allegiance to Japan and, on the other, to take oath of allegiance to the United States would, without doubt, make as loyal Americans as those who come from any other land." [Note 4: Ibid.] In other words, change the naturalization law, and then one of the insurmountable obstacles to assimilation is forever removed.

But how about intermarriage? Some hold that intermarriage is not essential to assimilation. But granting that it is essential, let us inquire somewhat on a broader basis as to this interesting subject of intermarriage between the Japanese and the Americans.

[ Following this, but omitted here, are about two pages on intermarriage, mostly citations from several sources, including Gulick and Millis. ]

Suggested Remedies

Before closing, however, two suggestions may be here offered in the hope that they may help in solving this menacing problem of Japanese immigration. First of these is a method of regulating immigration, first suggested by Dr. Gulick, and later modified by Professor Millis. it is here reproduced as stated by the last mentioned author.

[ Omitted: Paragraphs and table cited verbatim from The Japanese Problem in the United States (An Investigation for the Commission on Relations with Japan Appointed By the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America), New York: The Macmillan Company, June 1915, pages 293-296. Millis follows but modifies proposals suggested by Sidney L. Gulick in The American-Japanese Problem (A Study of the Racial Relations of the East and West), New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1914. ]

Second, is the proposition that once admitted into the country there should be no discrimination in the treatment of immigrants. Ths [sic] proposition is based upon the so well-established principle of American civilization that it requires no explanation. And if Japanese ask that justice and fairness be accorded to them as they are freely accorded to immigrants from other nations, America cannot very well refuse. The best way to apply the principle to Japanese residents is by changing the existing naturalization law so that those of them who qualify according to such revised law may become citizens of the United States. This will automatically do away with the existing discriminatory laws of several states since they are all based upon the non-eligibility of Japanese for citizenship. Moreover, that will remove the stronghold of anti-Japanese agitation. Votes will silence agitators. Besides there are two positive reasons for granting them the right of naturalization: First, the presence of unnaturalized aliens is undesirable to say the least, from the standpoint of the American nation. Second, the right will grant to those who seek, a permanent safeguard, and that in turn will enable them to strive for their own development. They will make contributions to American civilization as its loyal citizens. Give them a chance.