Staff and Advisors
Research Proposal Abstract
Professor Yasuo Sakata is the Director of the International Center at Osaka Gakuin University, Japan, since 1993. He studied East Asian History at the University of California at Los Angeles and is renowned in the field of immigration studies as one of the foremost experts on Japanese immigration to North America and the United States. He has published extensively in both English and Japanese on various historical issues regarding the Japanese Americans in the pre-World War II period.
The proposed research aims to explore into a segment of Japanese Immigrant history which still remains as a buried past. A Japanese residents community in its interesting, transitional stage of development in San Francisco perished, quite unfortunately, in the conflagration of April 1906, the San Francisco Great Earthquake. In the smoldering ashes, valuable records and materials relating to posterity, with intimate details and contemporaneous feelings, the lives and activities of shosei and dekasegi laborers in the closing decades of the nineteenth century. More important, these materials would also have shown us how these dekaseginin had become Issei. Perhaps for this reason, the period from the late 1880s through 1890s was left for long as, practically, an unexplored segment of the Japanese Immigrant history.
The destruction, though extensive and indiscriminating, was not total. Fragmentary materials survived fortunately. Among them are some issue of the Japanese language newspapers and magazines which the shosei published in the 1880s and early 1890s. A series of articles that appeared in the Aikoku [Patriots] published in 1892 as an organ of the Nihonjin Aikoku Domei [Japanese Patriotic League], a shosei organization, show us, for example, how Japanese dekasegi laborers found employment in orchards and hop fields to engage in seasonal works under contract in such places as Vacaville, San Jose and Fresno in the early 1890s. And, a Consular Report in 1895 reveals that a total number of Japanese workers in Vacaville in that year reached 450. A few among the seasonal dekasegi laborers, however, chose to remain in the rural town where they found initial employment, with a view toward settling down eventually in these years. Most of them did return to the Japanese-owned boarding houses in San Francisco or Sacramento as soon as their contracts with specific employers had expired. In these urban centers, these dekasegi laborers would wait for the next call from a labor contractor or an agent who happened to be a boarding house owner or an enterprising shosei with an office in the Japanese residential section in San Francisco. In certain instances, these seasonal workers are reported to have camped out in a field as they did not have a sufficient amount of money.
In the research, I propose to review and re-examine the history of the Japanese in the United States (Zai-bei Nihonjin Shi) in the late 1880s and 1890s with particular attention paid to the dekasegi pattern of migratory movement. My study will focus on the activities and experiences of those Japanese, shosei as well as dekasegi laborers, who came to and lived in the San Francisco Bay area. Whenever possible, my research will rely heavily upon the Japanese language materialsJapanese foreign Ministry archival records, newspapers and magazines published by Japanese residents, and organizational records. These are the documents and records which most American researcher have hitherto ignored as they are unable to utilize.