Project Description


Institutional Participants


Focus Group#1
Focus Group#2
Focus Group#3
Focus Group#4
Summary Report

Staff and Advisors

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Japanese American
National Museum




The Nikkei community is the primary focus of this category which seeks to identify the transformative processes involved from "being Japanese" to "becoming Nikkei." The concept of "culture-building" is significant to our inquiry for it refers to a process wherein ethnic groups--Nikkei in this instance, legitimize and enfranchise their communities and styles of life within the national contexts in which they reside. In the "culture-building process," the Nikkei are constantly evolving through interrelations in the contexts of their settings as self-conscious, active creators of their own identities and communities.

Primary Language spoken: English
Facilitator: James Hirabayashi Chief Advisor
Discussants: Naomi Moniz (Thursday, June 24)
Yasuo Sakata (Friday, June 25)
Recorder: Louise A. Guerrera (Volunteer)

Facilitator’s report by Jim Hirabayashi;

June 24, 1999: We began with brief discussions of written reports.
Naomi Moniz study focuses on an analysis of Tizuka Yamazaki's films in terms of race, gender, ethnicity and national identity. There are shifting re-conceptualizations of different identities affected by changing political, economic contexts and social movements: Black, feminist, student, worker, dekassegui and mixed racial offsprings.

Teruko Kumei's research focuses on the relationship between Japanese language and the education of Nisei in the U.S. Relying primarily on documents of the Foreign Ministry, she analyzes the transformation of Japanese language schools. In the early 1900s the aim was to provide Japanese education to Japanese nationals. About 1910, in response to the anti-Japanese movement and the Issei communities' transformation from sojourner to permanent settlements, there was a re-examination of the educational policies. In California where there was a stronger anti-Japanese movement, the textbooks were revised to an assimilationist content whereas in Washington they remained more nationalistic in content. In the 1930s, the strategy was to promote Japanese ethnic pride and heritage but to be patriotic Americans and serve as a "bridge" of understanding between U.S. and Japan.

Kozy Amemiya focuses on the development of ethnic identity and community within the context of the Bolivian society. The transition from immigrant status to ethnic community carries along with it tensions resulting from different experiences in rural and urban settings as well as between generations resulting in different conceptions of Nikkei-ness. There is also a strong involvement of the Japanese government regarding the immigrants including aid.

Yasuo Sakata's research focus is on early transformations of the U.S. Issei communities before the turn of the century. Unfortunately archival materials were destroyed during the great San Francisco earthquake.
Analyzing the remaining fragmentary data in Japanese language newspapers, journals and diaries along with Japanese Foreign ministry archival records, Sakata analyzes the Issei's transformation from dekasegi to immigrant status beginning at the turn of the century with focus on the feelings and activities of students and laborers during the last decades of the 19th century.

Audrey Kobayashi's analysis contrasts gender distinctions between early Issei women and post-war women immigrants. Changes are due to differences in ideological contexts. Early Issei women were deeply conservative in terms of economic status, labor structure and Buddhism. In the current post-war migration women leave Japan at the age of 29. They reject Japanese marriage and status as women. High intermarriage and divorce rates are reported among this group in Canada.

June 25, 1999: Discussion proceeded with emphasis on maximal collaborations with colleagues. Question raised for INRP: What are the different notions of citizenship? What is the meaning of gaijin? Inside vs. outside perspectives? Meaning of cultural identity? Meaning of empowerment for the Nikkei wherever they are? Audrey Kobayashi proposed "an inclusive gendered analytical framework" within the INRP conceptual framework.