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Learn about the Picture Bride Phenomena, brides that had never before met the man which they had married upon arrival to ...
Tags:Japanese Picture Bride Phenomena in Central Valley,Japanese immigrants in America,Japanese Issei in America,Picture Bride Phenomena,issei history,japanese american community,kvie
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Central Valley’s Japanese-Picture Bride Phenomena
Female: A significant reason for the desire of farmhands to become farm owners was the influx of picture brides which greatly affected the gender balance of the Issei.
Male: And then in 1910, we see a dramatic shift of 9000 so called picture brides coming in and by 1920, there’s almost a 2:1 ratio which really affected the way the Japanese community developed.
Female: The Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1907 to 1908 limited the immigration of Japanese laborers to America but due to a loophole in the law, wives and children were allowed to join laborers who are already here.
Female 2: She said that they came in their Japanese Kimono and as soon as they got to the hotel then they had the marriage formally there and then the next day they went shopping and got all this American clothes they’ve had in there.
Motome Yoshimura: I wanted to come to United States because everybody else was coming, so I joined the crowd.
Male 2: The husbands would send somebody else’s picture, some handsome man’s picture and so, these women would look at that and say, “Oh yeah. I’ll marry him.” So, they came here and then they look around and they couldn’t you know, “You are not that man.”
Motome Yoshimura: You know very probably the pain that it much rosier anything what the actual situation was.
Male: Women played really a major role in not only transmission of the culture but also as unpaid workers.
Motome Yoshimura: I found that I was doing all kinds of work which I had never done before like drive a horse and some heavy work which I had never been exposed to. Every other wife has been in the same thing too.
Female: In 1921, due to pressure from the United States, Japan agreed not to issue anymore passports of picture brides. Those who were already here continue to adjust to their new lives. Although, it was often with the sense of duty and obligation.
Motome Yoshimura: I had regrets about the marriage. In those days, for a wife to return, terminate the marriage because you didn’t like your husband was considered a great shame and for that reason, you just made the best of a very difficult situation.
Female: The Japanese-Americans formed highly developed the communities based on associations. The Kenjin-kai was prefecture groups formed with others who came from the same area in Japan. There function was largely social with the highlight being on lavish annual picnic. But the Kenjin-kai also served economic functions such as providing financial health and employment services to those trying to get established.
Other groups strengthened the sense of community. The Japan Association was a community building force closely linked to the Japanese Government. It was later replaced of the Japanese-American Citizens Lead as a primary community organization, so the community learned to take care of its own rather than seek mainstream help even when it came to healthcare.
Male: You know all of these were due to the fact the Japanese-Americans weren’t really welcomed in the normal medical establishments.
Female: Fortunately, doctors trained in Japan were part of the early immigrant flow to America. Shortly after the turn of the century, Dr. Bunkuro Okonogi opened a small facility in Fresno. It is said to be the first Japanese Hospital in California.
Yoshino Hasegawa: When I was six years old, my mother became sick with typhoid and she was taken to the hospital in Fresno to the Okonogi Hospital.
Female: Were there hospitals closer?
Yoshino Hasegawa: That was the only Japanese hospital.
Female: Stockton as well as Sacramento had hospitals and most larger communities also had Japanese dentist along with acupuncturists and throughout the state, there were hundreds of practicing midwives. For that reason, very few second generation babies were actually born in hospitals.
Japanese-American communities also formed their own sports leagues.
Toko Fujii: Sports was always a major part of our lives. Female 4: We had like everything, ever since I can remember, we have basketball, baseball, some will play tennis, Ping-Pong’s, sumo, kendo, all those.
Female: The Nisei Baseball Leagues were well organized and popular and those boys could play.
Another medium place for young Japanese-Americans were at Japanese Language School.
Female 4: We went to the American School from 9:00 to 3:30, change when we come home and change books and go to Japanese School for an hour.
Female: Parents relied on Japanese Language Schools to reinforce Japanese values in addition to linguistic skills. Children were encouraged to pursue American education as well.
Female 4: Education was first in our hand and I think it’s mostly so. You might not have an opportunity now but in the future, you may. And if it does come, just be prepared.
Female: Public schools presented a mixed experience. Some Japanese-American children face little or no prejudicial treatment. Others felt subtle discrimination.
Male 2: Even at Sacramento High School, all these fraternities and sororities, they’re all pure white. He didn’t find anybody of color, whether it’s Chinese, Japanese, Hispanic or Black and you might say that we knew our place so to speak.
Female: Others faced outright discrimination including racially segregated schools.
Female 5: In 1921, California actually legislate laws that allow for segregation and there are four places in California that is practiced and one of them is Florin.
Female: The others were Courtland, Isleton and Walnut Grove, all in Sacramento County and all communities with the large proportion of Japanese-Americans.
Male: In places where there was entire Japanese or entire Asian sentiments, segregation was one way to keep the population apart.
Female: Still the numbers were small. In 1929, there were a total of 575 Japanese students in the four segregated school districts combined.
Sam Kashiwagi: In 1932, I sat at first grade at Fine Grammar School and I didn’t know a word of English, neither did all the other kids. So you know, being a segregated school with all Japanese-American kids, we get along beautifully.
Female: Vibrant Japanese-American areas grew in the valleys of the biggest cities. Here in Sacramento, there was a nearly self-sufficient community that may have seen to like a world onto itself.
Male: Right before the war in 1941, there were 475 Japanese-American businesses. They could survive for a year or two without even going outside of the JA community.
Female: Despite the financial problems of the depression and the beginnings of war in Europe, in Asia, the Issei, the first generation of Japanese-Americans who are watching their children grow up, go to College, get ready to take over family businesses and farms and give them grand children.
What they had sown had grown. It was every immigrants dream. Hard work would mean a better life for their children. We all know that the dream was shattered by Pearl Harbor and our government’s response to it but what cannot be forgotten is this very American story of first generation pioneers who came to grow.