The Japanese American Saga
Gateway to History Series
"The Japanese American heritage is no exception to the experience of minorities and oppressed people who know the bitter sting and enduring stigma of hate, fear, and despair in a land of abundance that was founded on freedom, liberty, and opportunity" (Edison Uno, 1971). They came with lofty dreams, but instead found disappointment, discrimination, and sometimes death. Despite their struggles, they built a legacy that carries on today. Their story and those of their descendants are at the core of the Japanese American saga. First generation Japanese (Issei) immigrated to California in the mid-1800s. They found work, raised families, and developed roots in their communities. Nisei, the second generation, diligently obtained an education, owned businesses, and served in the military. In 1942, Executive Order 9066, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, led to the darkest chapter in Japanese American history. Understanding their plight in internment camps, issues of resettlement, and assimilation may be better understood by students today.
Japanese United Methodist Church, Easter 1936. Sacramento Ethnic Survey Collection, 1983/146/1867
This Gateway to History edition will address such research questions as: Who were the first Japanese to come
to Sacramento? What was life like in this frontier city of the 1880s, with severe restrictions and prejudices
against Japanese Americans? Why did whites exploit, discriminate, and force internment? How did the Japanese
cope with internment camps and adjustments home? What changes occurred in Sacramento’s Japantown that made
resettlement more challenging?
CSH materials provide numerous resources for educators to utilize in the classroom in order to help students
understand Sacramento involvement with this loyal, patriotic, and productive citizenry. Students have available
documents, photographs, oral histories, newspaper articles, books, and other sources to enrich classroom
activities, create research projects and reports. The collection provides interested parties with individual
stories and insights into people’s traditions, values, resilience, isolation, and renewal.
Sample Resources at the Center for Sacramento History (CSH)
A History of the Japanese Community in Sacramento 1883-1972 (1973)
CSH Call Number: ETHN COL
This CSUS thesis by Cheryl Lynn Cole extensive research of the history of Japanese citizens, Issei emigration
to Sacramento, subsequent formation of Japantown, growth of associations, societies, churches, and issues of
discrimination, evacuation, and resettlement. The author delves into Japanese traditions, cultural values,
and agricultural and commercial ventures. Nisei, the American-born generation, is traced from 1883 to 1972.
Their barriers, particularly internment, and the tide of racism are addressed.
Japanese Ethnic Survey
CSH Call Number: Ethnic Survey, Japanese, Box 3, Folder 1-2
Another source personalizing Japanese American heritage, this compilation describes their quest for assimilation,
employment, establishing families, participation in cultural, sports, and religious activities. Folder two
includes chapter footnotes, appendices, and a bibliography.
Henry Taketa Collection
CSH Call Number: Henry Taketa Collection, 2003/016
Mr. Taketa (1912-91) was a prominent Sacramento resident active in the Japanese-American community. He had a
successful law practice prior to his internment at Tule Lake Relocation Camp. After WW II he became a charter
member of the Japanese-American Citizens League (JACL), and assisted in the construction of several memorials
commemorating the Japanese military participation. The collection contains notes, memos, news clippings, books,
and reports. Information on the Pacific Asian Studies events at CSUS, reparation efforts, and the 1985 Tule Lake
Reunion can also be found in the records.
The Japanese American Family Album (1996)
CSH Call Number: E184.J3 H584
The publication documents the lives of generations of Japanese immigrants through their letters, diaries, photos,
interviews, and newspaper articles. The authors, Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler, describe life in Japan, first
impressions in America, adapting to new social customs, preserving cultural traditions, and contending with
discrimination and restrictions of their civil liberties.
Colonel Walter Takeo Tsukamoto: Japanese American Citizen Leader (2002)
CSH Call Number: Doris Kobayashi Collection, 2003/020/001, Box 1, Folder 1
The booklet honors the author’s father, Walter Tsukamoto, a lawyer and first president of the Sacramento JACL.
The organization lobbied against measures intended to discriminate against people of Japanese ancestry. Mr.
Tsukamoto was re-elected for five terms and was president of the National JACL.
Executive Order 9066 (1972)
CSH Call Number: D769.8.A6 C6
President Roosevelt signed an executive order in 1942 which permitted the Secretary of War to restrict entering,
remaining, leaving the country by subjects. The photographs reflect Japanese American’s evacuations (approximately
110,000) and internment. The photos were mostly staged to show satisfied and fulfilled people, which hid their true
feelings. After release, the Japanese could not discuss imprisonment, the unspeakable crimes, and assaults.
Many blamed themselves, because they lived quietly and in isolation from Caucasian neighbors. Photos show their
uprooting, transport to camps, at work, selling businesses, and personal items with hopeless and forlorn facial
Issei Christians (1977)
CSH Call Number: E184.J3 I66
Oral histories originated in 1969, with six taped interviews by Reverend Takarabe of his congregation.
The recollections are detailed accounts of Japan childhood, raising families in California, military experiences,
education, financial reversals, disappointments and achievements.
Continuing Traditions: Japanese Americans, Story of a People, 1869-1992 (1992)
CSH Call Number: ETHN CON
Project Director Wayne Maeda developed and managed an exhibition about Japanese Americans, Issei coming from Japan,
the 1913 Alien Land Law prohibiting Japanese from owning land, denied becoming naturalized citizens. The exhibit
contained artifacts, documents, and photographs.
Not Black and White: The Sacramento Bee’s coverage of the Japanese Community from Pearl Harbor to
Executive Order 9066 (2002)
CSH Call Number: ETHN WHI
Thaddeus David White researched Sacramento Bee articles to determine whether the newspaper actively promoted an
anti-Japanese campaign after Pearl Harbor. The articles advocated tolerance and restraint, but supported mass
Display several photos of Issei coming to America, circa 1870 – 1890. Engage students in experiencing being in a
photo, and take a sensory walk through the images. What sounds do you hear? What smells are there? What is the
temperature? Where are you standing? How are you feeling? What are you wearing? Where are you going next?
Display a copy of Executive Order 9066, and set the stage for mass evacuations. Students are Japanese Americans
who have been deported to an internment camp. In small groups (six to eight), they describe what the camp is like,
and their first full day of incarceration. How do you feel about being uprooted, dealing with prejudice, and your
rights withdrawn? One student facilitates discussion, another student records the responses, and each group shares
Debate the pro/con positions of, "It was important to contain Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor."
Students research, develop talking points, and debate each side from a political, economic, and social perspective.
Students read about Japanese American resettlement into Sacramento from internment camps. Brainstorm issues surrounding
this event and have them write a concise report about resettlement.
In small groups (two to three), students are assigned as an ad-hoc committee of the Japanese American Citizens League
trying to create legislation that will allow them to become naturalized citizens, own land, commemorate Japanese in
American military service. They discuss issues preventing citizenship and ways to overcome the barriers. Students
create a paragraph drafting the statement for legislative member’s consideration.