Eiichiro Azuma

Eiichiro Azuma is the Alan Charles Kors Term Chair Associate Professor of History and Asian American Studies at University of Pennsylvania. He is author of Between Two Empires: Race, History, and Transnationalism in Japanese America (Oxford University Press, 2005) and co-editor of Yuji Ichioka, Before Internment: Essays in Prewar Japanese American History (Stanford University Press, 2006). Professor Azuma is also currently at work with David Yoo in the editing of the Oxford Handbook of Asian American History. Between 1992 and 2000, he worked as a Curator/Researcher at the Japanese American National Museum and has an MA in Asian American studies and a PhD in history from UCLA.

Updated July 2013

community en

In This Great Land of Freedom: The Japanese Pioneers of Oregon

Chapter 4 — Japanese Immigrant Families and Community Development

“Japan is such a small island country…. What is the use of returning to such a place? If we have to fulfill our filial duty to parents and live with wives, why don’t we have them come to America? If the difference in the language and customs bothers us, why don’t we learn to adapt to them”1

Masuo Yasui

The rapid development of Japanese farm communities in Oregon was marked by the emergence of families. The early Japanese immigrant society was primarily a world of young bachelors. During the 1910s, the migratory nature of the community changed ...

Read more

community en

In This Great Land of Freedom: The Japanese Pioneers of Oregon

Chapter 3 — Development of Japanese Farming Communities

The untouched ground of America
I began to hoe
This virgin soil. 

Honda Fugetsu1

During the 1900s, many Japanese immigrants moved into agricultural work. At first, the Issei were drawn by better wages to work on farms. In 1909, farm laborers represented more than a quarter of the total 3,873 Japanese in Oregon. Known as buranke katsugi [blanket carriers], they were seasonal migrants, carrying blankets with a few other daily necessities. Many of these men subsequently invested their earnings and rose above the class of common laborers to sharecroppers, leaseholders, and farm owners. According to the Portland Japanese ...

Read more

migration en

In This Great Land of Freedom: The Japanese Pioneers of Oregon

Chapter 2 — Early Japanese Life in Oregon

Working as a hop picker
It is impossible to
Return to Japan

Honda Fugetsu1

Before 1910, the majority of the Oregon Japanese population were male laborers who lived in a crude environment. Initially, most, if not all of them came to America not to settle, but to work and make money for their families in Japan. For these people, Portland was a temporary home to which they returned when they completed seasonal work. Until they found their next jobs, they stayed at Japanese hotels and ate at the inexpensive restaurants. When the economy was unfavorable, these migratory laborers were ...

Read more

migration en

In This Great Land of Freedom: The Japanese Pioneers of Oregon

Chapter 1 — The Issei Arrive in Oregon

The History of the Issei Pioneers in Oregon, 1880 – 1952

Between 1843 and 1860, more than 250,000 pioneers began the journey across the Oregon Trail heading west. In 1859, Oregon became one of the United States and was still a young state with undeveloped forests and virgin farmlands when the Japanese immigrants arrived in the 1880s. Called Issei, the first generation, Japanese immigrants, like all pioneers, struggled to survive in their new environment. Unlike most other immigrants, the Issei were classified as “aliens ineligible to citizenship” under American naturalization laws. They had to combat social and legal discrimination while ...

Read more

community en

Japanese American National Museum Magazine

Issei in New York, 1876 – 1941

The first Japanese immigrants to New York were quite different from their West Coast counterparts. Initially, the majority of Issei (first generation Japanese in America) came to New York, not to make quick money and return to Japan, but to engage in U.S.-Japan trade and learn Western ways. Many of these New York Issei came from Tokyo and other large cities, rather than from farming prefectures.

Japanese Entrepreneurs

The first Japanese in New York were ambitious young businessmen. In 1875, Momotaro Sato, who had studied at Boston Polytechnic Institute, returned to Japan to spread the word about opportunities ...

Read more