THE PEOPLE AND COMMUNITIES OF THE 19TH CENTURY CENTRAL VALLEY - Japanese Immigrants

Karmakuras
Karmakuras

Yoritomo Karmakura and his bride, circa 1905

press to zoom
Kamiyama family
Kamiyama family

Kamiyama family, circa 1915

press to zoom

Japanese American Businesses in Fresno Chinatown, 1940

press to zoom
Karmakuras
Karmakuras

Yoritomo Karmakura and his bride, circa 1905

press to zoom
1/13

EARLY JAPANESE IMMIGARATION TO CENTRAL CALIFORNIA

Japanese immigrants began their journey to the United States in search of peace and prosperity, leaving an unstable homeland for a life of hard work and the chance to provide a better future for their children. However, before the first generation of immigrants could enjoy the fruits of their labor, they had to overcome hostile neighbors, harsh working conditions, and repeated legislative attacks on their very presence in the country.

 

In 1869, when the transcontinental railroad laid its last piece of track, Chinese workers, the labor force behind the building of the railroad, were left to seek employment elsewhere. At the same time, in the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys, Northern California’s farming and agriculture industry was fast-expanding to meet the needs of a growing State. It was in these areas that many displaced Chinese workers migrated. Despite the clear need for labor in the orchards, fields, and vineyards of these regions anti-Chinese sentiment, formalized in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, was rampant – forcing many to move to urban areas where Chinatowns offered some form of protection against racial violence. As Chinese workers were forced out, labor needs in these agriculture and farming areas started to be filled by newly arrived immigrants from Japan.

Japanese immigration to California began in significant numbers in the mid-1880s, when the Japanese government first allowed emigration. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 had created a shortage of cheap Asian labor, and employers encouraged Japanese immigration to fill the gap. Many more came after 1898 from Hawaii, when the U.S. annexation of Hawaii allowed them to travel without passports. Although the Japanese population in the Valley was small relative to the Chinese, immigrants from Japan suffered from similar prejudice and racism. Japanese Americans (and others of America’s “minorities”) have contributed to some of the basic tenets of America’s foundational ideals and promises- of life, liberty, and property. Although denied many of those freedoms at various times in their histories, they sought to secure the guarantees of the Constitution and the promise of the American dream.

 

Post 1900, immigration from Japan to Hawaii and the West Coast of America was fueled by people seeking economic security and many Japanese, particularly those from rural farming and fishing villages, took advantage of Japan’s loosening emigration laws to seek employment overseas. Communities were born all over rural California as people from the same prefecture in Japan often settled near each other, many making the transition over time from agricultural laborers to tenant farmers and even business owners.

SECONDARY SOURCE MATERIAL - ADDITIONAL READING

HISTORY OF
JAPANESE IMMIGRANTS

IN SANGER, CA

REMEMBERING

CENTRAL FISH MARKET

FRESNO, CA

JAPANESE AMERICANS:

MARUKO CYCLERY

1915

JAPANESE AMERICAN

RESIDENTIAL DESEGRIGATION
1900-1980

Made Possible By These Generous Sponsors

FMBCCNEWLOGO.png
FUSD-GV-Wire.jpg
9151-1-EECU+script-tag_v2.jpg
Assemi Group Logo (1).jpg
cusd-logo-750w_reduced.png
Bonner web.jpg
Cal-Bank-And-Trust.png
smittcamp 2019.png
FCSS-Logo-from LISA.png