Japanese American Heritage Month – May, more info
About – The first Japanese immigrants to the United States of America were known as Issei, or “first generation.” A group of colonists arrived in California from Japan as early as 1869, and by the mid-1800s the first major influx of immigrants was recorded as Japanese laborers began working in Hawaii sugarcane fields and California farms.
According to the 1900 U.S. Census, 24,326 Japanese were living in America, primarily on the West Coast. The first Japanese to come to America were male. In fact, the 1900 census shows that only 410 of 24,326 Japanese immigrants were female. Of that total number, 393 were listed in Wyoming. By 1910, the total population of Japanese in America had grown to 72,157, with more than 1,596 of that number living in Wyoming.
New laws reflected growing anti-Asian sentiment in the U.S. Among these was the 1907 Gentlemen’s Agreement aimed at curtailing immigration from Japan. Instead, the Japanese population of California increased. Women were still permitted to enter the U.S., and the steady arrival of “picture brides” from Japan resulted in an increase in the Japanese population in America, both through new immigration and through childbirth. Anti-Japanese groups, citing the picture brides, complained that the Gentlemen’s Agreement was being violated.
Subsequently in 1913, the California Alien Land Law barred Issei from owning land.
A movement to totally exclude Japanese immigrants eventually succeeded with the Immigration Act of 1924. That legislation significantly reduced immigration from Japan until 1952 when an allotment of 100 immigrants per year was designated.
As Japanese communities, or nihonmachi, began to emerge, Issei built businesses, and Buddhist and Japanese Christian churches were established. Opportunities to work as laborers for the railroads, oil fields, canneries and farms drew Japanese away from the cities. Fishing industries also developed. Many Japanese moved to the San Joaquin Valley and were successful in growing potatoes, asparagus, onions, and other crops in areas that had been barren.