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Part 10 -2 Nisei Dual Citizenship and Marriage Issues〜History of Seattle Nikkei Immigrants from ‘The North American Times’

History of Seattle Nikkei Immigrants from ‘The North American Times’

This series explores the history of the pre-war Japanese community in Seattle, by reviewing articles in “The North American Times,” which have been digitally archived by the University of Washington and Hokubei Hochi Foundation (hokubeihochi.org/digital-archive). Publication of this series is a joint project with discovernikkei.org.

By Ikuo Shinmasu
Translation by Yuta Ioriya For The North American Post

‘The North American Times’ was first printed on September 1, 1902, by publisher Kiyoshi Kumamoto from Kagoshima, Kyushu. At its peak, it had a daily circulation of about 9,000 copies, with correspondents in Spokane, Vancouver BC, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Tokyo. When World War II started, Sumio Arima, the publisher at the time, was arrested by the FBI. The paper was discontinued on March 14, 1942, when the incarceration of Japanese American families began. After the war, the paper was revived as “The North American Post.”

Part 10 – 2 Nisei Dual Citizenship and Marriage Issues

A young Japanese woman 1920s 1930s

Continued from May 26 issue
Perspectives on Nisei in the United States

I would like to introduce some interesting articles about how Nisei in the U.S. were viewed by Japanese in Japan and by the American public as well as how Nisei in the U.S. viewed Japan.

Viewpoint of a Japanese Female Student on Nisei in the United States

“Her View on Nisei – Perspective of Japanese Living in the United States of Japan is from the Meiji and Taisho Eras”
(“North American Times,” Oct. 4, 1935)

Miss Mineko Tsukimoto, who visited the United States as a student representative for the Japan–America Student Conference held in Portland this summer, gave her impressions of Nisei living in the United States. She said the following:

Seattle Nisei Dick Horita left with a friend 1929 1933

“Nisei girls in America all look like American women. However, I was impressed by their surprisingly good Japanese. I think this is the result of the sudden rise in the number of people using the Japanese language after the Manchurian Incident,* and the fact that various aspects of Japan have been studied. Recently, Japanese traditional dance is very popular in the United States. Also, tea ceremony and flower arrangement are both very popular, too. Many of them, however, think about Japan in terms of the Meiji (1868-1912) and Taisho (1912-1926) eras, which they heard about from their parents, and it seems that they still think that way today. I think they still don’t understand enough.

“Also, it seems that Nisei girls don’t like gentlemen who were educated in Japan.** They want to go and see Japan, but they don’t think it’s a place to live for a long time. I think it’s probably the same as (Japanese who) enjoy learning in the United States for a few years when young, but we feel that it’s not a place to live for a long time. It is understandable if a foreigner feels that way, but it is strange to me that it is the idea of people who have inherited Japanese blood.

“Nisei boys, like American boys, are quiet, docile and feminine. It seems American men like Japanese women. Nisei boys say they want to find a good job in Japan and return home. This is probably because they are treated equal to white people at school, but when they try to find a job, it is very hard to get a good position. Therefore, many of them regret that they no longer possess Japanese nationality.”

Viewpoint of a Nisei Male in the US on Japan

“A Nisei Talks about Japan”
(NAT, Nov. 1, 1936)

He said as follows, “If you go to Japan, you must have some interest in researching Japan. When you go to Japan with the idea of American superiority, you may have some trouble.”

He continued, “(If) you believe in American superiority and look down on Japan, you should not go to Japan. If you go to Japan, you need to understand Japan and you should be willing to behave as the Japanese do in Japan. Otherwise, you may easily notice the materialistic disadvantages in Japan compared to America. However, those aren’t disadvantages because Japan is a spiritual country. If you visit Japan without understanding that part, you have never understood Japan.”

He also wrote of his ideas on Nisei marriages.

“If you go to Japan and find your spouse in Japan, you may be satisfied with your partner, but you shouldn’t have much confidence in having a successful family relationship with your in-laws in Japan. If you want to create a truly happy family, you should marry an American who understands American values.”

Seattle Nisei Hatsue Aoki Photos Densho Tokuda Family Collection
1929 1933 Photos Densho Tokuda Family Collection

Viewpoint of an American on Nisei in the U.S.

“Anti-Japanese Newspaper Praises Nisei Japanese Americans – The Oath to be Loyal to the United States”
(NAT, May 1, 1939)

In the May 4th issue of “Ken Magazine,” which publishes profane comics and anti-Japanese articles, an article by Ernest Painter praised Nisei as follows:

“The heart of the Issei is in Japan and they are eager to go back, but the emotional states of the Nisei and Sansei are completely different. American-born Japanese citizens have the best grades in public schools. Even their bodies are different (than Japanese) because of nutrition and exercise. Those Japanese Americans are the most diligent and hard-working.

“When it comes to the question of whether Japanese Americans should be loyal to Japan or to the United States, they tend to be loyal to the United States. In the case of a US–Japan war, for example, if they were persecuted just because they are Japanese, they may lose their loyalty to the U.S. However, if treated properly, Nikkei citizens as well as first-generation Issei must be as loyal to America as, if not more than, other races.”

This article predicts a war between the United States and Japan and provides keen insight into the loyalty of Issei and Nisei to the US. I feel that this article reflects his deep understanding of Nikkei feelings at that time.

Editor’s notes. *The Manchurian Inci­dent, in September 1931, was the deli­berate sabotage of a section of Japanese-owned railroad in Manchuria by Japanese soldiers pretending to be Chinese. While it led to an invasion by the Japanese army and the creation of the Japanese colony of Manchukuo, it had little affect on Nisei speaking Japanese, who spoke Japanese with their parents out of necessity.

**Monica Sone, in “Nisei Daughter,” shared the view that Nisei girls didn’t like Kibei-Nisei boys: “Nisei girls turned up their noses at dating a Kibei. A Nisei girl felt insulted if a man sailed grandly through the door in front of her….”

***“Ken Magazine,” was a short-lived publication that ceased publication in 1939. Its founders, David A. Smart and Arnold Gingrich, had earlier founded “Esquire,” which is still in print today.

To be continued

Ikuo Shinmasu retired in 2015 from Air Liquide Japan Ltd., then researched his grandfather who migrated to Seattle. He shared his findings through the series, “Yoemon Shinmasu – My Grandfather’s Life in Seattle,” in the NAP and in “Discover Nikkei” in Japanese and English during 2019-2020. He lives in Zushi, Kanagawa, with his wife and son.

Yuta Ioriya is a freelance translator for “Discover Nikkei.”