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Ruoming Dong
Professor Carlisi
ESL 33B/Project 3/ final draft
13 December 2015

The Internment of and Assimilation of Japanese-American

In the Meiji period, Japan was a poor country. Therefore, a great deal of
Japanese wanted to immigrate to United State to escape poverty. The Issei, the generation
of people born in Japan who later immigrated to another country, went to Hawaii in 1885
as Kanmin Imin (Want 577). Later, others went to difference parts of the United States.
The Issei worked as farmers or they owned a small business (Yagami 1996). According to
the United States census in 1940, there were 6,000 Japanese-Americans farms on the
West Coast; Japanese-Americans tilled more than 250,000 acres and owned a great
property (Yagami 1996). Japanese-American had a stable live though their hard working.
Because of Japanese-Americans success, Americans thought that they took their jobs and
opportunities. Therefore, Japanese-American suffered discrimination by Americans
(Want 577). Even so, Japanese-American had their own community in Japan town which
locals in Hawaii. In Japan town, they established Japanese-language schools, maintained
their own culture, and celebrated some Japanese traditional festivals. For example,
Oshogatsu (the celebtation of New Year) in January, Hina Mtsuri (Girls Day) in March,
Kodomo no Hi (Boys Day) in May, Oban (welcoming Ancestors Day) in August, and

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Omisoka (End of the Year celebration) in December (Want 558). These festivals were
important to Japanese cultural and showed the social activities.
However, that situation was disrupted on December 7, 1941, Japanese imperial
Amy attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Because of the Pearl Harbor, the United States
declared martial law, suspension of habeas corpus, and restrictions on civil liberties
(Easton and Ellington 2009). Because Japan attacked the Pearl Harbor, JapaneseAmerican who lived in the United States would be suspected. At once, a concentration
camp was established on sand Island at the month of Pearl Harbor( Easton and Ellington
2009). Also, president Franklin Roosevelt announced the internment of more than
110,000 Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast of the United State on February
19, 1942 ( Want 558). Japanese-American were forced to move to camp and live there
for almost three years. During the internment, Japanese-Americans lives were changed.
the residents faced problems of housing, food, employments, medical care, education,
internal security, and religious worship(Hurd 1257). Japanese-American had to give up
their own culture and started to accept American culture and lifestyle. Although the
internment brought a great deal of negative affects for Japanese-American and let them
give up a lot of things, the experience of the internment was the turning point of
assimilation of American society.
The experience of internment made Japanese-Americans lifestyle and eating
habits assimilate into the way of American. When Japanese-American were forced to
move to camps, the life that they established carefully was broken. They had to abandon
Japanese traditional culture and could not celebrate their important traditional festivals.
Before Japanese-American moved into camps, they only had a few days to pick up their

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things and most of them had to give up their property (Want 558). In order to prevent
from being suspected, they gave up anything that related to Japan, such as letters from
Japanese family members, Japanese books, Japanese records and so on (Want 558). This
action let Japanese-American broke all connection with Japan or with their family
members who still lived in Japan. In the camps, the living environment was harsh and
crude. Also, Japanese-American who lived in the camps did not have private state of life
and their lives were restrained, which made them lost a lot of time with their family and
could not preserve Japanese traditional cultural. For example, there was no family type
cooking, and everyone had to eat in dining hall (Becker 183). This arrangement made
they can not have a dinner table conversation which helped them to keep the connection
to another family member. Japanese-American could not celebrate their own culture as
they were in Little Tokyo, and they had to follow the rules in the camps.
Not only Japanese-American had learned American culture, but also had they
given up traditional family structure and assimilated into Americans. Although JapaneseAmerican abandoned their Japanese culture, they still had the chance to get the education.
All children had to study general subjects such as American history or geography, and
some Issei also got the chance to learn English though these class (Becker 53). Even
though the environment of internment was harsh and crude, American still allowed
Japanese-American to accept the education which was about America. Not only reflected
American culture on education, but also embodied in the aspect of family structures.
Japanese-Americans family structure started to assimilate into Americans. The original
Japanese family focused on respecting the elderly and spent more time with family. The
life in camps, the young preferred spending more time with their friends to staying with

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their family (Paul 2005-2006). The mode of their family life began to inclin to
Americans slowly.
However, Japanese-Americans lives and culture were assimilation into American
society was not enough to reflect on the internment was the turning point of the
development of Japanese-Americans society. If they really wanted to assimilate into
America, they had to prove that they were not traitors. In order to prove that fact and let
American accept them, Japanese-American tried they best to make contribution to
America. At the wartime, one of the important thing was joining in the army and did the
best of their force. On December 7, 1941, there was about 1,500 Nisei recruits in U.S.
Army units in Hawaii and most of them were volunteers and draftees form the
concentration camps( Easton and Ellington 2009). Then, they formed the 100th Infantry
Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team( Easton and Ellington 2009). They
fought in Europe and made the most highly decorated in American history for
themselves. In all, about 33,000 Japanese-Americans served in World War II( Easton and
Ellington 2009). Joining in the army was one of the chance to show Japanese-Americans
loyalty to America( Wu 536). Not only male tried to prove their loyal, but also female
tried their best to make some contributions. They helped to translate to documents and
recorders and worked as nurses during and after the war (Becker 73). They filled
clerical positions, worked as doctors and nurses, and served as linguists during and after
the war ( Becker 73). They joined in the army to protect their home and their country.
Except these two things, Japanese-American tried to use agriculture production to
contribute to America. Thousands of Japanese-Americans who volunteered to work as
seasonal laborers during the summer of 1942 and they saved the sugar beet crop of

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several Western States ( Banghman 2001). Human can not live without the food.
Therefore, this action helped American a lot. All of these things showed that JapaneseAmerican tried to prove their loyalty to America. Also, these contributions that they had
made had some effects on their assimilation into America.
Japanese-Americans assimilated into American society and proved their loyal
during the camps was a turning point of the development and survival of JapaneseAmerican who lived in the United State. The first things is that they had an opportunity
to resume their education after the internment. They were allowed to relocate and resume
their education with American and they could go to American college, such as Oberlin
College in Ohio( Takagi 66). The was the chance to assimilate into American society.
In addition, Japanese-Americans found that they had opportunities in term of job
and social life and less discrimination in society (Yagami 1996). Japanese-American had
more chances to reset their life in American society. After they assimilated into
American society, they found that they were not isolated and they were in the midst of the
mainstream of US society (Yagami 1996). Today, there are almost sixty percent of
Japanese-Americans marry Caucasians (Yagami 1996).
However, the development of Japanese-American was not only about their
opportunity, but also about American governments attitude. For the America
government, they realized that they made a mistake and gave a presidential apology to
the victims of internment( Jones 2005). American government was not merely make an
apology to Japanese-American. They made an announcement which stated that JapaneseAmericans became a part of American. In 1952, Japanese immigrants were finally given
the right to become American citizens( Jones 2005). Also, in 1988, the Civil Liberties Act

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awarded to survivors of internment or relocation $20,000 (Jones 2005). All of these
things showed that internment accelerated assimilation of Japanese-American. Also,
internment became the turning point of Japanese-Americans development and survival
of America society.
Nowadays, the assimilation still have an influence on Japanese-Americans
society. The percent of Japanese-American intermarriage is higher than non-Japanese
Asian. There is a chart:

Which shows that more and more Japanese-American have intermarriage. After the
assimilation, Japanese-American got into American society and there was less and less
discrimination between Japanese-American and American. Therefore, the influence of
assimilation reflected on intermarriage.
In sum, the Issei generation who migrated to United States suffered during World
War II because they moved to internment camps. The condition in internment camps
were harsh and crude and it disrupted Japanese Americans from practicing their culture.
They moved to the internment also cut the family ties of Japanese Americans from their

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native country so that they would not be suspected as traitors. To prove that they were
loyal to their new home country, 1,500 Nisei Japanese American were drafted from
concentrated camps. All in all, there were about 33,000 Japanese Americans served
during the war with highly decorated records. Japanese-American women also did their
parts by filling clerical positions or serving as doctors. The stay of Japanese Americans
in internment, however, helped them assimilate into American society because they were
sent to school and let them accept American culture. American schools did not only
taught Japanese Americans English but also taught them the subjects which were related
to America such as geography, history that helped them assimilate into American society.
Among the most helpful things that happened to Japanese-Americans was when they
were allowed to go to college such as Oberlin College because it enabled them to reset
their lives and become productive member of American society. This initiative made
them fully assimilate into American society and made them feel like they were part of
America. Eventually, the American government saw the loyalty of Japanese-Americans
and realized their mistakes. This prompted them to correct their mistakes and hasten the
assimilation of Japanese-Americans into mainstream society. The relationship between
the Japanese-Americans and the American government have started rough but eventually
went well. Also, more and more Japanese-American have intermarriage. Even though the
internment let Japanese-American lost a great deal of things which were related to Japan
or Japanese culture, it made Japanese-American who lived in United States assimilate
into this society which they lived in. Today, Japanese-Americans are not only fully
assimilated into mainstream American society but also one of its societys contributors.

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Works Cited
Becker, Peggy Daniels, "Life in the Camps." Japanese-American Internment during
World War II. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2014. 43-57. Defining Moments. Gale
Virtual Reference Library. Web. 14 Nov. 2015.
Baughman, Judith S, "The Internment of Japanese Americans." American Decades.
Ed. Judith S. Baughman, et al. Vol. 5: 1940-1949. Detroit: Gale, 2001. Gale
Virtual Reference Library. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.
Easton, Stanley E. and Ellington, Lucien Ellington. Japanese American. Japanese
American History: An A to Z Reference from 1868 to the Present. New York:
Facts on File, 1993.
Hurd, Mary G. "Japanese American Internment." Multicultural America: A
Multimedia Encyclopedia. Ed. Carlos E. Corts and Jane E. Sloan. Vol. 3.
Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Reference, 2014. 1256-1258. Gale Virtual
Reference Library. Web. 14 Nov. 2015.
Jones, Lynn. Japanese American Immigration and Assimilation. Humboldt State
University. May 2005.
Paul Elizabeth. Immigration. 2005-2006. Library of Congress. Washington. DC.
Want, Kaori Mori. "Japanese Americans." Asian American Society: An Encyclopedia
Ed. Mary Yu Danico. Vol. 2. Los Angeles: SAGE Reference, 2014. 557-561.
Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 14 Nov. 2015.
Wu, Frank H. "Internment Camps, Japanese American." Asian American Society: An

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Encyclopedia. Ed. Mary Yu Danico. Vol. 2. Los Angeles: SAGE Reference,
2014. 534-537. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.
Yagami, Kazuo . Postwar Assimilation of Japanese Americans And Japanese Ethnicity.
Associate Professor, Coordinator of Program of History, Florida State University.