Anti Japanese Law Reflection


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6.4 Japanese Immigrant and Stanford Professor Yamato Ichihashi Argues Against the
California Alien Land Law, 1913.
Source: Yamato Ichihashi, “The California Alien Land Law,” The American Citizen (June 1913),
pp. 257, 258, 288.
NOTE:—The following letter from the President of Leland Stanford University is ample
recommendation of Mr. Ichihashi’s ability to write on existing conditions in California from the
Japanese viewpoint.
Office of the President, Stanford University, Cal.
To Whom It May Concern:
Mr. Yamato Ichihashi is preparing a pamphlet on the Japanese question on the Pacific Coast.
I wish to say in his behalf that he is entirely competent to give a just and thorough treatment of
his subject. He is a graduate of Stanford University, where he was for a time assistant in the
Department of Economics. He spent two years at Harvard University, where he was appointed
Henry Bromfield Rogers Memorial Fellow. He has a very thorough knowledge of America, and
American conditions, as well as of the purposes, ambitions and resources of his own country, and
his essay should be of the greatest value in bringing about a better understanding where there is
every reason for friendship and none whatever for suspicion and enmity.
© 2014 Taylor & Francis
Very truly yours,
THE land bill just passed by both houses of the State Legislature of California is not an alien land
law. It is an anti-Japanese land law. It plainly discriminates against the Japanese in the State.
This discrimination is not concealed by the legislators. Senator Boynton while debating over the
bill said, “1 don’t want to see a Japanese to own a single foot of land in California.” The
“solons” are “after the Japanese.”
And this land law is but a manifestation of an anti-Japanese agitation in California that has a
history now extending over ten years. I wish to briefly narrate this history which culminated in
the present land law. In 1899 there was held in San Francisco a mass meeting under the auspices
of the Building Trade Council and San Francisco Labor Council. The nature of that meeting may
be learned from Mr. T. F. Turner who gathered information from these agitators and wrote in the
report of the Industrial Commission of 1900 as follows: “They (Chinese) are cheap laborers:
deprive the whites of their employment, and also keep out the white immigrants from the State:
they are loathsome in their habits and filthy in their dwelling: and vile in their morals.” “They
(Japanese) are more servile than the Chinese, but less obedient and far less desirable. They have
most of the vices of the Chinese with none of their virtues. They underbid in everything and as a
class are tricky, unreliable, and dishonest.” But he offers no facts to support his statement.
In 1905 the Asiatic Exclusion League, then known as the Japanese and Korean Exclusion
League, was organized and O. E. Toveitmoe was made its president. He is still with it. Who he is
need not be told. He is too famous for that. The League has already caused a great deal of
unnecessary unpleasantry. The “School Question” of 1906 was entirely due to their activity. The
© 2014 Taylor & Francis
entire number of Japanese school children attending the public schools then was no more than
92, and these were scattered in twenty different schools. Besides, the report of Secretary Metcalf
who was sent here by President Roosevelt to investigate, says:
“Many of the foremost educators in the State, on the other hand, are strongly opposed to the
action of the San Francisco Board of Education. San Francisco, so far as is known, is the only
city which has discriminated against Japanese children. I talked with a number of prominent
labor men, and they all said that they had no objection to Japanese children attending the primary
grades: that they wanted the Japanese children now in the United States to have the same school
privileges as children of other nations.”
The smashing of the Japanese restaurants was also encouraged by the same League. The
municipal government was in the hands of Schmidt and Ruef. The former is an exile in Mexico,
the latter an inmate in the State penitentiary.
Their agitation work has been much aided by certain politicians both in the Congress and in
the State Legislature. These have systematized their vilification of the Japanese race. For
example, Mr. E. A. Hayes a Representative from this State would tell you: “A close acquaintance
shows one that unblushing lying is so universal among the Japanese as to be one of the leading
national traits; that commercial honor, even among her commercial classes, is so rare as to be
only the exception that proves the reverse rule, and that the vast majority of the Japanese people
do not understand the meaning of the word morality, but are given up to practice of
licentiousness more generally than any other nation in the world justly making any pretense to
civilization. I am told by those who have lived in Japan and understand its language that there is
no word in Japanese corresponding to ‘sin,’ because there is in the ordinary Japanese mind no
© 2014 Taylor & Francis
conception of its meaning. There is no word corresponding to the word ‘home,’ because there is
nothing in the Japanese domestic life corresponding to the home as we know it. The Japanese
language has no term for privacy. They lack the term and the clear idea because they lack the
practice.” These words are taken from his speech made before the House on March 13, 1906,
under the title of “Japanese Exclusion.” And the authority of his statement is the Asiatic
Exclusion League.
I am afraid that the opening sentence has to include Mr. Hayes himself. At its best, it is the
case of a pot calling a kettle black. If what is said is true, how was the tremendous growth of
Japanese commerce during the last fifty years accomplished? By lying, I suppose. As to the
meaning of the word “morality.” I should like to suggest a reading of Dr. Nitobe’s Bushido. It is
exquisitely written, though by a native of Japan. Those who informed Mr. Hayes evidently do
not understand Japanese language. The Japanese word “sumi” exactly corresponds to “sin,”
while “uchi” and “naisho” correspond respectively to home and privacy. It is better not to
pretend to be wise concerning things of which we are absolutely ignorant.
I am, indeed, sorry to own that prostitution does exist in Japan. Is America free from it? The
vice commission of Chicago and the recent investigation of “white slavery” in New York will
furnish an abundance of material to effectively indict American morality. “The man of the world
finds the Japanese immoral, not remembering that vice is everywhere near him that seeks it,”
says Dr. Jordan. I refuse to be a Mr. Hayes, here, or in Japan.
But like some of the California Representatives in the Congress, some of the State legislators
have joined their interests with those of professional agitators. It is superfluous to add that these
men are guided neither by patriotism nor even by chauvinism, but by money-getting and votegetting motives. “Japs are Mongolian”, therefore, the mob psychology works well. Japs are
© 2014 Taylor & Francis
politically defenseless, therefore they can be abused to any degree without fear of revenge. There
is no better victim than Japs for their selfish motive. Consequently, for the past several years, the
State legislature has been flooded with anti-Japanese bills of every description. The antiJapanese land law to be is nothing new.
But how about the actual situation about the Japanese ownership of land in California? The
census for 1911 disclosed the fact that the total amount of farm lands in the State was 27,931,444
acres. Of this amount the Japanese owned no more than 12,736 acres, or less than one twothousandth part of the entire amount. In 1910 the Japanese numbered 56,000 forming two per
cent of the population of the State. This number has actually decreased since as the result of a
stringent enforcement of the agreement of 1907. Finally, the Japanese have been residing in
California for now nearly fifty years. In view of such facts what danger is there in the
insignificant amount of land owned by the Japanese? The San Francisco Chronicle rightly adds:
“There are no Japanese capitalists standing around with money to buy farming land or any other
land, and if they did buy a few acres, what harm would result?”
On the other hand, the law to be will work a great injustice upon the Japanese farmers.
Speaking of the situation in Florin a berry and grape producing community, Miss Alice M.
Brown says, “The bills provide that aliens (Japanese) holding property shall be forced to give up
their homes and have them sold at public auction. That is brutal. They have toiled so hard and so
faithfully to get a little home, and then to have snatched it away for a mere pittance of its worth.
Is this American freedom, Russian autocracy, or Turkish subjugation? Japan will have the
sympathy of the nations of the world: America must bow her head in shame.”
Injustice does not end with the Japanese but the law will work against the interest of the
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State. Miss Brown continues: “In her blindness in the sway of evil forces, California is doing
herself the greatest injury. Her horticultural and viticultural industries are the great resources of
the State. Drive out the laborers on whom the farmer relies for the harvesting of his crops and
you have cut off his right hand. White people are not farm hands, and are becoming less and less
so. We must have a farming class, and for this class no better and reliable people can be found
than the Japanese. We need more such efficient help. As it is now, the wage is too high, the
available men too few. With marketing conditions returning the farmer small profits, he makes
little gain, and is discontented with his lot. Prevent him from leasing to aliens, as these bills do,
make white labor his only resource, and his vineyards will show losses. As to the strawberry
production, it would destroy that completely. The Japanese are fitted for the ceaseless labor of
raising strawberries: carloads and carloads are shipped from here as evidence of their success.
The whites cannot do this work. If any one thinks so, let him try hoeing or picking for just one
week, and he will be a wiser man.”
Furthermore, San Francisco has invited the nations of the world to participate in the PanamaPacific International Exposition. It is to commemorate the opening of the Panama Canal. Japan
was the first nation to select her site in the exposition ground. She has decided to make an
appropriation of $1,000,000 to aid in making the enterprise a success. Yet California slaps Japan
on both her cheeks.
But there is a broader question involved in the so-called Japanese question. The anti-Japanese
movement has no substantial ground. It is justified only by a poetical license:
“The East is the east and the West is the west.
Never the twain shall meet.”
Who is willing to prove the theory? As I understand it, civilization began in the east and
© 2014 Taylor & Francis
moved westward. This movement was thought at an end when it reached the Pacific shore of the
American continent. But man discovered that the Ρacific Ocean, in spite of its vastness, formed
not an insurmountable barrier, but a bridge across which that westward march of civilization was
to continue. Indeed, in fact, this very western civilization has been budding in the island empire
of the extreme east. Mr. Chester Rowell once an uncompromising advocate of the much abused
couplet of Kipling, declared recently, “Japan is east in origin, but west by acquisition.” Thus the
western civilization originating in the east has again established itself in the soil of the east. This
is significant. The unity of humanity de facto accomplished, and truly exults the greatest poet of
the day.
“But there is neither east nor west. Border, nor breed, nor birth.
When two strong men stand face to face.
Tho they come from the ends of the earth.”
This historic achievement of man was the work of the United States and Japan. In 1854
Commodore Perry knocked at the door of Japan. Japan realized the folly of her isolation policy.
She opened her door. We came here because Perry invited us to come. We were satisfied to
remain within the borders of the island empire. But America said that Japan must have
Americans and America should have Japanese. Japan conceded to the American conception of
civilized etiquette. Many Americans now reside in Japan doing their business absolutely
unrestricted and on equal footing with the natives. We came here to enjoy the same privileges.
But Senator Bοynton says, “I don’t want to see a single Japanese in California. I don’t want to
see a Japanese own a single foot of land of California. If they are willing to perform menial labor
© 2014 Taylor & Francis
on farms, under the direction of citizen owners, that is all right.”
This is unbecoming of an American citizen. America invited us to visit, to sojourn, to reside
and to do what we wish to do. You would not invite people to your homes just to tell the invited
that you “don’t want to see any of them.’’ Such is worse than barbarous. But the gentleman is
graceful in permitting us to exist here if we remain “menial laborers” forever. It reminds me of a
Chinese proverb which says: “Big fish eat little fish, little fish eat shrimp, shrimp eat mud.” But
the fundamental principle of American government is “Shrimps shall not remain shrimps
forever”. Slavery alone can obtain such a result. We can assure America that we shall not and
will not remain menial laborers forever because we are Japanese. We are a part of humanity.
Humanity demands that we should struggle to rise. The legislators may wish that we shall be
slaves. But the people of California and the United States demand that we shall not be slaves.
© 2014 Taylor & Francis

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