“Why Hawaii’s and the U.S. Mainland’s Immigration Experiences Were So Different”

Dr. Akemi Kikumura Yano
Published with Permission

How did the Mainland experience of Japanese immigrants and, subsequently, Japanese Americans, compare with that of the Gannenmono and later generations of Japanese in Hawai‘i? This is a question I am frequently asked and one that I find so fascinating.

Assimilation vs. Exclusion

Starting with the Gannenmono in 1868, the early Japanese who immigrated to Hawai‘i were welcomed and perceived as “assimilable” by the Kingdom of Hawai‘i and its people. On the U.S. mainland, however, the Japanese were viewed as “unassimilable” from the moment they stepped ashore on American soil.

When Nisuke Mitsumori landed in San Francisco in 1905, he was met by a group of 15 to 20 who routinely turned out to “rough up” the Japanese arriving at the port.

“Let’s go. Japs have come,” they shouted, picking up horse manure off of the streets and throwing it at Mitsumori and his friend.

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