Japanese Legacy: Farming and Community Life in California's Santa Clara Valley

Japanese Legacy: Farming and Community Life in California's Santa Clara Valley

Japanese Legacy: Farming and Community Life in California's Santa Clara Valley

Japanese Legacy: Farming and Community Life in California's Santa Clara Valley

Excerpt

Norman Y. Mineta, M.C.

Americans of Japanese ancestry, indeed all Americans Whose forebears were immigrants, will be grateful to Timothy Lukes and Gary Okihiro for writing this book, Japanese Legacy . This book tells the story of the Japanese immigrants who came to the Santa Clara Valley to work in the agricultural sector, and their economic and social struggle to become a part of that community. The story they tell is a microcosm of the struggle of the Americans of Japanese ancestry to become a part of this country.

I am grateful for this book because when one hears Americans tell of the immigrants who built this nation, one is often led to believe that all our forebears came from Europe. When one hears stories about the pioneers going West to shape the land, the Asian immigrant is rarely mentioned. In this book, our story is told. It tells that Americans of Asian ancestry also toiled with the earth and shaped the land.

However, our immigrant history differs from that of the European immigrants'. This book clearly shows how Japanese immigrants made crucial economic contributions to the valley, but were discriminated against by elements of the white community Who endeavored to exclude them from the wider community and to prevent a permanent Japanese American community from developing.

As I read through the manuscript that was to become this book, I saw in my mind's eye the story of my father. He came from a farming family in Japan. When my father was fourteen, my grandfather, wanting his son to study American farming techniques, sent my father to his uncle in Salinas, California. My great-uncle was working for the Spreckels Sugar Company growing sugar beets. My father sailed across the Pacific alone and, not knowing a word of English, disembarked from the boat in Seattle. He worked his way in lumber camps and farms down to Salinas. When he reached Salinas, he joined Spreckels Sugar Company and after eight years there, the company sent him to manage one of its San Jose farming operations. My father gave up farming after hospitalization from a serious case of influenza, and eventually began a small insurance agency which I still own and operate.

I tell this story, not because my parents were so unusual, but because they were so typical of the courage and determination that drives all immigrants. More than anything else, my parents, and the Japanese immigrants whose story is told in this book, were people of strength, determination, and endurance. They would not have survived if they were not.

In 1942, the U.S. government caved in to anti- Japanese sentiment and instituted a racist policy nationwide to intern Americans of Japanese ancestry. After having struggled so hard to build their lives, everything seemed to sift through their fingers like sand. My family too was interned. It is heartbreaking to hear the recounting of the financial and emotional toll the internment had on those who were interned. It is painful to hear the immigrants explain the sorrow they felt in having lost all they had gained through backbreaking . . .

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