“Approximately 85,000 Japanese were detained… making them the second largest group held at the Immigration Station.”
Approximately 85,000 Japanese were detained at the U.S. Immigration Station at Angel Island between 1910 and 1940, making them the second largest group after the Chinese. Thanks to the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1908, which banned Japanese laborers but allowed those here to send for their families, immigrants arriving with Japanese passports were generally admitted within a day or two and less than one percent were excluded or deported. Compared to all other immigrant groups on Angel Island, this was the shortest stay and the lowest rate of deportation. After the Immigration Act of 1924, however, it became very difficult for any Japanese immigrants to come to this country.
An estimated 10,000 picture brides arriving to join their Japanese husbands in America were detained on Angel Island. Most were daughters of farmers married to Japanese immigrants who were ten to fifteen years their senior. Among them was twenty-year old Kichiko Okada (third from the right), who recalled putting on her silk kimono to look her best for her husband, Jiro Okada, before the ship landed in San Francisco. After a brief stay on Angel Island, she went to live and work at her husband’s store in Sacramento, California.
Unlike the long and intensive interrogations of Chinese immigrants, interviews of picture brides and their husbands were relatively brief – usually no more than twenty questions to ascertain that they were married and that the wife would not become a public charge. Those found with hookworms, an excludable disease, usually stayed another ten days at the hospital to undergo medical treatment at their own expense.
Due to the relatively easy time for Japanese immigrants in the early 20th century, there are relatively few case files that record the questioning that some of them faced. Researchers will be interested to know that there are 8,620 case files of Japanese immigrants in the National Archives and Records Administration office in San Bruno, CA. This is a small percentage of the total number of Japanese immigrants who actually spent time on the island.
AIISF has many stories about Japanese immigrants on Angel Island including Mihi Endo Ohashi and Kaoru Okawa Ito.
Visit our Immigrant Voices website to learn more and to add your own family’s story.
Information provided by Erika Lee and Judy Yung in Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America, published 2010 by the Oxford University Press.