Claiming the Oriental Gateway

Claiming the Oriental Gateway: Prewar Seattle and Japanese America

Shelley Sang–Hee Lee
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Claiming the Oriental Gateway
    Book Description:

    InClaiming the Oriental Gateway, Shelley Sang-Hee Lee explores the various intersections of urbanization, ethnic identity, and internationalism in the experience of Japanese Americans in early twentieth-century Seattle. She examines the development and self-image of the city by documenting how U.S. expansion, Asian trans-Pacific migration, and internationalism were manifested locally-and how these forces affected residents' relationships with one another and their surroundings.

    Lee details the significant role Japanese Americans-both immigrants and U.S. born citizens-played in the social and civic life of the city as a means of becoming American. Seattle embraced the idea of cosmopolitanism and boosted its role as a cultural and commercial "Gateway to the Orient" at the same time as it limited the ways in which Asian Americans could participate in the public schools, local art production, civic celebrations, and sports. She also looks at how Japan encouraged the notion of the "gateway" in its participation in the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition and International Potlach.

    Claiming the Oriental Gatewaythus offers an illuminating study of the "Pacific Era" and trans-Pacific relations in the first four decades of the twentieth century.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0215-8
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    In the opening scene of John Okada’s 1957 novel,No–No Boy, the main character, Ichiro Yamada, descends from a bus that has pulled into his hometown of Seattle, Washington. World War II has recently ended, and along with nearly 120,000 other Japanese Americans, Ichiro has endured a most harrowing ordeal, memories of which haunt him throughout the novel. Over the last four years, Ichiro’s travails included internment and jail time, and while in “camp,” he broke with the majority of the Japanese American internees by refusing to pledge unqualified allegiance to the United States, an act of disloyalty leading...

  5. 1 Multiethnic Seattle
    (pp. 19-45)

    In two well–known works of Asian American literature—one autobiographical and the other fictional—that offer descriptions of life in pre–World War II Seattle, the bustling tempo and multiethnic character of urban life immediately strike the reader. In her 1953 memoir,Nisei Daughter, Monica Sone recalls an idyllic childhood preceding and contrasting starkly with the jarring experience of wartime Japanese internment. Born in 1919, she portrayed 1920s and 1930s Seattle, especially the working–class Jackson Street neighborhood, as an exhilarating place, pulsing with business activity and people from all walks of life. “Our street itself was a compact...

  6. 2 Making Seattle “Cosmopolitan”
    (pp. 46-75)

    In September 1936, the Seattle cultural journal, theTown Crier, began publication of a series called “Cosmopolitan Seattle.” Written by Lancaster Pollard, a local historian and also the journal’s publisher, the series consisted of installments respectively profiling the city’s German, Chinese, and Japanese communities. Pollard was impressed by the findings of the 1930 Census, which had counted in the city nearly 73,000 foreign–born whites, 8,448 Japanese, 3,303 blacks, and 1,347 Chinese out of a total population of 365,583, and believed that the urban diversity represented by those numbers called for some appreciation in the pages of theCrier.¹ He...

  7. 3 Making Local Images for International Eyes: Race, Nationality, and the Seattle Camera Club, 1924–1929
    (pp. 76-104)

    In July 1927, following the Twenty-first Paris Salon, an exhibition of international photographic art, a French reviewer named Jean Chantavoine commented on the entries from a group of American artists whose work he found to be the most intriguing on display. He stated, “It is to America that we are indebted again for one of the most interestingly lighted landscapes in the Salon.”¹ This was not the first time this group had been singled out for praise, as in the last few years the artists about whom Chantavoine wrote were known as active participants in the national and international photo...

  8. 4 “Problems of the Pacific” in “the Great Crucible of America”: Public Schools in the 1920s and 1930s
    (pp. 105-141)

    In February 1924, auditions were held at Harrison Elementary School for the role of George Washington in the school’s annual Presidents’ Day reenactment of the famous cherry tree incident.¹ Following the tryouts, teachers and administrators selected second–grader Fred Kosaka, the seven–year–old son of a local Japanese tailor. Reaction to this news came quickly. The daily local newspaper, theSeattle Star, a frequent mouthpiece for the local anti-Japanese set, sent reporter Jim Marshall to cover the performance. On February 22, the paper subsequently printed, complete with a photo of Kosaka wielding his ax, an article featuring the headline,...

  9. 5 “That Splendid Medium of Free Play”: Japanese American Sports during the Interwar Years
    (pp. 142-177)

    One evening in March 1934, George Okada, the president of the Seattle Taiyo Athletic Club, gave an address during the Courier Broadcast on radio station KXA. Looking to boost the club’s membership and to impress upon listeners the importance of physical fitness, he extolled the many personal and professional benefits that accrued from engaging in play and exercise: “The art of physical development is the one form of amusement, which is not only invigorating, but beneficial to mind and body alike. One cannot be a good athlete, in any branch of sport, without being in perfect physical condition, keenly alive...

  10. 6 The Eve of War
    (pp. 178-202)

    The United States formally entered World War II following an attack on Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor by the empire of Japan on December 7, 1941, an event that would leave Japanese Americans on the West Coast vulnerable to rabid calls for revenge and, consequently, an excruciating crisis of identity. This situation was a dramatic turnaround for this population as well as the entire city of Seattle. Before this war, excepting for a brief disruption during World War I, conditions were favorable for the flowering of a local cosmopolitanism rooted in the belief that the city’s location, ambitions, relationships with Pacific Rim...

  11. Epilogue
    (pp. 203-214)

    In surveying conditions in the United States over the twentieth century, it has become all too trite to say that World War II changed everything. The wartime economic boom and postwar prosperity fostered improved standards of living and greater opportunities for mobility, availing an expanding suburban middle class of the “good life.” The nation’s ideological repudiation of white supremacy and the ascendancy of pluralism as the new orthodoxy for social relations presaged the coming modern civil rights movement and ushered in an era of “multiculturalism.” Finally, the United States went from a rising nation in the global community to one...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 215-242)
  13. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 243-252)
  14. Index
    (pp. 253-256)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 257-258)