Japanese Amerian Youth: U.S. Citizens

School Children, San Francisco
Japanese American children saying the “Pledge of Allegiancein California.
(Photograph courtesy of the Utah State Historical Society)

In 1942, because the U.S. had banned Japanese immigration to the United States for eighteen years, nearly all Japanese American youth were American-born, U.S. citizens.

Most were Nisei: Nisei were second-generation Japanese Americans. Although many of their parents were Japanese immigrants, most Nisei had never been to Japan. Nisei attended the same schools as other American children, although some attended Japanese language schools after normal school hours so they could better communicate using their parents’ language. As they were born and raised in the United states, Nisei were very loyal to the United States—they were American and viewed themselves as such. Before evacuation, the U.S. government concluded that the Nisei were “90 to 98 percent loyal to the United States, if the Japanese-educated element of the Kibei is excluded.”[1]

Some were Kibei: Kibei were born in the United States but lived in Japan for a part of their education and were more likely to identify with Japan than other Japanese American youth. However, they experienced exclusion in Japan and the United States, even among the Nisei. Nisei youth used the term Kibei to refer to youth who were not like themselves—preferring Japanese to English and exhibiting more “Japanese” behaviors.[2] The Kibei made up only 9,000 of the 110,000 Japanese Americans interned.[3]

[1] Taylor, 46.
[2] War Relocation Authority, “Japanese Americans Educated in Japan,” January 28, 1944, 1, accessed January 28, 2020, http://www.mansell.com/eo9066/WRA-pub/WRA1944-12-28-Japanese_Americans_Educated_in_Japan_The_Kibei.pdf.
[3] War Relocation Authority, 1.