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ASCJ Executive Committee

Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181

Inaugural conference
1998 conference
1999 conference
2000 conference
2001 conference

Conference venue
Nearby hotels

Conference venue
Nearby hotels

Summer 2000 ASCJ Conference Details

1. Immigration Policy towards East Asians in the United States and the Russian Far East : a Comparative Perspective

Organizer : Igor R. Saveliev, Niigata University, tel : 025-262-6422; fax : 025-261-5106; e-mail : irs@human.ge.niigata-u.ac.jp

Chairperson : Yasuo Sakata, Osaka Gakuin University.


1) Yasuo Sakata, Osaka Gakuin University, tel : 06-6381-8434, fax: 078-752-4485, e-mail : y-sakata@utc.osaka.gu.ac.jp "Conflicting Attitudes Toward Overseas Migration of Japanese Laborers during the Meiji Period"

2) Toshihiro Minohara, Kobe University, tel  (078) 803-6738, fax (078) 803-6753, e-mail : minohara@kobe-u.ac.jp "Japanese Exclusion and Domestic Politics: A Reevaluation of the Enactment of the Immigration Act of 1924"

3) Igor R. Saveliev, Niigata University, tel : 025-262-6422; fax : 025-261-5106; e-mail : irs@human.ge.niigata-u.ac.jp "Russia's Regional Policy Towards East Asian Immigrants 1860-1916"


Yulia Mikhailova, Hiroshima City University, tel : 082-830-1668; fax : 082-830-1657, e-mail : yulia@intl.hiroshima-cu.ac.jp  

Panel 1. Immigration Policy towards East Asians in the United States and the Russian Far East : a Comparative Perspective.


     A strong demand for the labor force on both sides of the Pacific, the United States' "West" and the Russian Far East emerged simultaneously with the dramatic increase of the population in East Asia, where arable lands could not be expanded any more. Even before a centuries-old ban to leave the country for its subjects was abolished, Chinese and Japanese migrants left their homeland in the search of the better living conditions in the "El Dorado" of California and Siberia. However, as soon as these two frontier territories were populated by the dominant ethnic groups and the demand for the labor force was mainly satisfied, severe restrictions were placed on East Asian immigrants. As in the United States Chinese and Japanese immigrants were regarded as "unsuitable to citizenship," in the Russian Far East they could own land only by accepting Russian citizenship.

     This panel attempts to trace the evolution of the immigration policy towards East Asian communities in the U. S. A. and Russia. Yasuo Sakata's paper concentrates on the early Japanese emigration to the United States and the U.S. government's policy towards it with the special reference to the so-called "Japanese Immigration Problem," that in the early decades of the twentieth century strained seriously the diplomatic relations between these two countries. Toshihiro Minohara's paper focuses on the enactment of the Japanese exclusion provision of the Immigration Act of 1924 that finally stopped Japanese emigration to the United States. Igor Saveliev's paper represents an overview of the changing attitudes towards East Asian immigration in the Priamur Governor-Generalship in 1860-1916. The discussion about the evolution of the immigration policy towards East Asians in two multiethnic states, the United States of America and Russia, adds useful comparative perspectives.

Paper 1:  Yasuo Sakata, Osaka Gaikuin University. "Conflicting Attitudes toward Overseas Migration of Japanese Laborers during the Meiji Period: Japanese Government Officials and Exponents of Japanese Emigration."

      The Congress of the United States enacted a new Immigration Law on March 3, 1891. The act established, for the first time, the Office of the Superintendent of Immigration in the Department of the Treasury to launch a system of inspection at the United States ports of entry. The purpose was to refuse the landing as "immigrants" of those foreigners who would be regarded as "undesirables" . Among them were "paupers", "persons likely to become public charge", "contract laborers," "criminals," and "idiots."

     Unfortunately, it was in the year 1890 that Japanese dekasegi laborers happened to begin arriving in noticeable numbers at San Francisco, the birthplace and center of the anti-Chinese activities on the continental United States, where many white residents held strong anti-Oriental feelings. Soon after the passage of the 1891 Immigration Law, newly stationed immigration officers at San Francisco actually refused to land a large number of Japanese laborers on charges that they were "paupers", "persons likely to become public charge", or "contract laborers". This incident marked a beginning of the so-called "Japanese Immigration Problem", the difficult issue that in the early decades of the twentieth century, strained seriously the diplomatic relations between Japan and the United States.

   Both the government officials and the intellectuals in Japan, however, failed in the early 1890s, to grasp the significance of the presence of anti-Oriental feelings as well as the gravity of the apparent shift in the American attitudes toward immigration. More important, conflicting attitudes toward the overseas migration of laborers in Japan between the government officials and many leading exponents of Japanese emigration made it difficult for the Foreign Ministry of Japan to deal effectively with what would later become a critical situation in an earlier stage. Although most government officials favored, and some were inclined strongly, to impose certain measures to restrict Japanese laborer migration to the United States, they could not ignore the rising popular sentiments toward overseas dekasegi in certain prefectures that were aroused by leading exponents of Japanese emigration. Compromising steps the Meiji Government enforced, unfortunately, came to further irritated Americans, many of whom though it necessary to exclude Japanese immigrants from the United States. The enactment of the so-called Law to Protect Immigrants by the Japanese Government in 1896 can be cited as an example. In the minds of many Oriental exclusionists, this Japanese law, unquestionably, was a law that was legislated to encourage the overseas migration of Japanese laborers.

    In my opinion, failure to take effective measures in the critical stage in the 1890s made it difficult for the Japanese Government to cope effectively with the situation that would indeed grow to become grave and serious diplomatic problem between the two countries in the 1900s and 1910s.

Paper 2. Toshihiro Minohara, Kobe University. "Japanese Exclusion and Domestic Politics:  A Reevaluation of the Enactment of the Immigration Act of 1924."                   

     According to the standard historical interpretation, the Japanese exclusion provision of the Immigration Act of 1924 was enacted due to the inclusion of one unfortunate phrase in the Japanese note sent to the U.S. government. The note, written by the Japanese Ambassador Masanao Hanihara in a "most friendly spirit," carefully outlined the Gentlemen's Agreement of 1908. However, in the same note were the two fateful words, "grave consequences."

     The Hanihara Note was sent to Secretary of State Charles E. Hughes on April 10, 1924. Finding no problems with the note, Hughes immediately transmitted it to Congress. Four days later, without once referring to the note, the House overwhelmingly rejected an amendment that would have given the Japanese a token quota. The fate of Japanese exclusion now rested with the Senate. Popular opinion both in the U.S. and Japan felt that a "more dignified" Senate would not risk damaging U.S.-Japan relations. Hence, it was widely felt that the Senate would reject any provision in the immigration bill that would exclude the Japanese. 

     However, as history shows, this was not to be the case. In a dramatic turn of events, Senator Henry C. Lodge, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, suddenly charged that the phrase "grave consequences" in the Hanihara Note was a "veiled threat" towards the U.S. Seemingly convinced by Lodge's argument, the other Senators now claimed that they had no other alternative but to vote in favor of Japanese exclusion. 

     Was the action of the Senate really due to the "Hanihara Note" and Lodge's "veiled threat" speech?  The basic position of this presentation will be to answer this question in the negative by looking instead at the domestic political scene of the 68th Congress. With this in mind, the primary objective of this presentation will be the following:  first, to challenge the standard historical interpretation by showing that it leaves many questions unanswered; second, to provide a new, more logical explanation for the actions of the Senate; and finally, to reevaluate Ambassador Hanihara in light of the new evidence brought forth in this presentation.

 Paper 3. Igor R. Saveliev, Niigata University.  "Russia's Regional Policy towards East Asian Immigrants, 1860-1916."

      This paper represents an overview of the policy towards East Asian immigrants in the Priamur Governor-Generalship since the absorption of the Maritime and Amur Districts by Russian Empire in 1860 to the Russian Revolution of 1917.

     From the 1860s to the beginning of the 20th century, tens thousands of Chinese and several thousands of Japanese migrants had freely moved to the Russian Far East. According to the Treaty of Peking of 1860, the Chinese could settle on the Russian bank of the Amur River under Chinese jurisdiction. They were engaged in small trade, exploited gold-mines, constructed railroads

    In 1884, the Russian government began to restrict East Asian immigration, imposing special taxes on them. First Priamur Governor- General, Andrei Nikolaevich Korf insisted on the adopting the law of 1892 forbidding foreigners to own land. However, East  Asians could get land by accepting Russian citizenship, and Korf's successors S. M. Dukhovskoi and N. I. Grodekov, aware of labor shortages at the construction of Trans-Siberian Railroad, encouraged foreigners to accept Russian citizenship and abandoned the plans of imposing new restrictive measures on the Chinese trade.

     After returning of the Chinese and Japanese to their homelands during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) Chinese and Japanese population in Russia increased again and numbered 61,429 and 3,896 respectively in 1910. On the demand of the Priamur Governor-General, Pavel Fyodorovich Unterberger the hiring of foreigners was prohibited according to the law of 1911, that was directed mainly against Chinese laborers. Anti-Chinese immigration law was also discussed by Russia's supreme legislative body, Duma that reflected nationalistic domestic policy of the Russian government against non-Russians. However, the beginning of the First World War led to the shortages of labor force in the Russian Far East, and in 1915, the Russian government' shifted from the ban to encouragement of the recruiting laborers in Harbin, Yantai and other Chinese cities.