Symposium on the ‘Legacy of Japanese Women: Past, Present and Future’

A symposium entitled “The Legacy of Japanese Women: Past, Present and Future” will be held on Saturday, March 22, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at the Hotel Kabuki Imperial Ballroom, 1625 Post St. in San Francisco’s Japantown. Admission is free.

The primary goal of the symposium will be to encourage understanding, dialogue and person-to person communication between Japanese and Japanese American women scholars regarding Japanese and Japanese American history. A second goal of the symposium will be to engage a younger generation of audience as a means to ensure a continuing appreciation of and pursuit of positive and constructive U.S.-Japan relations.

This symposium, co-sponsored by the Consulate of Japan and the National Japanese American Historical Society (NJAHS), is a continuation of the 2006 series on “Japanese American Identities.” This event focuses on the role of Nikkei women in the immigration experience.

“We are pleased to present this public presentation as a means to enhance our mutual understanding and academic networks by discussing how women in the two countries have contributed to the US-Japan relationship through time,” said a statement from organizers. “It is our hope and intent to begin the dialogue that would culminate in a weekend-long program in Japan in 2009.”

The event will include a panel presentation by Japanese women scholars Kikuyo Tanaka, Ph.D. (Kwansei Gakuin University); Mariko Kitayama-Takagi, Ph.D. (Aichi Gakuin University ); Yoko Tsujimoto, Ph.D. (Kobe City University of Foreign Studies); Ikumi T. Yanagisawa, Ph.D. (Nagoya University); and Eriko Yamamoto, Ph.D. (independent researcher).

A respondents roundtable will include: Satsuki Ina, Ph.D. counselor education, California State University, Sacramento; Reiko Homma-True, Ph.D. clinical psychology; and Rita Takahashi, Ph.D. social work, San Francisco State University.

The program will end with a panel presentation by Japanese American women scholars Valerie Matsumoto, Ph.D., UCLA; Lynne Horiuchi, Ph.D., UC Berkeley; and Eileen Sunada Sarasohn, MA, Sacramento City College.


Kikuyo Tanaka, Ph.D. (professor, Kwansei-Gakuin University), “Reconsidering Japanese Immigration History to the United States: Focus on Issei Women” — By reviewing the current trends in the studies of Japanese Immigration to the United States, and specifically focusing on the Issei women, Tanaka will propose perspectives for the 21st century. Dr. Tanaka will also introduce the International Association for North American Ethnic Studies and the women scholars who study social and cultural relations between Japan and the United States.

Mariko Takagi-Kitayama, Ph.D. (professor, Aichi Gakuin University), “Issei Women and Haiku/Tanka Poems in Hawaii” — Haiku and tanka societies in Hawai‘i began at the end of the 19th century. This study will focus on the poems about Issei women in Hawai‘i, describing their lives and feelings as expressed both by the women themselves as well as by Issei male poets.

Yoko Tsujimoto, Ph.D. (professor, Kobe City University of Foreign Studies), “Shifting images of Japanese immigrants to the U.S.: from ‘America Monogatari (Tale of America)’ to ‘Tokyo Kid’” — Kafu Nagai’s 1908 novel “America Monogatari (Tale of America),” based on his experience in the United States, depicted the Japanese immigrant experience. By comparing images from Nagai’s novel with the depiction of Japanese immigrants in the film “Tokyo Kid” (1950), Tsujimoto will discuss the shifting images of Japanese immigrants to the States in the course of half a century.

Ikumi T. Yanagisawa, Ph.D. (lecturer, Nagoya University of Foreign Studies), “A Historical Study of Issei Women Farm Workers: Beyond the Discourse of ‘Abused Women’” — This presentation examines the role of Issei women who engaged in back-breaking farm labor along side their husbands, and the corresponding negative images that often described them as victims of coercion and abuse by Japanese husbands. This image was often used to denigrate Japanese immigrants as “uncivilized” while at the same time American farmers farmed in much the same way. In spite of such negative images, Issei women farmers contributed significantly to the economic stability of the Japanese American family as well as the stability of Japanese American farming.

Eriko Yamamoto, Ph.D. (independent scholar), “The Portrait of an Issei Lady: Abiko Yonako (1880-1944)” — The paper will examine the life, vision, and social contributions of Yona Abiko (1880-1944), an exceptional Issei woman who performed strong leadership in the pre-war Japanese American community while keeping close ties with white American leaders in the U.S. and Japanese elite back home. Based in San Francisco, she devoted herself to improving the status of Issei women and their Nisei children. Among her contributions was the foundation and development of the San Francisco Japanese YWCA and the organization of two Nisei tours (kengakudan) to Japan in 1925 and 1926. In tune with the pluralistic assimilation approach promoted by the YWCA’s International Institutes movement in the 1910s-40s, Yonako had much in common with white women social workers from well-to-do families in the late 19th century.

Panel Presentations – USA: Japanese American women scholars to discuss their work and research in the Japanese American community.

Lynne Horiuchi, Ph.D. (architectural history, visiting scholar, Institute of Governmental Studies, UC Berkeley), “Turning Leaves: the Japanese American Family Album Project.” Horiuchi addresses the use of an ethnic studies “lens” to look at traditional humanities subjects. She argues that such an approach inspires new questions and different perspectives that may contribute to reframing the foundation and modus operandi of contemporary scholarship. Her current work is an architectural study of the built environments of the incarceration of Japanese and Japanese Americans during World War II, as seen through an ethnic studies lens. She briefly introduces a forthcoming article on Mine Okubo, a perceptive and brilliant Japanese American artist who recorded the incarceration of Japanese and Japanese Americans through her art, the Trek (the art magazine produced in the Topaz Relocation Center), and her 1946 publication, Citizen 13660.

Valerie Matsumoto, Ph.D.(history and Asian American studies, UCLA), “Rice and Rings: Nisei Women, Courtship and Marriage in the Early Post-war Period” — Drawing from research in southern California, Matsumoto will discuss Nisei courtship and marriage. The expectations of Issei parents, the anti-miscegenation laws and sentiments of the dominant society, economic hardship, ethnic peer networks, and mainstream popular culture all influenced Nisei romance and marriage in the early postwar period.

Eileen Sunada Sarasohn, MA (history, Sacramento City College), “Issei Women: Echoes from Another Frontier”

Roundtable Discussion: Following the panel presentations there will be a roundtable including three respondents: Dr. Satsuki Ina, education; Dr. Reiko Homma-True, clinical psychology, and Dr. Rita Takahashi,(professor and director of School of Social Work Program, San Francisco State University).

Pre-registration requested at (415) 921-5007 or (415) 356-2466.

A buffet luncheon sponsored by the National Japanese American Historical Society will follow to continue the dialogue. Cost is $15 per person, and reservations recommended to (415) 921-5007 or

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