Issei _ Acrylic on Canvas

After completing the 12′ x 90′ mural “Japantown Memories”, I was commissioned to paint five 24″ x 30″ x 1.5″ canvas, to tell the story of the Issei in Lodi. This was quite an honor, for a few of the Issei descendants are friends I went to school with, colleagues I worked with or acquaintances I have met in our community.

Issei are the Japanese who were born in Japan and emigrated to America. Nisei are the children of Issei, born in the United States.

Few Japanese workers came to North America intending to become immigrants. Initially, most of them came with vague plans for gaining new experiences and for making some money before returning to homes in Japan. This group of workers was overwhelmingly male. Many Issei arrived as laborers. They worked in employment sectors such as agriculture, mining, and railroad construction. If they had not been prohibited from becoming citizens, many would have become citizens of the United States

While the Issei were making their own path, circumstances between their homeland and the US grew tense with each decade, until the culmination of war at the bombing of Pearl Harbor. That point in history, was the end of the prosperous lives of many of the Issei. Their homes, land and possessions were taken from them by the government of the country they called home, and the place where their children were born.

These five paintings can only communicate this story in the briefest of ways, and they were installed on the wall inside the Issei Room of the Lodi Buddhist Church. The first four I painted are colorful and full of life, adventure and prosperity. The last of the five was intentionally painted with gray and muted tones, barely catching the mood of an unknown future in a desolate place.

The majority of Japanese who came to Lodi, CA, were from Hiroshima, Japan.

This is a painting of the gate in Miyajima Bay near Hiroshima.

The tall structure was made of huge tree timbers, and would be a lasting landmark in the minds of those leaving here.

Many of the Issei traveled across the Pacific Ocean aboard a ship, maru, like this one, the Shingo Maru. Here, the vessel is seen breaking through the fog with the Japan coastline in the distance.

Picture Brides are waiting for the stamp of approval before entering the United States, inside the Immigration Office located on Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay.

The fourth panel is a scene of the prosperous Japanese American family farm. Nisei, children born in America to the Issei are eager to help. Because Issei were forbidden to own land in California, the farm was usually in their Nisei’s name.

This last painting, in gray and muted tones, is the unknown future before the families as they prepare to enter the Interment Camps, bringing only what they can carry. Japanese families from Lodi were interred in Rowher, Arkansas.

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1 Comment

  1. Danine

     /  March 12, 2012



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