Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact


SDHF Newsletter No. 401 The Road to the Greater East Asian War Part 23, Chapter 7-1

Nakamura Akira, Dokkyo University Professor Emeritus
(English Translation: Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact)
Part 3, Chapter 7: The Illusion of International Cooperation – 1

The Washington Naval Conference is generally perceived as a symbol of the tendency toward pacifism and international cooperation that followed the First World War. However, one conspicuous manifestation of the disintegration of the spirit of international cooperation as preached at the Washington Conference was the enactment of an anti-Japanese immigration law two years afterward, in 1924.
To help resolve the immigration problem, Japan complied with the Gentlemen’s Agreement, prohibiting laborers from entering the US. However, in 1913 the California State Legislature passed the California Alien Land Law, which prevented Japanese from owning land, and limited the period for which they could lease land to three years. In 1920, the California Alien Land Law became more draconian, not only preventing foreigners ineligible for US citizenship from owning land, but also from leasing land for any period of time. On November 13, 1922 the US Supreme Court reached a unanimous judgement to the effect that Japanese were ineligible for naturalization (obtaining US citizenship). The following year, this ruling was applied to all Asians.
After World War I ended, Europe suffered a recession, which brought about a sudden increase in immigrants from eastern and southern Europe seeking entry into the US. The US Congress enacted the Emergency Quota Act in 1921. This statute limited the number of immigrants admitted from any country annually to 3% of the number of foreign-born persons of such nationality resident in the US according to the 1910 census. In December 1923, Rep. Albert Johnson, of Washington submitted a bill to the House of Representatives, whereby aliens “ineligible to citizenship” would be prohibited from entering the US.
To block the proposed bill, manifestly anti-Japanese in intent, Ambassador Hanihara Masanao, representing the Japanese government, conferred with Secretary of State Charles Hughes. Hanihara brought to Hughes’ attention the fact that Johnson’s bill contained language that contradicted the 1911 Japan-US Treaty of Commerce and Navigation. Then Foreign Minister Ijūin Hikokichi instructed Hanihara to confer with Hughes to discuss the following points:

(1) The anti-Japanese immigration bill contradicts the Japan-US Treaty of Commerce and Navigation, signed in 1911.
(2) Claims have been made to the effect that restrictions on immigration are applied equally to other Asians. However, within existing immigration statutes, limitations on the immigration of Asians have been imposed. Therefore, the new immigration legislation is intended specifically to discriminate against the Japanese.
(3) The discriminatory provisions in the new bill have, in an instant, destroyed policies that the Japanese government has self-sacrificingly implemented for many years by revising treaties, adhering scrupulously to the Gentlemen’s Agreement.
(4) Normally, suitability to become a citizen of a particular nation should be determined on a particular individual’s merits, not on the individual’s race. Deciding arbitrarily that Japanese are to be classified as aliens ineligible for citizenship is a huge blow to our pride.
(5) As Japanese residing on the Pacific coast have been deemed ineligible for citizenship, they have been divested of their rights. Consequently, they have lost their livelihood and are on the verge of poverty. The constitutional amendment proposal goes one step further. It will deprive Japanese immigrants’ innocent children of their public and private rights, leaving them without hope and causing their morale to plummet, relegating them to the unenviable status of a wretched minority in the United States.
(6) Since this same constitutional amendment proposal risks provoking antipathy among the Japanese public, and negatively affecting the amicable relationship between our countries, the Imperial government feels compelled to ask the United States government to give careful consideration to this matter.

Secretary Hughes strongly objected to the proposal and sent a letter to Rep. Albert Johnson, which stated emphatically that the restrictions in Johnson’s bill, besides being in conflict with the 1911 Japan-US Treaty of Commerce and Navigation, would offend the Japanese and fail to benefit the US. But on May 5, 1924 the House of Representatives passed the immigration bill on a vote of 308 to 58, the Senate followed suit with a vote of 69 to 9.
Anti-American sentiment reached a boiling point in Japan. Tokyo’s 15 newspapers, having concluded that the anti-Japanese statute was unjust and immoral, issued a joint protest. On May 31, a man in his forties, infuriated at the US, committed seppuku, leaving behind suicide notes urging Americans to reconsider and his compatriots to rise up against injustice.
1924 was also the year when War Plan Orange, a strategy intended for use during a war with Japan, took shape. In spite of the fact that the naval arms race had been curtailed by the Washington Conference, the US formulated an anti-Japanese war plan only two years thereafter. The Japanese had opted for a policy of cooperation at the Washington Conference, but the events of 1924 proved that their expectations were illusory.

MOTEKI Hiromichi, Chairman
Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact