The Nikkei Lantern, San Jose

We are Americans - The Nikkei Statement - The Nikkei Lantern - Japan town in San Jose

February 19, 1942 is one of the days of  infamy in the US.  On this day the United States, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, an order that would lead to its own citizens being discriminated against on the basis of their ancestry. It sounds ridiculous, but that is what war does to decision making. If your ancestry is of the enemy country, you are done for.

Over 120,000 Americans of Japanese origin were moved to internment camps. Over 70,000 of these were natural born American citizens. The rest were issai, first generation Japanese immigrants. This lantern is a reminder of injustice meted out to these 70,000 nikkei (Japanese Americans born to Japanese immigrants in the US,  also sometimes referred to as nisei) and sansei (Grandchildren of issai/ Children of nikkei). A reminder that when it came to decision making during wartime, all American citizens were not equal, and some citizens were, of course, less equal than others. (Sorry, George Orwell!)

Now, talking about Nikkei Lantern, it is a strange looking pillar or a beam with a bend when you look at it for the first time. It can be difficult to figure out what it is. In almost the middle of the lantern, there is a bend that has date on it: February 19, 1942. The date is a sure giveaway and the bend is symbolic of the will of Japanese Americans to thrive under all circumstances. The torch at the end of the lantern is a symbol of eternal hope of the nikkei community.

A team member visited Japantown, San Jose as part of the "Been There Done That" project and added this photograph to's collection of photographs of San Jose.

Published On: Monday, June 3rd, 2013