Japanese American Research Project

1960s research project sponsored by the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) and UCLA that resulted in several publications and the creation of an archival repository widely regarded as the most important collection of prewar documents on the Japanese American experience.

The Japanese American Research Project (JARP) has it roots at the 1960 JACL convention, when an Issei History Project was begun. With money raised by JACL chapters, $100,000 was allotted for the project and T. Scott Miyakawa, a Nisei sociologist teaching at Boston University, became the project's first director in August 1962. Through JACL leader Frank Chuman, an alumnus, UCLA was selected as the partner institution of the project and the repository of material generated by it. JARP received subsequent grants from the Carnegie Corporation in 1964 and the Behavioral Sciences Research Branch of National Institute of Mental Health in 1966. In 1965, Robert A. Wilson, a history professor at UCLA specializing in Japan, became its director. Also in 1965, Joe Grant Masaoka joined the staff as project administrator.

JARP initially had three main goals: (1) "to conduct a sociological survey based on a national sampling of the Issei and Nisei populations," (2) "to publish a definitive history of the Japanese Americans," and (3) "to collect documents, including oral history and memorabilia."[1] Especially after the award of the NIMH grant, the focus turned to what would become a three-generation sociological survey directed by UCLA sociologist Gene Levine. Though the collection of historical material was of secondary importance, Masaoka managed to collect a large volume of material while conducting hundreds of interviews for the sociological survey. Much of the material consisted of primary and secondary material in the Japanese language. But the collection also grew to include photographs and some art and three-dimensional objects as well as the interviews. After the official completion of JARP in 1972, UCLA historian Yuji Ichioka continued to add important collections to JARP over the next three decades, and, with Yasuo Sakata and two others, organized much of the early material, publishing the first bibliography of the collection in 1974.

Wilson was to write an academic history of Japanese Americans and, the JACL commissioned journalist Bill Hosokawa to write a popular history. Hosokawa's Nisei: The Quiet Americans appeared in 1969 to controversy about the book's title and omission of wartime dissent, which many felt misrepresented the full Japanese American story. Wilson's East to America: A History of the Japanese in the United States, written in collaboration with Hosokawa, appeared in 1980. Levine's The Japanese American Community: A Three-Generation Study, written with Colbert Rhodes, was published in 1981. Chuman's legal history, The Bamboo People: The Law and Japanese-Americans, published in 1976, was another book commissioned as part of JARP.

The JARP collection housed at UCLA has since become a important resource for scholars of Japanese American history. Yuji Ichioka and Eiichiro Azuma, compilers of one of three bibliographies of the collection, call it "... the finest collection of primary sources in the Japanese language on Japanese immigration history." While the focus is on prewar materials, there is much of interest to those studying the wartime incarceration, including many camp publications, particularly Japanese language camp literary publications that are unavailable elsewhere. A number of collections added to JARP in recent years have also had more of an incarceration focus, such as the Edison Uno Papers (http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/ft9t1nb4jd/) and the Harry Y. Ueno Papers (http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/tf3w1005kh/admin/).

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho

For More Information

Finding aid for the Japanese American Research Project collection at UCLA, http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/tf6d5nb3z6/entire_text/.

Furuyama, Katie L. "Imagining Equality, Constructing Ethnicity, Race, Identity, and Nation: The Japanese American Citizens League and the League of United Latin American Citizens." Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Irvine, 2012.

Hastings, Emiko. "'No Longe a Silent Victim of History': Repurposing the Documents of Japanese American Internment." Archival Science 11 (2011): 25–46.

Ichioka, Yuji. "A Historian by Happenstance." Amerasia Journal 26.1 (2000): 32–53.

Ichioka, Yuji, Yasuo Sakata, Nobuya Tsuchida, Eri Yasuhara, compilers. A Buried Past: An Annotated Bibliography of the Japanese American Research Project Collection. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974.

Ichioka, Yuji, and Eiichiro Azuma, compilers. A Buried Past II: A Sequel to the Annotated Bibliography of the Japanese American Research Project Collection. Los Angeles: Asian American Studies Center, University of California, 1999.

Sakata, Yasuo, comp. Fading Footsteps of the Issei: An Annotated Bibliography of the Manuscript Holdings of the Japanese American Research Project Collection. Los Angeles: UCLA Asian American Studies Center, UCLA Center for Japanese Studies, and Japanese American National Museum, 1992.

Wu, Ellen. The Color of Success: Asian Americans and the Origins of the Model Minority. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014.


  1. Collection Guide, Japanese American Research Project collection, accessed on June 28, 2013 at http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/tf6d5nb3z6/.