Yuji Ichioka

Name Yuji Ichioka
Born June 23 1936
Died September 1 2002
Birth Location Los Angeles
Generational Identifier


Historian whose work plumbed previously unexplored Japanese language sources to dramatically reshape the scholarship on the prewar Japanese American experience. Born in San Francisco on June 23, 1936, Ichioka and his family were incarcerated at Tanforan Assembly Center and Topaz when he was a child. The family returned to San Francisco after the war, and Ichioka graduated from Berkeley High School in 1954. After a three year stint in the army, he went to UCLA, graduating as a history major in 1962. He entered graduate school at Columbia University in Chinese history, but dropped out after less than a year in 1963, subsequently working with juvenile delinquent youth for a New York social service agency. He also studied the Japanese language in preparation for an extended 1966 trip to Japan. In 1967, he entered an M.A. program in East Asian Studies at Berkeley. While at Berkeley, he became a student activist, founding the Asian American Political Alliance—he is widely credited with coining the term "Asian American"—and taught the first Asian American Studies class at UCLA in the spring of 1969. When UCLA's Asian American Studies Center formed on July 1, 1969, he was its associate director.

Inspired to pursue study of Asian American history by his teaching experience, he was also drawn to the Japanese American Research Project (JARP) collection at UCLA. Together with his UCLA classmate Yasuo Sakata, he organized that collection, while sharpening his ability to read prewar Japanese; in 1974, they published A Buried Past , the first bibliography of the JARP collection. Ichioka also drew on material in that collection to author a series of influential journal articles over the next decade focusing on previously unknown aspects of the Japanese American experience, including essays on Issei leftists, prostitutes, the Japanese Associations , Issei reaction to alien land laws and exclusion, and many other topics. His award winning 1988 book The Issei: The World of the First Generation Japanese Immigrants, 1885-1924 , drew from these articles. He later pursued the study of the interwar period, looking at the coming of age of the Nisei generation and such previously taboo topics as Japanese nationalism among Japanese Americans and Japanese Americans in the Japanese empire. He guest edited two volumes of Amerasia Journal in 1986 and 1997 that focused on these topics. These essays were published posthumously in 2006 in Before Internment: Essays in Prewar Japanese American History , edited by Gordon Chang and Eiichiro Azuma. Though the bulk of his work focused on the prewar period, he did organize a 1987 academic conference that re-examined the Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Study , its proceedings published in 1989 as Views from Within: The Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Study .

Throughout his career, he remained a "research associate" at UCLA's Asian American Studies Center and an adjunct associate professor of history. He never completed a Ph.D. In addition to his academic work, he gave frequent public lectures and taught community classes and remained active in the Asian American community. He died of cancer on September 1, 2002.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Major Works by Yuji Ichioka

(with 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.

The Issei: The World of the First Generation Japanese Immigrants, 1885-1924 . New York: The Free Press, 1988. [Incorporates many journal articles published between 1971 and 1986.]

Editor. Views from Within: The Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Study . Los Angeles: UCLA Asian American Studies Center, 1989. [Papers from a conference reassessing the JERS project held in 1987. Includes articles by Yuji Ichioka, S. Frank Miyamoto , Lane Ryo Hirabayashi and James Hirabayashi, Peter T. Suzuki, Robert F. Spencer, Charles Kikuchi, Dana Y. Takagi, and James M. Sakoda.]

Consulting Guest Editor. Amerasia Journal 13.2 (1986–87). [Special issue of the journal that focuses on the coming of age of the Nisei generation. Includes articles by Hisaye Yamamoto DeSoto , Arthur Hansen, Ichioka, Jennie Joe, Glenn Omatsu, S. Frank Miyamoto, Raymond Okamura, Mitziko Sawada, B.A. St. Andrews, Yori Wada, and William H. Warren.]

Guest Editor. Amerasia Journal 23.3 (1997–98). "Beyond National Boundaries: The Complexity of Japanese-American History." [Special issue of the journal that looks at Japanese Americans in the prewar and wartime Japanese empire. Includes articles by Ichioka, Igor R. Saveliev, John J. Stephan, and Eriko Yamamoto and autobiographies of Frank Hirata, Sen Nishiyama, Kay Tateishi, Mary Tomita, and Nobuyo Yamane.] https://archive.org/details/amerasiajournalv00amer

(with 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. [Bibliography that incorporates material added to JARP since the publication of the first bibliography.]

Before Internment: Essays in Prewar Japanese American History . Ed. Gordon H. Chang and Eiichiro Azuma. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006. [Posthumous volume that incorporates Ichioka's journal articles about the interwar period that also includes some previously unpublished material.]

For More Information

Amerasia Journal 28.3 (2002). [Tribute to Ichioka upon his passing includes tributes by fourteen friends, colleagues, and students.]

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

Kang, K. Connie. [Sept. 7, 2002, http://articles.latimes.com/2002/sep/07/local/me-yuji7 "Yuji Ichioka, 66; Led Way in Studying Lives of Asian Americans."] Los Angeles Times .

Kim, Ryan. "Yuji Ichioka Asian American Studies Pioneer." San Francisco Chronicle , Sept. 12, 2002.

Last updated May 14, 2024, 4:52 a.m..