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In Defense of Justice

Joseph Kurihara and the Japanese American Struggle for Equality

Eileen H. Tamura

Publication Year: 2013

As a leading dissident in the World War II concentration camps for Japanese Americans, the controversial figure Joseph Yoshisuke Kurihara stands out as an icon of Japanese American resistance. In this astute biography, Kurihara's life provides a window into the history of Japanese Americans during the first half of the twentieth century. Born in Hawai'i to Japanese parents who immigrated to work on the sugar plantations, Kurihara Kurihara was transformed by the forced removal and incarceration of ethnic Japanese during World War II. As an inmate at Manzanar in California, Kurihara became one of the leaders of a dissident group within the camp and was implicated in the Manzanar incident, a serious civil disturbance that erupted on December 6, 1942. In 1945, after three years and seven months of incarceration, he renounced his U.S. citizenship and boarded a ship for Japan, never to return to the United States. Shedding light on the turmoil within the camps as well as the sensitive and formerly unspoken issue of citizenship renunciation among Japanese Americans, In Defense of Justice explores one man's struggles with the complexities of loyalty and resistance.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: The Asian American Experience


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4

Copyright Page

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pp. 5-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Eileen Tamura, whose earlier book in the Asian American Experience series remains the outstanding study of the Nisei of Hawai‘i, here examines the life and significance of the Hawai‘i Nisei Joseph Yoshisuke Kurihara (1895–1965), who became, for a time, the most notorious Japanese American for his role in fomenting the Manzanar Riot of December 6, 1942, ...

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pp. xi-xii

I first became aware of Joseph Yoshisuke Kurihara in the late 1980s when I read a passage from his unpublished autobiography. It caught my attention because of its direct, forthright, and passionate style, so different from the image I had of Nisei men. ...

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pp. xiii-xvi

During my many years on this project, individuals have wondrously given me their time and expertise. Three historians gave me untold assistance. Roger Daniels expressed interest in my project when I considered it some twenty years ago. ...

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pp. 1-8

Joseph Yoshisuke Kurihara proclaimed these incendiary words in 1942 while an inmate in Manzanar, one of ten U.S. concentration camps to which Japanese Americans were relegated during World War II.1 Kurihara, an American citizen who had served in the U.S. Army during World War I and was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, ...

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Chapter 1. Growing Up American

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pp. 9-23

Joseph Yoshisuke Kurihara was born January 1, 1895, on the island of Kaua‘i in what was called the Republic of Hawai‘i. This was two years after the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy and three years before the U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution that resulted in the occupation of the islands as an American territory.1 ...

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Chapter 2. A Yank in France, a Jap in America

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pp. 24-38

While Kurihara was pleased with the education he received at St. Ignatius, the racial atmosphere in San Francisco troubled him. So when a friend suggested a move to Michigan, he responded favorably. “Unexpectedly my friend from Sacramento called and persuaded me to go East,” he later remembered. ...

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Chapter 3. To Manzanar

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pp. 39-50

At the time of Pearl Harbor, Joseph Kurihara was on the high seas navigating the Belle of Portugal, a handsome, state-of-the-art, 130-foot craft, the second largest tuna vessel based in California. The Belle was one of many Portuguese-owned boats, which dominated tuna-fishing out of San Diego. ...

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Chapter 4. Resistance in Manzanar

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pp. 51-67

Kurihara was among the Nikkei assigned to Manzanar, one of ten concentration camps for Nikkei, citizens and alien residents alike. Located at the base of the Sierra Nevada in eastern California, Manzanar was in a desert land of extreme temperatures, high winds, and harsh climate. ...

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Chapter 5. Stepping Back [Illustrations follow p. 80]

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pp. 68-80

Among the men with whom Kurihara clashed at Manzanar were Tokie (Tokutaro) Nishimura Slocum, Togo Tanaka, and Karl Yoneda. The background of these men and their disagreements with him are part of Kurihara’s story. Like Kurihara, Slocum was a veteran of World War I and a member of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. ...

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Chapter 6. Isolating Citizen Dissidents

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pp. 81-95

After their arrest in the wake of the Manzanar revolt, Kurihara and the other members of the Committee of Five were taken with Ueno to the jail in Bishop, and after a few days, to Lone Pine. Eventually the group at Lone Pine grew from six to sixteen after other dissidents from Manzanar were brought there.1 ...

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Chapter 7. Turmoil at Tule

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pp. 96-114

Situated at the northern end of California, thirty-five miles southeast of Klamath Falls, Oregon, and ten miles from the town of Tulelake (named after nearby Tule Lake), the Tule Lake concentration camp was flat, treeless, dusty, and desolate. At four thousand feet above sea level, its long winters were cold, its summers hot and dry. ...

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Chapter 8. Renunciation

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pp. 115-131

On July 1, 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Public Law (PL) 405, which amended the Nationality Act of 1940 to allow U.S. citizens living in the United States to renounce their citizenship during wartime. Although not stated explicitly, the law was aimed at dissident Nisei.1 ...

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Chapter 9. Japan

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pp. 132-145

Kurihara’s refusal to seek restoration of his citizenship did not mean that he was enthusiastic about the idea of living in Japan. He believed that he understood the daunting implications of doing so. Pointing out to Hankey his frankness and outspoken ways, he sensed that such forthrightness might spell trouble for him in Japan. ...

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pp. 146-152

Three themes coursed through Kurihara’s life: high expectations, his distinctiveness, and a strong sense of justice. These themes, especially the third, help to explain who he was, how he saw himself, and why he did what he did. ...


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pp. 153-198


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pp. 199-200


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pp. 201-222


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pp. 223-228

E-ISBN-13: 9780252095061
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252037788

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: The Asian American Experience