There has been little research on the architectural heritage of Japanese America; conventional wisdom suggests that Japanese immigrants quickly "lost" ethnic architectural traditions upon arrival in the United States and immediately adopted local building practices. This interpretation has emphasized an eagerness on the part of the Nikkei to assimilate, rooted in Meiji era reforms that introduced western cultural practices into Japan during the mid-nineteenth century. A closer examination of the building projects undertaken by Japanese immigrants to America, however, offers compelling evidence of immigrants' efforts to reconstruct traditional cultural practices, as well as adapt them to the new conditions they found on U.S. soil. Furthermore, research findings suggest that racism played a powerful role in persuading Japanese immigrants to abandon or mask outward signs of ethnicity in the built environment, even while the spaces they created and used often continued to support ethnic traditions both functionally and expressively. The purpose of this article is to document expressions of ethnicity in the architecture of the Nikkei and to provide a nuanced interpretation of their meaning in relation to the construction of Japanese American identity in the period from the first wave of immigration until World War II.
|Number of pages
|Journal of Architectural and Planning Research
|Published - Dec 1 2002