Japanese Schools in Hawaii

Many local Japanese in Hawaii grew up attending Japanese school after school or Saturday mornings.

In 1890s, Japanese immigrants started these schools to teach their children the Japanese culture and values. However, tension would arise between those for and against the schools.

Plantation managers encouraged these schools until 1920, when the Japanese asserted themselves in the 1920 labor strike. Public school educators and the Office of Naval Intelligence believed Japanese-American children needed an American education to assimilate into American culture. The latter believed Japanese education would support Japan’s efforts to colonize the United States.

Japanese newspapers in Hawaii opposed restricting foreign-language schools; the conservative English-language newspapers supported restrictions, including The Pacific Commercial Advertiser, The Maui News, and The Garden Island. In 1908, The Pacific Commercial Advertiser criticized the local Japanese practice of enrolling children in local public schools and then sending them to Japan in their last years of schooling. The newspaper argues that this way does not develop these students as American citizens.

However, The Maui News reports the Japanese schools helping the public schools. In 1912, Maui public schools in Maui faced a shortage of classrooms due to the increase of students. The Maui News reports the “public spirited Japanese educators [helped] out American brethren” by lending at least three Japanese school buildings to ease the overcrowding.

In 1916, Japanese schools decided to prepare students for American citizenship and to print their textbooks in roman letters. However, policymakers still wanted to restrict Japanese schools. In 1919, while one hundred and sixty-three Japanese schools were operating in Hawaii, the Hawaii Territorial Legislature introduced a bill regulating foreign-language schools.  The bill died in session.

In the following year, in a legislative special session, Governor Charles J. McCarthy urged restricting foreign-language schools, and the bill turned to law. Now foreign-language schools had to conduct classes after public school for no more than one hour per day, six times a week, and the teachers had to obtain a license. The school department prescribed the textbook and course content.

In 1922, Judge J. J. Banks granted a writ of temporary injunction, which stopped the attorney general and the Department of Public Instruction from restricting foreign-language schools. The attorneys for the Palama Japanese School argued that the law was unreasonable, oppressive, and unconstitutional and violated the American treaty with Japan of 1894.

Five years later, in 1927, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the restrictions on foreign-language schools unconstitutional. However, the Territory of Hawaii again restricted Japanese schools during World War II, this time shutting them down and forcing them to liquidate their assets. After the war, Japanese schools emerged in Hawaii again, albeit with fewer students.

– Alice Kim

Articles from Chronicling America

“Ceremony at Temple: Opening Exercises of Japanese School”
The Pacific commercial advertiser., May 05, 1902, Page 6, Image 6

“Japs Too Patriotic: Hawaii Teacher Objects to Visit to the Anegawa”
The Pacific commercial advertiser., October 16, 1906, Page 3, Image 3

“Japanese Children Have Great Time at Kakaako: Emperor’s Birthday Celebrated with Sports at Atkinson Park”
The Pacific commercial advertiser., November 04, 1908, Page 3, Image 3

“Aid from Honolulu Japanese”
The Pacific commercial advertiser., February 11, 1904, Image 1

“Only English in Public Schools: Board of Education Will Not Lend Building for Japanese Teaching”
The Hawaiian star., February 09, 1906, SECOND EDITION, Page THREE, Image 3

“Metcalf and the Japanese”
The Hawaiian star., November 14, 1906, SECOND EDITION, Page FOUR, Image 4

“Nestor of the Japanese Diet: Mr. Inouye Returning Home from an Important Mission”
The Pacific commercial advertiser., August 22, 1907, Image 1

“A Busy Week in Old Maui Seaport” (opening of new Japanese school)
The Pacific commercial advertiser., May 03, 1908, SECOND SECTION, Image 9

“The Japanese Vote”
The Pacific commercial advertiser., August 29, 1908, Page 4, Image 4

“Lightfoot’s Protest Results in Transfer of Japanese Teacher”
The Hawaiian star., January 05, 1911, SECOND EDITION, Image 1

“Schools Are Very Crowded: Public Spirited Japanese Educators Help Out American Brethren…”
The Maui news., September 28, 1912, Page 5, Image 5

“Print Japanese School Books in Roman Letters”
Honolulu star-bulletin., January 01, 1916, 3:30 Edition, Page THREE, Image 3

“‘U.S. First’ in Japanese School System Decided: Hongwanji Buddhists Make Formal Announcement of Radical Changes”
Honolulu star-bulletin., May 02, 1916, 3:30 Edition, Page THREE, Image 3

“School Methods to Be Changed by Japanese”
Honolulu star-bulletin., May 23, 1916, 3:30 Edition, Page SEVEN, Image 7

“Japanese School Heads Declare They Work for Americanization”
Honolulu star-bulletin., July 21, 1916, 3:30 Edition, SPORTS, CLASSIFIED AND SHIPPING SECTION, Page NINE, Image 9

“Japanese Will Hold Education Meeting Aug. 8”
Honolulu star-bulletin., July 22, 1916, 3:30 Edition, Page EIGHT, Image 32

“Why Any Foreign Schools?”
The Maui news., May 03, 1918, Page FOUR, Image 4

“The Foreign Language Question”
The Maui news., June 28, 1918, Page FOUR, Image 4

“Foreign School Bill Introduced in House”

“Territory Should Control”
The Maui news., March 21, 1919, Page FIVE, Image 5

“Language Schools Must Go”
The Garden Island., June 08, 1920, Page 7, Image 7

“Must Do Away with All Foreign Schools”
The Maui news., June 11, 1920, Page EIGHT, Image 8

“Governor Tells Legislators About Most Urgent Needs”
The Maui news., November 12, 1920, Image 1

“Foreign Language Schools”
The Maui news., November 12, 1920, Page FOUR, Image 4

“Foreign Language School Bills May Produce Prolonged Session”
The Maui news., November 19, 1920, Image 1
“Foreign Language Schools Controlled”
The Maui news., November 26, 1920, Image 1

“Language School Legislation”
The Maui news., November 26, 1920, Page FOUR, Image 4

“Who Are Foreigners”
The Maui news., December 24, 1920, Page FOUR, Image 4

“Japanese Consul Said to Have Been Outspoken”
The Maui news., February 18, 1921, Page THREE, Image 3

“Rules for Securing of Foreign Language Teachers’ Licenses”
The Maui news., March 10, 1922, Page PAGE SEVEN, Image 7

“Religious Instruction”
The Maui news., April 28, 1922, Page PAGE FOUR, Image 4
“Importing Japanese Teachers”
The Maui news., July 11, 1922, Page FOUR, Image 4

“Foreign Language Schools”
The Maui news., July 25, 1922, Page FOUR, Image 4

“Those Japanese Schools”
The Maui news., November 21, 1922, Page FOUR, Image 4
“Don’t Make It Worse”
The Garden Island., December 19, 1922, Image 4

“Temporary Writ of Injunction Given Japanese”
The Maui news., December 29, 1922, Image 1


One Comment on “Japanese Schools in Hawaii”

  1. […] In 1890s, Japanese immigrants started these schools to teach their children the Japanese culture and values. However, tension would arise between those for and against the schools. Read more […]

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