Hidden Histories







Tom's grandfather dies when his father is 3 years old.


Yamato Douglas Izu born at the Griffin family ranch in Los Altos Hills. He is Tom Izu's father.


An informal "Gentlemen's Agreement" was made between the United States of America and the Empire of Japan. Japan would not issue passports to their citizens who wanted to work in the United States. In exchange, the United States agreed to accept the presence of Japanese immigrants already residing there; to permit the immigration of wives, children, and parents; and to avoid legal discrimination against Japanese American children in California schools. There was a strong desire on the part of the Japanese government to resist being treated as inferiors. Japan did not want the United States to pass any legislation such as had happened to the Chinese under the Chinese Exclusion Act. Then US President Theodore Roosevelt, who had a positive opinion of Japan, accepted the Agreement as proposed by Japan to avoid more formal immigration restrictions.


Japanese immigrants made up approximately 1% of the 1,976,000 population of California.

1905 September 5

Japan surprises the world by decisively defeating the Russian Empire. The Empire of Japan emerges as a great world power just 50 years after opening up to modernity. The government of Japan now feels it has the right to demand dignity and respect for its diaspora.


Hideshi Izu arrives in Los Altos from Japan. He is Tom Izu's grandfather.


The Japanese government legalizes emigration.

1885 February 8

The first official entry of Japanese migrants to a "American-controlled" entity occurs when 676 men, 159 women, and 108 children arrive in Honolulu on board the then second largest ship in the world, Pacific Mail passenger freighter "City of Tokio". An assisted passage scheme organized by the Hawaiian government brought in these first of many Japanese laborers for the island's sugar plantations.


The Japanese government grants passports for Japanese citizens to work in Hawaii. The Kingdom of Hawaiʻi was a sovereign nation "independent" from the United States from 1810 to 1893.

1882 May 6

President Chester A. Arthur signs the The Chinese Exclusion Act into federal law. It prohibits all immigration of Chinese laborers for 10 years with the exception of diplomats, teachers, students, merchants, and travelers. The law and it successors were widely evaded. But, it remained in force until 1943 (61 years instead of the original 10). The law encouraged immigration and recruitment of Japanese agricultural labor.

1869 May 20

A group of 22 people from the losing side of the Japanese Boshin Civil War land in San Francisco. They brought with them 50,000 three-year-old kuwa (mulberry trees) used for the cultivation of silk worms, silkworm cocoons,six million tea seeds, bamboo shoots, cooking utensils, and swords. The group purchased 200 acres of land with farm buildings nearby Placerville and establish an agricultural settlement. It was called the Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony. While the colony was short lived, it was the first permanent Japanese settlement in North America.

1854 February 13

American Commodore Matthew C. Perry returns to Japan with nine powerful ships and signs the Convention of Kanagawa which opens up the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate to American ships and establishes initial diplomatic relationships between the countries.

1853 July 8

After studying as much as he can about Japanese culture, government and military behavior, American Commodore Matthew C. Perry arrives in the bay in front of the capital Edo with four ships to forcefully deliver a letter demanding Japan give access to trade to the United States.

1841 June 27

New England Captain William H. Whitfield rescues five young shipwrecked Japanese fishermen. The five are Manjiro Nakahama and four brothers that are his friends. The four brothers disembark at Honolulu, however Manjiro Nakahama stays on board returning with Whitfield to Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Nakahama becomes one of the first Japanese to visit and learn American culture. After attending school in New England and adopting the name John Manjiro, he returns to sailing with Captain Whitfield. After getting a lot of experience at sea, he returns to Honolulu the meet with his friends and find a way to return to Japan. Leaving Japan at that time was a crime and to return would mean punishment. Nakahama did succeed to return to Japan, avoid punishment and actually became recognized for his usefulness. He served as an interpreter and translator for the Tokugawa Shogunate when they negotiated with Commodore Matthew C. Perry. Later he translated seafaring books and transferred his maritime knowledge so that in just a few years Japan could field ships that could sail across the Pacific. His knowledge was key to Japan's rapid modernization.