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“Buddha in the Attic” by Julie Otsuka: Understanding Early 20th Century Japanese Migration and Racism Abroad

PROGRAM START DATE: April 19, 2022

In 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States Navy sailed gunships into Tokyo Bay, forcing Japan to open to trade with the United States. In the years that followed Perry’s arrival, Japan underwent a tremendous social transformation. After the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Japan’s rapid urbanization and industrialization brought about great social disruption and economic hardship. Hoping for greater opportunities elsewhere, an increasing number of brave and entrepreneurial Japanese immigrants looked for a better life outside the islands of their homeland.

The first Japanese immigrants to the United States were recorded arriving in California in 1869 and by the mid-1800s there were many Japanese immigrants working in sugarcane fields of Hawai’i and farms in California.  Buddha in the Attic tells the story of a group of young women brought over from Japan to San Francisco as ‘picture brides’ tracing their extraordinary lives from their arduous journey by boat, to their arrival in San Francisco to the beginning  of the war.

This online bookclub explored the primary sources and stories of the women in Buddha in the Attic and comparisons with the case of Japanese immigration to Brazil was also discussed.  Participants grappled together with the complex issues of economic migration, racism, cultural transformation, labor, and war.

This program was open and free to all in-service and current K – 12 teachers of all subjects.

Date and Time

Tuesday, April 19, 2022, 5:00 – 6:30 PM PDT/6:00 – 7:30 PM MDT

This program was held over Zoom.

Program Leaders

Brian Dowdle, Associate Professor and Co-Chair of the Department of World Languages and Cultures at the University of Montana, and Lauren Collins, Program Director of Asian Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Program Benefits

  • A physical or digital copy of the book
  • Free 3 WA OSPI clock hours or Montana OPI clock hours
  • Online resources

East Asia Resource Center

Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies
University of Washington
Box 353650
Seattle WA, 98195-3650