The Japanese American Experience" illustrates the history of Japanese Americans from the early immigrants through the war years and up to the present emphasizing the experiences of those in the Philadelphia and New Jersey areas.
Japanese Americans in the Delaware Valley and Northeastern United States have family roots predominantly in the Inland Sea area and southern Japan. The first generation, or "Issei," came mostly in the early 1900's and settled in Hawaii and on the West Coast. The largest number of Japanese Americans living in the Philadelphia area came from the West Coast, relocating from the ten centers in which they had been interned during World War II.
This internment was the most traumatic event in the lives of the majority of Japanese Americans aged 45 and over. The forced mass-uprooting, incarceration behind barbed wire, and resettlement of its own citizens by the United States government, without due process and based on ethnicity, left emotional scars on the internees. It also raised profound questions about the rights of American citizens as embodied in the first ten amendments to the Constitution, commonly referred to as the Bill of Rights.
Japanese Americans brought with them cultural patterns, ethical values, artistic tastes, food preferences and other traditions which have persisted among their descendants and enriched "mainstream" American culture.
It is especially fitting that the exhibition should be held in Philadelphia, the birthplace of the United States, and in the neighborhood where the Constitution was adopted.