Suspicious Points of Contact in Pre-War Chicago

This series tells the stories of Japanese and Japanese Americans in Chicago and the Midwest prior to and during World War II, stories that were very different from those of Japanese on the West Coast. Although the Japanese population, along with the number of Japanese arrested by the FBI right after the war broke out, were both small (less than 500 and 20 respectively), the US government’s watchful eyes had been suspicious of Japanese government espionage carried out by Japanese Chicagoans who had daily contact with African Americans since the 1930s. The series focuses on the lives of four Japanese in Chicago and the Midwest who were arrested on suspicion of espionage.

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Japanese Affinity with African American Communities - Part 5

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Frank Masuto Kono 

When he heard about the Pearl Harbor attack, Frank Kono (the Issei who served as the secretary-treasurer of the Japanese Mutual Aid Society in Chicago and was arrested in 1943 with three other Japanese) was working at his restaurant, the Indiana Restaurant, at 4248 South Indiana Avenue in Chicago.1 Soon thereafter, the FBI came and searched Kono’s house not once but twice, and he was called in by the FBI and the Immigration and Naturalization Service a total of seven times. But they never found anything suspicious, and things appeared to be quiet …

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Japanese Affinity with African American Communities - Part 4

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Samuel Ichiye Hayakawa and the Chicago Defender

A brilliant scholar of semantics, English professor, poet, historian of Chicago jazz, and U.S. senator, S. I. Hayakawa was the first non-African American to write a series of columns for the Chicago Defender.1 In November 1942, the Defender announced five new columnists and S.I. Hayakawa, who was professor of semantics at the Illinois Institute of Technology at the time, was one of them.2 When he was offered the opportunity to be a weekly columnist, he “accepted, of course, with pleasure”3 but an administrator at IIT …

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Japanese Affinity with African American Communities - Part 3

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Sociologist Tadao Kawamura and the University of Chicago  

It is not known at this point whether Harry Jitsuzo Harada (the journalist who wrote to Booker T. Washington asking his opinion about Japanese immigration on December 15, 1919) ever completed his book on African Americans, but Tadao Kawamura actually did. Kawamura was a sociologist trained at the University of Chicago and his book, American Negro no Kenkyu (Research on American Negros) was considered the first Japanese book on African Americans that was professionally researched and written before the war.1 However, it is interesting that the …

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Japanese Affinity with African American Communities - Part 2

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Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, and Jitsuzo Harada in Chicago  

Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, founded by Booker T. Washington in 1887, was well-known by certain Japanese because “Japanese who had read Up from Slavery in translation saw in Tuskegee methods one of the means of overcoming their nation’s technological lag behind the West” and Tuskegee was “a mecca for not only Africans but West Indians and Asians.”1 The first Japanese student at Tuskegee, who enrolled “as part of a national movement to become ‘westernized,’”2 was Iwana Kawahara of Tokyo. Kawahara first arrived at Tuskegee in …

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Japanese Affinity with African American Communities—Part 1


In December 1943, when loyal Japanese Americans were leaving concentration camps and relocating to cities in the Midwest such as Chicago, Cleveland, and Kansas City, four Japanese Issei men were arrested in Chicago by the FBI. They were Charles Yasuma Yamazaki and Frank Masuto Kono, who had been Chicago residents for more than twenty years, and Soyu Matsuoka, a Buddhist priest, and Robert Hajime Shiomi, a medical doctor from Oregon. Matsuoka and Shiomi were new to Chicago.

Matsuoka came to the U.S. in June 1940 and lived in Southern California and Denver, Colorado until July 1943, when he arrived …

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african american communities African Americans black dragon society Booker T. Washington chicago Chicago Defender frank masuto kono Illinois Institute of Technology Issei japanese mutual aid society in chicago Marcus Garvey Samuel Ichiye Hayakawa Tadao Kawamura Tuskegee Institute in Alabama University of Chicago