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Japanese American Internment: Asian Americans and U.S.-Asia Relations (curricula)

Creators: Angela Che, Asia Society


This lesson seeks to make students aware of the World War II wartime experience of Japanese Americans and to develop empathy for the children whose lives were impacted. The lesson is designed not to reveal aspects of the Japanese American incarceration until the end. It begins with a survey that asks students about aspects of their daily lives including a list of their possessions, description of their bedroom, and their usual routine. Next students are asked to respond to situations similar to what Japanese Americans faced, such as what they would take if they had to move away, how they would feel if they had to leave a pet behind or share a bathroom with over 100 people. This is followed by a short skit about a student taking another student's desk and when asked to return the desk, the student is reluctant to do so, simulating what some Japanese American families went through when returning home after the war. The final part of the lesson delves into the history of the Japanese American incarceration through the reading of excerpts from Japanese American Journey edited by Florence Hongo. The text selections are not provided; however, ways to access the book are suggested, with specific pages noted. The discussion prompts try to get students to connect the World War II story with current events, question why those of German and/or Italian descent were not incarcerated, and ponder if the government adequately compensated Japanese Americans after the war.

The lesson is designed for strong student engagement, however, as the content provided is very general, it assumes the teacher will have strong historical knowledge or be willing to do their own research in order to teach this effectively.

The Asia Society website has other materials related to Japanese American incarceration including an interview with Julie Otsuka, author of When the Emperor Was Divine ; a conversation about the Japanese American Redress Bill with Grant Ujifusa, Japanese American Citizens League and New Jersey Governor Tom Kean; and a written history of Asian immigration to the United States. A listing of these materials is accessed by entering "Japanese American Internment" in the search box at the top of the page.

Founded in 1956 by John D. Rockefeller 3rd, Asia Society is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization with centers, offices and public buildings in several cities in the United States and around the world. Asia Society works to promote mutual understanding and strengthen partnerships among people and institutions of Asia and the United States to address present challenges and to create a shared future.

Authored by Janet Hayakawa , Densho
For More Information

For More Information

Japanese American Internment (lesson plan) http://asiasociety.org/education/japanese-american-internment .

Listing of additional Asia Society resources: http://asiasociety.org/search?s=japanese+american+internment&x=0&y=0