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Japanese Alien Land Law Investigation Records
MSS 323  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Biography / Administrative History
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: japanese alien land law investigation records
    Dates: 1912-1948
    Collection number: MSS 323
    Collector: Japanese American Citizens League
    Collection Size: 2.25 linear feet
    Repository: University of the Pacific. Library. Holt-Atherton Dept. of Special Collections
    Stockton, California 95211
    Abstract: The collection consists of materials related to 19 investigations into Japanese-owned properties focused in San Joaquin County and escheat cases that resulted from them.
    Physical location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the library's online catalog.
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English


    Collection open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    japanese alien land law investigation records. MSS 323. Holt-Atherton Department of Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library.

    Biography / Administrative History

    The 1913 Alien Land Law enacted in California limited aliens ineligible for citizenship to only any property rights guaranteed in treaties with their respective countries. Effectively, this targeted aliens from Japan, since they were unable to apply for citizenship under the immigration laws at that time, and the 1911 U.S.-Japan treaty made no mention of property rights. Violations of the law would result with the property in question being escheated to (confiscated by) the state. Despite this barrier, Japanese immigrants continued to increase their land holdings in California. Several methods for circumventing the law grew common in the years following. These included purchasing land in the name of a child and holding it under guardianship, or forming an agricultural corporation to hold the land. Anti-Japanese lobbyists grew increasingly discontented, and in 1920 a new, more restrictive Alien Land Law was placed on the ballot and passed. This new version was intended to prevent the circumventions of the 1913 law that had become common. It stated that when a person purchased land in another's name, it was assumed that this was intended to bypass the law. The burden of proof was also shifted to the defendant. The defendant would now have to prove that the land had not been purchased as it was in order to circumvent the Alien Land Law. The Law was challenged in 1948, in Oyama v. California. Fred Oyama sued the State of California, arguing that his rights as a citizen had been violated when the state confiscated the land in Los Angeles that his non-citizen father had held in his name. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor, and overturned a portion of the 1920 law. The entire law was overturned in 1952, in Fujii v. California. During the period that the Alien Land Laws were in effect, the state filed 76 escheat proceedings.
    The Alien Land Laws appear to have had a significant effect on Japanese living in San Joaquin County. Many in the county were under investigation by the state, with the aim of finding their land holdings in violation of the Land Laws.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The collection consists of materials related to 19 investigations into Japanese-owned properties and escheat cases that resulted from them. These materials are primarily court documents, evidence, records, and materials gathered during investigations. These would be useful to researchers looking for insight into the methods used by the Attorney General's office in investigating and trying the escheat cases, and the types of information they collected about Japanese immigrant families residing in and around San Joaquin County. This collection contains several documents related to the Oyama trial, including the legal brief of the case, in folders 1.2 and 4.4. Several of the subseries, such as Terumitsu Akita, Sadaki Higashi & Jiichi Motoike, and Kiyoshi Watanabe, contain large amounts of material, especially evidence used by the District Attorney's office, related to those cases.
    The collection also contains more general or miscellaneous materials more broadly related to Alien Land Law investigations in San Joaquin County, correspondence to and from the District Attorney's office, agent reports, and indexes. These materials could be used to examine how agents of the District Attorney's office conducted investigations, and how the District Attorney corresponded with other counties, and how he reacted to the Oyama case.
    There are also two photographs: the first is of Japanese-American students in front of a Stockton Buddhist Church, and the other shows a mix of Asian-Pacific American students at a conference. The majority of the documents in the collection date from the 1930s and 1940s. These materials were provided by the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL). Prior to their acquisition by the JACL, the materials in the collection were housed in the San Joaquin County Courthouse.


    The materials in the collection were donated in two 1 linear foot boxes. The original order of the labeled folders inside the boxes is reflected in the inventory. Although folder titles have been maintained the collection has been arranged into three series, in order to present the collection in a more coherent manner for the patron. The first series contains the general and miscellaneous materials related to Alien Land Law investigations, correspondence, reports and indexes. The second series contains the materials related specifically to 19 investigations into Japanese-owned properties and escheat cases that came out of them. This series is arranged alphabetically by plaintiff or defendant's last name. The third series contains photographs. The Original Inventory contains detailed information on specific materials contained in each folder.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    San Joaquin County (Calif)
    Alien property - California
    Japanese - California - Legal status, laws, etc