Yuko Konno is a lecturer in the Department of Multicultural Communication at Asia University, Tokyo. Her research interests include 20th-century US history, Japanese migration, and transpacific history. In her dissertation, she specifically examined translocal connections that Japanese immigrants in Southern California maintained in the first half of the 20th century. She then shifted her focus to fishing migrants, primarily looking at fishermen from Wakayama Prefecture. She has published a number of articles, including the 2012 Lucie Cheng Award winning essay, “Localism and Japanese Emigration at the Turn of the Twentieth Century.” Currently, she is conducting research on the internment of Terminal Island Japanese during World War II.
“Transpacific Community Building: Wakayama Villages and California’s Fishing Industry in the Early Twentieth Century”
In the early 20th century, Southern California’s fishing industry attracted fishermen from all over the world, most notably from part of Italy and Croatia facing the Adriatic Ocean, as well as Wakayama Prefecture in southwestern Japan facing the Pacific Ocean. As a new market for canned tuna developed in the United States after the turn of the century, those migrant fishermen’s skills were highly coveted and appreciated by canners who controlled capital and managed labor. Those fishermen brought with them not only special skills but specific localisms, even as their origin regions underwent rapid changes amidst state consolidations and national projects of modernization. Focusing on the community building among Japanese fishermen and cannery workers on Terminal Island, Los Angeles, this presentation sheds light on how the Pacific served as a link connecting hometown and diaspora, enabling those people not only to imagine their faraway homeland but also to channel the place-bound knowledge and resources for their best interest. By doing so, it seeks to offer an alternative to the conventional view of the Pacific, traditionally an ideological construct of Euro-American powers. To paraphrase what one historian stated about the Pacific, the ocean, in reality, has been where multiple trans-localisms intersected, rather than simply a vast expanse that only mattered in a geopolitical sense. Using rarely consulted sources including census records and hometown bulletins, the presentation offers a case study of Terminal Islanders and their hometowns, in order to reveal aspects of such trans-localisms and their meanings and consequences for today.