Japanese American Yuji Ichioka: Creation of the Asian American

Fighting for your rights is important. Japanese American Yuji Ichioka was a historian and a civil rights activist. He spent his life studying Japanese history, getting involved in movements and publishing journal articles about Japanese Americans. Ichioka is acknowledged as the one who invented the term Asian American.

Born to Japanese immigrant parents in San Francisco, the Ichioka family was brought into incarceration at Tanforan Assembly Center which is located in California and Topaz which is located in Utah during World War 2. Eventually after the war, the Ichioka family was able to return to the Bay Area and live in Berkeley where Yuji graduated high school in the year of 1954.

He spent his college years at UCLA where he finished as a history major in 1962. Afterwards, he went to graduate school at Columbia University studying Chinese history. He also entered into a Master of Arts program in East Asian Studies at Berkeley.

Yuji has been involved in activism and founded the Asian American Political Alliance. During his time as a student, he founded the Asian American Political Alliance. Furthermore, he was the first person to teach the first Asian American Studies class at UCLA. The UCLA Asian American Studies Center is the largest and among the longest-running research centers of its type in the United States.

Yuji Ichioka speaking at an Asian Americans for Peace march and rally 

Photo Courtesy of  UCLA Asian American Studies Center, Gidra Photo Collection

Along with his classmate at UCLA, Yasuo Sakata, they were able to publish “A Buried Past” which is the first bibliography of the Japanese American Research Project collection at the said university. His book entitled “The Issei: The World of the First Generation Japanese Immigrants” won an award. Most of his works are centered on the prewar period. In 1987, he organized an academic conference that re-examined the Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Study.

In the course of his career, Yuji remained as a “research associate” at UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center. He was able to give frequent public lectures and was an active member of the Asian American community. He died in 2002 due to cancer.

Yuji Ichioka and his wife Emma Gee

Photo Courtesy of Time

Following this, UCLA established the Yuji Ichioka and Emma Gee Endowment for Social Justice and Immigration Studies. This would honor Yuji and his wife for their significant contributions for Asian Americans.

Densho Encyclopedia
Negra Bohemian
UCLA Newsroom

Written by Jan Marbella

Jan Marbella is a Digital Marketing Intern of PS Media Enterprise and a 4th year Bachelor of Arts in Communication student of De La Salle University DasmariƱas.


A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization
based in California that advocates
social inclusion of minorities with
Asian heritage though cultural awareness.


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Japanese American Yuji Ichioka: Creation of the Asian American
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