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April 1st – No Joke for Japanese Americans

The pranks often associated with April Fools Day in the west are not common in Japan and I doubt that most people in Japan are even aware of the custom. In Japan, April 1 is a day of beginnings and renewals, it’s the first day of a new school year and the start of careers for newly hired graduates. It’s also the start of a new fiscal year in business.

Back on April 1, 1942 it was no joke when the Western Defense Command and Fourth Army Wartime Civil Control Administration posted the sign below on the corner of First and Front Streets in San Francisco, California. The order instructed all persons of Japanese ancestry to evacuate the area. This was the start of systematic interment of more that 110,000 Japanese people living in America that lasted until January 2, 1945. More than half of these people were United States citizens and many lost their land and businesses as a result of the internment. In 1988, 82,210 of those interned, or their surviving heirs, were awarded $20,000 USD each and in 2001 the ten sites of the detainee camps were designated as historical landmarks by the United States Government. (Source: Wikipedia, Japanese American Internment)

Photo Credit: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, ARC Identifier: 536017