The Japanese American Research Project (JARP) papers held by UCLA special collections is hands down the most important collection of Japanese-language documents on Japanese American history. According to Brian Niiya in the Densho Encyclopedia, (which I am paraphrasing below) the JARP collection began with a fundraising effort by the Japanese American Citizen’s League to document the history of the first generation of Japanese immigrants (Issei) in 1960. Boston University sociologist T. Scott Miyakawa, Frank Chuman, and Joe Grant Masaoka were some of the first to lead collection efforts, along with Robert A. Wilson, who directed the project at UCLA beginning in 1965. Wilson was one of a handful of postwar Japan scholars interested in asian migration to the US, having written his dissertation in 1942 about the Chinese exclusion in Oregon.
JARP’s main goals were to survey Issei and Nisei populations, to publish an official history of Japanese Americans, and to collect documents, oral histories and memorabilia. Until the project’s initial stage finished in 1972, researchers saw the many primary and secondary sources they collected as of only secondary importance. Luckily historians Yuji Ichioka and Sakata Yasuo organized the collections and published the first bibliographies in 1974.
The JARP collection currently consists of about 850 boxes. Collection materials are quite diverse including periodicals, diaries, photograph albums, and scrapbooks. Please see the current collection guide for detailed information, hosted on the Online Archive of California website. Please note that the several hundred oral histories have been removed for digitization at Waseda University in a project led by UCLA grad Morimoto Toyotomi. While there are some postwar materials, the bulk of the collection date from the 1890 to World War II.
This collection has enormous possibility as a source for the study of modern Japan. The Arai Ryōichirō papers in the collection consist of the personal and business papers of Arai, who was the first to establish direct trade in silk with the US in the 1870s. There are particularly rich collections of Japanese print periodicals from the early twentieth century, consular reports, religious and business associations, as well as prefectural association histories.
See the official bibliographies for a more detailed breakdown of collection contents:
Yasuo Sakata, Fading Footsteps of the Issei: An Annotated Check List of the Manuscript Holdings of the Japanese American Research Project Collections. Los Angeles: Japanese American National Museum, 1992.
Yuji Ichioka et al. A Buried Past: An Annotated Bibliography of the Japanese American Research Project. Berkeley: UC Press, 1974.