The Japanese began immigrating to Hawaii (incorporated as a U.S. territorial possession in 1900) and the West Coast in significant numbers starting in the 1890s. Chinzen Kinjo, who arrived in Hawaii soon after 1900, described how Japanese plantation workers reacted to the despotic rule of the “lunas” or overseers—reminiscent of the racist abuses of Old South slave plantations. From Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler, The Japanese American Family Album (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 50:
The life on Ewa Plantation was very hard; getting up at 4 A.M., breakfast at 5, starting to work at 6, and working all day under the blazing sun. We worked like horses, moving mechanically under the whipping hands of the luna. There was no such thing as human sentiment. At night, instead of a sweet dream of my wife and child left in Okinawa, I was wakened up frightened by the nightmare of being whipped by the luna. Because of the perpetual fear of this unbearable whipping, some other workers committed suicide by hanging or jumping in front of the on-coming train….
There was no one who wasn’t whipped. Once when the luna whipped me by taking me for someone else, I was really mad and all the anger which had hitherto been suppressed in me exploded and I challenged him with Karate (Okinawan art of self-defense). Since the luna was a big man, a six-footer, it wasn’t easy for me. But finally, I threw him to the ground. I could have kicked him to unconsciousness. There was a crowd surrounding us. Some cheered me, waving cane knives, shouting, “Kinjo, go ahead, go ahead!” The others shouted, “Beat him up; finish him!” I was at the point of jumping at him, risking my whole life in that one blow. Right at that moment, a Big Luna (superior overseer) came and calmed me down, saying, “Wait, wait; I will fix everything all right.” Thus, the incident ended short of serious consequences. We wanted revenge even to the point of committing murder. You can understand how brutally the laborers of early years were treated.