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Japanese Exclusion in California, 1906-1915

by Abigail Markwyn and Allison Malcom

Level 3 game (what's that mean?)

When Local Racism has International Consequences

In the wake of the 1906 earthquake, a progressively-minded San Francisco School Board votes to remove Japanese schoolchildren from their regular schools in order to send them to the segregated “Oriental School” in Chinatown.

This event occurs against a backdrop of violent attacks on Japanese people in California. These actions raise the ire of Japan, whose Treaty with the United States protects Japanese citizens in the United States as equal to Americans.

This is a Level 3 game that is still under development but has been approved by the Reacting Editorial Board (REB) for general use. A detailed explanation of the editorial process and game levels can be found on our REB Page.



Conflict and War Studies; Cultural and Social History; Economics and Economic History; International Relations; Political Science and Government; Sociology; Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies

20th Century; Late Modern History

In a Few Words
Idea-heavy, Colorful, Contentious

United States of America

Themes and Issues  
Class, Race, Gender, Construction of race, Immigration, Labor, Suffrage, Assimilation, Federalism, Economic development, Diplomacy, Progressivism, "Expertise," School Boards and Local Government

Player Interactions 
Factional and Non-factional, Competitive, Collaborative, Aggressive, Coalition-Building

Sample Class Titles

US History from 1877 to Present, History of Immigration, Progressive Era, California History

Divided Spaces, Rolling Dice, Formal Podium Rule

Chaos and Demand on Instructor 
This game is demanding on the instructor, and has a low level of chaos (more structured).

Primary Source Highlights

The Metcalf Report, 1906

Reports from the Asiatic Exclusion League, 1908

David Starr Jordan, 2 published writings on Japanese history and immigration

George Shima 
Japanese immigrant, millionaire, and the Potato King of California

Rose Wilder Lane
Plucky young journalist who celebrates American ingenuity, and suspects there may be no such thing as race

"Handsome Gene" Schmitz
Jailed mayor of San Francisco, professional violinist, and Labor leader, who wants to "protect" San Francisco from the Japanese. Arrested for extortion and bribery.

Using the Game

Class Size and Scalability 
This short version of this game is recommended for classes with 10-42 students. The longer versions of this game are recommended for classes of 13-42 students. Classes above 35 will double certain journalist roles. 

Class Time  
For this game, 6-12 sessions (2-4 setup sessions, 3-6 game sessions, 1-2 debrief sessions) are recommended. There are three recommended versions, with varying numbers of game sessions: 
Short game: 3 game sessions
Long game 5 game sessions
X-Long game:  6 game sessions (The 6th "World's Fair" Session is for students to exhibit research projects) 

Possible Reacting Game Pairings
This game can be used on its own, or with other games. These recommended pairings are meant to be illustrative rather than exhaustive or prescriptive.  Japanese Exclusion 1906-1915 may pair well with:

You can adjust the assignments based on the desired learning outcomes of your class. This game can include Traditional Paper/ Research/ Thesis-driven writing, Journalism, Creative Writing, and Letter Writing, as well as creative art and design assignments. Not all roles are required to give formal speeches.


Reacting Consortium members can download all game materials below. You will be asked to sign in before downloading.  

Please Fill out the Permissions Request Form Before Using Japanese Exclusion in Your Class!


All students need a Gamebook, which includes resources and historical content. Members can download the Gamebook, and provide it to students for free or at cost.

VERSION 3.0. Updated December 2021

Instructor's Manual

The Instructor's Manual includes guidance for assigning roles, presenting historical context, assignments, activities and discussion topics, and more.

Role Sheets

Students also need a Role Sheet, which contains biographical information, suggestions for further reading, and role-specific info or assignments.  

Additional Resources

A Family Gathering (1988) 
This Academy Award-nominated short documentary by Lise Yasui follows three generations of Japanese Americans in Oregon, from the time of immigration through internments, and is recommended for Game Debrief discussion. Available through the Center for Asian American Media, the WGBH Open Vault, and elsewhere. 


Abigail Markwyn

Abigail Markwyn, PhD, is a Professor of History at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin. She is the author of Empress San Francisco: The Pacific Rim, the Great West, and California at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (Nebraska, 2014) as well as numerous articles on race, gender, and boosterism at World's Fairs.

Reacting and Related Titles

  • Empress San Francisco: The Pacific Rim, the Great West, and California at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition
  • Gendering the Fair: Histories of Women and Gender at World’s Fairs, co-edited with Tracey Jean Boisseau. University of Illinois Press. 2010

Alison Malcom

Allison Malcom, PhD, is an Adjunct Professor of History at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Her teaching and research interests focus on the roles of immigration and religion in the development of American national identity.


Members can contact game authors directly

We invite instructors join our Facebook Faculty Lounge, where you'll find a wonderful community eager to help and answer questions. We also encourage you to submit your question for the forthcoming FAQ, and to check out our upcoming events


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