Sunday, June 12, 2016

Kazuo Masuda VFW Post 3670 Memorial Day

ABOVE: A 21-gun salute in honor of all fallen veterans at the VFW Post 3670 Kazuo Masuda Memorial Day program at Westminster Memorial Park. (Video, May 30, 2016 M. Urashima) © All rights reserved.

   Historic Wintersburg in Huntington Beach author and preservation task force chair, Mary Urashima, was asked to speak at the annual  Kazuo Masuda Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3670 program on Memorial Day.  It is an honor to be part of this day, recognizing the remarkable men and women fallen in their service to our country.  This event---which bears the name of Congressional Gold Medal and Distinguished Service Cross recipient Kazuo Masuda---honors, in particular, the Nisei soldiers of World War II and all service men and women who have fallen in the line of duty.

   An excerpt of her remarks:

   "...This is a chapter of our country’s history we are reminded of today, as we stand near the grave of Kazuo Masuda, whose family was incarcerated during the time of his service.  Four of the Masuda brothers served during World War II.  Kazuo was awarded posthumously in 1945 the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in action.

RIGHT: Marvin Masuda (second from left) lays flowers at the grave of Kazuo Masuda, with his father, Masuo Masuda (center). Masuo Masuda is the brother of Kazuo Masuda and also a WWII veteran.  Both were Huntington Beach High School graduates. (Photo, M. Urashima, May 30, 2016, Westminster Memorial Park) © All rights reserved.

    On July 6, 1944, when his observation post became the target of heavy mortar and artillery fire, Staff Sergeant Masuda crawled 200 yards to the mortar section, secured a mortar tube and ammunition, and returned to the observation post.  

   Using his helmet as a base plate, he single-handedly directed fire at the enemy for 12 hours, repulsing two enemy counter-attacks.                         

   A month a half later, on August 27, 1944, he voluntarily led two men on a night patrol across the Arno River and through the heavily-mined and booby-trapped north bank.  Hearing movements, he ordered his men to cover him while he crawled forward. He discovered that they had been surrounded.   
   Kazuo Masuda ordered his men to withdraw while he engaged the enemy.  At the sacrifice of his life, he enabled them to escape.  Kazuo Masuda’s family would hear of his death, while confined at Gila River.

LEFT: A news clipping from 1945 announces the War Relocation Authority had taken "steps to end threats against a West Coast Japanese American girl who has four brothers with honorable army service records."  The article is paired with another article noting the reception received by a northern California Japanese American family attempting to return home after WWII confinement.  Acts of violence and vandalism toward Japanese Americans were widely reported and the return home was difficult, for those who chose to return to their prior home. Many lost their properties or chose not to return after WWII confinement.        
   The return of the Masuda family to Orange County in 1945 was not easy. Kazuo’s sister, Mary Masuda was confronted with threats of violence. Hearing this, the War Relocation Authority issued a national bulletin against such acts, reminding the public these were American families returning home. 
   General Joe Stillwell, determined to make a statement, traveled to the Masuda’s farmhouse in Talbert to present posthumously the Distinguished Service Cross.  It was on the front page of the Los Angeles Herald on December 9, 1945, and carried by the news reels of the day.  With General Stillwell, was a young Army captain, Ronald Reagan.

RIGHT: A Nisei military honor guard holding American flags flanks the entrance to the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church as the Masuda family departs the memorial service for Westminster Memorial Park in 1948. This was three years after leaving confinement at the Gila River Relocation Center in Arizona and three years after Mary Masuda confronted threats of violence during her attempt to return home to Orange County. (Photo snip courtesy of Dennis Masuda) © All rights reserved.  
   As a historian, I have written about the Masuda family’s story and the impact it had in 1988 when President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act.  He remembered the Masudas from that December day in 1945.  This was an American family, in the farm country of Orange County, whose story would resonate all the way to the White House.  
   It would be several years before Kazuo Masuda could be brought home to rest.  Finally, in 1948, the family and community were able to memorialize this hero who had walked on.   
   The funeral services were held with a full house in the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church with a Nisei military honor guard, before proceeding here, to the Westminster Memorial Park, to this place where we are today.   
   Looking at the photographs of that day, I am struck by the dignity, sadness and pride I see in the faces of those gathered to honor him.  It is what we feel here today

LEFT: The Congressional Gold Medal awarded posthumously to Kazuo Masuda and other Nisei soldiers of World War II. Kasuo Masuda is one of twelve Nisei soldiers featured in the Smithsonian Institute's 2016 digital exhibit, The Nisei Soldier: Congressional Gold Medal, The Smithsonian explains, "This exhibition presents the extraordinary life stories of 12 Nisei soldiers who served in the US Armed Forces in World War II. While some had families in America’s concentration camps, all served with a highly uncommon and commendable sense of patriotism and honor. This is their American story."  
   The story of Kazuo Masuda continues to resonate seven decades after his death, as he is one of twelve Nisei soldiers featured in the Smithsonian Institute’s new exhibit on Congressional Gold Medal recipients, of whom Kazuo Masuda is one.    
   We gather on Memorial Day to remember those who have fallen during their service to our country, those who have walked on during the past two and a half centuries.  As is the nature of America, their service was not easy and not always understood.  Not all have received the hero’s welcome they deserve.

RIGHT: The Japanese American soldiers of World War II are one of the few military groups who have not been honored with a U.S. postal stamp, yet they remain the highest decorated units of all time. Learn more at Stamp Our Story,

   There are generations of soldiers and families of soldiers who have persevered when the political climate made that difficult.  We live in a time when manners and respect seems to have faded.

   This brings me back to what I was taught by my parents in my childhood.  It is the message conveyed by General Stillwell in 1945 and President Reagan in 1988.  It is still timely today, it is a message we still should be teaching our children, and the message I wish to close with.  
   On Memorial Day, we remember the fallen. Those who have walked on.  What we must remember is they walk past us every day.  Stand.  Show respect.  Cheer for them. Every day.  These are heroes."

All rights reserved.  No part of the Historic Wintersburg blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, M. Adams Urashima.   

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Kazuo Masuda Memorial Day program, May 30

ABOVE: A photograph of SSgt. Kazuo Masuda in the foreground, an honor guard prepares for a salute at last year's Kazuo Masuda Memorial VFW Post 3670, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, Memorial Day Service at Westminster Memorial Park. (Photo, M. Urashima) © All rights reserved.

    Kazuo Masuda is one of twelve Nisei soldiers featured in the Smithsonian Institute's 2016 digital exhibit, The Nisei Soldier: Congressional Gold Medal  He was awarded posthumously both the Distinguished Service Cross in 1945 and, more recently, the Congressional Gold Medal

    Kazuo Masuda is honored each year at the Kazuo Masuda Memorial VFW Post 3670, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States Memorial Day Service at Westminster Memorial Park, Orange County, California.  This year, Historic Wintersburg will be part of the program, with comments by the preservation task force chair Mary Urashima.

   The Masuda family are part of the history of the Wintersburg Mission, congregants who traveled from their farm in Talbert (Fountain Valley) to attend services and carnivals on the Furuta farm.  One of the Masuda descendants serves on the Historic Wintersburg Preservation Task Force, providing first-hand historical insight for the efforts to save a National Treasure historical place.  This family's history is one of the reasons Historic Wintersburg is considered nationally significant.  It is part of the history that we work to preserve for future generations.

RIGHT: From a traveling exhibit held at a veterans' organization in Maui, Hawaii, in 2014, an image of General Joe Stillwell presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Mary Masuda, on behalf of Kazuo Masuda, on the steps of the Masuda family farm house in Talbert, December 1945. (Photo, M. Urashima) © All rights reserved.

    The Masuda family history is linked to one of our country's monumental civil liberties moments: the authorization of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, during which President Ronald Reagan talks specifically about the Masuda family and the heroics of SSgt. Kazuo Masuda, of the "Go For Broke" 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Company F.  Their story can be found here:

LEFT: The Los Angeles Herald featured General Joe Stillwell's visit to the Masuda family on their front page. Newsreel media covered the event, at which a young Army captain--Ronald Reagan--accompanied Gen. Stillwell, to present posthumously the Distinguished Service Cross. (Image, Los Angeles Herald, December 9, 1945)

   Four of the Masuda brothers served in the U.S. military during World War II, while their family remained incarcerated, first at the Jerome Relocation Center in Arkansas, later at the Gila River Relocation Center in Arizona.  Gensuke Masuda, the family patriarch and a farmer in Talbert, was taken and interrogated by the FBI the night of the attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor.  He had been in America for over 40 years.  

   Seen as a community leader for his involvement with the Wintersburg Japanese Mission and due to his success as a farmer, Gensuke Masuda's hard work and efforts to establish his family in America now moved against him.  Kazuo Masuda--already in the U.S. Army--wrote letters on behalf of his father, asking for his release and noting his father's devotion to America, "I believe he has done his part in making it the great nation that we are."

   Killed in action in Italy, in 1944, it would take several years before Kazuo Masuda would come home to rest. Finally, in 1948, the family and community were able to memorialize a hero who had walked on.  The funeral services were held with a full house in the Wintersburg Japanese Church with a Nisei military honor guard and Japanese American clergy, before proceeding to the Westminster Memorial Park.   Those in attendance knew of the long, painful journey by the Masuda family.  Many had shared the same journey.

   In 1988, President Ronald Reagan would remember Kazuo Masuda and his family, remarking, "America stands unique in the world, the only country not founded on race, but ideal. Not in spite of, but because of our polyglot background, we have had all the strength in the world. That is the American way."

RIGHT: The funeral procession for Kazuo Masuda in 1948, enroute to the Westminster Memorial Park. Originally prohibited from burial in an area with grass and trees due to "restrictive covenants" which barred persons who were not of Caucasian ancestry, public pressure on behalf of the hero reversed the Park's decision. The annual Memorial Day service is held near his grave. (Photo courtesy of Dennis Masuda) © All rights reserved.

  On Monday, Memorial Day 2016, we remember and honor Kazuo Masuda and those who have fallen during their service to our country. We honor their families, who--even in the best of times--must bear the absence and loss of loved ones.  We reflect on the sacrifice of generations of Americans.  We show the respect due to all who serve.

All rights reserved.  No part of the Historic Wintersburg blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, M. Adams Urashima.  

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Our American Family: The Furutas airing nationwide on PBS World Channel this May!


   In September 2013,  filming began to capture the story of Charles Mitsuji and Yukiko Yajima Furuta---American pioneers from Hiroshima, Japan---and their descendants.  With the recorded oral history of Yukiko Furuta, an Issei or first generation immigrant---conducted thirty-one years ago in 1982---the stories and memories of five generations of the Furuta family are brought to life in Our American Family: The Furutas, in May 2016.

    Interviews on film include then 91-year-old Etsuko Furuta, the daughter of Charles and Yukiko, born on the Furuta farm in Wintersburg Village, and Martha Furuta, wife of Charles and Yukiko's son, Raymond.   
RIGHT: Our American Family producers Michael Nolan and Bradford Van Demark capture an image of a bicycle on the Furuta farm, behind the Wintersburg Japanese Mission, during filming in 2013. (Photo, M. Urashima) © All rights reserved.

   The interviews with the Sansei generation--second generation born in America--include Norman, Dave and Ken Furuta, sons of Raymond and Martha, and the grandsons of Charles and Yukiko Furuta.  The documentary includes historic photographs of Wintersburg Village and Huntington Beach, and present-day images filmed on the Furuta farm.  

LEFT: Charles and Yukiko Furuta, with their first child, Raymond, in Wintersburg Village (now Huntington Beach), circa 1914. (Photo courtesy of the Furuta family). © All rights reserved.

   The personal history shared by the Furuta family is iconic for the Japanese American experience on the West Coast, from pioneer settlement of the American West through the traumatic upheaval of World War II incarceration and the return to California to rebuild a life.  This is part of the story of Historic Wintersburg, designated a National Treasure at the end of 2015 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Washington, D.C.

   Our American Family: The Furutas was first screened in February 2015, on the Day of Remembrance at the Japanese American National Museum.  It then aired around the country, coast to coast, on public television.  Due to public interest, it is airing again this May during Asian American Heritage Month.

California air dates and times:
May 4 @ 4PM PT
May 7 @ 10:30AM PT
May 12 @ 11:30AM PT

    Watch the 4-minute preview and find the link for PBS World Channel (with local channel information and local times for your television provider and region) at 

   A feature from the 2013 filming at Historic Wintersburg is at

ABOVE: Yukiko Furuta in 1912 at the Itsukushima Shrine on the island of Itsukushima (known as Miyajima), near Hiroshima, which is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  She visited the shrine before her arrival in America and shortly after her marriage to Charles Furuta, who traveled back to Japan from California for the marriage arranged through family and friends. Charles Furuta--who had arrived in America in 1900--returned to Japan to marry Yukiko, after saving his earnings and acquiring farm land in Wintersburg Village, known today as Historic Wintersburg in Huntington Beach, California. Our American Family: The Furutas begins circa 1912. (Photo courtesy of the Furuta family). © All rights reserved.

All rights reserved.  No part of the Historic Wintersburg blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, M. Adams Urashima.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Sakura: Cherry blossoms and flower viewing season in Huntington Beach Central Park

The annual Huntington Beach Cherry Blossom Festival is Sunday, March 20, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., behind the Central Library at 7111 Talbert Avenue and Goldenwest Street. Free parking is plentiful in the Central Library parking lot. This event celebrates Huntington Beach's Sister City relationship with Anjo, Japan, and supports the student exchange program. (Photo, M. Urashima, 2015) © All rights reserved.

   It took two attempts to bring the first gift of cherry trees to the United States from Japan.  The first shipment of 2,000 trees in 1910 were not healthy enough to plant.  The second shipment of 3,000 trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, D.C. in 1912 were a success!  It is the recognition of that gift that sparked the National Cherry Blossom Festival along the Tidal Basin.

LEFT:  In Japan, the face of the moon is a rabbit mochi-tsuki: rabbits pounding cooked rice in a mortar to make mochi, the confection enjoyed at special holidays and festivals. Dango, or mochi, is often shaped like a rabbit at the time of the fall moon festival and like cherry blossoms during hanami, or "flower viewing" season. (Image, National Diet Library, Japan)

    It was an idea with roots in the late 19th Century, with the writer Eliza Ruhamah ScidmoreScidmore was an aberration.  She wrote the first travel book for Alaska and was the first woman to write for National GeographicScidmore wrote about her experiences traveling in Asia and lived in Japan.  She would write about Asia for decades, introducing American readers to the Japanese moon festival and that while Americans saw a "man in the moon," in Japan the image on the moon's face was seen as "rabbits making mochi."  

   While she wrote about cultural traditions and flower festivals--such as the festival in Japan for the asagao, or morning glory--Scidmore also was acknowledged as an insightful observer of the social and political environment in Asia, publishing works like Java: The Garden of the East in 1897, and China: The Long Lived Empire in 1900.

RIGHT: An illustration from Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore's 1891 book, Jinrikisha days in Japan (New York, Harper & Brothers). Scidmore writes, "the cloud-burst of cherry blossoms decks the Empire in wreaths of white and pink, and fills the people with joy."  Scidmore continues to explain to her readers that "the gradual unfolding of sakura, the cherry blossoms, is of great concern, the native newspapers daily printing advance despatches from the trees..the pinkish light from their fair canopy dazzles and dizzies the beholder." Today in Japan, the "cherry blossom front" is reported on the nightly news as the blossoms move south to north through the country.

LEFT: Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore, described as a writer of "sparkling travel sketches" by the Minneapolis Journal, March 16, 1901.  She was the first to advocate for the planting of cherry trees in Washington D.C.   Washington Post writer Michael Ruane wrote in 2012 about Scidmore's appearance at a Capitol society ball in the winter of 1894: "She wore a gown of green under a black silk robe embroidered with gold and silver Japanese characters. And when the young woman walked into the Dupont Circle mansion that night, she turned every head...She was 37, an author, journalist, traveler and collector of the lore and artifacts of far-off lands." (Photo, Wisonsin Historical Society)

   The U.S. National Park Service (NPS) credits Scidmore as the first to advocate for cherry trees in 1885

"Upon returning to Washington from her first visit to Japan", reports the NPS, Scidmore"approached the U.S. Army Superintendent of the Office of Public Buildings and Grounds, with the proposal that cherry trees be planted one day along the reclaimed Potomac waterfront. Her request fell on deaf ears. Over the next twenty-four years, Mrs. Scidmore approached every new superintendent, but her idea met with no success."

RIGHT: Cherry trees in bloom in Akasaka, an area of Tokyo, in the 1890s. (Photograph, The New York Public Library. ID 109995. Photography Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs.)
   In 1909, Scidmore made the request of the wife of President William Howard Taft, first lady Hellen Herron Taft, suggesting she would fund raise to buy the cherry trees and donate them to the Capitol.  The NPS explains that the First Lady had lived in Japan and was familiar with the sight of the cherry trees in bloom. 

   Hellen Herron Taft responded to Scidmore in two days, writing, "Thank you very much for your suggestion about the cherry trees. I have taken the matter up and am promised the trees, but I thought perhaps it would be best to make an avenue of them, extending down to the turn in the road, as the other part is still too rough to do any planting. Of course, they would not reflect in the water, but the effect would be very lovely of the long avenue. Let me know what you think about this."

LEFT: An image from the Huntington Beach Cherry Blossom Festival in 2014. (Original photo by Gregory Robertson) © All rights reserved.

   The Washington Post continues the history, explaining that the day after Scidmore received the letter from the First Lady, "she told two Japanese acquaintances who were in Washington on business: Jokichi Takamine, the New York chemist, and Kokichi Mizumo, Japan's consul general in New York.  The two men immediately suggested a donation of 2,000 trees from Japan, specifically from its capital, Tokyo, as a gesture of friendship"and asked Scidmore to find out if the First Lady would find the gift acceptable.  She did.

RIGHT: A hummingbird winging through the cherry blossoms in Huntington Beach Central Park. (Photo, Gregory Robertson, 2015) © All rights reserved

   With First Lady Helen Taft's support, things moved quickly.  Although the first batch of cherry trees could not be planted, the second love letter from Japan arrived just in time for Valentine's Day, February 14, 1912.  Over three thousand trees were shipped from Yokohama to Seattle, then in insulated freight cars to Washington D.C.  And, on March 27, 1912, Helen Herron Taft and the Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador, planted two Yoshino cherry trees on the northern bank of the Tidal Basin.

   That year, the Washington Star reported a "Washington woman who has been decorated is Miss Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore, whose home is at 1837 M Street northwest, and who in 1908 was given the cross of the Order of the Eastern Rising Sun by the Emperor of Japan in recognition of her writings on Japan." (Editor's note: Scidmore's home appears to be standing at the address reported in 1912, a stately, restored brick Victorian, now living a new life as a restaurant.)

LEFT: Taiko drum performance at the 2015 Huntington Beach Cherry Blossom Festival.  There will be taiko drum, classical Japanese dance, live music from Japanese musical groups, cultural arts and crafts, and a wide variety of Japanese and Japanese-influenced foods to try at this year's Festival.  Admission and parking in the Huntington Beach Central Library parking lot are free. (Photo, M. Urashima, 2015) © All rights reserved.

   The National Cherry Blossom Festival reports that several years later in 1915, the United States reciprocated with a gift of flowering dogwood trees to the people of Japan.  In 2012--a century after the planting of Japan's gift of cherry trees in Washington D.C.--the United States sent 3,000 flowering dogwood trees to Japan as an anniversary gift.  The dogwood trees were planted in Tohoku region of northern Japan and in Yoyogi Park of Tokyo.

   To preserve the original genetic lineage of the first cherry trees, the NPS reports that "approximately 120 propagates from the surviving 1912 trees around the Tidal Basin were collected by NPS horticulturists and sent back to Japan (in 2011) to the Japan Cherry Blossom Association...Through this cycle of giving, the cherry trees continue to fulfill their role as a symbol and as an agent of friendship."

LEFT: An early 20th Century selfie. By 1921, the cherry trees in the Tidal Basin had become Washington D.C. celebrities, celebrated and photographed. (Image, Washington Evening Star, April 3, 1921)

   This year in Huntington Beach, we will again plant new cherry trees in Central Park--near the lakeside Secret Garden--with the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles and delegates from our Sister City Anjo, Japan.  This Southern California-central Japan friendship began in 1982 and is working toward its own centennial event.  The Cherry Blossom Festival of 2082 will be one for the books!

RIGHT: Historic Wintersburg, designated a National Treasure in October 2015, will have a booth again at this year's Cherry Blossom Festival in Huntington Beach Central Park on March 20. Author Mary Adams Urashima will be signing her book, Historic Wintersburg in Huntington Beach, about the history of Wintersburg Village and Orange County's Japanese American pioneers, the Furuta Gold Fish Farm and the Wintersburg Mission. In addition to historical information, there also will be an activity and treat for little cherry blossom visitors! (Original photo by Barbara Haynes, 2015) © All rights reserved.


It's Hanami Time! at Surf City Family can be found at

The Huntington Beach Sister City organization website for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival--with information on performances and vendors--is at

Read the History of the Cherry Trees from the U.S. National Park Service at

Read the full feature by Mike Ruane, Cherry Blossom's Champion, Eliza Scidmore, Led a Life of Adventure, The Washington Post, March 13, 2012, at

Author Andrea Zimmerman has written a book about Eliza Scidmore, Eliza's Cherry Trees, with more information about Eliza's life, travels and writing, and teacher resources at

All rights reserved.  No part of the Historic Wintersburg blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, M. Adams Urashima.