Monday, August 8, 2016

Cherry blossoms and poppies: A 1935 banquet with the Japanese Consul in Huntington Beach

    The spring of 1935 was a time of slow financial recovery and international unrest.  Adolph Hitler had seized power in Germany in 1933.  Japan and Germany left the League of Nations. Dachau, the first of a thousand concentration camps was established.  What eventually would be 1400 German laws aimed at non-Aryans and Jews were in motion. In April 1934, thousands of Americans attended a pro Nazi rally in Queens, New York.  By July 1934, 30,000 were imprisoned in Germany.

 RIGHT: The daughters of Charles and Yukiko Furuta, Kazuko Furuta (left), then a Huntington Beach High School student, and her sister, Toshiko Furuta, then attending Santa Ana Junior College, in traditional dress for the banquet held in Huntington Beach in 1935. The goldfish farmers of Wintersburg Village---the Furutas were one of three goldfish farming families---were cited in the feature as part of "a new melting pot of the East and the West." ("Racial Amity Welded Across the Banquet Table", Los Angeles Times, April 23, 1935)

     The unease that spreads in times of financial uncertainty (the Great Depression), environmental devastation (the Dust Bowl), and world conflict (departures from the League of Nations) has a way of creeping into local politics and immigration policies.  Sentiment against immigrants from Asia had been in California since the mid 1800s, beginning with the Chinese.  By 1935 in California, there had been two and a half decades of legislation aimed at restricting immigration from Japan, restricting property ownership and restricting citizenship.

   At the time of the banquet in spring 1935, the Wintersburg Mission (founded in 1904) had already opened its second and larger 1934 Church building , funding its construction during the Great Depression.  Huntington Beach was opening a new post office on Main Street, funded by the federal program that became the Works Progress Administration.  New arrivals escaping the mid-western Dust Bowl were showing up in California looking for work.  It was the New Deal era.  People were toughing out hard financial times, but still were hopeful for the future.

   In Wintersburg Village and Huntington Beach, the local farmers and merchants were determined to keep things moving in a positive direction.  On April 22, a banquet was held in the Memorial Hall with community leaders specifically "in honor of the Japanese citizens of this community".

LEFT: Huntington Beach Memorial Hall, as it would have looked circa 1935.  The Memorial Hall and city hall of the Old Civic Center--located near where the Main Street branch library is today, were demolished in 1974. The stone eagles from the Old Civic Center were saved and placed in the City public works yard, see (Photo: City of Huntington Beach archives)

   The Santa Ana Register reported the next day that 200 prominent citizens attended and that "the talks while brief were expressions of the friendly relations that exist between the business men of the community and the Japanese residents, and was planned as a tribute to the Japanese."

   The Los Angeles Times described the dinner's symbolism, "cherry blossoms and California poppies were twined into a banquet of peace and good will here tonight."  Japanese Consul General Tomokazu Hori was the special guest and keynote speaker for a special dinner in Huntington Beach to celebrate and strengthen relationships, assisted by the new generation of Japanese Americans: the Nisei

LEFT: Japan Consul General Tomokazu Hori with the Consulate General of Los Angeles, 1935. He was instrumental in securing Japan's participation in the California Pacific International Exposition. ("Racial Amity Welded Across the Banquet Table", Los Angeles Times, April 23, 1935)

   The dinner's chairman and toastmaster, Ralph C. Turner---owner of M.A. Turner Co., a dry goods and sundries store on Main Street in Huntington Beach---quoted Los Angeles Times journalist and columnist Harry Carr, who had said that a "Golden Age always follows upon the blending of the East and the West."  Consul General Hori agreed and "gently" spoke of the propagandists working to divide the countries.  

   Huntington Beach Mayor Thomas Talbert welcomed everyone, along with members of the Huntington Beach city council, the Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce, Windsor Club, Rotary Club, the Business Men's Association, the Smeltzer Japanese Association, the Orange County Japanese Association, and the Japanese American Citizens League, among others.  Anyone who was anyone, was there.

RIGHT: Two-time Huntington Beach Mayor Thomas Talbert (second row on step, fourth from left with hat in hand), in a 1912 gathering at the Huntington Inn with Wintersburg Mission clergy, Reverend Barnabus Hisakishi Terasawa (front row, fourth from right), and Charles Mitsuji Furuta (front row below step, second from left).  The purpose of this meeting is believed to be an effort to raise funds to rebuild the Huntington Beach pier. Other prominent leaders at the gather included: Huntington Beach's first mayor, Ed Manning (second row, far right in light-color suit), and at center, two-time Huntington Beach mayor (1914-1916 and 1918-1919) Eugene French. (Photo, Wintersburg Presbyterian Church) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

   The Japanese American pioneers of Wintersburg Village and Smeltzer had worked for three and a half decades to create a life in America.  The banquet recognized these efforts and brought together farmers and merchants from the surrounding countryside.  They knew each other and wanted to hold back the rumblings of international and domestic conflicts.

LEFT: Taeko (Florence Taye) Hori, the wife of Consul General Tomokazu Hori, was born in California and visited Japan for the first time when she married.  She is described in a 1934 Los Angeles Times article ("What Japan wants from U.S.") as a "highly cultured daughter of a Northern California millionaire", the successful agriculturalist George Shima. ("Racial Amity Welded Across the Banquet Table", Los Angeles Times, April 23, 1935)

   From the beginning, Orange County's Japanese pioneers worked to build community relationships, providing popular "daylight fireworks" and night time fireworks for Huntington Beach's first Independence Day celebrations.  They helped raise funds to rebuild the Huntington Beach pier in time for its re-dedication in 1914, at which the Japanese American community participated in the celebrations.  The Japanese pioneer community in Wintersburg Village had rallied in WWI, raising funds to support the American Red Cross.  The annual celebrations of the Emperor of Japan's birthday also had served as popular cultural events to which the surrounding community was invited for music, food and performances (and local residents came by the hundreds).  Masami Sasaki, the owner of Chili Pepper Dehydrating, Inc. (known as the "Chili Pepper King"), had provided a youth community center where students learned judo.

RIGHT: An excerpt from the 1933 publication, Echo, produced by the Nisei (American-born) generation of Wintersburg Village and Smeltzer.  Along with the farming, beach, sports and school scenes, the 1910 Wintersburg Mission is included with the simple description, "Church".  The Mission is one of six extant pioneer structures remaining at Historic Wintersburg. (Echo, 1933)

   As the American-born Nisei came of age, the Japanese American community had come to the moment faced by every immigrant community when old country traditions meet new country modernity.  The Los Angeles Times mentions more than once that the young Nisei ladies in traditional kimonos of gold, red and purple "were bright spots" at the banquet, while also noting that Leonard Miyawaki "pleaded for an understanding of the problems of the second-generation Japanese and urged defeat of anti-Japanese legislation in the Legislature."  Miyawaki's parents had run the Japanese market known as the "Rock Bottom" on Main Street in Huntington Beach (217 Main Street, today's Longboard Restaurant & Pub). 

LEFT: The bronze plaque on the Longboard Restaurant & Pub notes its history includes a "Japanese grocery". The Miyawaki family ran the grocery, later moving to a location in Talbert (Fountain Valley). According to oral histories, the grocery was known as the "Rock Bottom", a reference to its low prices. (Photo, M. Urashima, 2013) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  Consul General Hori was probably relieved by the warm welcome in Huntington Beach.  He had been dealing with extreme unrest in Arizona's Salt River Valley. Japanese American and Hindu farmers were being harassed and attacked, sometimes by masked men.  Militant Caucasian farmers formed anti-Japanese groups and were encouraging bombings, shootings, arson.  These groups had begun calling for the removal of all people of Japanese descent from Arizona.  The arrival in March 1935 of the U.S. Department of Justice and a threat from Washington D.C. that Arizona would not get its New Deal funding brought the conflict to a halt.

   The mid-April 1935 banquet in Huntington Beach was held only days after things had begun to settle in Arizona.  A week earlier, the Consul's wife, Taeko Hori, was a guest at the Women's University Club supporting speakers with a message of maintaining friendship between Japan and America.  Speaker Ken Nakazawa, an art professor at the University of Southern California, told the group that "patriots who try to show their devotion to America by manifesting hatred of other nations are a menace to the peace of the world."  He implored American women to join hands with others across the sea in the interest of friendship.  The Consulate staff was at every conceivable community event, working to solidify relationships.

    To further the cultural ambience of the gathering, Mary Chino of Chula Vista---the daughter of Tsuneji Chino, a celery farmer and prominent Southern California community leader who had lived in Wintersburg Village---sang "flute-like" arias from Madame Butterfly and other operas.  Garden Grove's Alice Setsuka Imamoto---a nationally-recognized pianist at age 8---provided more classical music.  Short speeches by prominent citizens and elected officials were welcoming and encouraging for the future.

The Los Angeles Times described the Huntington Beach banquet as "more than an amicable gathering...Japanese have settled here as farmers.  They have raised gold fish. They have cultivated flowers.  They have raised birds."  The sentiment of the media covering the event was flattering and positive.

   On this night in Huntington Beach, in a time of unsettling rhetoric, the leaders of the community made a public statement about keeping friendships intact and they had invited the media to witness it.

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, June 28, 2016

Aaahhh! A little breathing room: the first step toward stabilization begins with the trees

ABOVE: The team from Tsuzuki Tree Services, based in Fountain Valley, in the process of trimming away branches next to the Depression-era 1934 Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church. (Photo, M. Urashima, June 8, 2016) © All rights reserved.

   The Historic Wintersburg Preservation Task Force wish to acknowledge and thank Mike Tsuzuki, Tsuzuki Tree Service---based in Fountain Valley, California---for the contribution of over $10,000 in tree trimming services to help with the first step toward the stabilization of the structures at Historic Wintersburg.  The expertise and generosity of this Orange County, California business is helping save a National Treasure historic place!

LEFT: Mike Tsuzuki (right), owner of Tsuzuki Tree Service and resident of Fountain Valley, and his team leader, Leonel Granado, a resident of Santa Ana. Leonel marked is 30-year anniversary working with Mike on the day they were at Historic Wintersburg.  The two recently traveled to Japan together with their families, and talked to us about the historic places and gardens they had visited.  We were fortunate to be introduced to a team that truly cares about the history and recognizes the potential of Historic Wintersburg. (Photo, M. Urashima, June 8, 2016) © All rights reserved.

   Early in the morning on June 8, 2016---with permission from the property owner Republic Services / Rainbow Environmental Services---the team from Tsuzuki Tree Service began removing branches that were next to or touching the historic structures. The tree branches can add weight to century-old roofs or hold moisture next to buildings, which puts historic structures at risk for deterioration.  
RIGHT: Tsuzuki Tree Service team leader, Leonel Granado (far left), and the hard working crew who trimmed and removed over two full truck loads of chipped tree material from Historic Wintersburg. (Photo, M. Urashima, June 8, 2016) © All rights reserved.

   Problematic tree branches and brush were removed from areas around the 1910 Wintersburg Japanese Mission, the 1910 Manse (parsonage), the 1934 Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church, the 1912 Furuta bungalow, and the Furuta barn (1908-1912).  The work was conducted around five of the six historic structures at Historic Wintersburg (during this particular work, no tree trimming was conducted around the 1947 Furuta ranch house).

LEFT: The 1910 Manse, getting a "haircut"!  This image is midway through the stabilization work. At the end of the day, a foot or more of heavy plant material was removed from the roof---filling a truck-size bin---and the tree branches cleared. The little Manse is feeling the sunshine on her back once again. The first couple to live in the Manse in 1910 was Reverend Joseph Inazawa and his wife, Kate Goodman. At the time of World War II, the family of Reverend Sohei Kowta were living in the Manse until the 1942 forced removal and confinement of the clergy and congregation of the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church.  The majority were American citizens and were incarcerated at the Colorado River Relocation Center in Arizona.  Reverend Kowta's son, Tadashi Kowta, visited the Manse at Historic Wintersburg in 2013 and the Kowta family are generous supporters of the preservation effort. (Photo, M. Urashima, June 8, 2016) © All rights reserved.

RIGHT: An example of the equipment brought by Tsuzuki Tree Service. Two large chipper-bin trucks were used, the trimmings efficiently chipped as they worked, and the chippings taken across the street to the Rainbow Environmental waste transfer station (they waived the fee for this work on their property). Tsuzuki Tree Service filled multiple truck-size bins during the work. (Photo courtesy of M. Bixby, June 8, 2016) © All rights reserved.

   "Stabilization" is defined as the act or process of applying measures to sustain the existing form, integrity and material of a building or structure.  It can include initial stabilization work and ongoing maintenance of historic structures.  

LEFT: The view from the porch of the 1910 Manse, toward the 1910 Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission (at right) and 1934 Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church (center) during stabilization work. The dense tree growth next to and on the structures removed, the small courtyard area is once again filled with light. The 1934 Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church was constructed during the Great Depression through the efforts of the local farming community, even while Church funds were frozen by the bank.  After its construction, the 1910 Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Manse was used for Sunday school, meetings and events. (Photo, M. Urashima, June 8, 2016) © All rights reserved.

   The next steps in stabilization for the structures at Historic Wintersburg is fumigation and removal of some debris or materials within the structures (with careful observation for any materials or artifacts that can be used for historical interpretation or future exhibits).  

RIGHT:  Tsuzuki Tree Service team leader, Leonel Granado, on the roof of the 1910 Manse (parsonage) during the tree trimming work. Property owner Republic Services / Rainbow Environmental Services provided bins, in addition to the large chipper trucks brought to Historic Wintersburg by Tsuzuki Tree Service. Leonel is in a harness and prior to this image was up in the tree tops next to the Manse. He also removed branches overhanging Nichols Street as an additional public safety measure. (Photo, M. Urashima, June 8, 2016) © All rights reserved.

   The Historic Wintersburg Preservation Task Force is looking for fumigation services who would like to help save a National Treasure historic place, with experience working in and around historic structures.  Please contact us via the email contact listed on this blog, right side of the page, or via our Facebook page,

LEFT: The team from Tsuzuki Tree Service working to remove tree branches near the Furuta barn, just south of the 1912 Furuta bungalow. The barn is thought to have been constructed between the time of the property's purchase in 1908 and the construction of the Furuta bungalow in 1912. It was used for both the goldfish farming pre WWII and for flower farming post-WWII confinement. (Photo, M. Urashima, June 8, 2016) © All rights reserved.

   Additional thanks go to Orange County residents Marvin Masuda (a cousin of Task Force member, Dennis Masuda, and son of WWII veteran Mas Masuda) and Glenn Tanaka, Tanaka Farms. Their efforts led to our introduction to Mike Tsuzuki.  We're also grateful to our field representative from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Kevin Sanada, who helped brief Mike Tsuzuki in advance of stabilization work and joined us at Historic Wintersburg the day of the stabilization work.  We also thank Peyton Hall, with Historic Resources Group, who inspected Historic Wintersburg in 2014 and provided an expert report regarding necessary stabilization actions.

RIGHT: One of the Tsuzuki Tree Service team members hauling branches near the Furuta barn, just west of an adjacent residential building in the Oak View neighborhood off Emerald Lane and Fir Drive. The nopales, or prickly pear cactus that now cover the land were planted in recent years by employees of Rainbow Environmental. Beginning in the 1920s, this area of the Furuta farm was filled with goldfish ponds. (Photo, M. Urashima, June 8, 2016) © All rights reserved.

   Our deepest thanks! The work of historic preservation cannot happen without community support demonstrated by the generosity of people like Mike Tsuzuki, Tsuzuki Tree ServiceThank you for being a preservation hero and helping us save a National Treasure!

ADDITIONAL FEATURE: Read more about the recent media briefing and this first-step stabilization effort via the Rafu Shimpo 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.    

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.