The first of this trio of pioneering Orange County Issei to come to Orange County was Henry Kiyomi Akiyama, who arrived in 1907. Born in 1888 in a village within Nagano Prefecture (the "Japanese Alps" or "snow country" region of Japan), Akiyama emigrated from Japan at age twenty on a student visa.
Part of his motivation for leaving Japan and migrating to the United States was to avoid conscription into the Japanese army. Also, his family did not have much money and he had only an eighth-grade education; he did not foresee a promising future in Japan.
Matsumoto Castle in Nagano Prefecture, Japan, remains one of the oldest intact castles of the Samurai. The rule of the Samurai came to an end in the Meiji era (circa 1868-1912), which prompted some to leave for America. (Photo, Wikimedia Commons, circa 1904)
Chino, a well-educated graduate from a teachers' college in Japan, was running a labor camp for Issei working in the lucrative Orange County celery fields. (At the height of production, in the first decade of the twentieth century, nearly 6,000 acres in the County were devoted to celery.)
Mindful that this camp--together with three others in Wintersburg--hired hundreds of Issei workers at harvest time, Akiyama booked train passage from San Francisco to Orange County (a twenty-one hour journey).
Smeltzer celery train accident, circa 1901, in the area of present-day Edinger Avenue and Gothard Avenue. The soft peat soils were perfect for celery, but not so perfect for trains. (Photo, First American Title)
There was a County celery association organized as early as 1902 by Caucasian celery farmers, like Moore, located in nearby Smeltzer: the Smeltzer Celery Association. The Association--which handled celery shipping for Smeltzer, Wintersburg, and the adjacent community of Talbert--required labor camp bosses to round up the needed agricultural workers.
These workers called themselves buranke-katsugi or "blanket carriers." They worked ten hours daily, Monday through Saturday, and their typical compensation was fifteen cents an hour.
Terasawa cleaned out the barn and borrowed chairs from the Veterans' Social Home, a Caucasian institution, for his Issei parishioners. He made the barn into a weekend gathering place for the mostly bachelor men, since they had nowhere else to socialize.
Japanese agricultural workers in Huntington Beach celery fields, circa 1920. (Photo courtesy of Center for Oral and Public History, California State University Fullerton, CD1002)
Japanese agricultural workers in Hawaii, circa 1900.
Following some railroad work in the Tacoma area, Furuta--who had heard about Orange County good weather and job prospects in the celery fields of Wintersburg and Smeltzer--decided to move there (circa 1904).
The congregation of the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission in front of the Mission building circa 1911, just prior to the Furuta's marriage. (Photo courtesy of Wintersburg Presbyterian Church)
The opening of the San Francisco municipal railway in December 1912, at the time of Yukiko Furuta's arrival in America.
Although the house was small--a living room, kitchen and two bedrooms--it was considered very nice for a Nihonjin (Japanese) in the Wintersburg area. There was no electricity or gas, the bathroom was an outhouse, while the front of the house was so muddy when it rained it made walking nearly impossible. Still, "at the time," recalled Yukiko in her interview, their house "was very remarkable and everyone else admired it very much, because other Japanese who owned houses bought old houses."
The Tajima market in Wintersburg was divided by a wall, with half of it a barbershop run by an Issei man. There also was a pool hall, which Yukiko remembered being frequented by Wintersburg's Mexican Americans who lived east of the railroad tracks on the north side of Wintersburg (Warner) Avenue across from the Furuta's property.
Sugar beet fields in Huntington Beach from an early postcard, circa 1915.
Following this experience, Kikuchi attended the San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo, a Presbyterian-run insitution. At seminary, Kikuchi prepared for American life while sharpening his English skills.
A typical sermon, Kikuchi explained in his interview, "might be about father-son relations or neighbor relations, something like that. And it was also about how to act when you met some difficulty in life such as sickness."
The Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission and manse off Wintersburg (Warner) Avenue, circa 1912 - 1915. Note the stand of gum trees in the background which were used for firewood. (Photo courtesy of Wintersburg Presbyterian Church)
Also, parishioners would volunteer their labor to make repairs on the Church and manse. Often, the person doing the repairs was neighbor C.M. Furuta.
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