It's part of what makes the Historic Wintersburg site so rare.
One of two Issei-owned properties in present-day Huntington Beach, the Furuta family home was built in 1912 on land owned by C.M. Furuta. One year later, the Alien Land Law was enacted. (Photo, September 2011)
That Charles Mitsuji "C.M." Furuta and Reverend Hisakichi Terasawa were able to purchase five acres for the Furuta farm and Wintersburg Mission site was a feat of perseverance. That Tsurumatsu "T.M." Asari was able to purchase land for the Asari market, farm and goldfish hatchery on Wintersburg Avenue, a small miracle.
In his 1982 oral history interview for the Honorable Stephen K. Tamura Orange County Japanese American Oral History Project, Henry Kiyomi Akiyama told his interviewers Arthur A. Hansen and Yasko Gamo that these two properties were the only Japanese-owned Wintersburg properties he knew of prior to the Alien Land Law of 1913.
Purchased between 1900 and 1909, they do appear to be the only properties in present-day Huntington Beach owned in the early 20th Century by Issei. The only surviving extant property is the Furuta-Wintersburg Mission site at Warner Avenue and Nichols Lane.*
California's Webb-Heney Act (Alien Land Law of 1913) prohibited "all aliens ineligible for citizenship" from owning land and prohibited their leasing land for more than three years. Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Asian Indian immigrant farmers were ineligible for naturalization under U.S. immigration laws. White, African American and Filipino aliens were not affected.
Assemblyman Bloodgood--a Republican-Progressive from Inglewood--sought an exemption for farm leases. Some accused him of placating big farming and land interests.
U.S. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan traveled to California at the direction of President Wilson to tour Japanese farm communities and rural schools; he saw successful farm enterprises and close to 100 percent enrollment in schools among the Japanese community. Speaking to the California Legislature in 1913, Bryan urged cooperation between the federal and state government.
William Carter, General Secretary of the International Peace Forum visited Sacramento, urging caution in the interests of world peace. A delegation of land owners from the Island Delta District near Stockton defended the Japanese farm lessees from their region, traveling to Sacramento to to voice their protest "against the passage of any alien land ownership bill that would affect the value of property in San Joaquin County."
Dr. Juichi Soyeda, Associated Chambers of Commerce of Japan and Japanese American Society of Tokyo, and Tadao Kamiya, Tokyo Chamber of Commerce, on a visit to the United States. (Photo, Library of Congress, George Grantham Bain Collection, June 22, 1913)
Dr. Juichi Soyeda--a Japanese attorney delegated by the Chambers of Commerce of Japan and the Japan America Society to study the Alien Land Law--was asked to speak at the Publishers Association of New York in 1913. As reported by the New York Times, Dr. Soyeda Sure That in the End California Situation Will Be Settled Amicably (June 26, 1913), a representative of the Publishers group said they did not share the opinions of the California legislators and extended "only the most cordial feelings" to the Japanese.
"The thinking men in Japan are well acquainted with the history of the relations between this country and Japan, and of the instances of American fair play which we have experienced," said Soyeda. "The negotiations of the California question are still going on between Washington and Tokio. I cannot but think that the outcome will justify the United States in the light of Christianity and humanity."
The San Francisco Call took a stand to counter those who opined Japanese posed a social or economic threat, stating it was not based on facts. The Call stated there were 158,360 square miles in California, of which the Japanese owned only 20 square miles after a 50 year-presence in California. In a half-page statement, May 1, 1913, the Call reasoned, "it will take the Japanese 395,900 years to own California." In the end, these efforts failed and the Alien Land Law passed.
The "Plain Statement of Facts About Japanese Immigration" published by the San Francisco Call, May 1, 1913. (Image, San Francisco Call, May 1, 1913, Chronicling America)
Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission founder, the Cambridge-educated Reverend Hisakichi Terasawa, had encouraged local Japanese to purchase property and put down roots. C.M. Furuta and T.M. Asari--both supporters of the Mission--listened.
Wintersburg land owners, such as the Cole family of Cole Ranch (vicinity of Huntington Beach's present-day Ocean View High School), worked with local Japanese on a lease or crop-rent basis, including C.M. Furuta and Henry Kiyomi Akiyama. In fact, the Cole family became so fond of Akiyama that they offered him a home on their property and later partnered with Akiyama on his first goldfish ponds.
Unable to purchase property himself as an Issei, Akiyama later purchased property through his Nisei children and post WWII became one of the most successful business owners in Orange County (the Pacific Goldfish Farm).
On November 4, 1956, a repeal measure, listed as Proposition 13, was passed by California voters to officially repeal the Alien Land Law, 43 years after its enactment.
After his WWII incarceration in Department of Justice Detention Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Sei Fujii purchased land in order to challenge the California Alien Land Law with his USC classmate J. Marion Wright. Their story will be retold in the upcoming film, Lil Tokyo Reporter, set to debut in September 2012, http://ltreporter.com/blog/.
UPDATE: The Orange County premier of Lil Tokyo Reporter is Nov. 17 - 18, benefiting Historic Wintersburg preservation. See http://historicwintersburg.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-sei-fujii-legacy-little-tokyo-and.html
J. Marion Wright, circa 1913, "became the trusted advocate of the small but growing Japanese community. This young lawyer never let his friends and clients down." (DiscoverNikkei.com)
Wintersburg Mission congregant Clarence Iwao Nishizu remembered Sei Fujii in his 1982 oral history interview for the Honorable Stephen K. Tamura Orange County Japanese American Oral History Project.
"I remember distinctly those days when the Issei were the discriminatory victims of the Alien Land Laws and Sei Fujii, Issei attorney and publisher...used to come to this school (the Anaheim Japanese School at La Palma and Citron Streets) to explain to our parents the latest findings of the court cases," recalled Nishizu.
Nishizu told his interviewer, " it may be of interest to you to have me relate what Issei were like. They had guts, drive, and were willing to work to get ahead in the face of the discrimination of the Alien Land Law. They wanted to implant a foundation and steppingstone for the Nisei to follow..."
The Sei Fujii property in Los Angeles. (Photo, National Park Service)
"There is nothing to indicate that those alien residents who are racially ineligible for citizenship possess characteristics which are dangerous to the legitimate interests of the state, or that they, as a class, might use the land for purposes injurious to public morals, safety or welfare. Accordingly, we hold that the alien land law is invalid as in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment."
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