Monday, April 27, 2015

Our American Family: The Furutas of Historic Wintersburg on PBS nationwide in May 2015

ABOVE: Yukiko Yajima Furuta, circa 1913, at the Cole Ranch in Wintersburg Village within a year after her arrival in America and 13 years after Charles Furuta's his arrival.  The Cole Ranch---where Charles Mitsuji Furuta found work---was located where Huntington Beach's Ocean View High School is today at Warner Avenue and Gothard Street.  At the time this photograph was taken, California had passed the Alien Land Law which would have prohibited them from owning their farm purchased five years earlier.  The Furutas had yet to face the local impact of World War I, the Spanish Flu, the earthquake of 1933, and the forced evacuation from their land in 1942. (Photograph courtesy of the Furuta family) © All rights reserved.

      "I think nothing would please him more than to know that his family would be a family chosen to be featured in Our American Family."
          ~ Norm Furuta, Our American Family: The Furutas, speaking of his grandfather, Charles Mitsuji Furuta, Japanese pioneer who worked to gain his American citizenship for more than half a century.

   In May 2015, the story of Historic Wintersburg's Furuta family--relayed in the book, Historic Wintersburg in Huntington Beach--will be seen in homes across the country on public television.  

   A two-year effort with research and assistance from Historic Wintersburg, Our American Family: The Furutas will share the first-person history of Japanese pioneers who helped settle Orange County, California.  Nationally, May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

LEFT: The camera belonging to Charles Furuta, with which he photographed many of the images used in the book, Historic Wintersburg in Huntington Beach, and in the PBS program, Our American Family: The Furutas.  The camera, purchased circa 1912, survived the family's forced evacuation and confinement during World War II. (Photograph, M. Urashima, October 2013)
© All rights reserved.

Our American Family: The Furutas begins with an introduction to the family with a voice-over by Etsuko Furuta, a Nisei.  Etsuko--one of the daughters of Charles and Yukiko--was born on the Furuta farm in Wintersburg Village and attended Huntington Beach High School.  Etsuko has been interviewed for Historic Wintersburg and the Our American Family producers flew to San Jose to interview her for the PBS program.

   As the audio quality of Yukiko Furuta's 1982 oral history was poor for television purposes, Yukiko's words are given voice by award-winning actress Takayo Tsubouchi Fischer (The Pursuit of Happyness, Moneyball, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Memoirs of a Geisha).  

RIGHT: Actress Takayo Fischer graciously and without hesitation donated her time and talent to Our American Family: The Furutas, providing the narration from excerpts of Yukiko Furuta's 1982 oral history.  Special thanks to Academy-Award® winning actor Chris Tashima, who arranged for the introduction for Historic Wintersburg with Takayo Fischer. (Photograph courtesy of

Also interviewed for the program are Martha Furuta, the wife of Charles and Yukiko's son, Raymond, and their three sons, Ken, Dave and Norman, as well as Charles and Yukiko's great grandson, Michael Furuta.  The program's producers deliberately allow the history to be told solely by Furuta family members, with no other narration.  The result is the history of an American family, in their own words and from their personal perspective.

   With hours of footage filmed at the Historic Wintersburg property and on one-on-one oral history interviews, the editing process to condense the story into a 30-minute program was not an easy task.  

LEFT: The annual Manzanar Pilgrimage at Manzanar National Historic Site, nine miles north of Lone Pine, California, off Highway 395.  Manzanar was the first of the confinement camps.  Etsuko Furuta's fiance, Dan Fukushima--a Fullerton College alumni--was taken to Manzanar.  He later was permitted to join Etsuko in Arizona and they were married inside Poston by Reverend Sohei Kowta from the Wintersburg Mission.  The majority of the congregation of the Wintersburg Mission was confined at Poston, others at Gila River, Arizona. (Photograph, M. Urashima, April 25, 2015) © All rights reserved.

   Research relating to the forced evacuation and confinement of Japanese Americans during World War II--part of the Furuta family story--connects the history with places of American confinement at the Colorado River Relocation Center at Poston, Arizona, the Tuna Canyon Detention Station in Los Angeles (Tajunga), the military detention station for those classified as enemy aliens at Lordsburg, New Mexico, and Manzanar.  

   The effort to accurately re-tell that chapter of American history is difficult due to its monumental importance.  The Furuta family's account is uplifting and will leave viewers wanting to know more.

RIGHT:  Toshiko and Raymond Furuta, with their cousin, Sumi Akiyama (far right) on the Cole Ranch in Wintersburg Village.  Sumi Akiyama was the daughter of Yukiko Furuta's sister, Masuko, and Henry Kiyomi Akiyama.  Both the Furutas and Akiyamas were goldfish farmers, the first pond on the Furuta farm at Historic Wintersburg.  Sumi Akiyama married Judge John Aiso, who became the highest ranking Japanese American in the U.S. military and head instructor for the Military Intelligence Service language school during World War II.  A street in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, California. is named after Judge John Aiso. (Photograph courtesy of the Furuta family) © All rights reserved.

LEFT:  Alaska public television, KUAC, begins airing Our American Family: The Furutas on May 3.

As of May 6, 2015, the majority of the country's PBS stations are airing Our American Family: The Furutas.  The COMPLETE LISTING OF STATIONS--which will be updated weekly as more stations list programs--is at  To view the PREVIEW of Our American Family: The Furutas, go to

Highlighted in green are the states whose PBS stations are currently showing listings for Our American Family: The Furutas starting at the end of April through the first week of May 2015.  Southern California's KOCE will be airing the program on May 3 and 4.  More stations and air dates will be listed each week.  Check for your local public television station, date and time of airing 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

No comments:

Post a Comment

The Historic Wintersburg blog focuses on an overlooked history in Huntington Beach, Orange County, California, in the interest of saving a historic property from demolition. The author and publisher reserves the right not to publish comments. Please no promotional or political commentary. Zero tolerance for hate rhetoric. Comments with embedded commercial / advertising links or promoting other projects, books, or publications may not be published. If you have an interesting anecdote, question or comment about one of our features, it will be published.