Thursday, March 23, 2017

Author Jamie Ford at Historic Wintersburg and tonight with HBReads at Central Library!

ABOVE: Jamie Ford, author of the New York Times best-seller Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, stands on the back porch of the 1912 Furuta bungalow at Historic Wintersburg.  He writes about Seattle's Panama Hotel in his novel, which is our sister National Treasure relating to Japanese American history.  (Photo, M. Urashima, March 22, 2017) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED ©

   In advance of the author presentation tonight, Thursday, March 23, in Huntington Beach, we were honored to provide a VIP tour of Historic Wintersburg for author Jamie Ford

   Jamie Ford's best-selling novel, Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, is a historical fiction about the love and friendship between Henry Lee, a Chinese American boy, and Keiko Okabe, a Japanese American girl, during the events leading to and during World War II removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans.  A book review by the American literature magazine, Kirkus Review, notes the novel is "A timely debut that not only reminds readers of a shameful episode in American history, but cautions us to examine the present and take heed we don’t repeat those injustices."

LEFT: Joining the tour with Jamie Ford is longtime supporter of Historic Wintersburg, the Academy Award-winning director and actor Chris Tashima (left).  Both Chris Tashima and Jamie Ford are instrumental in bringing Japanese American history to life through books and film. Historic Wintersburg's first fundraising event in 2012 was the Orange County red carpet premier of Chris Tashima's film Lil Tokyo Reporter, a chapter in the life of civil liberties advocate and Southern California attorney Sei Fujii.  (Photo, M. Urashima, March 22, 2017) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED ©

   The "hotel" referenced in the novel is the 1910 Panama Hotel in Seattle, Washington's International District, which is the sister National Treasure to Historic Wintersburg, both sharing Japanese American history.  The Panama Hotel is the same age as the 1910 Wintersburg Japanese Mission and manse (parsonage) at Historic Wintersburg, now 107 years old.

   The Panama Hotel was built by the first Japanese American architect in Seattle, Sabro Ozasa, and contains the Hashidate-Yu, last remaining Japanese bathhouse (sento) in the United States.  Seattle's Japanese American community stored their belongings in the Hotel's basement, prior to leaving for forced confinement at Minidoka War Relocation Center in Idaho.  Those belongings, never recovered, still remain in the basement of the Hotel, now designated a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  Hotel visitors get a glimpse of the boxes and luggage left in the basement 75 years ago, through a window installed in the lobby floor.

RIGHT: The Wintersburg Japanese Mission and Manse (parsonage) after their construction in 1910 remain standing at Historic Wintersburg.  These buildings are the same age as the Panama Hotel in Seattle, featured in Jamie Ford's novel, Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. (Photo, Courtesy of Wintersburg Church, 1910) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED ©

   Jamie Ford's novel shares the human side of the events of 75 years ago, with insight into Seattle's history, humor and the unique perspective of a Chinese American boy grappling with the trauma of seeing his closest friend forced into confinement solely due to her Japanese ancestry.  This story has parallels to events in Wintersburg Village and Huntington Beach, 75 years ago.

   You can meet Jamie Ford tonight, March 23, at this year's HBReads free author event, 7 pm, at the Huntington Beach Central Library.  More information 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.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

"Our American Family: The Furutas" now on Amazon Prime in the United States and Japan!

ABOVE: The Furuta family of Historic Wintersburg, on the C.M. Furuta Gold Fish Farm. Charles Furuta arrived in America in 1900.  He returned to Japan to bring his bride, Yukiko Yajima, to California in 1912.  They created a goldfish and flower farm in the peatlands of Wintersburg Village, now part of Huntington Beach, California. Their farm, along with the Wintersburg Japanese Mission, contain over a century of history of pioneer settlement and the pursuit of the American dream.  Historic Wintersburg was designated a National Treasure in 2015 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. (Photo, courtesy of Furuta family, circa 1923).  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED ©

   Our American Family: The Furutas of Historic Wintersburg is now available on Amazon Prime in the United States and in Japan!

   We worked with the production team for Our American Family---providing research, historical photographs, and on-site filming assistance at Historic Wintersburg---in September 2013. In February 2015, the film premiered at the Japanese American National Museum on the national Day of Remembrance, prior to it airing on PBS SoCal and on public television stations nationally. 

LEFT: The Our American Family team, Michael Nolan and Bradford Van Demark, flew to California from their homebase in Nashville, Tennessee, to film at Historic Wintersburg and conduct oral histories for with the Furuta family.  The advance work and research was assisted by Historic Wintersburg author Mary Urashima and also utilized the 1982 oral history of Yukiko Furuta, held by California State University Center for Oral and Public History. (Photo, M. Urashima, Michael Nolan and Bradford Van Demark at the Huntington Beach Pier, September 2013) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED ©

   Prior to it's debut in 2015, a video trailer was released in 2014, when Historic Wintersburg was named to the America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list by the National Trust for Historic Preservation (watch the video at the March 20, 2017, post on our Facebook page,

RIGHT:  Film actress Takayo Fischer---known for her roles in Pirates of the Caribbean, The Pursuit of Happyness, and Moneyball, among other films and productions---brought to life the voice of Yukiko Furuta for the film,  We thank Takayo for her gracious contribution to this effort. (Photo, Courtesy of IMDb)

   In 2015 and 2016, Our American Family: The Furutas aired nationwide on PBS stations, after Historic Wintersburg was designated a National Treasure (less than 100 National Treasures in the United States, Historic Wintersburg is the first and only National Treasure in Orange County, California).

   We are pleased to share the producers' announcement that Our American Family: The Furutas, is available internationally on Amazon Prime! Learn more about the Furuta family and Historic Wintersburg, along with the inspiring stories of four other American families. More information regarding the Amazon Prime release at (United States), and (Japan)

Special thanks to the producers of Our American Family: Steve Young, Michael Nolan and Bradford Van Demark.  Thank you for recognizing the importance and inspiring story of this American family!  

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.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Huntington Beach Cherry Blossom Festival 2017!

   The Huntington Beach Sister City Association hosts the fourth annual Cherry Blossom Festival at Huntington Beach Central Park on Sunday, March 19, 11 am to 5 pm, supporting the Student Ambassador exchange program with Sister City, Anjo, Japan.

   Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles, Akira Chiba, will help open the Festival—along with City of Huntington Beach officials, the Sister City Association, and a delegation from Anjo—by ceremonially planting this year’s Japanese cherry tree near the Secret Garden in Central Park.  The Cherry Blossom Festival is held at the bandstand behind the Central Park Library adjacent to the grove of cherry trees, many of which are gifts from Anjo, Japan. 

RIGHT: Geese hard at work on the grounds of the Huntington Beach Cherry Blossom Festival in Central Park. Look for the 2002 anniversary stone beneath the cherry trees on the main walkway, which honors the multi-decade friendship with Sister City Anjo, Japan. "Each spring in Japan, cherry blossoms are enjoyed as a symbol of renewed life and vitality." (M. Urashima, March 2017) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED ©

  The 2017 Cherry Blossom Festival features live taiko drum performance, the popular Rayko of Lolita Dark, jazz music from Dojo Jam Band, and Japanese dance and theater—representing traditional and modern Japanese and Japanese American culture.  A wide variety of food vendors will offer a taste of Japan, with local favorite Samurai Burrito, traditional favorites like takoyaki, yakitori, okonomiyaki, mochi, freshly-made udon noodles, Japanese-style hot dogs, and Japanese specialty drinks and tea.

LEFT: A tea bowl, powdered macha (green tea) and whisk used in a traditional tea ceremony. (Source: Consulate General of Japan, San Francisco)

   The centuries-old “Way of Tea”, or chanoyu, and a bonsai demonstration will be special features at this year’s Festival.  Omote Senke (表千家 one of the schools of Japanese tea ceremony established in the 17th century) will be presenting a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony under a tent near the Secret Garden.

   The Tea Ceremony is a beautifully symbolic tea serving with every detail choreographed in fixed form (kata) as a demonstration of etiquette and to express the bond between the server and the guest.  Close attention is given to the manner in which the macha, or green tea, is whisked, the folded tea cloth, and the way the bowl of tea is served and sipped.

   Omotesenke in Japan explains the tradition they have upheld for over 400 years, "This tradition is not just the inheritance of a form, but is a searching for the right way to be within the context of history. New life is breathed into it as it adapts to each period, so it is a living culture that has been handed down.  Chanoyu is 'a communication of the minds of host and guests through the enjoyment of delicious tea together'."

LEFT: Dolls on exhibit at one of the cultural booths at a prior Huntington Beach Cherry Blossom Festival. (M. Urashima, 2015) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED ©

   Renowned bonsai master Frank Goya---a native Californian who was incarcerated for three years during World War II, due to his Japanese ancestry---will provide a demonstration in the Central Park amphitheater.  In 2003, the Los Angeles Times said of Frank Goya and his bonsai creations (The beauty in bonsai, January 30, 2003), "The trees are fed by gnarled roots that grab the soil like ancient fingers and are harvested from harsh mountain and desert conditions. Much of their beauty is that of resilience, survival, of bending with the wind and living despite estreme climactic conditions. Goya, too, has survived, has bent with the wind."

BELOW RIGHT:  The four-century old bonsai that survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. It is at the U.S. National Arboretum, a gift from Japan, as part of one of the largest collections of bonsai in north America.  The story of the bonsai at the U.S. Arboretum (Source: Image from U.S. Arboretum; Youtube story from Voice of America)

Considered one of the top bonsai artists in the United States, Frank Goya's speciality of bonsai is known as saikei, a living miniature landscape of tree, rock, and ground cover, such as moss. The word bonsai (盆栽) means "tray planting" and the selection of the container is of equal importance to the plant selection, for a creation that may last centuries.

   A variety of cultural booths will offer information about Japanese culture, crafts, and games for all ages.  Historical information booths will share more about the history and culture of Japanese Americans, who first arrived in California in the 1860s.   

   National Treasure Historic Wintersburg will be at the Festival with an informational booth about our century-old goldfish farm and mission history.  This year, we bring back our popular "goldfish" bean bag toss for the young at heart.   

   Historic Wintersburg also will hand out a healthy "farm" snack: freshly picked, organic carrots courtesy of our supporter Tanaka Farms.    The kids will love these crunchy carrots with the long green leafy tops, as they stroll the Festival grounds!

   Admission to the Cherry Blossom Festival is free, with donation opportunities to support the 35-year international friendship and student exchange program between Huntington Beach and Anjo, Japan.  This year, the Huntington Beach Sister City Association reaches a 35-year milestone, recognizing the relationship initiated with Anjo, Japan, in 1982 and officially incorporated in 1992.  For more information about the Huntington Beach Sister City Cherry Blossom Festival,

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.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Panel discussion with Historic Wintersburg at the Japanese American National Museum

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.