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MiraCosta College in Oceanside to host exhibition using JAHSSD artifacts

On Monday, March 27, 2017, the MiraCosta College Library (Oceanside Campus) will launch a month-long exhibit entitled Uncommon Ground: Behind the Barbed Wire – a 75th Remembrance of Japanese-American Internment.  This multi-faceted and moving exhibition will explore the aftermath of Executive Order 9066, in which President Roosevelt called for the evacuation and internment of 120,000 Japanese  and Japanese Americans. The Oceanside Library and Information Hub will host the major part of this exhibition, with accompanying exhibits at the San Elijo campus library and the Community Learning Center.  A companion website is located at http://miracosta.edu/9066  and provides historical context as well as information on the exhibits and events.  The public is welcome to view the exhibit, and if a school class is coming, we recommend a Friday visit. An exhibit coordinator can provide background information on the various displays.

Parking Monday-Friday is $1 per vehicle.  Free parking on all Saturdays during April from 10 am to 5 pm to encourage visitors to explore the exhibit.  If you do come to the exhibits, please introduce yourself to Richard Ma, Michelle Ohnstad, or Myla Stokes Kelly, who are library staff members involved with creating the exhibition.  

Exhibit Hours:

Monday-Thursday:  7:30 am to 9:30 pm (parking permits required)

Friday:  7:30 am to 3:00 pm (parking permits required)

Saturday:  10 am to 5 pm (free parking in student lots)

There are two major events which will occur during the exhibition:

Thursday, April 6 – 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Little Theater at Oceanside – Filmmaker Claudia Katayanagi will bring her documentary A Bitter Legacy to our campus for a showing followed by a Q&A session.  Katayanagi’s documentary explores the secret citizen isolation centers, where those deemed “trouble makers” were held.  This event is free and open to the public.  Seating is limited.  

Thursday, April 27 – 12:45 p.m. to 1:45 p.m., College Hour at San Elijo – Former internees will speak at a panel discussion about their experiences in the internment camp.  lunch will be served to students.  This event is being sponsored by our Associated Student Government at San Elijo.  Seating is limited.

Contact:  Richard Ma,  Library Department Chair, MiraCosta College rma@miracosta.edu

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“A DISAPPEARING BREED: Japanese Gardeners in San Diego” is the JAHSSD exhibition currently on view at the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park through MARCH 2017.

The Issei (first generation Japanese immigrants) who arrived in San Diego County found jobs in places where they didn’t need to speak English to succeed.

After working on railroad construction and in the salt ponds at the southern end of San Diego Bay, many Issei dreamed of owning land, but instead found themselves doing other manual labor working as fishermen, farmers and gardeners.

Gardening became a viable job opportunity near the turn of the 20th Century when Japanese-style gardens were introduced at expositions and World Fairs throughout the country. Fascination and popularity for these gardens grew during a time of limited job opportunities. Anti-Asian prejudice and discriminatory legislation prevented many Japanese from owning land and seeking professions outside of manual labor. With no boss and little startup cash or English proficiency required, many Issei took to gardening as a way to make a living.

Though these pioneer Issei came from diverse backgrounds, Japanese immigrants with their Eastern philosophy were stereotyped as having a natural talent for all things plants and landscaping.

Many did not have prior experience or professional background in landscaping, but they used this stereotype as an opportunity to enter the profession, improve their skills, and grow their businesses.

In the aftermath of WWII, there still remained anti-Japanese sentiment. Nikkei (people of Japanese ancestry) who returned to the West Coast after their removal and internment encountered continuing questions about loyalty and trust. The American-citizen sons (Nisei generation) of the first generation of gardeners sometimes had trouble finding jobs that took advantage of their education and experience. There are many stories of college-educated Japanese American men who became gardeners, not because they wanted to, but because it was all that was available to them.

Faced again with limited opportunities, the Issei fathers and Nisei sons took to what they knew and either resumed or began gardening after the war.

With little financial resources, many started without any tools, borrowing from their clients onsite. Some didn’t have much more than a push mower, a rake, and a cloth tarpaulin to haul away clippings. They carried these items from job to job, and learned by trial and error how to care for the clients’ property and plants. As their business grew, they could afford the tools, equipment and vehicles needed to develop their businesses and grow their clientele. Workdays were nearly 7 days a week and also strenuous, lasting from dawn to dusk. The American-born Nisei sons were sometimes pressed into service on the weekends, spending their time off from school assisting their fathers.

Gardening became a professionalized business for many Japanese Americans after the war. Associations and partnerships with auxiliary businesses like nurseries were formed to protect their livelihood and garner respect. Vibrant social networks developed and a sense of community was formed. Having earned a reputation for meticulous and thorough work, Japanese gardeners became a status symbol for many Caucasian American families. This self-made profession reached its pinnacle in the post-war years and was a golden age for Japanese gardening in America.

Today, Japanese gardeners are a disappearing breed. Labor-intensive styles of gardening have become devalued due to increasingly limited homeowner budgets and time. For many of the original Japanese gardeners, gardening was never a profession to aspire to, but a means for living. With established later generations of Japanese Americans moving on to higher paying occupations, new immigrants have entered the gardening profession and filled the need for lower cost labor as the Japanese did years ago.

This exhibit is dedicated to those Nikkei gardeners who labored with their hands, made sacrifices of family time so that their children would have a better future, and who through their profession helped garner a lasting respect and understanding between the Japanese and American cultures.

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A DISAPPEARING BREED will be on exhibition at the San Diego History Center through March 2017.

CURATORS: Linda A. Canada, Marisa Takeuchi Lin

RESEARCH, INSTALLATION AND TECHNICAL SUPPORT: Jon Obayashi, Barbara Busch, John Kanegaye, Meghan Kanegaye, Duane Siefers

CONTRIBUTORS OF PHOTOGRAPHS AND INFORMATION: Sharon Asakawa, Glenn Asakawa, Hisae Batchelder, John Hashiguchi, Hiroshi Kubota, Mich Himaka, Gary Himaka, Shirley Omori, Ochi Family, Bennett Ouchi, Shimamoto Family, Ben Takeuchi, Kenji Takeuchi, Tom and Sumi Yanagihara; and hundreds of JAHSSD members who have donated photographs, artifacts and information to our collection over the past 25 years.

FINANCIAL GIFTS: Eddy Kubota, The Arthur G. and Jeanette G. Pratt Memorial Fund

THE MUSEUM PARTNERS WITH THE JAPANESE AMERICAN HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF SAN DIEGO TO HONOR WWII VETERAN BERT M. TANAKA: 

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Meghan Kanegaye, a student at Francis Parker School, developed this exhibit and collected the artifacts to tell the story of Bert M. Tanaka, a Japanese American, who graduated from San Diego High School, returned to Hawaii in June 1941 and enlisted in the US Army. Bert was a member of the famous all Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team and received a battlefield promotion from Sergeant to 2LT and was awarded the Silver Star. Learn about Bert’s story at our museum and see the Congressional Gold Medal presented to the surviving members from that unit. The photo shows Meghan in front of her exhibit. We encourage you to visit one of our frequent community partners, the Veterans Museum in Balboa Park, 2115 Park Blvd., San Diego.

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Mailing Address

P.O. Box, 22349 San Diego CA 92192-2349
Telephone Number: (619) 338-8181
Email Address: jahssd@sbcglobal.net

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