Upcoming Events

Calendar of Upcoming Events:

MARCH 18 is the JAHSSD DAY OF REMEMBRANCE L.A. BUS EXCURSION! We drive, you relax, you snack, we arrive in Lil Tokyo, you stroll, learn, reflect, reminisce, enjoy lunch, shop, we drive, you kick back and we arrive back home in time for dinner —what could be better?

WHAT: JAHSSD DAY OF REMEMBRANCE BUS EXCURSION. The 75th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066 is the reason for our trip. Invite your kids, grandkids, neighbors along. Understanding how E.O. 9066 affected 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry during WWII is more important now than ever! Our trip includes visits to the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) and the adjacent Go For Broke National Education Center. And you will can catch the brand new George Takei exhibit at JANM which will open March 12!

THE TRIP: MARCH 18, 2017, meet at the Buddhist Temple San Diego at 7:30 am. Park your car inside the lot. The bus will leave at 8:00 am and we’ll arrive at the JANM around 10 am. Half the group will get a docent JANM tour before lunch, while the other half a docent tour of the Go For Broke National Education Center just across the courtyard. Lunch in Lil Tokyo is on your own—many wonderful eateries are nearby–and you will have free time to eat or shop. In the afternoon, the groups reverse and you’ll get a docent-led tour of the museum you didn’t see in the morning. Our bus departs LA in the late afternoon with arrival in San Diego estimated at 5:30 pm.

Prefer to meet us in LA at the museum? Make arrangements with either Gwen gmomita@hotmail.com or Sharon shaku42@gmail.com.

PRICES include round trip bus/driver’s tip/admission to both museums:
Adult: $50
Adult JAHSSD member: $40
Senior (65+): $43
Senior JAHSSD member (65+): $33
Child (8 and under): $33

RESERVATION DEADLINE IS MARCH 2! Include your name(s) with a check payable to JAHSSD to: JAHSSD (Attn-Bus Trip), P.O. Box 22349, San Diego, CA 92192-2349.

[The Go for Broke National Education Center (left of the courtyard) faces the Japanese American National Museum. Photo credit: Rafu Shimpo]


Meet Award-Winning Mystery Writer Naomi Hirahara
Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego cordially invites you to join us on SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2017 when noted author NAOMI HIRAHARA will discuss the creation of her curmudgeonly character Mas Arai, a Japanese American landscape gardener and mystery detective extraordinaire.

Since introducing the grumpy old sleuth in “Summer of the Big Bachi,” the Southern California native has penned an ongoing series of intriguing mysteries featuring Arai, the most unlikely of crime-solvers. Titles include “Gasa-Gasa Girl” and “Snakeskin Shamisen.” She has started a second mystery series featuring a young LAPD bicycle cop and has penned many short stories and books including biographies and nonfiction.

The lecture will be held in the POVUCC Fellowship Hall, 2550 Fairview Street, San Diego, CA 92111. Park in the lot below the church. Light refreshments will be served.

Naomi’s talk relates to the current JAHSSD exhibition: SAN DIEGO JAPANESE GARDENERS: A DISAPPEARING BREED, now on view at the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park through the end of March.

The author’s special appearance is made possible by the Arthur P. and Jeanette G. Pratt Memorial Fund administered by Union Bank. The event is free and the public welcome.


“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.


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



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