Highlights of Our First 10 Years

In 1991, a committee of former Poston Camp III internees organized a Poston reunion in San Diego.  That committee felt the need to create a historical society to capture and record stories of San Diego’s Japanese Americans. The following summary of events, drawn from our quarterly newsletter “Footprints”, traces the formation and early activities of our historical society.


JAHSSD chartered as a non-profit corporation by the state of California. By-laws developed and documents prepared by attorney Linda Noda Hobbs as a prerequisite for application for corporate charter. Founding Board of Directors were: President, Ben Segawa; Vice President, Masato Asakawa; Secretary, Yukio Kawamoto; Treasurer, Elaine Bowers; Historian, Don Estes; Board Members, Jeanne Elyea, Mich Himaka, Linda Noda Hobbs, Carole Kawamoto, Sachi Nishida, Tom Ozaki, Aileen Oya. JAHSSD logo designed by Gary Hamada adopted. Inaugural issue of Footprints published with Jeanne Elyea as editor. Sponsored bus trip to dedication of monument at site of Poston War Relocation Center. Produced video “Poston Reflections” from slide presentation made at the 1991 Poston III Reunion. After initial membership campaign, membership consisted of 25 life members and 52 regular members.


Tax-exempt status authorized by the Internal Revenue Service and the Franchise Tax Board. Thanks to CPA Jerry Segawa who prepared application documents for the tax exemption. Oral history project established with Mas Hironaka as first interviewee. Many items donated for the JAHSSD collection. First annual membership meeting held at VFW Post 4851 in National City with Mich Himaka as guest speaker; first public exhibit of donated artifacts and photos shown at meeting. Mas Hironaka appointed as advisor to the board.


Hosted testimonial dinner for Dr. Francis I. Tanaka, who was honored for his many years of dedication to the health care of the Japanese American community of San Diego; over 500 people attended. Participated on “Day of Remembrance” panel at UCSD. Provided speakers and photo displays on the Japanese American experience at various schools and organizations. Chaired committee to develop plans for a monument commemorating the site of the former Gakuen in Chula Vista. Set up exhibit for Poston Booth at the Family Expo held at the Convention Center in Los Angeles and sponsored by the Japanese American National Museum. Mas Hironaka becomes full-fledged member of board. Set up photo display for Asian Thematic Historical District at the Horton Grand Hotel. Provided photos, documents and historical material for the NHK (Kindai Eiga) video titled “Sekai Kokoro no Tabi” (Memorable Journey). Received $2000 grant from the California Council for the Humanities to develop a traveling photo exhibit on SD’s Nikkei community.


Sponsored pilgrimage to Poston by bus and 2-night stay in Laughlin, Nevada. Exhibit set up for Family Expo displayed at Southwestern Community College in Chula Vista. Sponsored piano and organ recital by Elaine Bowers at St. Marks Lutheran Church in Chula Vista.


Panel discussion, together with photo display and slide show, held at Parker, Arizona for a Parker Area Historical Society meeting; approximately 200 people from the Parker area attended. Mich Himaka takes over as editor of the Footprints. Participated in the Marine Corps Recruit Depot’s Asian Heritage Week where the Wada brothers, Bob, Hank, and Frank, discussed their military experiences. Walking tour of Poston sponsored by the Parker Public Library led by Don Estes. Col Keegan, former company commander of 442 RCT guest speaker at annual membership meeting. Also, panel composed of WWII veterans Min Sakamoto, Joe Tanabe, and Jim Yamate spoke at the meeting. Board met with JANM representatives Irene Hirano and Nancy Araki to coordinate activities. Poston photo exhibit displayed at West Coast Asian American Studies Conference at UCSD.


Set up a major exhibit on the history of Japanese Americans in San Diego, “Hyakunen no Michi: The Hundred Year Road,” at the Museum of San Diego History in Balboa Park. Exhibit curated by JAHSSD historian Don Estes, and made possible through donation and loan of historic items by members and others in the community. Exhibit visited by many groups from schools, elder hostel and others, including veterans of E Company of the 442 RCT. Co-sponsored dedication of the Chula Vista Gakuen monument at the corner of Broadway and Palomar. Participated in an oral history project, “REgenerations,” together with historical societies from Seattle, San Jose and Chicago on resettlement after relocation camp incarceration during World War II. Project funded by a grant from the Civil Liberties Public Education Project and coordinated by JANM. Local effort on the project led by Susan Hasegawa along with team members Carol Estes, Don Estes, Debra Kodama, Leng Loh and Joyce Teague. Ten persons selected for initial interviews. Co-hosted with the San Diego JACL a reception for the opening of the Smithsonian Exhibit, “A More Perfect Union,” at the San Diego Public Library. Don Estes and Ben Segawa led a tour of Poston sponsored by the Arizona Humanities Council. Todd Himaka joins board. Reprinted Mohaveland, a photo book originally published by Poston III YBA in 1945. Set up photo exhibit on the history of the San Diego Buddhist Temple at dedication of temple’s new Sangha Hall. Also set up photo exhibit on Poston III at UCSD Day of Remembrance presentation.


Susan Namba, Rev. Akio Miyaji, Misao Kawasaki, Toshi Kiyoi and Ruth Voorhies honored at annual membership meeting with Kansha Awards. Hon. Gale Kaneshiro, Judge of San Diego Municipal Court was guest speaker. Nancy Cowser and Karen Kawasaki join board. Oral interviews continue, including interviews funded by San Diego chapter of JACL. Copies of REgenerations transcripts presented to narrators.


JAHSSD exhibit focusing on Japanese Americans in the South Bay opens at Chula Vista Heritage Museum in January with reception. Ben Segawa resigns as president and Elaine Bowers assumes office. Planning begins for JAHSSD documentary video, The Day the Devil Wept, which was subsequently retitled, Democracy Under Pressure: Japanese Americans and World War II. Documentary project headed by Susan Hasegawa and Don Estes and produced by Debbie Kodama and Leng Loh. Initial funding for project provided by a $50,000 grant from the California Civil Liberties Public Education Project. Vernon Yoshioka, Bob and Hisae Batchelder join board. Dr. Satsuki Ina guest speaker for annual membership meeting. Set up photo exhibit for Buddhist Temple’s annual bazaar.


Jeanne Elyea assumes post as President in place of Elaine Bowers who did not seek reelection. Naomi Himaka joins board. Membership provided whole-hearted financial support to supplement initial funding for the video project as result of solicitation letter. Premier of video, Democracy Under Pressure, held at San Diego Public Library in May. Free copies distributed to all libraries, public and private junior high schools, senior high schools, colleges and universities in San Diego and Imperial Counties, along with curriculum guide developed by Karen Kawasaki. Copies made available to members and public for a donation. JAHSSD agrees to host next Poston III reunion to be held in San Diego in 2001. JAHSSD instrumental in having the San Diego City Council rescind a 1943 resolution recommending against resettlement of Japanese Americans in San Diego. Harry Honda, Editor Emeritus of the Pacific Citizen, guest speaker for annual meeting. Joe Owashi (posthumously), Tom Yanagihara, Shinobu Yoshioka were Kansha Award recipients.


Award of Merit plaque awarded by Congress of History to JAHSSD for Democracy Under Pressure. JAHSSD’s team “Bob’s Buddies” participates in Multiple Sclerosis Walkathon in support of treasurer Bob Batchelder. Assisted Jeff Brodie of the Smithsonian National Postal Museum with their exhibit “Forwarding Address Required,” by providing photos as well as historical consultation. Also consulted and provided historic photos for the Smithsonian Museum’s November 2001 issue of their magazine for students in grades 3 to 8, “The Smithsonian in the Classroom.” In addition to hosting the June Poston III Reunion, JAHSSD set up exhibit for the reunion, which was well received by attendees. Democracy Under Pressure screened at San Diego Asian Film Festival in September. Darcie Iki of JANM and coordinator of the REgenerations Project guest speaker at annual meeting; Ben Honda (posthumously), Agnes Benson, K. J. Takashima and Fred Katsumata were Kansha Award recipients. Joyce Teague and Debbie Kodama join board.


Vernon Yoshioka takes over as president for Jeanne Elyea and Joyce Teague takes over editorship of Footprints. Co-sponsor with the San Diego Public Library a 9-month series of public programs to mark the 60th anniversary of Executive Order 9066. First of the series was a showing of the documentary, Of Civil Wrongs and Rights: the Fred Korematsu Story, with a discussion by Dr. Peter Irons of UCSD and his part in uncovering evidence that reversed Korematsu’s conviction. Other programs in the series included: Ruth Okimoto on how Poston came to be; Jeanne Houston on her book Farewell to Manzanar; a reading of letters to librarian Clara Breed by students of Karen Kawasaki from Mt. Carmel High School. Co-sponsored an art and writing contest for public and private school students with the National Japanese American Historical Society of San Francisco. Development of strategic plans led by Robert Ito. Continued participation in the MS Walkathon. Karen Kawasaki takes leave of absence from the board to accept a teaching contract in Panama. Gwen Momita joins board to replace Karen Kawasaki as secretary. Set up an exhibit at Buddhist Temple of San Diego’s Bon Odori, titled “San Diego Buddhists in Camp: How Our Temple Survived Internment” to complement a photo exhibit on the Buddhist experience in camps by Eiko Masuyama. Mounted a display of WWII camp art titled “Beauty and Barbed Wire” for the San Diego Central Library. Presented the San Diego Chapter of the JACL with bound copies of transcribed oral histories funded by their organization. Celebrated our first decade at our Tenth Anniversary Meeting with keynote speaker Yuko Kaifu, Office of the Consul General of Japan. Masami Honda, Dr. Randall Phillips and James Yamate receive the Kansha Award. Noriko Inoue joins the board. Our current membership stands at 410.