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Colorado's Japanese Americans

Colorado's Japanese Americans: From 1886 to the Present

Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 264
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    Colorado's Japanese Americans
    Book Description:

    In Colorado's Japanese Americans, renowned journalist and author Bill Hosokawa pens the first history of this significant minority in the Centennial State. From 1886, when the young aristocrat Matsudaira Tadaatsu settled in Denver, to today, when Colorado boasts a population of more than 11,000 people of Japanese ancestry, Japanese Americans have worked to build homes, businesses, families, and friendships in the state.   Hosokawa traces personal histories, such as Bob Sakata's journey from internment in a relocation camp to his founding of a prosperous truck farm; the conviction of three sisters for assisting the escape of German POWs; and the years of initiative and determination behind Toshihiro Kizaki's ownership of Sushi Den, a beloved Denver eatery. In addition to personal stories, the author also relates the larger history of the interweave of cultures in Colorado, from the founding of the Navy's Japanese language school at the University of Colorado to the merging of predominantly white and Japanese American congregations at Arvada's Simpson United Methodist Church.   With the author's long view and sharp eye, Colorado's Japanese Americans creates a storied document of lasting legacy about the Issei and Nisei in Colorado.

    eISBN: 978-0-87081-877-6
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Stephen J. Leonard and Thomas J. Noel

    As the initial offering in the University Press of Colorado’s Timberline Series, we selected Bill Hosokawa’s Colorado’s Japanese Americans: From 1886 to the Present. His work meets our aspirations that the Timberline Series encompass the best works on Colorado.

    William Kumpei Hosokawa has made history as well as written it. Bill was born in Seattle in 1915. His father, Setsugo, came from Hiroshima in 1899 at age sixteen to work as a railroad section hand in Montana. By 1913 Setsugo had saved enough money to return to Japan to marry Kimiyo Omura, a schoolteacher. She helped instill in their son,...

    (pp. xiii-xx)
    Bill Hosokawa

    This book is about a people from a rocky string of islands who journeyed eastward across the vast Pacific Ocean and came to Colorado in search of a future for themselves and their children. It is the one-hundred-year history—a significant, warm, and sometimes sad story of hardships, defeats, and successes, of laughter, tears, and ultimate triumphs—of Colorado’s Japanese Americans.

    The book can trace its origins to one October day in 2003 when my friend Kimiko Side came to see me in her role as president of a public service organization, the Japanese Association of Colorado. She told me...

  5. chapter one THE FIRST CENTURY
    (pp. 1-8)

    “What,” the visitor from Japan asked, “have the Japanese—people from my country and their descendants—what have they done in the century they have been in Colorado to make it a better state, a better place? What have they done for themselves, and for America? What triumphs and difficulties have they had?”

    Good questions.

    A quick, one-word answer to all of them is “much” despite the fact that the 2000 federal census counted only 11,571 persons of Japanese ancestry living in Colorado, a state of more than 4.3 million. This book attempts to tell the story of the Japanese...

  6. chapter two TODAY: AN OVERVIEW
    (pp. 9-20)

    To understand contemporary Japanese American life in Colorado, let us begin with the gray granite, gold-domed building—the Colorado state capitol—atop a slope looking out over downtown Denver and to the Rockies on the far western horizon. On the south side of the spacious capitol grounds is a modest monument honoring the memory of Colorado governor Ralph Carr, who played a heroic role in Japanese American history. In a perilous time he risked—and destroyed—his career by taking the then unpopular position that as U.S. citizens Japanese Americans were entitled to all rights guaranteed by the Constitution. He...

  7. chapter three THE FIRST VISITORS
    (pp. 21-29)

    The first Japanese to spend any significant amount of time in the United States was a sixteen-year-old castaway fisherman named Nakahama Manjiro. Shipwrecked on a tiny Pacific island, he and several companions were rescued by a U.S. whaling ship called the John Howland from New Bedford, Massachussetts. Manjiro’s friends were dropped off in Hawaii, but Manjiro went with the captain, William H. Whitfield, to New Bedford where they landed on May 7, 1843. Manjiro was sent to school where he studied English, went to sea where he learned whaling and navigation, and eventually returned in 1852 to his home on...

  8. chapter four WORKIN’ ON THE RAILROAD
    (pp. 30-36)

    By 1900 the vast reaches of Colorado were stitched together by hundreds of miles of railroad crossing the prairies; taking supplies into the mountains and bringing out the ore; linking ranches with meat packers in Omaha, Kansas City, and Chicago; and coming back with manufactured goods.

    The rails had to be maintained and new lines constructed as the frontier advanced. At first the Irish, and later the Chinese and immigrants from southern Europe and Mexico, provided the labor. In 1882 Congress, under pressure from West Coast labor leaders who felt threatened by Asian workers, passed the Chinese Exclusion Act sealing...

  9. chapter five COAL AND STEEL
    (pp. 37-40)

    Not iron ore but gold and silver were the minerals that first attracted settlers to the Colorado mountains in the second half of the eighteenth century, and the Chinese began to arrive toward the end of the precious metals boom. Many of them were former employees of the Central Pacific Railroad and had lost their jobs when it joined rails with the Union Pacific at Promontory, Utah, on May 10, 1869, completing the first transcontinental line.

    In Colorado their first jobs usually were in labor gangs shoveling gravel into the sluice boxes of placer mines in the rarified air of...

  10. chapter six ONE MAN’S STORY
    (pp. 41-57)

    Much of the story of early Japanese immigration to the United States is from long-ago recollections of aging immigrants. But this chapter is based on the diary of a Coloradan who faithfully kept a journal of his thoughts and activities in the early years of the last century.

    That man was Shingo Nakamura. In 1906 he left Itojima, his village in Fukuoka Prefecture on Kyushu, the southernmost of the main Japanese islands, to go to Mexico. He wanted to come to the United States but he could not get an immigration permit. So he settled for Mexico and eventually made...

  11. chapter seven ADOPTING CHRISTIANITY
    (pp. 58-64)

    In stories of the old Wild West, a Christian clergyman is often in the background urging the rough frontiersmen to reject temptation and sin, worship God, and live clean lives. But in the earliest years of Japanese immigration to Colorado, the unattached young Japanese, as Buddhists, had nowhere to turn for spiritual guidance even if they had wished for it.

    It did not take long, however, for Christians to seek converts among the Japanese. Early in 1907 in Pueblo Rev. G. F. Porter, a Methodist, sought to reach out to the young Japanese in the nearby steel mills and coal...

  12. chapter eight THE BUDDHISTS
    (pp. 65-75)

    Formalized Buddhism in Colorado can be traced back to the arrival of Rev. Tessho Ono from San Francisco in 1916. The year before, he and two other priests had visited Pueblo, Rocky Ford, Denver, Brighton, Fort Lupton, and other areas where Japanese had settled and had found a great yearning among them for a priest who could provide spiritual guidance and conduct traditional services. The decision was made to establish a presence in Colorado, and Ono came to Denver and was feted at a happy welcome party on March 13 of the following year. Two days later his hosts organized...

  13. chapter nine THE ASSOCIATIONS
    (pp. 76-84)

    It has been said that when two Chinese get together in America, they open a restaurant. It also might be said that when two or more Japanese get together, they organize an association for mutual benefit and protection. Unfortunately they don’t seem to keep good records.

    The Japanese scholar Fumio Ozawa, quoted earlier in this book, reports that the first association of Japanese in Colorado was formed in 1907: “The Association, which had a membership of 639 in 1909, was organized in 1907 when the anti-Japanese feeling grew stronger among the labor unions. When the Japanese and Korean Exclusion League...

  14. chapter ten DECEMBER 7
    (pp. 85-99)

    On the night of Friday, December 5, 1941, a handful of Denver-area Nisei met at the Japanese Association Hall to hear Utah-born Mike Masaru Masaoka. Only weeks earlier he had been hired by the national Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) in San Francisco as its executive secretary.

    Masaoka was on a recruiting mission. He was seeking support for the young and inexperienced organization of West Coast Nisei whose leadership was deeply concerned about what would happen to Japanese Americans if war should break out between the land of their birth, citizenship, and loyalty and the land of their ancestry. On...

  15. chapter eleven GRANADA
    (pp. 100-114)

    Within a month after Executive Order 9066 empowered the Army to remove Japanese Americans from designated areas, the federal government established the War Relocation Authority (WRA) to deal with the problem of what to do with the displaced people.

    As mentioned in Chapter 10, Western governors summoned to a meeting in Salt Lake City had made it clear that simply scattering the evacuees throughout the interior was not only impractical but inviting disaster and even bloodshed. The “relocation centers” established by the WRA provided shelter for the inmates and, not so incidentally, kept the Japanese American inmates under military control....

  16. chapter twelve THE ALIEN LAND LAW
    (pp. 115-123)

    The growth of the Japanese American population in Denver during the war years went relatively unnoticed, but that was not the case in some rural areas of Colorado, particularly in Adams County just north of Denver. Some residents began to view with alarm the growing number of Japanese who were settling in the county and sharecropping, leasing farms, or—horrors—buying land.

    In January 1944 Colorado governor John Vivian received a delegation of Adams County farmers and businessmen headed by Mayor J. W. Wells of Brighton. Wells declared that in the previous six months an “alarming” number of Japanese had...

  17. chapter thirteen THE PRESS
    (pp. 124-136)

    Early Japanese immigrants knew almost no English, but most of them despite their humble origins were literate in Japanese thanks to compulsory grade school education at home. Thus it is understandable that Japanese-language newspapers were among their first enterprises.

    Colorado’s first Japanese language publication—or, more accurately, printing endeavor—was probably Naoichi Hokasono’s 1908 pamphlet outlining a code of behavior for immigrants to avoid drawing unfavorable attention to themselves (see Chapter 4).

    Eiichi Imada’s research has found that Hokasono then began a small daily called Denba Shimpo (“Denver News”) publishing mostly local news items. Imada has written, “Two years later...

  18. chapter fourteen THE SPECIAL PATRIOTS
    (pp. 137-145)

    Japanese Americans were not warmly welcomed in many parts of Colorado during World War II, but in at least two places they were considered an indispensable part of the national civilian war effort and treated accordingly. One was the University of Colorado campus in Boulder. The other was a suite of rooms in the since-demolished Albany Hotel located at Seventeenth and Stout Streets in downtown Denver.

    The hotel housed radio station KFEL whose facilities were used by the secret Joint Anglo American Plan of Propaganda Projects for shortwave psychological warfare broadcasts beamed at Japan. Under this project, the British Political...

  19. chapter fifteen AFTER THE WAR
    (pp. 146-150)

    The months after the Japanese surrender in September 1945 were, for Japanese American exiles from the West Coast, almost as stressful as the weeks that led to the evacuation. There were so many questions. Should we go back home? But back home to what? Where will we live? Our jobs and businesses are gone; how will we support our families until we get re-established? How will we be received by friends and people we did business with? Would we be smarter to stay where we are in places like Denver? And what is our future here?

    The Japanese American Citizens...

  20. chapter sixteen THE VETERANS
    (pp. 151-163)

    The bitter, bloody war between Japan and the United States came to an end on August 15, 1945. It was a day of elation and relief, and grief too that there had been so much bloodshed on both sides. For Coloradans with friends and family in the shattered islands, food, medicine, and clothing would be sent as soon as postal service resumed.

    But the need turned out to be greater and more urgent than anyone imagined. Letters from Japan told of utter devastation, hunger, disease, hopelessness. At the end of November 1945, five and a half years after the prewar...

  21. chapter seventeen SAKURA SQUARE
    (pp. 164-170)

    The heart of Denver’s Japantown, Nineteenth to Twentieth Streets and Larimer to Lawrence, and the surrounding area grew shabbier as the years passed. By 1962 the lay leaders of the Denver Buddhist Temple, which was near the corner of Twentieth and Lawrence, realized they needed to improve the site. But how? They also wanted to sponsor a low rent housing project for the growing number of elderly in the community, with or without the cooperation of the Japanese Association, which also was considering a housing project.

    The problem came to a head four years later when the Denver Urban Renewal...

  22. chapter eighteen SISTER CITIES
    (pp. 171-186)

    One day in summer 1960 Tamotsu Murayama of the Japan Times, Japan’s leading English language newspaper, called on me in my office at the Denver Post. I had known Murayama since before the war when he worked on Japanese language newspapers in San Francisco, but he had spent the war years in Japan. He said he had come to Colorado as the leader of a delegation of Japanese Boy Scouts attending a world jamboree near Colorado Springs. But he had come to see me on another mission.

    “Would Denver consider becoming a sister city with Takayama, a mountain community in...

  23. chapter nineteen THE SEARCH FOR BUSINESS
    (pp. 187-192)

    One day in spring 1979, a young, athletically built Japanese businessman arrived in Denver. His name was Isao Kamitani and he represented Japan’s giant Sumitomo Trading conglomerate. His mission was to establish an office in Denver and look for opportunities for Sumitomo in Colorado’s economy, which was then riding on an energy boom. The emphasis was on oil, and Kamitani had learned something about that industry during a six-and-a-half-year assignment in Houston. Kamitani’s first chore was to lease an office. So many firms were coming to Denver that it took him three months to find suitable space.

    Sumitomo was not...

  24. chapter twenty CONSULAR CONNECTION
    (pp. 193-199)

    One day in 1974 Nobuhiko Ushiba, the Japanese ambassador in Washington, D.C., passed through Denver and invited me to lunch. We chatted about many things and I was under the impression the ambassador was simply trying to learn more about Colorado.

    Some weeks later an official from the Japanese consulate in San Francisco called on me in Denver. After exchanging pleasantries, the official abruptly said something like: “I have the honor to inform you that my government would be honored if you would serve as our honorary consul general in Colorado.”

    I was caught completely off guard. The first questions...

  25. chapter twenty-one SUSHI, EVERYONE?
    (pp. 200-207)

    The most recent Yellow Pages of the Denver-area telephone directory list forty-six Japanese restaurants and the names of twenty-one of them include the word “sushi.” “Akebono Seafood and Sushi Bar” is at the head of the list and, next to last, is “Yoshi Tei Japanese Restaurant & Sushi.”

    But that is only a part of the story of changing American tastes. There is hardly a ski town in the Colorado Rockies without a sushi restaurant or two catering to trendy Americans. You can’t have good sushi without fresh fish and in the last decade several wholesalers have set up new lines...

  26. chapter twenty-two THE IMPERIALS
    (pp. 208-215)

    It is not easy to confirm this but Denver may be the only inland U.S. city visited on different occasions by three members of the Japanese imperial family.

    Prince Hitachi, the emperor’s younger brother, and his princess, Hanako, dropped in on Denver for several days in fall 1981. They were followed in 1985 by Crown Prince Hiro, who was on his way home after several years of study at Cambridge University in England. Then in early summer 1994 Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko came to Colorado for three days in the course of a twenty-day trip that included stops in...

  27. chapter twenty-three STORIED QUILTS
    (pp. 216-219)

    One day in 1995 three Nisei women in Denver went to see the Smithsonian’s touring exhibit of early American quilts made up of patches that told a story of the nation’s strength through diversity. The three were Carolyn Takeshita, Tomoye Kumagai, and June Mochizuki. Today they don’t remember who it was, but one of them asked, “Why can’t we do something like this to tell the story of our people?”

    They got several of their friends together for a planning meeting at the Arvada Center. The upshot was that they went to various community organizations, told of their plans, and...

  28. chapter twenty-four FIVE FARMERS
    (pp. 220-235)

    Five stories of Colorado Japanese American farming families are told here. From the sad story of the Tanaka family in Longmont to the outrageous story of Mike Mizokami’s bureaucratic persecution. And then there is the inspiring story of Bob Sakata and his wife Joanna and the unusual story of Sam Matsuda and his brothers, Toshi and Dick. And finally is the story of Jim Kanemoto’s success.

    The Tanaka story begins with the arrival in America of Issokichi Tanaka (later known as Frank) in 1906 when he was seventeen years old. He moved to Brighton, Colorado, the following year, and in...

  29. chapter twenty-five THE NEWCOMERS
    (pp. 236-241)

    Before the end of World War II, no Japanese had been allowed to immigrate to the United States since March 1, 1925. That was the date the Asian Exclusion Act, barring immigration from all parts of Asia—but not Europe—went into effect.

    Bitter debate in Congress had preceded passage of that racist law. In hearings held by a Senate committee, V.S. McClatchy, the fulltime head of the pressure group that called itself the Japanese Exclusion League of California, testified:

    Of all the races ineligible to citizenship, the Japanese are the least assimilable and the most dangerous to this country…....

  30. chapter twenty-six A DAY TO REMEMBER
    (pp. 242-244)

    The following is a column written in 2003 by the author for Pacific Citizen, the weekly publication of the Japanese American Citizens League.

    Congressman Mike Honda, the California Democrat, has introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives that would designate the 19th day of February as National Day of Remembrance. February 19 is the day President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1942, in a time of war hysteria, signed Executive Order 9066, which led to the imprisonment of 115,000 Japanese Americans and suspension of their civil rights without the due process guaranteed by the Constitution. Honda’s proposal, press reports indicate,...

  31. chapter twenty-seven WHY?
    (pp. 245-252)

    This book opened with questions from a visitor from Japan. “What,” he asked, “have the Japanese—people from my country and their descendents—what have they done in the century they have been in Colorado to make it a better state, a better place? What have they done for themselves, and for America?”

    The one-word answer was “much,” and the chapters that followed have tried to provide the details, the “what” of their history.

    But two important questions remain unanswered: How? and Why?

    How and why were these people able to rise from an impoverished background in the face of...

    (pp. 253-254)
  33. INDEX
    (pp. 255-270)