Pre-war Japanese in SGV Revealed in Digital Collection

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Pasadena's Meiji Laundry, circa 1910s, is among the photos archived online as part of the Pasadena Digital History Collaboration.  Collection of Joan Takayama-Ogawa, Pasadena Digital History Collaboration

Pasadena’s Meiji Laundry, circa 1910s, is among the photos archived online as part of the Pasadena Digital History Collaboration. (Collection of Joan Takayama-Ogawa, Pasadena Digital History Collaboration)

PASADENA — The Pasadena Digital History Collaboration (PDHC) project has acquired a significant Japanese American collection for its free online website.

“This collaboration is between PCC Library, Pasadena City Library, and the Pasadena Museum of History,” said PCC Librarian Linda Stewart. “We made a conscious effort to begin to collect artifacts from our rich ethnic history.”

From Meiji Laundry in Pasadena to the San Gabriel Nursery to vegetable farmers in La Puente, Japanese Americans contributed in myriads of ways to the Valley before World War II.

“I was honored to interview 25 Niseis,” said Professor Susie Ling of Pasadena City College. “The transcripts are in this PDHC collection. I hope I captured some of the contributions of Fujiko Sakiyama Ishizu, who went to Berkeley from Alhambra High in 1936; of Yosh Kuromiya, who was one of the Heart Mountain resisters; of Chiye Watanabe, who could not bury her hero brother, Joe Hayashi, at Forest Lawn because of racial covenants; and of MIS (Military Intelligence Service) veteran Sho Nomura, who still lives in Sierra Madre.”

The oral history collection also includes community activists like Bacon Sakatani of West Covina, the late Ted Tajima of Pasadena, and Paul Tsunieshi, formerly of Monrovia.

Ling said, “These Niseis tell the story of their parents, tell the story of their internment, and tell the story of their post-war rebuilding.”

The PDHC Collection also includes several Japanese American photograph albums. Stewart said, “We have some photos from the Pasadena Buddhist Temple established in 1948. The Shodas had a flower shop near our campus on Colorado Boulevard. Then we were fortunate to have Elsie Osajima share photos of her father, Jiro Morita, one of the founders of the Pasadena Sister-City Committee.”

Sansei poet Amy Uyematsu shared photographs of her grandfather and Professor Joan Takayama-Ogawa opened a treasure chest of photographs of Meiji Laundry.

“We encourage others to consider depositing their photographs too,” Stewart said.

Pasadena City College is celebrating its 90th anniversary. “For me,” said Ling, “PCC’s 2010 Nisei graduation and this PDHC Collection are a way to respect our Japanese pioneers. Read the transcripts one by one and feel the layers upon layers of legacy.”

The website is at pasadenadigitalhistory.com.

Pasadena Junior College’s Triple J Club in 1935.

Pasadena Junior College’s Triple J Club in 1935.

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