As the Southeast Japanese School and Community Center prepares to celebrate the 90th anniversary of its Japanese School on June 28, let’s take a moment to go back in time to 1923, when the City of Norwalk was a town surrounded by farms and dirt roads.
Many of the farms were operated by Issei farmers, whose plans were to earn money and eventually return to Japan with their families. To maintain their language and culture, their children were sent to a Saturday Japanese Language School taught by Rev. Tsunesuke Hayashi in 1923. This school was located in the Friends Japanese Church on Orange Street in Norwalk.
By 1925, the 40 to 50 families who attended Japanese school decided to build a new school on two acres of land on the Nawa Ranch (our present site), donated by Juichi Nawa. The school grew to 250 students and offered activities such as judo, kendo, baseball, movies, stage plays for the community. This continued until World War II, when in 1942, the school doors were closed.
After the war, some of the Japanese Americans slowly returned to the Norwalk area. By 1957, the Japanese School was reopened and the social activities were gradually increased to include basketball, ikebana, karaoke, aikido, and karate.
To meet the activity growth, fundraising was started in 1968, and by 1977, a new building with a gymnasium, a kitchen, and three classrooms was completed to augment the old school house. By 1994, the old schoolhouse was demolished and replaced with a “building annex” with nine additional classrooms and a multipurpose room. At present there are 105 students enrolled at our school.
In a few short weeks, we will be celebrating the 90th anniversary of the Southeast Japanese School on the Nawa Ranch site with a bento lunch on Saturday, June 28, at 11 a.m. If you were a student here or would like to attend, please call and let us know by June 10. The cost of the luncheon is $25, which includes a commemorative book. If you have photos or bits of history about this school, please call (562) 863-5996.
Southeast Japanese School and Community Center is located on 14615 Gridley Rd., Norwalk, CA 90650. On the Web: www.sejscc.org