The Little Tokyo Historical Society on Jan. 4 unveiled a new City of Los Angeles sign marking the former location of the Japanese Hospital in Boyle Heights.
The unveiling of Historical-Cultural Monument 1131 was held at 101 S. Fickett St. (at First Street), where the Japanese Hospital opened its doors in December 1929. The building still exists but is now known as Infinity Care of East Los Angeles.
The hospital, which operated until the 1960s, was established because Japanese immigrants had difficulty as both patients and doctors at local hospitals due to racism. Turner Street Hospital had been serving the Little Tokyo community, but a larger facility was needed.
The hospital was designed by Issei architect Yos Hirose, who also designed portions of Tenrikyo Church in Boyle Heights and Koyasan Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo.
Due to the Alien Land Law, under which Japanese immigrants could not own land, California’s secretary of state challenged the hospital’s incorporation. The California Supreme Court ruled in favor of the doctors and the case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
According to Kristen Hayashi of LTHS, who has done extensive research on the hospital, “It is a tangible representation of the bravery of Japanese immigrants to navigate discrimination to establish a health care institution for the community. Japanese immigrant doctors prevailed in a 1928 U.S. Supreme Court case to establish the hospital. The community raised the funds necessary to build the hospital on the eve of the Depression. This is a civil rights victory that all Angelenos can point to and be proud of.”
Hayashi and LTHS President Michael Okamura were among the speakers. Those with connections to the hospital were invited to attend.
Participants in the celebration of the hospital’s 90th anniversary last month included a number of people who were born there as well as descendants of Dr. Kikuwo Tashiro, one of the founding doctors and plaintiff in the Supreme Court case.
The creation and installation of the sign was made possible with the help of James Okazaki and Council District 14 staff members.
Photos by MARIO GERSHOM REYES/Rafu Shimpo