Nanka Kanagawa Kenjinkai is now in its 111th year.
The late Bob Uyeda has done extensive work on the history of Nanka Kanagawa Kenjinkai. I have taken the liberty of taking excerpts from his work for this article. Copies of the early history are available upon request.
In 1899, immigrants from Kanagawa Ken arrived in San Francisco and eventually migrated to Los Angeles.
In 1908, the Nanka Kanagawa Kenjinkai was formally established with its first president, Masataro Suetaka. The purpose of the association was to “exchange ideas and deepen friendship of people from Kanagawa.” The idea was to help each other survive and build a bond. Picnics, social gatherings, and memorial services were held.
In 1934, members numbered 100. In 1941, the war intervened.
After the war the Kenjinkai resumed in 1948 with election of officers, New Year’s party and picnic. My grandfather Sadagoro Hoshizaki was a board member.
Another activity in the 1950s was welcoming dignitaries from Japan. I do recall my father going to the airport to welcome them. The activities still remained the same and the purpose of the association did not change: “Exchange ideas and deepen friendship of people from Kanagawa.”
Probably around the mid-1970s, the transition occurred from Issei to Nisei. In 1976 I noticed my father listed as deputy president. The Kenjinkai had their annual memorial service and picnic and an occasional club outing. The Kenjinkai was basically Japanese-speaking.
The Kenjinkai was slowly losing their Issei base, but the Nisei were able to continue under the original purpose of the association: “Exchange ideas and deepen friendships of people from Kanagawa.” I remember going to the picnics. Recent presidents were Mas Okabe, Tom Endo, and Tom Takeichi.
President Tom Takeichi played a very important role in transitioning from Japanese-speaking to English-speaking.
In 2009, I became president and the transition to English-speaking was completed.
It was during my presidency that a noticeable drop started occurring in attendance to the memorial service and picnic but not the casino trips. The Nisei were phasing out but the Sansei were not able to continue under the original purpose of the club: “Exchange ideas and deepen friendships of people from Kanagawa.”
It seemed like the purpose of the organization was solely for the Nisei and not for the future generations. So when the Nisei phased out, the Kenjinkai would phase out with them.
However, there is a new “Next Gen” that expressed interest in reviving the original purpose of the association, “Exchange ideas and deepen friendship of people from Kanagawa,” but bring it up to the “now” generation. This generation may be interested in cultural activities, food, etc. It will be up to them.
The “Next Gen” of Jennifer Kawase, Leah Yamamoto, and Debbie Sato-Valencia with the current board will determine the future of the association.
If anyone is interested in the “Next Gen,” please contact me for further information and contacts.
Frank Kawase, President