Talk on ‘From Meiji Japan to Sawtelle, California’

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Randy Sakamoto and his wife, Marlene. He is holding “Gisuke Sakamoto: From Meiji Japan to Sawtelle Pioneer” and she is holding “Sawtelle: A Collection of Photographs and Articles.”

GARDENA — Randy Sakamoto was the guest speaker at the Greater Los Angeles JACL’s monthly meeting on July 21 at Merit Park Recreation Hall in Gardena.

With a slide presentation, he told the story of his grandfather, Gisuke Sakamoto, born in 1870 in Fukushima Prefecture, an amazing man with many accomplishments in Japan and California.

Gisuke Sakamoto studied English at a school in Tokyo, attended Doshisha Academy (now Doshisha University) in Kyoto, was conscripted to fight in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95) and the Russo-Japanese War (1894-95), and ran a silk factory in Iwaki before immigrating to America in 1907 at the age of 37.

He ran a grocery store, G.S. Supply Co., in Downtown Los Angeles, then moved to the Sawtelle District and built a home there. He was a founder of the Japanese Institute of Sawtelle and West Los Angeles Community Methodist Church (now West Los Angeles United Methodist Church).

Immediately after the Pearl Harbor attack, he was arrested by the FBI and incarcerated at Tuna Canyon, then Fort Missoula in Montana and Manzanar, where he was reunited with his family. After the war he became a U.S. citizen.

Sakamoto was able to recover his family’s land in Japan and donated it to a Christian society in 1949. The land was used to build a church, a daycare center and hospitals for disabled children.

Randy Sakamoto’s slide presentation featured historical photos, not only of his grandfather but also of events of the time and communities he lived in. It also included results of his research, such as the FBI report on his grandfather.

Refreshments were provided by Janet Okubo, Aya Okada, Kei Sakita, Bee Reschke, Kanji Sahara, Aya Okada, Miyako Kadogawa, Masa Yamaoka and Louise Sakamoto.

GLA JACL’s next program will be held on Sunday, Aug. 18. The guest speaker, Bill Watanabe, will discuss “Preserving Our Historic Resources.”

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