HomeJapanese AmericanLost KinjoRemarkable story of how Japanese Am preserved their history

Remarkable story of how Japanese Am preserved their history

By David Hosley

(This is part of our ongoing series, Lost Kinjo- a look at the more than 40 Japanese communities that disappeared after World War II. It is supported by funding from the California Public Library Civil Liberties Project and the Takahashi Family Foundation.)     

In the small town of Marysville in early 1942, population just under 7,000, the attack on Pearl Harbor reverberated in many ways.  The farming region north of Sacramento had shifted to war footing. Its Japanese community members, a good portion of the local work force, worried about their future and expressed eagerness to demonstrate patriotism.

A resolution from the area’s Japanese American Citizens League chapter had been drafted the day after Pearl Harbor, and printed in the Marysville Appeal-Democrat on December 9, 1941.  The resolution concluded: “We, American citizens of Japanese ancestry, by unanimous thought and action, are loyal citizens of the United States.”

FBI agents soon came to the northern California town along the Yuba River where it meets the Feather, and questioned that loyalty.  They interrogated Japanese community leaders about whom among them might harbor sympathies with Nippon.  Authorities mocked them when the reply was “I don’t know any.” 

In January, the U.S. government called for voluntary evacuation of coastal residents of Japanese ancestry. Marysville isn’t on the coast, but it was in line with Sacramento and other cities in the Central Valley that also had restricted travel and curfews.

Sometime between January and April in 1942, a young Marysville photographer named Clyde Bush took a black and white image of a Japanese man who had come to his studio looking for a standard head shot.  The man was asked to come back in a few days to pick up the prints. 

The next morning, a line of was forming out to the street before breakfast. The waiting adults, some residents of Marysville’s Japantown, wanted their picture taken, too.  Over the next couple of weeks there was a steady stream of new customers.  One day, according to Bush’s son, he asked one of his subjects why they were coming to him in such numbers.  The answer was that none of the other studios in Marysville would serve them while they’d been treated with respect by Bush and charged fairly.

“We don’t absolutely know why they were taken,” says David Read, Executive Director of the Sutter Yuba Arts Council, who has been central to the preservation of the images and their presentation as both history and public art.  “We assume they were taken for I.D. purposes,” Read told AsAmNews, “but from what the Japanese American Citizens League chapter has shown us, there were no photos on the tags used during removal.”

It’s not known if the shoots came before, or after, Executive Order 9066 was issued on February 17, 1942, which authorized forced removal of coastal residents in California, Washington and Oregon of Japanese heritage.  Read adds that he is confident the images were made during the initial government responses to the attack. “They were taken in the same time frame.”

There is no record locally of requirements for an identification card with a photo. Were the photos a result of the dividing line for removal splitting Marysville, with Highway 99 as the dividing line between Zone 1 to the west and Zone 2 to the east?  Perhaps those living in Zone 2, which included Marysville’s Japantown, were thinking of self-identification somehow protecting them from harm while they waited to learn when and where they would be imprisoned. 

Those in Zone 1 were removed in the spring, taken to an assembly center in Merced. The Japanese and Japanese Americans living east of Highway 99 in Marysville were removed directly to a concentration camp at Tule Lake in July, 1942 and never went to an assembly center.

History Of Marysville

Marysville is a Gold Rush town, its founding in 1849 boosted by prospectors coming up the Sacramento River from San Francisco, continuing to the northern diggings along the Feather and Yuba rivers.  

Charles Covillard arrived from a different direction, via a wagon train that passed through the Tahoe Basin two weeks before the Donner Party got stranded.  Covillard laid out the new town after establishing a trading post and ranch.  He was newly married to a survivor of the Donner disaster, wed at Sutter’s Fort in 1848.  

His spouse’s nickname was “Mary,” hence Marysville which became an almost instant community of tents and lean-to buildings for hundreds of new residents.  It became the Yuba County seat in 1850 and was incorporated as a city the next year.  Within a decade, the population grew almost tenfold, a fourth of them Chinese.

Marysville’s Chinese neighborhood was close to the Yuba River, the third biggest Chinatown in the state.  On the western side of the Feather River, Yuba City had been started on land purchased from John Sutter.  It grew more slowly.  In the 1860’s a bridge connected the twin towns, with Yuba City now the seat of Sutter County.  And from the beginning, both towns were threatened by flooding during winter rains and spring runoff from the Sierra Nevada.

Chinese Exclusion Cut Labor Pool

A federal exclusion act in 1882 severely limited immigration from China.  So California farmers increasingly turned to Japan for a labor supply.  Emperor Meiji sought to modernize his country in the 1880’s, which largely left behind farmers in Hiroshima and other southern regions.  First generation Issei farm laborers were brought to Hawaii, then a nation, with some continuing after a while on to California. Soon farm workers were recruited directly from Japan to the U.S. west coast. 

Farmers sought to fill their need for affordable, reliable workers by adapting the existing Chinese gang boss system used since the Gold Rush.  Now they arranged with immigrants who could speak Japanese, and enough English, to recruit and employ crews largely composed of young men from Japan.  They were usually not the oldest son in a family, but the younger ones who had no chance of inheriting the family’s land.  The notion was that a few years sojourn in California would result in saving enough money to return home, marry, and farm.  They had also heard that American wages would be twice what they could earn in Japan.

In reality, most never made it back.  The labor bosses would be the go-between for work, and arrange for field clothes, tools and a place to sleep.  But Japanese were paid less than the Chinese, and too many first generation Issei men would squander instead of save, as every Japantown in the region had bars and pool halls that hosted gambling, and brothels.  Archeological digs reveal a prodigious amount of alcohol was consumed.

Start of Marysville’s Japantown

By the mid 1890’s, there were a number of Japanese in Marysville and surrounding counties and they settled adjacent or among the Chinese. The Asian laborers helped build out a diversion system which harnessed water from the Feather and Yuba valleys and sent it via irrigation canals to farms that had been carved out from fields previously growing wheat.  The dominant crops became rice, raisins, prunes, beans and peaches. 

Sadao Itamura, who wrote a history of the Japanese in the region, identifies a man named Uchida as the first Japanese immigrant to settle in Marysville.  He opened a restaurant in 1900.  Several Issei farmers, Itamura adds, were growing crops in Yuba City across the Feather River about the same time, with another larger group north of Marysville tending a pear orchard.  He identifies the boundaries of “Japanese Town” in Marysville as being A Street west to Oak Street between First and Third Streets.

A 1905 phone book for the Sacramento area listed five Japanese businesses in Marysville that could be reached by the new technology.  They included a grocer, two restaurants and Taketa Shoe Repair on C Street.  An advertisement in the local newspaper that year touted Toyo Restaurant at 307 Second Street, which featured dinners with soup, including lamb, beef, fish, and chicken main dishes.  The proprietor was listed as K. Koura, and the eatery may have been part of the Toyo Hotel, as the ad said you could get 22 meals a week for three dollars.

Man sits on a machine.
Tsuru Tanabe drives a rice cutting machine in Marysville, circa 1930. Photo credit: Courtesy JAAC Gerth Special Collectins and University Archives, CSUS.

A number of Japanese farmers were renting land in east Marysville, and several had wagons that would go into nearby rural areas to sell their goods.  Farm workers from the surrounding areas would come into Marysville’s Japantown on Saturdays after getting paid, picking up provisions and getting a hot meal and some social time.

Another sign of the Japanese community coming together was the request in 1908 to the Sacramento Buddhist Church for religious services in Marysville.  It was made by Buntaro Nakamura on behalf of the community.  It was granted, with services held in private homes until 1918.

In 1911, a few farmers in the region interested in rice as a crop started working with an advisor from the federal government.  They discovered that you could have good results on land that had been considered poor, and Japanese started to buy up acreage.  By the late 1910’s, rice had become a very important part of farming there.

Peak Of immigration

A photo taken in 1913 at a Japanese community picnic in Marysville shows about 60 attendees.  Five are women, and nine are children.  The rest are all men.  Those ratios changed dramatically over the next decade, as arranged marriages brought a bevy of Japanese brides to California, the marriages of strangers taking place at port cities like Seattle and San Francisco, or even in absentia in Japan.  There were some surprises, with one local newlywed saying she was told her prospective husband owned a farm when he was actually just a laborer.  Other so-called picture brides couldn’t match the man standing before her with the photo that had been sent.  Census records show there was an age gap of at least a decade in many arranged marriages in the 1910’s.

Chisel and Yoshizo Manji had such a marriage.  P.B. is handwritten on her arrival record. She arrived just before Christmas on the Shinyo Maru in 1918 and the new couple lived just outside Marysville.  Their age difference was 13 years. The Manji’s would become two of the Japanese community’s stalwart leaders.

Agriculture in the lands adjoining the Yuba and Feather rivers was advancing after World War I.  So many peaches were grown in the region that Sutter and Yuba counties were producing about half the clingstones in the world. Crops could reach markets in the Bay Area and beyond by train, boat and now trucks.  Marysville was part of the infrastructure that supported farmers and their work forces.  Its prosperity in part reflected the growing Japanese population.

1924 Immigration Act

At the same time as marriages were taking place in Japan and California in the 1910’s, with children following predictably, the animus aimed at Chinese in the Golden State was shifting to the Japanese.  The transfer of the bulk of the state’s agricultural labor pool to Japanese men was perceived as a threat to employment of Caucasians.  

California’s Alien Land Law was amended in 1920 to expand limits on leasing land to Issei.  There was support from agricultural organizations and business leaders to further limit the number of immigrants coming to America from Asia.  California’s Central Valley was home to some of the most ardent advocates for restricting the rights of Asian residents.

Every year in the early 1920’s, legislation was introduced to cap the number of immigrants, especially from Japan. No one from Asia, with few exceptions, could immigrate if they were an alien who was ineligible for citizenship based on race or nationality, because the 1924 Immigration Act incorporated the existing Asian Exclusion Act and the National Origins Act. 

Heyday in 30’s Despite Barriers

Sociologists study how communities are built, and the Japanese American community of the 1930’s is worthy of study.  On the one hand, first and second-generation people of Japanese heritage were clearly second-class citizens, and yet they seemed to advance despite the depression, and also strive to become the most American group of all.

Brothers and sisters were added to the households of the initial Japanese Americans, those children born in the late 1910’s who were citizens by birth.  Tokuye Fuchigami delivered babies in Marysville, serving as a mid-wife after arriving with husband Heita in 1917 from an island in Kumamoto Prefecture in southern Japan.

She had been trained in Japan, and delivered children mostly in Marysville, but sometimes in Yuba City or out in the countryside.  But when her son Yoshimitsu came along in 1930, he was born in a hospital.  Once in school, a teacher gave him the first name of Robert, which he shortened later to Bob.  Census records reveal the regular evolution of names from Japanese ones to some kind of American equivalent.

Growing up in a large family of ten affected his ability to speak Japanese, Bob Fuchigami said in an oral history recorded in 2008. “Then you’re in a home where you have that many kids, you had mother and father sitting at the one end of the table and then you got a bunch of kids down the line.  So you don’t learn a lot of Japanese.”

A group of high school students and their teachers pose in front of American and Japanese flags.
High School students and teachers pose at Japanese Language School in Marysville’s Japantown, 1939. Photo Caption: Sutter County Library-Public Domain.

His older siblings were bilingual, Fuchigami said.  But as the seventh child, he never became fluent in Japanese, despite attending Japanese language classes every day after public school ended.  “In Marysville, it was standard.  All the kids did this.  We always go to regular school and then you’d walk across town and you’d go to the Japanese language school.  I was a kindergartener in the regular school, and I was a kindergartener in the Japanese language school.  Then we moved to Yuba City, the only time you could go to Japanese language school was on Saturdays.”

Ground had been broken for a Japanese language school in Marysville in 1926. An old photo shows about 20 children and an equal number of adults at the ceremony.  There is another black and white photo from 13 years later in the Japanese American Archival Collection at CSU Sacramento’s library.  It’s a high school graduation for the language school with 21 female students and 13 boys with two instructors.

The year before, in 1938, a new Buddhist Church building was constructed by the Buntaro Nakamura family at B and 2nd Streets, complementing the community hall built earlier in that decade, and the language school. It replaced an earlier house of worship nearby that had burned in 1930. Japantown also had several boarding houses, dress makers, an ice cream parlor, vegetable stand, and an insurance agency, to name a few of the businesses.

Two men in baseball uniforms posed before an old car.
Marysville baseball teammates Sanaye Kosaka and Tom Ehara, 1929. Photo credit: Courtesy JAAC Gerth Special Collections and University Archives, CSUS.

The Japanese American Citizens League Marysville chapter was started in 1935.  Twenty four inaugural members signed the minutes of its first meeting, and represented four counties: Yuba, Sutter, Butte and Colusa.  In 1936, members of the chapter attended their first regional JACL gathering, and in 1939 hosted a Nisei Day conference for hundreds of young people for group discussions and social events.  In 1940, the chapter donated a hundred flowering cherry trees that were planted around Marysville’s Ellis Lake.

Sports were popular in the Japanese community, which had town teams in baseball and basketball that would travel to play as far away as Florin and Oakland.  A champion high school team from Hiroshima played a Marysville squad in 1931, and the professional Tokyo Giants barnstormed through Marysville in 1936.  Sandlot baseball was played in Miner Park.

A map of Japantown from 1941 shows 25 stores, 13 houses, and 18 buildings which were both commercial enterprises and the living quarters for the operators.

Pearl Harbor On The Radio

Bob Fuchigami was listening to the radio on the morning of December 7, 1941.  A bulletin came on about the attack on Pearl Harbor.  He was 11 years old. “I didn’t know where Pearl Harbor was,” he recalled in a 2008 interview.

The next day he went to school. “There were some things that happened at the school, where friends, people who you thought were friends, that they picked it up from their parents, I’m sure.  Something about ‘J*ps(a racial slur for Japanese).’ So that’s when you first became aware of sort of a divide between yourself and others.”  Fuchigami added that living on a farm, he didn’t see a lot of bias. “It’s only when you started getting out into the larger community that you started running into little incidents.”

The federal government responded to Pearl Harbor by setting curfews and restricting travel along California’s coastal areas for Japanese and Japanese Americans.  Voluntary evacuation to interior areas was requested, but only about 7% did so.  So an executive order was issued making possible forced removal.

On May 12, 1942, Exclusion Order 69 directed all persons of Japanese ancestry in Colusa, Sutter and part of Yuba County to report for incarceration in the Merced Assembly Center.  Marysville was split with Highway 99 the dividing line.  Those living west of the highway, which was also D Street, were to go first.

On May 18, 757 residents of those areas arrived at the Merced Fair Grounds.  They endured a very hot summer with Japanese and Japanese Americans from Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Yolo and Merced counties, along with the towns of Redding, Yreka, Walnut Grove, and Courtland.  In September, all 4,500 hundred were taken by train to Colorado, where the governor of the state welcomed them and almost immediately requested some be released from Camp Amache to help with the harvest since so many local farm workers had enlisted in the military.

A group of children and adults stand in front of two delivery trucks.
Family and workers at Nakamura Company store in Marysville. The trucks were used to deliver goods to customers as far away as Wheatland. Photo credit: Courtesy JAAC Gerth Special Collections and Archives, CSUS.

Fate of Japantown

The bulk of Japantown was to the east of D Street, and the residents there waited to hear when they would report, and where.  Hatsuye Nakamura wrote of that time in 2007 when she was 90 years old:

“We were notified of our moving date, July 11, 1942, with rules and regulations of our preparedness.  For the duration of the waiting period, we were restricted to stay within a six-mile radius.  If it was necessary to travel beyond, a permit from the police department was required, with a curfew to be home by 8 p.m. that day.”

She and her husband, pharmacist Frank Nakamura, were newlyweds, marrying in November, 1941.  He’d had to close his business because it was on the wrong side of D Street and liquidate the inventory to other drug stores in town.  As president of the Marysville JACL chapter, Nakamura had been interviewed by the FBI and asked to identify anyone he thought was a Japanese agent.  He could think of no one.

Hatsuye Nakamura also wrote about the day they were taken away, noting there was no prior notice of where they were headed. “Armed military guards escorted us as we boarded the trains and would accompany us to our destination.  My last thought as the train slowly moved out of the city in a northerly direction, taking us farther and farther away from our homes—we are the final contingent to be removed from California.”

She admits to peeking around the blinds on the train’s windows when they passed Mount Shasta.  “It was truly most breath-taking to see the snow-capped peak against the morning sun!  It was a sight I shall never forget!”

The Nakamura’s were incarcerated at Tule Lake, just short of the Oregon border, for just over a year.  Deemed loyal after taking an infamous questionnaire, they agreed to be transferred to Camp Amache, where they united with some of their friends from the other side of Marysville.  Before too long, they became part of the exodus from the camps for work or military service.  When he learned some of his friends had been released back to Marysville, Frank Nakamura made a scouting trip to see how they were faring. The Buddhist Church buildings were being used as temporary housing, and some were looking for work. Now with two children, the Nakamura family returned to Marysville in December, 1945.

Frank Nakamura resumed his efforts on behalf of the Marysville Japanese community, while also seeking employment.  He volunteered to accompany a War Relocation Authority staff member who went into businesses displaying anti-Japanese signs in a number of towns in the area.  The WRA man would go in to ask that the sign be removed, while Nakamura monitored from the car.  They had limited success.  Some “No Japs Wanted” signs in Marysville were pulled down by Nisei veterans, according to George Okamoto. By Victory over Japan Day in 1946, most of the signs were gone.

A New Normal

Hatsuye Nakamura had brothers who served in the military during the war.  Being in the Army was just one element in the massive displacement caused by the government’s response to Pearl Harbor.  Moving to inland parts of the country, released to work in the war effort or attend college or trade schools were other ways in which communities with Japanese and Japanese American residents had their social fabric ripped apart.  In just a few years, who occupied the homes and businesses in Marysville was changed beyond imagination.  Only a fraction, perhaps half, of the Japantown residents returned, and of those who did a number would remain only a year or two.

But the ones who came back went about putting their lives, and Japantown, back together.  The laws that prevented Japanese born immigrants from becoming citizens were repealed in the early 1950’s, and so the first generation was able to finally achieve the status of their children and a booming number of grandchildren who were citizens by birth. 

Devastating Flood in 1955

The two rivers that define Marysville had historically flooded, including in 1903, 1907 and 1940.  In late December of 1955, it rained day after day in northern California.  The Yuba and Feather rivers rose to flood stage as Christmas approached.  Several small towns were evacuated on December 23rd. There were reports that the levee across from Japantown and Chinatown was leaking, but some men enterprisingly took timber from Union Lumber on B Street and shored it up.  Many feared Marysville would be flooded and some fled.  KUBA-AM radio was advising residents in the area to seek higher ground.

On Christmas Eve, just after midnight, the levee on the west bank of the Feather River at the Shanghai Road bend collapsed.  Ninety percent of Yuba City was flooded.  Thirty-seven people drowned, including several police officers who were directing  people to safety. But Marysville’s levees held.  Some 40,000 people in the region evacuated, including a hundred Japanese Americans from Yuba City who were housed in Marysville’s Buddhist Church and other nearby buildings in Japantown.

Third Generation Prospers

Jean Yokotobi has fond memories of Marysville’s Japantown during the 1950’s.  Her father farmed peaches, walnuts and prunes, primarily, between Gridley and Live Oak and she attended Manzanita Elementary.  First and second graders were in the same classroom, Yokotobi tells AsAmNews, with combined classes up to eighth grade.  “Sometimes when it was cold, my father used to bake a sweet potato to carry in our pockets.” 

But the Yokotobi’s had relatives in Marysville, and her family often piled in the car and attended the Buddhist Church there, too.  “Marysville Japantown was right next to Chinatown. My uncle owned a pool hall and soda fountain right next to Matsumoto store.  I remember the tofu machine in the back of the store, and the strong smell of tofu permeating the air.  Down the street was Mama’s, a poplar Chinese noodle house.  We went there all the time.  Not far from there was the Buddhist Church.  It was a social and cultural hub for the Japanese families.  I remember all the festivals—Hanamatsuri, Obon, Girls Day, Boys Day and wearing kimonos.”  Japanese New Year’s was a major family event as well, with days of cooking and cleaning in preparing for the celebration.

Yokotobi recalls that most of the school age Japanese American children from Gridley would be brought into Marysville’s Japantown for language classes on Saturdays, and afterwards their mothers would treat them to frosty cones.  She also remembers attending Japanese movies with her father at the church hall, with subtitles.  When she became a teen in the 60’s, Yokotobi attended dances at the Buddhist Church hall.  By her junior year, she was attending high school in Marysville.

There had been a transition in the 1950’s as many Issei who had come to America in the 1910’s and early 1920’s got too old to farm and offered their places to their sons.  But there were more options for the second generation than the first, and those opportunities included jobs in bigger cities, like Sacramento, or higher education at colleges and professional schools.

Yokotobi went to San Francisco State in the mid-60’s, where S.I. Hayakawa was an English professor.  The state university system was growing, and the women’s movement and civil rights, including Yellow Power, was coming to the forefront.  Norm Mineta was appointed a San Jose City Councilman in 1967.  Many young Japanese Americans would not be seeking their future in agriculture, or in a town as small as Marysville.  What had been a flood of change in the 1940’s was now steady stream of departures—the passing of elders, leaving of youth, and changes from family farming to corporate acquisition.  

The peak enrollment of the Marysville Buddhist Church was 141 children in 1971.  The Japanese language school nearby was down to just one classroom by that time. Then the language school and the community hall were closed.

In 1980, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians was created to review the executive orders of 1942 and recommend remedies.  After hearings, including one in Sacramento, findings that a “grave injustice” had been done resulted in a new federal law, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.  A formal apology would come from the President of the U.S. along with a check, worth about $45,000 at today’s rate, for all who were unjustly imprisoned and still living. Most of the recipients, some of them more than 100 years old, valued the apology over the cash.

Civic leaders in Marysville have, for the last few decades, worked to inject vitality into the city’s nationally registered historic downtown.  There are a number of success stories, but the part of Old Marysville that centered around Japanese and Chinese homes and businesses has lagged behind.

Sign advertises new apartments in vacant lot.
New apartments are coming to a lot where a Japanese store once stood in Marysville’s Japantown. Photo credit: David Hosley

Celebrating A Common History

The half dozen blocks between Third Street and the levee, with the Book Kai Temple gateway on one side and the Buddhist Church on the other, have many vacant lots, boarded up buildings and few thriving enterprises.  There are several signs saying projects are coming soon, including one new business that could aid economic development, and an apartment complex that could add needed residences for downtown workers.  The latter would succeed a building constructed in the city’s earliest years, at one time housing the Nakagawa store, which closed in 2006.  The Nakagawa family name will reportedly be incorporated in the title of the new residences.

As it was in the 1930’s, the centerpiece of Japantown today is the Buddhist Church and its beautifully maintained garden and pond.  A huge mural overlooks the church’s parking lot, depicting the people and the agricultural products that made the growth of the Japanese community possible.  The spaces in the parking lot are rarely all needed.  But there are services twice a month, often conducted by officiates from Sacramento or other churches, Volunteers keep up the buildings and grounds.  There is a college scholarship for children and grandchildren of the church’s active members, and regular financial support coming in, including memorial gifts for relatives who have passed away.

A sign in front a buildings on a downtown street.
Vacant storefronts and lots dominate the blocks of Marysville’s Japantown and Chinatown. Photo credit: David Hosley

The Marysville chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League holds its board meetings at the Buddhist Church, and collaborates with other community groups to support gathering of oral histories, build a library on Japanese American history, and commemorate the Day of Remembrance each February, marking the issuance of Executive Order 9066 in February, 1942.  Festival celebrations are held as well, including Obon in late summer to honor ancestors.

The Japanese American presence in Marysville, and in the greater Yuba-Sutter region, is a tiny fraction of what it was when World War II started, or even after it ended.  But it is present, and perhaps provides encouragement to other communities where Japanese immigrants helped build the infrastructure that allowed for agricultural abundance in California’s Central Valley. It is a success story that continues to this day.

Photo Negatives Back To Life

The images taken by Clyde Bush in 1942 on 35 mm film were carefully stored for decades.  The photography studio was finally closed, and Clyde passed away in 2005. His widow, Myrtle, reached out to Sue Cejner Moyers, from the Yuba County Historic Resources Commission 15 years ago.  Myrtle Bush thought the negatives might be significant and didn’t know where to turn. Cejner Moyers looked for a good home for the collection and sought advice from David Read, now Executive Director of Yuba Sutter Arts Council.

Soon a team of community leaders, including Marysville Japanese American Citizens League officers, was involved and some funding lined-up to give the images a new life.  The negatives were digitized, large format prints made, and they were made available to the public at a Day of Remembrance event six years ago. A selection of the images was included in the Arboga Assembly Center Memorial, which was dedicated two years ago.

Now through the Arboga memorial students and families can see the Marysville photos, along with public art that depicts buildings where residents of Japantowns in Placer County, Elk Grove and Florin were held before transfer to Tule Lake’s concentration camp. The memorial, which has a number of interpretative elements, is one mile west of Arboga on Broadway Street.

National coverage of the nearly 100 photos that Clyde Bush took includes a video essay by Ryan Yamamoto, a San Francisco television news anchor who has also produced an award-winning documentary on Japanese American Olympian Tommy Kono and told his own family’s story of displacement during World War II.  Two women from Chicago saw the television story and felt they recognized photos of relatives.  They visited Marysville, identified people in a half dozen photos, and toured the Arboga memorial.

Through the combined outreach efforts, many of those depicted in the portraits have been identified. Read is hoping some further research, and exposure of the collection, will put names to more of the somber faces from 1942..  

A simple act of a photograph, taken when those posing faced such an uncertain future, is unexpectedly enduring for decades.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.


  1. Why is this article using the previous and archaic “Nippon” in place of Japan? And in only one instance?

    “They interrogated Japanese community leaders about whom among them might harbor sympathies with Nippon. Authorities mocked them when the reply was “I don’t know any.”


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