California State University, Long Beach

South Bay/Los Angeles Nisei


When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Issei (first generation immigrants) and their Nisei children were well established in the South Bay area of Los Angeles County. Some raised fruit, vegetables and flowers on undeveloped land that they rented or farmed as sharecroppers. Others formed cooperatives or corporations to sell and distribute produce while still others started small businesses to serve Japanese and other residents in the area. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, long standing anti-Japanese prejudice on the Pacific Coast, including a California law that prevented Japanese immigrants from owning land, led to the forced evacuation of most Issei and Nisei and their imprisonment in concentration camps. Some South Bay residents were able to avoid being sent to the camps by moving east, leaving behind their crops, businesses and homes; others endured restrictions to their freedom of movement, temporary stays in horse stalls at Santa Anita Race Track and, ultimately, incarceration in concentration camps in the western and midwestern U.S. Despite being imprisoned without being charged with any crimes, many Nisei men served in the U.S. military, contributing to the successful execution of the war. After WWII, many of the former South Bay residents returned to the area, but few resumed farming as suburban development spread. Some opened businesses and many younger community members returned to college, graduated and moved into middle class jobs that had been generally closed to them before the post war civil rights movement. This series is the result of a project created by members of the South Bay Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) to capture the stories of some of the older Japanese residents of the area and it has been added to VOAHA at their request. Seed money was granted in mid 2002 from the Pacific Southwest District of the JACL Trust Fund. Additional funding came through the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program, administered by the California State Library, in May 2003. The sixteen narrators in this series were chosen to reflect the various experiences of South Bay Issei and Nisei. Some grew up on farms and others in suburban area; some were incarcerated during WWII in concentration camps and some spent all or part of the war working and living in other parts of the US or Japan. All of them returned to the South Bay after WWII and observed the changes that have occurred in area through the end of the twentieth century. Their interviews were added to the Virtual Oral/Aural History Archive at the request of the South Bay Chapter of the JACL so that they would be available to a larger audience. The South Bay JACL, however, retains the copyright to them and no part of any of them may be reproduced in any way without their written permission.

Recent Submissions

  • Nakai, Mitsuyo; Hanawa, Yukiko, interviewer (2019-10-08)
    INTERVIEW DESCRIPTION - This second interview with Mitsuyo Nakai was recorded in Lake Elsinore and covers her marriage, the birth of her children, and life in Manzanar.
  • Nakai, Mitsuyo; Hanawa, Yukiko, interviewer (2019-10-06)
    INTERVIEW DESCRIPTION - The first of five interviews with Mitsuyo Nakai was conducted at Lake Elsinore, where she was still running her physical therapy practice.

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