The Japanese American Historical Society in San Diego

As a history major at PLNU, I had the opportunity to work with the Japanese American Historical Society in San Diego. I helped index and classify interview transcripts of Japanese Americans that had been sent to internment camps during WWII as one of my class assignments. This project truly made history come alive for me, and it was such an honor to have these memories shared with me. Here a summary of one of the transcripts I worked on:

  “They asked me how much we suffered during the war. I replied that the American government was very conscientious. They took care of us conscientiously. If it were Japanese they would have tormented us mercilessly. Russians maltreat Jews in Russia… Americans are conscientious… That’s how I feel…” — Fusae Mukai

         Fusae Mukai was born in Osaka Japan in 1891. While in Japan, she completed 6 years of grade school (Jinjo-shogakko and Koto-shogakko), and then went on to a Girl’s Business School in Tokyo (Joshi Shogyo Gakko). In 1913, she immigrated to the U.S. as a koseki bride. Mukai and her husband, Tasaburo Mukai, lived in San Francisco before moving to Southern California. The couple settled in El Cajon as orange farmers before the Great Depression. They bought 20 acres of land under their children’s names and 10 acres under Mr. Mukai’s name. Anti-Japanese sentiment was strong at the time, and the Mukai’s decided to sell their land fearing that it might be confiscated. Their property went on the market right as the Great Depression hit Southern California. They sold their property to J.I. Case Slicing Co. for $100 worth of stock that was only worth $20 on the market. Instead of selling their stocks to pay expenses, the Mukai’s wisely waited for the economy to recover. When they finally sold the stock for $153, they were able to buy land in Spring Valley and became celery farmers.

In December of 1923, Fusae Mukai became a Christian. For the rest of her life, Fusae’s faith played a defining role in her experiences, and she considered it to be the main factor for her families’ success. Shortly after becoming a Christian, Fusae and her family began attending a Holiness Church in Los Angeles led by Reverend Sadaichi Kuzuhara. Eventually, the Mukai’s held church services in their home for Japanese Christians. The small congregation moved to San Diego awhile later, and built a small church on Webster St. They rented their church building to an African American Pentecostal congregation as a source of income.

During WWII, the Mukai’s were targeted by the FBI, but Fusae was always friendly towards the agents that came to search her home every week. When they left her house, she would invite them to come again. The Mukai’s were of the last group of Japanese to be evacuated from San Diego. They were first sent to Santa Anita before being relocated at Poston internment camp in Arizona. Mr. Mukai was separated from his family and taken to New Mexico.

At the end of WWII, Fusae returned to San Diego where she was reunited with her husband. The Mukai’s were welcomed by their neighbors, and were fortunate enough to reclaim their land. Fusae was very thankful for the Niseis who fought for Japanese rights after the war. Fusae’s six children all attended school before the war, and some of them went on to college after returning from the internment camps.

Check out these Journal of San Diego articles to read more:


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