Japanese Americans of the South Bay
By Dale Ann Sato, Japanese American Historical Mapping Project
Early-20th-century settlers in Los Angeles County, South Bay region found fallow ranch land worthy of cultivation, as well as roads and railways to move produce to markets. First-generation Japanese Issei immigrants became pioneering strawberry, vegetable, and flower growers and cannery fishermen. Their fields blanketed the landscape between oil derricks and along sloughs and the dry-farmed coastline. Families pooled resources and built Japanese language schools for their Americanborn Nisei children that doubled as meeting halls. Small mom-and-pop businesses and services sprang up in Gardena and elsewhere, catering to Japanese neighborhoods. The evacuation, detention, and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II devastated their sense of belonging and livelihoods that had taken 40 years to establish. Today South Bay is home to multigenerational Japanese and Asian Americans who continue that legacy of industry, beautification, and diversity.
These vintage photographs chronicle Japanese American lives from the early 1900s through the 1950s, with a brief tribute to the 1988 landmark presidential apology and reparations that addressed gross injustices. Images were gathered from families and special collections by the Japanese American Historical Mapping Project (JAHMP), whose mission is to document forgotten family and land history. Dale Ann Sato, JAHMP’s founder, was born and raised in the South Bay and has been a college educator and oral historian.