Shin Sekai reception desk for Japan’s disaster relief donations, Kanto Great Earthquake 1923

SAN FRANCISCO — The Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California (the Center) will sponsor a special presentation on Thursday, Aug. 24, from 4 to 6 p.m. to share and discuss the findings of pre-World War II Issei records and images.

The records and images are from the Center’s Japanese American Historical Archives (JAHA) collection. In particular, a review of records from the Yokohama Specie Bank, (YSB), a part of the JAHA archives, will be discussed.

The Yokohama Specie Bank was a financial institution established in 1880 that played a significant role in managing Japan’s foreign exchange. Locally in San Francisco, it served as the major financial institution for many newly arrived Japanese immigrants, Issei, to remit money to their families in Japan, and conduct local business, community and other activities since many mainstream U.S. financial institutions did not support loans and other financial services to Japanese and other Asian immigrants.

Over the past year, leading scholars with expertise in pre-World War II Issei history, economics, and education have spent countless hours examining the YSB records to discover important findings about the history of early Japanese immigrants to the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Goshado Bookstore

The scholars will summarize their work thus far in a public presentation on at the JCCCNC, 1840 Sutter St. in Japantown. All interested members of the public are encouraged to attend.

This presentation is part of an ongoing examination of the JAHA. In 2004, the Center acquired the JAHA collection from Seizo Oka, the founder of the collection, after his passing.

Although the Center has been the fortunate recipient of this priceless collection, the contents of JAHA have not been made public because of the fragility and unreplaceable nature of some of the documents. With the great assistance of Kay Ueda of the Japanese Diaspora Initiative at the Hoover Library & Archives at Stanford University, the digitization of the most vital documents has started. 

JAHA’s goal in the near future is to implement and promote a community digital collection as well as undertake a fully renovated archive, with a virtual and graphically visual history walk of San Francisco Japantown at the Center.

The Center is grateful to The Henri and Tomoye Takahashi Charitable Foundation for the initial financial assistance in preserving the documents and physical renovation of JAHA, and is honored to receive a prestigious grant from the National Historical Publication and Records Commission (NHPRC)/Mellon Foundation to begin this important journey of preservation and recognition of the Issei community.

Uoki Sakai Market

For more information, email

Scholars confirmed to participate in the Aug. 24 presentation are:

Kay Ueda, curator of the Japanese Diaspora Collection, Hoover Institution Library & Archives, Stanford University

Eiichiro Azuma, professor of history and Asian American studies, University of Pennsylvania

Yoko Tsukuda, associate professor, Faculty of Law Department, Seijo University

Toyotomi Morimoto, professor of human sciences, Waseda University

Meredith Oda, associate professor of history, University of Nevada, Reno

The photos accompanying this article are part of the JAHA Collection and will be discussed as part of the presentation.

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