Tim Asamen

Tim Asamen is the coordinator of the Japanese American Gallery, a permanent exhibit in the Imperial Valley Pioneers Museum. His grandparents, Zentaro and Eda Asamen, emigrated from Kami Ijuin-mura, Kagoshima Prefecture, in 1919 and settled in Westmorland, California, where Tim resides. He joined the Kagoshima Heritage Club in 1994, serving as president (1999-2002) and as the club's newsletter editor (2001-2011).

Updated August 2013

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Inaka: Moving from Scorn to Pride

I sometimes refer to the Imperial Valley as my little inaka corner of the world. Literally translated, inaka (田舎) means “the countryside” or “one’s native village.” And in adjectival form, it means “rural,” “rustic,” or “provincial.” The Imperial Valley is definitely that; it is farm country in California’s southern desert bordering Mexico and Arizona. Approximately two hundred miles southeast of Los Angeles and one hundred twenty miles due east of San Diego, it is undeniably out in the boondocks.

The Issei pioneers played a key role in building the Imperial Valley’s agricultural industry. But after being forcibly ...

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Come Out First – Imperial Valley’s Winter Harvest

To create the farming oasis called the Imperial Valley, in 1901 water from the Colorado River was diverted to the middle of the desert that stretches across Imperial County in the southeastern corner of California. The region is notorious for its scorching summer heat; the temperature exceeds 100 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 100 consecutive days. For a few days during the month of July, it is not uncommon for the afternoon highs to reach at least 120 degrees.

But it is the area’s warm climate that makes possible the production of fruit and vegetables during the winter season ...

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Happy Holidays in the Imperial Valley

Ask any Nisei from the south end of the Imperial Valley about their childhood Christmas experiences, and their fond reminiscences inevitably take them back to the Kokubuns’ church. Reverend Jingoro Kokubun was the pastor of two non-denominational Christian churches. In 1920, he founded both the Calexico Independent Church and Union Church in El Centro.

Rev. Kokubun hailed from the Tohoku region in northeastern Japan. He was born in Fukushima Prefecture. After completing elementary school, he was introduced to Christianity by a friend and was baptized in a local river. He graduated from Seigakuin Seminary in Tokyo and was assigned to ...

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Nikkei and the Way of the Warrior: Samurai Heritage from Issei to Yonsei

During my college days I once wrote an essay on the three ideals that I thought best epitomized the samurai: giri (duty), on (obligation), and chū (loyalty). It is no coincidence that a few years later as the coordinator of a Japanese American exhibition in the Imperial Valley Pioneers Museum, I had a hanging scroll custom made with the ideals that I thought best epitomized the Nikkei experience: giri, on, and gaman (perseverance). I very easily could have added loyalty to the scroll and gaman to my essay, but groupings of four are considered unlucky!

When I spoke to my ...

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Samurai Armor in the Imperial Valley Pioneers Museum

Were there samurai in the Imperial Valley? The answer is yes, but that’s not why a suit of samurai armor is on display in the Imperial Valley Pioneers Museum. For those of you who have not been to the Pioneers Museum in Imperial, California, it is one of the few multi-ethnic museums in the country. Multi-ethnic themes are not uncommon, but typically museums will host one ethnic exhibition at a time, and then rotate different ones in and out. 

The Pioneers Museum, on the other hand, has fifteen different ethnic exhibitions—called galleries—on permanent display. The galleries, such ...

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