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

war en

FBI Searches and Arrests: Imperial Valley, 1941–1942

Thirteen-year-old Tatsuo Asamen did not yet have a driver’s license but he nonetheless drove an old farm truck each evening to the corner of a field located about two miles west of his home. Waiting for him amongst a clump of tall arrowweed brush was his father, Zentaro Asamen. The Westmorland farmer had set up a cot for himself there and the boy had his dinner.

Following the outbreak of war between the United States and Japan, the elder Asamen noticed that his cronies were beginning to disappear. They were being taken by agents of the Federal Bureau of ...

Read more

identity en ja es pt

Nikkei Chronicles #5 — Nikkei-go: The Language of Family, Community, and Culture

Grasping Grandma’s Japanese Accent—My First Step in Discovering Nikkei-go

I live on a farm in the Imperial Valley, which is located in the southeastern corner of California. My Issei grandparents established our farm before the Second World War when thousands of Japanese immigrants converted barren desert into fertile farmland. When I was growing up, my grandmother lived on the farm too, in the original house that my grandparents built in 1930. I can still remember when the house did not yet have an indoor bathroom so there was an outhouse—a benjo as we called it—and a furoba (outdoor bathhouse). After my parents got married they built their ...

Read more

culture en

Masashi Shimotsusa (1885–1959): The Samurai Photographer of San Diego

A note on names: The names of the Issei photographers, including Shimotsusa even though he returned to Japan, are presented in Western order, that is, personal name followed by surname. For the names of Japanese nationals in Japan, I have maintained the Japanese custom of surnames preceding personal names.

Masashi Shimotsusa is one of forty photographers featured in the Japanese American National Museum’s current exhibition Making Waves: Japanese American Photography, 1920–1940, which runs until June 26, 2016.

Because he and at least two of the exhibition’s other photographers, J. T. Sata and Morinosuke Kamikihara, are known to ...

Read more

community en

George – The Iconic Name of the Second Generation

7. You have Nisei relatives named Tak, Tad, George, Harry or Shig.

— From 101 Ways To Tell If You’re Japanese American

Of the various male and female names found on Jenny Kuida and Tony Osumi’s terrific 101 Ways… list, none is more iconic of the early Japanese American experience than George. I have two Nisei relatives by that name, one of my father’s brothers and an uncle by marriage; both of them were eldest sons. It had to have been the most popular name for Nisei boys.

The Imperial Valley in Southern California provides just a small ...

Read more

sports en

Nisei Greatness on the Imperial Valley Gridiron

During the cooler months of fall in the Imperial Valley before the war, only one thing was as important, if not more important, than the price of lettuce—high school football. It was a time when football was not relegated to the sports page of local newspapers. Football news was front-page news and the names that appeared on the front page were names like SASAKI and KITA.

It was a different time, indeed. In those days when football was king, a strong sense of Nikkei community also figured large in the Imperial Valley. Isamu “Sam” Nakamura once reminisced fondly about ...

Read more