Junko Yoshida

Born and raised in Tokyo, Junko Yoshida studied law at Hosei University and moved to America. After graduating from California State University, Chico, with a degree from the Department of Communication Arts & Science, she started working at the Rafu Shimpo. As an editor, she has been reporting and writing about culture, art, and entertainment within the Nikkei society in Southern California, Japan-U.S. relations, as well as political news in Los Angeles, California. 

Updated April 2018

community en ja

Ikkyu Strong

After fleeing for their lives in Camp Fire, couple reopens restaurant 60 miles away in Red Bluff.

“It was like an ENDLESS TUNNEL. I felt like I was dropped into deep darkness. But looking back, it can’t be helped. I can start over again as long as I am alive.”

Tomoyo and Shigeo Kojima lost everything in the Camp Fire on Nov. 8 last year. They had their own house and one rental house, and owned a Japanese restaurant in Paradise but everything was burned out.

They were forced to evacuate from their home and moved to Red Bluff ...

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migration en ja

The 150th Anniversary of Wakamatsu Colony, the First Japanese American Settlement on the North American Frontier

Supplement: The Article that Revealed Okei to the World

The Wakamatsu Colony, born of the dreams and labor of the new immigrants, collapsed in only two years. One of the members of the group – a young woman whose first name was Okei – was taken in by a local farming family named Veerkamp. As described in a previous installment in this series, Okei came from the town of Aizu Wakamatsu at the age of 17. Her life in California was cut short when she fell suddenly ill and died in 1871. She was only 19 years old.

Okei is believed to be the first Japanese woman to be buried on ...

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community en ja

The 150th Anniversary of Wakamatsu Colony, the First Japanese American Settlement on the North American Frontier

Part 3: Sharing of Family Stories

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Kuni Takes a Local as His Wife

Following the collapse of the Wakamatsu Colony, a settler by the name of Kuninosuke Masumizu (1849-1915) opted to remain in the town of Coloma.

Known to many simply as Kuni, he worked as a carpenter and helped to build the Coloma Hotel and the Fresno Buddhist Church.

Many of the houses built by Kuni in the Coloma and Auburn areas were still standing in May 1930, as they were described in a May 28 article in the Nichibei Shinbun.

In 1877, Masumizu married Carrie Wilson, a woman of African and ...

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migration en ja

The 150th Anniversary of Wakamatsu Colony, the First Japanese American Settlement on the North American Frontier

Part 2: Okei's California Home

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The story of the first Japanese woman to be buried in American soil emerges from history’s shadows.

The Wakamatsu Colony had collapsed and the pioneering dreams of the Japanese immigrants were shattered. The once-hopeful colonists dispersed, some deciding to return to Japan, while others chose to stay in California.

A neighboring farming family named Veerkamp purchased the site of the colony in Gold Hill, and hired some members of the former settlement to stay on for work.

The Veerkamps retained Matsunosuke Sakurai, a former Aizu samurai. Also staying on was a woman named Okei, who had ...

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migration en ja

The 150th Anniversary of Wakamatsu Colony, the First Japanese American Settlement on the North American Frontier

Part 1: Pioneers Who Brought Their Hopes and Dreams

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the first Japanese American settlement on the North American frontier

If not for the relatively fresh flowers and metal cordon surrounding it, a small gravestone on a quiet hill in the California town of Gold Hill might go largely unnoticed. It is the final resting place of a girl, a member of first group of Japanese colonists to settle in North America – and the first Japanese woman to be buried in American soil.

Her name is Okei.

It was 150 years ago that the first Japanese settlers arrived on the American mainland, establishing ...

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