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  • Emily Pan

Japanese Immigration to Arroyo Grande

Updated: Jan 4, 2021


Japanese Picture Brides (National Archives)

Many Japanese people immigrated to Arroyo Grande in the 20th Century. Many of them came from southern Japan, from places like Kyushu and Kagoshima prefecture. Most of them initially chose to stay in America only temporarily, in order to support their family back home, but others intended to stay. But as early as 1913, Alien Land Laws were passed, preventing the Japanese from owning or leasing land. Nevertheless, agricultural historian Ella Honeycutt says that before then, many Japanese had already acquired land. The newcomers either formed corporations, bought land through their White friends, or by the name of their American-born children. Married couples were the first Japanese to settle in Arroyo Grande as these men were allowed to bring their wives to America too, either by sending home for them, or by sending "picture brides". Below is a timeline of Japanese Immigration, as well as information about Japanese families, many of which are still located here today.


1867 - Meiji Emperor wants Japan to enter the global community

1882 - Chinese Exclusion Act is passed, but foreign labor contracts wanted men who had a work ethic like the Chinese to replace the lost labor, leading to the arrival of the Japanese

1890s - The early wave of Japanese immigrants arrive in San Luis Obispo

1894 - Supreme Court rules that non-whites are not eligible for citizenship

1906 - San Francisco Board of Education segregate Asian students in city schools, due to the increasing number of Japanese immigrants (Japanese government angry)

1908 - Japanese immigration to the United States is halted

1913 & 1920 - Alien Land Laws are passed


Dohi Family (Photo courtesy of the Pismo-Oceano Vegetable Exchange)
  • Ben Dohi - from Hiroshima prefecture on Honshu; "was stationed in Kagoshima and made a point to visit the villages where his boyhood friends had their ancestral roots. The United States had beckoned to the parents of Dohi’s friends at the turn of the century, while their own nation was eager to export them-" (Gregory).

  • Mits Fukuhara - from Hiroshima prefecture on Honshu

  • Shigechika and Kimi Kobara - their fathers' were neighbors back in Japan and they met as "picture brides"; "'I remembered his brother, a naval officer,' Kimi recalled, 'and I found a man who resembled him. I thought that this was the man I was about to marry. From the deck I fixed my eyes on him, even though I had never met him. That is why it is called a picture bride.'” (Gregory).

  • Kinzo and Morio Saruwatari - arrive in 1901

  • Shiuchi Kawaoka - arrives in Arroyo Grande in 1912; he is an American as he was born in Hawaii in 1896

  • Juzo and Sei Ikeda - arrive in 1918 in Seattle on the Kotari Maru

  • Yeiju Hayashi - arrives on Christmas in 1919 in Seattle on the Kashima Maru

  • Toyo Hayashi - wife of Yeiju; arrives in San Francisco in 1920 on the Siberia Maru

Works Cited

Gregory, Jim. World War II Arroyo Grande. The History Press, 2016.


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