Japantown Atlas - Southern California - Orange County

Overview Map: Orange County Japanese American Businesses of 1940

This overview map of Orange County was created for "Sowing Dreams, Cultivating Lives: Nikkei Farmers in Pre-World War II Orange County,” the opening exhibit of the Orange County Agricultural and Nikkei Heritage Museum at CSU Fullerton Arboretum. It's a modern map with freeways de-emphasized, and 1940 landmarks shown as an overlay.

In 1940, Orange County was growing but still fairly rural, with scattered towns separated by farms, ranches, orchards and sugar beet fields. There was a good rural road network, plus rail transportation to Los Angeles and east coast markets. On a town-by-town basis, Japanese American businesses and community sites were thinly scattered; seen on a county level they show a wide variety of energies and resources. The Farmers' and Berry Growers' Associations listings hint that this map omits a fair number of Japanese American farms (we've shown those readily identified by name, such as nurseries).

Like many Southern California Japantowns, this cluster of Japanese American communities was a satellite of Los Angeles' thriving Little Tokyo–perhaps not a place that everyone interacted with on a daily or even monthly basis, but a port of entry, a market for one's produce, and a source for employment or employees, imported items, farm equipment, and professional services.

We were pleased how, despite incomplete information, it was possible to show a broad picture of Nikkei settlement in Orange County. Most Japanese American businesses and farms had post office box or RFD addresses, so we've listed them under the city names. The JA directory did show street addresses for downtown Santa Ana businesses.

Another helpful resource was a Historic Building Survey focusing on Japanese American sites (business, community, and residential buildings) compiled in the 1970s (provided courtesy of Phillip Brigandi of the Orange County Historical Society). We checked those street addresses using Google to document which of those sites still remained in 2007, after three decades of intense suburban growth, and urban renewal. For instance, the Japanese Language School in Garden Grove was reportedly extant (though little-used) in 1976, but Google's satellite photos show that site as a parking lot for a big-box store. Interstingly, "googling" "Japanese language school Garden Grove" brings up several new listings for such schools–a new generation filling an essential need for their families.

Official website of Fullerton Arboretum, at which the museum is located. http://arboretum.fullerton.edu/museum/museum.asp

CSU Fullerton online news has an article about the opening exhibit, which runs through mid December, 2007 (open weekends and by appointment).

Orange County Historical Society http://www.orangecountyhistory.org/

1st draft 8/3/07