Why Fountain Valley?
Jim Kanno, born and raised in Orange County, was one of the first Japanese American mayors in the United States. Returning to Orange County after being interred at Poston Relocation Camp in southern Arizona, Kanno was instrumental in turning farmland into a new city named Fountain Valley and then became its first mayor.
Three schools in Fountain Valley bear the names of significant Nikkei: Oka Elementary, Tamura Elementary, and Masuda Middle School.
Isojiro Oka, during the Depression, generously donated his vegetables from his farm. And, along with fellow farmer, Hisamatsu Tamura purchased "an old Standard Oil Company wooden building" in Talbert (present day Fountain Valley) to build one of the first Japanese language and culture schools in Orange County.
Kazuo Masuda grew up in a small ranch house on Newhope Road near Heil Avenue in what is now Fountain Valley. He was one of four brothers who served their country in World War II as members of the famed “Go For Broke” 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the all Nisei volunteer outfit which became the most decorated unit in the U.S. Army. Masuda posthumously received the Distinguished Service Cross.
Many point to his wartime connection to President Reagan as significantly influencing the signing of the Civil Liberties Act. "The Act was passed by Congress to provide a Presidential apology and symbolic payment of $20,000 to the internees, evacuees, and persons of Japanese ancestry who lost liberty or property because of discriminatory action by the Federal government during World War II" (Department of Justice 1).
“The blood that has soaked the sands of a beach is all of one color. America stands unique in the world; the only country not founded on race, but on a way and an ideal.”
-- Captain Ronald Reagan,
December 8, 1945
Currently in Mile Square Park, Fountain Valley, are three statues: President Ronald Reagan, Vietnam’s 13th century general Tran Hung Dao, and Mexico’s revolutionary priest Miguel Hidalgo. Orange County Supervisors, Andrew Do and Lisa Bartlett, have sponsored the initiative for the Orange County Nikkei Coordinating Council to erect a statue commemorating the Orange County Nikkei experience.
Artwork by Trace Fukuhara