New JAHSSD Exhibition Opens June 27 th at San Diego History Center

The Japanese first came to San Diego in the late 19th century. San Diego was not San Francisco or Los Angeles with their large immigrant populations and there were too few Japanese people here for the stores to stock Japanese food items. It was not really a problem as they had got used to eating Chinese food on the ships that had brought them from Japan as well as in the ports of San Francisco and Los Angeles where it was readily available and cheap. They had also discovered American food which although it contained much more meat than they were used to in Japan, was invitingly different.

Our story could really end right there, but the Japanese immigrants and their descendants didn’t quite give up on the food of their ancestors. As we will see in our new exhibition, while food is an important part of a person’s cultural identity, immigrants will gradually absorb over time many of the eating habits of their adopted country. The Japanese American community is no exception. However, while they have embraced the vast variety of food available in America over the generations since those early immigrants, they have also maintained traditions, family recipes and food preferences that reflect their Japanese heritage. In addition, they have seen Japanese cuisine become a major part of mainstream food culture, something that would have been inconceivable to those first Issei in early San Diego.

Curious about what internees got to eat in Poston internment camp? Come see original recipes from camp taken from a notebook kept by cook, Yutako Kida. You will also see some familiar food-related artifacts from throughout our history such as a traditional mochitsuki set, as well as souvenirs from early Japanese-owned restaurants and community members’ family recipes.