Riverside's Harada House
Riverside's Harada House helping teach history of Japanese-Americans, internment
April 26, 2008
RIVERSIDE - The story of the house at 3356 Lemon Street, whose Japanese immigrant owners saw their American Dream turn bitter, soon can be told in classrooms. The Riverside Metropolitan Museum has unveiled a new set of lessons plans designed around the Inland-area Japanese-American experience in the first half of the 20th century. The museum collaborated with teachers from Riverside and Corona to create 11th-grade U.S. history curriculum anchored in the community.
The three lesson plans, teacher's guide, workbook and related curriculum were the culmination of a two-year project dubbed "Reading the Walls: Riverside Stories of Internment and Return." Designed to meet California's public school instructional standards on which students are tested, the lessons revolve around the Harada House and two other Japanese-American households -- the Inaba and Fujimoto families -- who were uprooted, separated and scattered to internment camps across the West during World War II. People of Japanese origin were singled out and confined to those remote sites, because the U.S. government classified them as potential threats to national security.
The materials include oral histories and videotaped interviews with members of those three families who are still alive. The interviews feature two Riverside residents, Mitsuru "Mits" Inaba and Lily Fujimoto Taka.
[Lily Fujimoto was pregnant with her first child when she was relocated with her family to Poston, Arizona. She left Poston and moved with her husband, brother and daughter to Des Moines, Iowa, before returning to Riverside in the 1980's.]
"It's an important part of history that's not fully explained in history books," said Ennette Morton, the museum's director. "It's something that they (students) can see and feel right here in their community. It's a living history in their backyard."
3356 Lemon Street
The modest house on Lemon Street belonged to the Harada family from 1915 to 2004. Four years ago, the descendants of family patriarch Jukichi Harada transferred ownership to the city of Riverside, which then placed it in the museum's care. The property is closed to the public as it undergoes a long-term restoration. The Harada House is the second of two city buildings listed as National Historic Landmarks. The other is the Mission Inn.
"This is one of the very few houses that encapsulate the Japanese-American story," said Lynn Voorheis, the Riverside Metropolitan Museum's curator of collections and historic structures, who is overseeing the restoration.
The house gained national notoriety when Jukichi Harada, his wife Ken, and their children became embroiled in the first test-case of the 1913 California Alien Land Law. The law forbade non-U.S. citizens from owning property. But Jukichi, a Japanese national, exploited a loophole. He purchased the house in the names of his three American-born children. Their white neighbors tried to force them out by having the Haradas prosecuted under that law.
The family held on to the house after winning the case in court. Jukichi stayed on in Riverside, where he owned and operated some boarding rooms and a diner named for George Washington. In May 1942, months after war with Japan broke out, the Haradas and other Inland Japanese-American families were forcibly evacuated to internment camps. Before leaving the house, Harold, the youngest of the Harada children, scrawled a message in pencil on an upstairs bedroom wall. It noted the time and date of evacuation as 7 a.m. Saturday, May 23. The message has survived, inspiring the lesson project's name. The Haradas were separated and sent to Manzanar and Tule Lake in California, Poston, Arizona, and Topaz, Utah. Both Jukichi and Ken died while interned at Topaz.
After the war, their daughter, Sumi (Poston camp I), returned to Lemon Street, where she spent most of her remaining years. She kept family photos, letters, artifacts, documents and other records. These are now part of the museum's historical collection.
Lessons From a Dark Past
Grants from the California Council for the Humanities and the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program underwrote the Reading the Walls project. Allison Campbell, the museum's former curator of education, spearheaded it. She interviewed the surviving Haradas, Inabas and Fujimotos, capturing their oral histories through the videos. She worked with four high school teachers to develop the lesson plans: Linda Linville and Shirlene Hayashibara, from Centennial High in Corona; Derrick Takano, who teaches at Ramona High in Riverside; and Nancy Donovan, a former teacher at Riverside's John W. North High.
"We knew it would be a while before we could get school kids into the actual physical space (of the Harada House)," said Campbell, who today is a history teacher in training at Arroyo Valley High School in San Bernardino. "The idea was, in some way, to bring the story to them."
Museum officials say the lesson plans meet state instructional standards for history-social science and English-language arts, such as U.S. history and geography 11.7 (5), reading comprehension 2.4., 2.5, and 2.6, and writing 1.1, 1.3, and 1.5. Ron Weston, Riverside Unified School District's history and social studies instructional specialist, reviewed the plans and certified that they met those standards. He hopes teachers in Riverside will start using the plans next school year.
Student taking the lessons might discuss questions or write about life in the internment camps, based on the interviews with former internees. They also might be asked to connect the discrimination against Japanese-Americans in the 1940s to the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the past lynching of African-Americans, the Red Scare and McCarthyism, or post-Sept. 11 fears of Muslim-Americans.
"When our kids were growing up, these stories weren't in the history books," said Mits Inaba's wife, Meiko, 69, referring to their son and daughter's time at North High in the 1970s.
"I think it's great," her husband, 73, interjected as the couple stood outside the Harada House. "It had to start somewhere."
LOCAL HISTORY LESSONS
To access lessons plans and oral interviews with Riverside-area Japanese-Americans who were sent to internment camps during World War II, go to