BY MELANIE RAMIRO
RIVERSIDE, Calif. (library.ucr.edu) – On March 11, 1942, the life of one Riverside family was shattered when United States government officials took local farmer Toranosuke Fujimoto into federal custody.
His son, George Fujimoto, 21, wrote in his diary that day about his father’s arrest: “Went to school as usual… Came home about 5 p.m. and was shocked to learn that Pop was taken into custody by federal officials today. 28 Riverside Japanese aliens were rounded up in today’s raid; Mr. Sanematsu & Pop included.”
Insight into the lives of this family will now be readily available to the public as the University of California, Riverside Library has completed a six-month digitization process of 45 Fujimoto family diaries totaling more than 24,000 pages. Many of these pages are already available online through Calisphere, a UC-wide digital collections archive system. Complete access is expected within a couple of weeks.
Highlighting the voices of father and son, this collection documents the daily experiences of the Fujimoto family from 1913-1968, including the events surrounding their forced removal from their farm and home in Riverside to a relocation and incarceration in a camp in Poston, Arizona.
“The Fujimoto diaries are among the treasures of the UCR Special Collections and University Archives," said Cherry Williams, director of Distinctive Collections. "They provide an unforgettable insight into a turbulent chapter of life in California and beyond.”
Digitizing the diaries, which were donated to the UCR Library more than 20 years ago, represents a major step forward in preserving this piece of history for future generations, said Eric Milenkiewicz, digital initiatives program manager.
“Complete digital versions of the diaries are now available online, providing a worldwide audience with a glimpse into the Japanese-American experience in the U.S. during the early to mid-20th century, from the personal perspectives of a father and his son,” Milenkiewicz said.
Toranosuke Fujimoto’s diaries are written in Japanese while those of his son are in English, Milenkiewicz said.
“Making these written narratives available online also means unlocking the text contained within each diary entry through translation and-or transcription, which will lead to even better access and discovery,” Milenkiewicz added.
Shanti Taka, Toranosuke Fujimoto’s granddaughter and George’s niece, said she was looking forward to reading them online herself.
“We the family are happy with the work and care that UCR has given toward these diaries,” she said.
Library staff in Special Collections and University Archives frequently use the Fujimoto diaries in their teaching activities. UCR Library’s Primary Source Literacy Librarian Robin M. Katz, said the Fujimoto diaries' ties to Riverside make them especially poignant for members of the UCR community.
“Here is a Japanese-American family that had established their life in Riverside and probably thought, ‘This is the American dream,'" she said. "And then their lives are turned upside-down and their property seized.”
The diaries themselves are available for use by the UCR community and the community at large, in the UCR Department of Special Collections & University Archives Reading Room.
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