Immigration is a hot topic. So here's an immigration story of quite a different sort from the ones we've been hearing.
In Santa Rosa 132 years ago, a young Japanese man, dressed in the latest New York fashion, stepped off the train at the depot, drawing stares from the people present.
There had never been a Japanese in Sonoma County.
On Saturday, the city of Santa Rosa named a park in his
I guess the message is that if you're going to be an immigrant, it's a good idea to be the first.
NAGASAWA COMMUNITY PARK, in Fountaingrove, honoring Kanaye Nagasawa, winemaker and proprietor of the Fountaingrove Ranch and Vineyards, was dedicated Saturday in a lively ceremony attended by some 200 people, many of them from the county's Japanese community.
The Taiko Drummers set the pace for the proceedings as Makoto Yamanaka, Japanese consul general in San Francisco, declared Nagasawa, who was among the first Japanese in the United States, a "pioneer" and his "hero." And 88-year-old Kosuke Ijichi of Walnut Creek, Nagasawa's grandnephew, recalled his childhood, when the ranch was his playground and he was free to roam on horseback over the 2,000 acres.
A dramatic vignette, written by City Council member Jane Bender, featured descendants of Japanese families who worked for Nagasawa and told the tale of the ranch and the Brotherhood of the New Life Utopian community.
Professor Akira Kadota, who has written of Nagasawa in his native Kagoshima, brought greetings from the Friends of Santa Rosa Association in that city.
Obon dancers from Enmanji Temple in Sebastopol, including other descendants of Fountaingrove families, closed the ceremony with traditional folk dances.
KANAYE Nagasawa's journey to Santa Rosa is an adventure story. He came by way of England and Scotland, having left his native Kagoshima with 14 other students (at age 13, he was the youngest). These young men are now known in Japan as "The Kagoshima Fifteen" and honored with a statue at the rail station in that city.
In the mid-1860s, at the time when the 250-year reign of the isolationist Tokugawa dynasty was coming to an end, these students were smuggled out of their country by the ruler of the Satsuma clan. They were bound for England, to learn Western languages and ways that would give them a head start on the modernization he knew was coming.
In England, professors who were advocates of the westernization of Japan took them in hand. They were placed in homes throughout Britain and by the end of 1866, all but seven of the students had returned to Japan to prepare for the revolution that would lead to the Meiji Restoration in 1868 and the "new" Japan.
Of the seven who remained scattered throughout Europe, two went to Russia, two to the United States, one to France and Nagasawa, now 14 going on 15, went to a family in Aberdeen, Scotland. He learned English with a Scottish "burr" that would characterize his speech for the rest of his life.
One of the Londoners who had joined the professors in welcoming the Japanese boys was a young member of Parliament named Laurence Oliphant. He had been to Japan with Lord Elgin's expedition, had written a book about his adventures and was very interested in the future of that country.