Japan Society of Fairfield County
  Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center, NJ

Seabrook watertower On Saturday, June 25, 2011, a small group of JSFC members made the long journey down to Seabrook, New Jersey to visit the museum there. This site figured prominently in the story of Japanese Americans during World War II.  Approximately 2,500 internees of the 110,000 Japanese American citizens and aliens from the West Coast concentration camps were released to take jobs at Seabrook Farms, growing and packaging frozen vegetables.
JSFC group at Seabrook Museum       John Fuyuume gave us a presentation on Seabrook Farms and its history and then discussed his past as an internee released to Seabrook during the war. John was recently chosen to receive a "Order of the Rising Sun" award from the Japanese government for his work in establishing the Seabrook Museum and promoting better relations between the United States and Japan. We then had a private tour of the museum and further discussion with John and other museum volunteers.
     By the1920's, Seabrook Farms was supplying a large part of the fresh vegetables to the East Coast of the US. They had about 20,000 acres in production in New Jersey and a further 20,000 acres in nearby Pennsylvania. Express rail allowed them to market fresh vegetables to a large part of the US population which was clustered nearby. They began flash freezing vegetables and needed more labor.  Mr. Seabrook hired all people and would not tolerate discrimination among his employees. He also established a community for them to live in. During World War II labor was in extreme short supply and Mr. Seabrook seized the opportunity to employ Japanese Americans held in the concentration camps on the West Coast. He also employed German POW's and displaced persons. John Fuyuume was released from the Gila River camp to attend the University of Rochester in 1944 and his family was later released to Seabrook.  A large Japanese American community remains in the Seabrook area to this day.  (extended version of John Fuyuume's story from the Philadelphia Inquirer 8/15/2004) In 1994 the Museum was started.  Robert Hasuike made extraordinary models of the Seabrook Farm community and signature structures.
Model of Seabrook Plant and Town circa 1940       Members of JSFC then made some brief presentations:  Catherine Ladnier read excerpts from letters from internees - she is working on developing a play based on such letters.  Vernon and Nancy Beck then gave a discussion of the war time experiences of Nancy's parents, Joe Katagiri and Hama Matsushita and their families.  Joe was drafted before Executive Order 9066 took effect and chose to stay in the army but never connected with the 442nd.  His family was sent to the Tule Lake Camp and many were eventually released to work on one of the Curtiss Farms near Chicago. The Curtiss Farms employed a large number of internees but much less than Seabrook.  The individual farms operated independently and lacked a central community like Seabrook. Hama's family was sent to the Minidoka Camp near Hunt, Idaho. Hama was released to work as a maid at the deputy commander's home on an army base in Indianapolis, where Joe was stationed.   Vernon and Nancy visited Minidoka in 1992.  Vernon purchased Minidoka Interlude at a local library book sale; this volume covers the staff and inmates of the Minidoka camp for a year (6/42 to 6/43) much as a high school year book would cover the the school year.  We found many of Nancy's relatives in the book.  There were sections for administrators, inmates grouped by block, and activities like a camp beauty contest with block "queenies", Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and such.  Stops at Mood's Farm Market and Mitsuwa finished the long trip.
In the museum with John Fuyuume
National Japanese American Museum has Internment exhibit
Member Gene Takahashi's JSFC article: Internment at Poston Camp
David Halberstam's article on Gene Takahashi
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