About the Issei Memorial Building (IMB)


A short documentary on the IMB produced by Iszak Gaton and Alec Matsumoto. Narrated by Jessica Savage and Mike Inouye. (Summer 2015)

“I was born upstairs in the Issei Memorial Building. My birth certificate indicates that I was delivered by a midwife, Oiye Teranishi. My sister, who is five years younger than I, was also born there. When I went to visit her and my mom, everything looked so big, especially the staircase.”
— Sachi (Hosono) Urata

In the early 1900’s, several members of the local Kumamoto Kenjin Kai Association felt a need for a Japanese doctor and hospital to service the fast growing Japanese community in the San Jose area. In 1910, a two-story structure was built to serve as a hospital and Dr. Taisuke Kuwabara was persuaded to come to San Jose to manage it. The building then was known as the “Kuwabara Hospital.” In 1933, Dr. James Beattie, the owner of the building, planned to retire. A group led by Mr. Hatakeyama and Mr. Yamada approached the San Jose Japanese Association to raise the money to purchase the building from Dr. Beattie. The title of the building was put into the names of George Nakano, Tokio Ishikawa and Harry Hashimoto. With the outbreak of World War II, Dr. Ishikawa, who had been leasing the building, was called into service. The Japanese Association suspended all activity in the building until after the war in 1945. The ownership of the building was then transferred to the Nisei Service Center, Inc., a nonprofit organization headed by Wayne Kanemoto, Shig Masunaga, Eiichi Sakauye, Phil Matsumura, George Tsukagawa and Dr. Ishikawa. The sole responsibility of the Nisei Service Center was to ensure that “the property...forever be used in the best interests of the local Japanese community.” 


In February of 1980, the City of San Jose designated the Issei Memorial Building as a historical landmark. In 1991, the Nisei Service Center, Inc. transferred the title of the building to the San Jose JACL, with the understanding that the JACL remember the history of the building and make sure that it continue to “forever be used in the best interest of the Japanese American and surrounding community.” The IMB has had a tradition of being the “incubator” site for several community groups: Yu-Ai Kai, the Japanese American Museum of San Jose, the Asian Law Alliance, and for providing office space to groups such as San Jose Taiko and Contemporary Asian Theater Scene. 

Lasting Legacy

San Jose JACL proudly continues to honor the legacy of the Issei Memorial Building. We face the challenge of updating and improving the IMB so that the venerable building can be preserved and showcased as a living monument to those who have been part of its history. Funds are needed so that the building can continue its service as a home for non-profits and a meeting place for community groups and private parties. The desired project list include the following: Repair a portion of the settling foundation and the corresponding sagging wall. Repair deterioration (dry rot) to rails and other trim wood. Green Improvements to conserve energy and reduce operating costs. Improve functionality of the building, including fire sprinklers and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessibility. Weatherproof, including paint. Upgrade interior spaces and make technology friendly. Provide storage area for outdoor items (canopies, tables, chairs). As caretakers, the San Jose JACL desires to preserve and maintain this historical landmark in Japantown for future generations. 

(Source: IMB Centennial Celebration luncheon brochure, October 23, 2010)